Special Feature: Mondo

Feb 13th, 2011 | Categories: Graphics | Horror | Illustration | Interview | Low Palette | Movie | Retro | Sci-Fi

Mondo - Empire Strikes Back

Mondo - Holy Mountain

Mondo - The Thing

Mondo - Alien

Here’s a special feature I had planned to run before my break, but managed to trash a bunch of email and thus the interview! all I can say is an extremely big thumbs up for Jobs and krew for OSX’s Time Machine – without doubt it’s greatest asset…

So then for this piece I’ve grabbed just a taster selection from the Mondo back catalog, I’ll add some notes on those in a moment, then run the Q&A kindly supplied by Mondo’s creative director Justin Ishmael. First up though here’s some background information….

Mondo is the collectible art boutique of the Alamo Drafthouse. If you’re not familiar with the theater, it’s a world-renowned cinema eatery and has been named the “best theater in America” by Entertainment Weekly. The Alamo Drafthouse is based in Austin, TX and there are currently 10 theaters in Texas and Virginia, with plans to expand nationwide. The Alamo Drafthouse derives its reputation from it’s incredible programming. Mondo creates the poster artwork for special Alamo Drafthouse events (see the examples from the nationwide Rolling Roadshow tour, a yearly event where Alamo Drafthouse goes on the road to show famous movies in famous places — And in addition to creating posters for Alamo Drafthouse screenings/events, Mondo also has acquired licenses for properties like Star Wars, Star Trek and Universal Monsters. They work with artists across the world to create original works of art that are screen printed, hand numbered and limited to small quantities for collectors.

See more (and buy) at or for all the latest news check their excellent, regularly updated

Some quick notes then on the featured posters here; 3 of the greatest Sci-Fi Movies ever made and one the strangest (no prizes for guessing which that is!).

Top: “The Empire Strikes Back” 1980, Directed by Irvin Kershner. Without doubt the greatest of the Starwars Trilogy, absolutely love this interpretation by Tyler Stout so cool it actually includes Boba Fett not once but three times, superb!.

2nd top: “The Holy Mountain”. This beautifully rendered screen print by Florian Bertmer perfectly captures (or suggests) the tone of this  nightmarish, psychedelic extravaganza, directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1973.

3rd top: “The Thing” By John Carpenter 1982. More astonishing artwork from Tyler Stout this time for perhaps my favourite ever Sci-Fi Movie, well it’s this or Aliens. Love the composition here, featuring every member of the films all male cast, would absolutley love a copy of this, but alas, it’s long since sold out!

Bottom: “Alien” an extremely sinister interpretation of Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi/horror masterpiece, this poster lovingly crafted by Australian Ken Taylor, also available in glow in the dark inks!

** Interview **

Q: How longs Mondo been going and when/How did you get involved?

We’ve been going for about 5 years or so. I took over at the beginning of 2009. There are three of us that run the company creatively. Myself, Rob Jones and Mitch Putnam. We all come from different backgrounds so it really helps with deciding what projects we take, what artists we get, etc.

• What’s your day to day role with Mondo involve?

My day to day is pretty time consuming. I am technically the creative director, but I run the backend and all of the social networking stuff, number all of the posters, negotiate all of the deals, talk to studios, etc. We all wear many hats at Mondo as we’re a relatively small company.

• What’s been the highlights of 2010 for Mondo? any favourite pieces?

Well, 2010 has been a breakout year for us. We really got on some good projects like Universal Monsters, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. We also go to work on some big movies like IRON MAN 2 and SCOTT PILGRIM. Personally, I think it’s cool when we get to spotlight smaller movies like THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE or MONSTERS. Most of the general public doesn’t know what those movies are because they’re not getting advertised during commercials of TWO AND A HALF MEN or whatever, so I like to think that we can help spread the word by doing a poster for them. I also really love the Universal Monsters series. I have a DEEP love for those films, so it’s really cool to open your inbox and see an image you’ve never seen before for something that is so iconic and recognizable.

•  And what’s lined up  for 2011

Well, 2011 as it stands right now looks like it will be bigger than 2010. We have A LOT of projects lined up right now and a lot of things pending. One of the most exciting things is the Director Series we just started with Guillermo Del Toro. We have about two or three other big name directors lined up right now, so it will be a fun thing to do every once in a while for 2011. Plus, we’ve signed some new contracts for licenses…it’s just a lot of secret things that I can’t share. haha

•  Any particular type of SciFi/Horror/Fantasy that you feel particulary drawn too or aligned too (personally)?

