SDCC | Designer Olly Moss Talks Movie Posters, Comics and ‘The Simpsons’
Olly Moss might only be in his mid-20s, but he’s already become one of the most sought-after graphic designers in the world, thanks to his work with elite poster company Mondo. His limited-edition movie posters, which include popular Lord of the Rings and Star Wars sets, regularly fetch hundreds of dollars online.
Moss’ work isn’t limited to movie posters, however; he’s also created covers for the comic Before Watchmen and the video game Resistance 3, earning him even more acclaim.
The artist spoke with Spinoff Online on the final day of Comic-Con International about his latest Mondo work for the event, how he became friends with The Losers artist Jock, his creative process, and much more.
Spinoff Online: I heard from Jock you just went to walk around the con floor for the first time this year. What cool stuff did you see?
Olly Moss: I literally just went to check it out. There were a few things that I saw, but mostly I was just stuck behind people. [laughs]
I was here last year and I don’t remember Sundays being this busy. I feel like the hall is busier today than it was yesterday.
Kevin Dart runs a booth, and he always brings amazing prints and stuff. He actually had a cool new vinyl toy. He does this thing called Yuki 7. It’s a kid’s book and might become a cartoon at some point, but he had a vinyl toy of it that was just amazing. He’s one of those guys that are so far on another level that it just blows your mind.
Are you representing Mondo at the con this year?
Well, I’m here representing myself, but I did some stuff for Mondo. I did Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castles posters for them.
How have sales been?
Much calmer than last year, because we did the online pre-sales. It was really leisurely, no pushing or shoving or craziness like that. I was happy with how they came out, very nice prints.
What does it feel like to go from being a student to the top of the design game in just a few short years?
I don’t know if I’m the top of the design game. [laughs]
But it’s great. The only real difference from when I was starting out is now I get to pick the work I want to do, which is really nice. It keeps me from getting too bored. That’s the best thing, getting to work on the stuff you really want to, it just makes the work better.
What’s an example of a project you were able to choose for yourself now that you have some clout?
The Oscars poster was one. I mean, obviously it was a great opportunity either way, but I really, really wanted to work on it. To be able to spend as much time as it required making that thing good was nice. I had an idea I liked and they liked, but it was really, really work intensive. It was nice to not have to take on other work at the time, which would have pushed it back. I got to focus on one thing for a long amount of time and make it a really good piece.
You’re good friends with fellow Mondo poster artist Jock, and he told me you guys first met when you worked on the end credits for the 2010 film adaptation of The Losers. How did that come about?
I was working at a company called Prologue, and I was the designer on The Losers end credits, although it was art directed and animated by other people. They said they wanted the credits to look like Jock’s drawings because, of course, if you had Jock’s drawings why wouldn’t you want the credits to look like that? They’re amazing! So it was a case of chopping up his work, recoloring it and arranging it in a way that made sense for the titles. Through that I discovered Jock’s work; I didn’t know about him before that. I loved it, I thought it was brilliant, so I started following him on Twitter. Then I did those Star Wars posters and saw Jock tweeting about how much he liked them, so I emailed him and told him I also did some work on his movie The Losers. It happened to be Andy Diggle’s 40th birthday when I contacted him, so Jock just invited me to go along to his apartment. I did, and we’ve been really good friends ever since.
I remember those Star Wars posters! Were those commissioned, or something you did for fun?
Those were commissioned through Mondo. They said, ‘Hey, we got a new Star Wars license, do you wanna do a piece?’ I said of course I do, it was crazy! I was super-excited to do it, obviously. It was tough, though, to do something for a property that I love so much and has had so much brilliant work done for it. To come up with something that was a little bit different was hard.
I can only imagine how hard it is to come up with something unique each time. What’s your artistic process like for designing a new poster?
It really depends on the project. Sometime it’ll just pop into my head almost fully formed and I’ll just do it. Mostly it’s thumbnails, though. I work mostly digitally so it’s really easy to move things around and shade stuff and change shapes. That really helps, especially with the optical illusion stuff. You don’t have to keep redrawing the same thing over and over again.
Going from sketch to final varies, too. Sometimes I can finish a drawing in an afternoon and sometimes it’s quite longer. I can usually finish it quite quickly but then I tool around with it for like two weeks, moving stuff around the page. I go crazy with the detailed bits!
What’s your favorite part of designing a poster? The