Those are my favorite genres, which is weird because I was born in ’84 so I really grew up in the 90′s and watched nothing but action movies. My grandfather is the one that got me into sci fi movies. I remember the first time I watched PLANET OF THE APES so clearly. The scene where they catch Heston in the net and he says the “Get your paws off me” line I said “WOW” aloud. That was such a happy day for me.

I didn’t start watching horror until I was a junior in high school. Now it’s full blown. One of my favorite movies is a mixture of sci-fi/ horror and it’s called THE DEADLY SPAWN. I actually got a half sleeve tattoo of it a few years ago because I like it so much. I highly recommend that one.

Some of my faves are the POTA series (especially Conquest), DUNE, ALIEN PREDATOR, LOGAN’S RUN, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS ’78, GALAXY OF TERROR, EQUINOX, etc. I could go on and on. I have to say that some modern sci fi movies have been really amazing. MOON is one of my all time favorites now and I also really enjoyed DISTRICT 9 and MONSTERS.

I really like to follow movies because of who did the special effects or designed things. Rob Bottin (The Thing), Dennis Muren (Equinox, Dragonslayer) , Richard Edlund, Moebius, Giger, Rick Dunn, John Dykstra, Syd Mead, and on and on. They are some of the coolest people on the planet. These dudes are my rock stars. It’s kind of like how some people would’ve thought Axl Rose was an ultra badass back in the day, I think that way about Muren and these guys. If they had posters, they’d be up on my walls. I watched a live streaming conference with Dennis Muren one time online and it was like two hours long. I would LOVE to meet these guys some day.

Oh, and Harryhausen….but, that could take an interview up all by itself.

•  Do you have (or what would be your) a wish list of other artist you’d like to work with and why? (living or alive)

Nobody knows this, but we were talking to Frank Frazetta about a year ago. We were really close to making something happen. I was really sad when the word came through that he passed away. I really loved and respected his work. Actually, as I type this I have a Death Dealer ring on that I bought from his gallery. I also want to work with Moebius and Dan McPharlin. You’ve profiled Dan a lot on the site and also Moebius. We’ve got projects in mind for both of them, so it’s just a matter of getting ahold of them and pitching it. Moebius is legendary. Better writers have dissected his work, so I won’t go too deep, but I love Arzach. I found the paperback with all of them collected and also started buying the original Heavy Metal books. I think I have 1-10 right now. Someday, I’ll buy the Metal Hurlant versions, too. That art was so amazing and to this day still holds up. I would be blown away if the dudes doing the new HEAVY METAL movie did an Arzach story. How nuts would a Fincher directed Arzach movie be?

Dan McPharlin was a guy that I liked, but just figured it was some art from the 60′s or 70′s. Then, I downloaded THE SWORD’S album and saw the cover and made the connection. We have about three things off the bat that we would immediately put him on that he would be 100% perfect for. His landscapes are gorgeous and I love what he does with his characters. There is a piece in particular where it’s a spaceman riding a horse with a helmet on. It’s one of my favorite images of his.

• Finally can you point readers in the direction of obscure SF/Horror/Fantasy they might of missed?

So, the main movies I watch are sci-fi and horror and I highly recommend these seldom seen gems.

THE HIDDEN- Drop everything and watch this…now.
FIRE AND ICE (Buy the Blue Undergound disc for the awesome Frank Frazetta doc called Frazetta: Painting With Fire)
EQUINOX (Directed by SFX god Dennis Muren)

If you’d like me to give more detailed little snippets of why I like these, I’d be happy to, but seriously….all of these movies are AMAZING!

** Many thanks Justin! oh and I totally agree there on The Hidden!

Dan McPharlin – Interview

Oct 25th, 2010 | Categories: Art | Dan McPharlin | Graphics | Illustration | Interview | Sci-Fi

Dan McPharlin - Spilling Over Every Side

Dan McPharlin - Glowing In The Darkest Night

Dan McPharlin - New Age Outlaws

Dan McPharlin - The Sword

Dan McPharlin -Year One

Dovetailing neatly into our 300th post (thanks for all the orders so far!) we have another special feature; an exclusive in depth interview with Australian artist/designer and Sci-Fi-O-Rama logo creator Dan McPharlin. Before I start that I’ll quickly add some notes on the selected imagery…

Top: “Pretty Lights – Spilling Over Every Side” Cover art for 6 Track CD / Download. An excellent example of Dan’s powerful blending of Sci-Fi elements and the geometric surreal – as with all of his work much of the feel is down to the warm painterly textures. I’m not sure whether intentional (I forgot to ask) but this reminds me somewhat of artistic themes featured in cult French/American 80′s animated kids show “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors“. Check the track here at

2nd Top: “Pretty Lights – Glowing in The Darkest Night” Cover art for 5 Track CD / Download. A brand new piece from Dan, great mood and composition with a strong echo of the legendary lates 70′s Illustrated “Terran Trade Authority” series of SF books. Again you can check the music here: Check the track here at

3rd Top: “Dylan Ettinger – New Age Outlaws” Artwork for 6 Track 12″ released on Not Not Fun Records 2010. Where to start with this one? absolutely love it, deceptively simple yet extremely evocative – harks back to the very best of 70′s sleeve art, and IMHO could easily slide into the Hipgnosis portfolio.

4th Top: “The Sword -Tears of Fire / Farstar” Kemado Records 2010, Formats: Hexagonal-shaped picture disc. Art for Texan-based metal band The Sword, James White ran a feature on this set over a little earlier in the year over at

Bottom: “Year One” A superb post apocalyptic ‘dustscape’ Produced for the Life in 2050 exhibition,  curated by Transmission as part of the 9th Sci-Fi London Film Festival 22 April – 4 May 2010. More details here:

** Interview **

Q: What’s been the creative highlights for you over the last year ?

A: There have been a few but I think the cover artwork I produced for The Sword was probably a highlight for me. Warp Riders was essentially a concept album depicting an epic space opera meets meets post-apocalyptic Western, somewhere between Dune, Asimov and the films of Rene Laloux. I really enjoy producing these elaborate illustrated gatefolds but there’s always a lot of work involved.

I definitely slowed down a bit this year. Things were happening just a bit too fast and I felt I didn’t feel I was really allowing my ideas to ‘breathe’. Its very easy to end up in a bit of a creative holding pattern when you’re constantly chasing deadlines and I thought it was important to pull back from that a bit.

I intend to focus on a few personal projects over the next year. I have a sketchbook of ideas I’m itching to explore. I’ll hopefully focus on my music a bit more too.

Q: What part of the Design/Illustration Process to you enjoy the most?

A: Adding that final stroke to a picture is always very satisfying but I also enjoy the sketching process so its hard to say. There’s always a great moment where you start to hit your stride when producing a painting; suddenly you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it takes the pressure off a bit!

Often when I finish a piece of work I like to throw it randomly into a slideshow with other work that I admire, just to see if it holds up. I’m also constantly checking my artwork at different sizes; these days people are more likely to first see the artwork as a 250 pixel wide thumbnail on the web than a 12″ on the record store shelf, so the artwork has to stand out at various sizes.

Q: What’s the one creative tool you couldn’t do with out?

Probably my Wacom drawing tablet. I’ve almost worn a hole in that thing.

Q: Is there a particular visual style/genre of Sci-Fi you identify with more than others? (ie Cyberpunk, Post Apocalyptic, Surrealist?)

Surrealism has always been an influence and I suppose my work also draws heavily on what I consider the ‘golden age’ of sci-fi art. The artwork that is the most exciting to me was what I grew up with; lavish paperback covers, record sleeves and game boxes by Roger Dean, illustrated speculative fiction like the Terran Trade series, art books published by Dragon’s Dream, Paper Tiger (exactly the kind of thing you feature on Sci-fi-O-Rama in fact!) I remember a handful of tattered school library books that I would borrow over and over. I think there was one called Space Wars that I just kept re-borrowing for a whole year; my name was probably the only one on the library slip!

A lot of the newer genres I know very little about. While I find a lot of contemporary work technically impressive, I often have a hard time connecting to it emotionally. For me mood and atmosphere always trumps technical verisimilitude so thats what I try to bring to my work.

Q: I know you are very much into classic Synths, how intrinsic/influential is creating and listening to Music/Audio with your artwork?

A: Music is very important. I feel a bit like I’m losing my soul if I’m not creating music regularly. The things I’m drawn to in music are similar to those I’m drawn to in visual art; form, space, atmosphere. I love music that evokes strange worlds, sound environments that seem more like natural phenomena than anything created by human or machine. I’m always listening to something while I work on my art; there are a handful of artists that tend to inspire the right mood while I’m creating; Gyorgy Ligeti, Arvo Part, Klaus Schulze, Jeff Mills, Basic Channel, Toru Takemitsu are a few names that come to mind.

Q: Like myself you grew up as big Commodore Amiga User, what’s your most treasured 16 bit memories?

A: Well the Amiga was such a brilliant machine. It carried on the DIY spirit of the C64 but the graphics and sound were just light years ahead of its time. Such a pity Commodore dropped the ball with marketing etc. As for memories, well I probably spent more time with Deluxe Paint 2 than any other program; zoomed right in and painting each pixel by hand. It took forever! I would love to dig up some of those early 32 colour creations to show you (many are similar to the work I’m doing now), but I fear most of my 3.5″ floppies have rotted away by now. Such is the fate of a lot of old digital work; I still have all of these disks somewhere but I dread to think what state they’re in.

Octamed was another program I loved. It was one of those vertical music trackers, favoured by game musicians at the time. It worked in hexadecimal but once you got the hang of it it was just so quick to come up with compositions. Its really encouraging to see the old trackers coming back; I’ve been using Renoise on the Mac for a year or so now and loving it.

Q: What’s the best piece of Sci-Fi related material you’ve come across and been impressed by recently (book, film, artist)

A: I’ve actually been really impressed with a couple of recent films. Moon and District 9 are both terrific examples of a return to serious ideas-driven science fiction, not unlike classics of the genre; Solaris, 2001, Blade Runner. Apparently they used real models for the effects shots in Moon (embellished slightly with digital effects) which is just fantastic. I’m a big fan of model work; I think when you put real objects occupying real physical space on film it just looks so much better (I’ll settle for a second rate practical effect over a second rate digital effect any day) But beyond that, I think science fiction is the ultimate playground for ideas, and I wish more film makers would realise this!

Q: Finally a follow on to the last question, any classic Sci-Fi material (book, film, artist) you could recommend you think reader’s might not know of or have overlooked?

A: Well I’m not sure if you could really classify his artwork as sci-fi, but a recent joy for me has been discovering the work of Polish artist Zdzislaw Beksinski. His quiet, ghostly paintings, particularly those of his fantastic realist period (which were all untitled) are quite remarkable. Beksinski’s landscapes and architecture have an epic, timeless quality; cathedrals and trees are constructed from a spindly lattice of bones, abandoned car wrecks are layered with sediment and melt into the landscape. Unfortunately his biography is a tragic story, culminating in his untimely death in 2005.

I’m also a bit of a fan of Tony Roberts sci-fi art, particularly his late 70s period. I think he’s often overlooked next to the heavyweights of that era but I’ve always been a fan of his style which adorned many paperbacks of the day (he also contributed to the Terran Trade series). There’s something about his earthy colour palettes and his airbrushed seed-pod like ships plastered with alien graphics, that draws me in.

Many Thanks Dan!


…You can check out past Sci-Fi-O-Rama posts featuring Dan’s Work here or better yet for all the latest examples check his Flickr feed:

Russ Nicholson (2) Interview

Nov 10th, 2009 | Categories: Fantasy | Illustration | Interview | Russ Nicholson

Russ Nicholson - Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Russ Nicholson - Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Russ Nicholson - Masks of Mayhem

Russ Nicholson - Masks of Mayhem

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and out and out fantasy feature so I thought I’d do something special and add a interview into the mix, a Sci-Fi-O-Rama first! The artist in question is Russ Nicholson a personal favourite of mine whose work I’ve admired since childhood and first reading the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks he’s synonymous with. Those books were a huge phenomenon during there peak in the mid 80′s, selling millions worldwide with the series eventually reaching over 50 titles before winding up in the early 90′s. The basic premise of a Fighting Fantasy book was a self-contained single player role-playing adventure where one would explore an Illustrated Fantasy/SF game world by reading numbered paragraphs and then making choices and rolling dice to determine battles etc.  A typical book would involve a perilous quest split into 400 sections and there would often be only one true way though it, sounds fairly straight forward, it wasn’t… I used to cheat most of the time!

I could go on about the books, but another time I think, I’ll add some more notes and links in the footer of this post… On final point I’d like to make Is that in retrospect it’s probably fair to say also the Fighting Fantasy series shares a genetic tie with the work of J K Rowling, they could be considered the Harry Potter’s of their day encouraging many 10-16 years old into reading, I know they certainly did for me…

So back to Russ and the above examples, what’s most striking if your not familiar with is work is the insane decorative intricacy,  lines wash up and down the page in a gracefully proportioned manner, a style reminiscent of the classic Aubrey Beardsley. For me though the overriding, enduring factor of Russ’s work are his beautiful characters and the fantastic costume & armour they adorn… Prospective Games Artist’s could well take note….

So onto the interview:

1. What sparked you into following a career of Fantasy Illustration ?
Even from a young age I was always interested in Art, and especially drawing. I adored illustration and liked comics as much for the artwork as the subject and soon began to identify, and where possible, name certain illustrators. At home my liking for art and mythology and fairy tales and legends, if not comics, such as books like the Lang Red Fairy Tale Book was encouraged even at an early age [around 5] what I couldn’t understand in the words I understood in the pictures.
At college I did little fantasy work, but my interest continued to grow. My work was also a little darker then, involving a more Gothic monster approach with dark blood and my gods were such as Aubrey Beardsley, Harry Clarke, Edmund Dulac  and Sydney Sime though I’d little reference to there work; books about them were rare. When I began working professionally I had little choice in what jobs came my way and much of my early fantasy drawings I showed around were considered to be aping Rackham, etc. My fantasy work was not appreciated at that time, so I was drawn, if you parden the pun, to the growing Fantasy and SF and Comic Fanzines that sprang up in the 70′s, and it is there I was able to explore ideas through little spot doodles that I did all the time.

2. What’s the most Satisfying part of Illustrating, what do you enjoy most ?
That’s an easy one. The act of drawing, of creating, the markmaking on paper, and with ilustrating of books, the ability to visualise and create a ‘world’ from a few descriptive lines, which where possible, I can add little touches in the hope of breathing life into the work. My drawing is not always successful but when it is the work gives me pleasure.
Unfortunately some commisioned work is tightly controlled by an editor, or other, for one is not given a full copy of the text and you have to hope that what you ‘create’ suits the totally ‘story’.  The exception is my work on the book Steve Jackson’s ‘Trolltooth Wars’ where I was allowed to design the layout [within certain perameters] and choose the pictures I wanted to do – which I did to try and heighten the reading quality of the book. Whether I succeeded or not is not for me to say, but I know looking back in certainly places I allowed myself to be too literal to the text, and much of it I would have liked to have done in colour. I was also allowed, to a certain degree, freedom with the ‘Forbidden Lands’ Series where I worked in very close harmony with its two authors Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson.

3. What media to you work with?
I adore working in pen and ink, also oil pastel – when the medium is right [there's a lot of poor quality pastels out there], acrylics, oils [very rusty now], and especially enjoy using watercolour and coloured pencil, but do suffer from being impatient. I also love the subject of  Printmaking especially linocut, lithography and wood engraving but again I’m very rusty now. Occasionally I like to practice to draw with my Wacom tablet and would love to do more.

4. What’s your particular process in creating an Illustration from  Scratch? do you thumbnail sketch, or draw directly?
Oh that varies. When I teach, I stress the importance of planning and preparation following what I call the ‘Design Steps’. Personally I do both, it depends on the task and my state of mind for the creative process is not always on tap, as they say. What I do is think, I don’t mean always consciously, but rather I let my mind ponder the subject and try to internally visualise the ‘picture’ until I can sit in front of the paper or board and begin this can take a week or longer. In the interim there is also the boring matter of checking reference, etc. if required

5. Your Illustrated Characters often are adorned on in highly elaborate costumes / armour -  is there a particular source of inspiration for this? certainly looks like one of the elements you enjoy most…
You’re right, I do enjoy that aspect of my work. I reach within to find my ‘child’ and sometimes I’m lucky and up he pops and says, ‘hi, want to play!’ that with my experience of life, the Universe and everything makes it all happen. My fascination reaches from the past to the future from the ‘known’ to the ‘unknown’ my mind travels for thousands of leagues and countless star miles and from all epochs of time [corny, but sadly, true, laugh]. More prosiacally, it also partially derives from my insatiable interest in weapons, battles, costumes, and fantasy of all types -and from all ages, something that has never left me.

—  Many thanks Russ!!

Ok so a few more notes on Fighting Fantasy, you may well be interested to know that it’s just been relaunched by wizard books with brand new titles, a coming iPhone APP and DS Game…. head over to the excellent for much more info!

If it’s information on the original Puffin series of Fighting Fantasy then these sites are great too:

A Wiki list of all the gamebooks with links:

Per Joner’s Fighting Fantasy Review Archive
Notes on the Scanned images** Top two from FF01 “Warlock of Firetop Mountain” Lower two from FF23 “Masks of Mayhem”

And finally here’s a sample of Russ’s recent work commissioned by Callum Mcendrick @

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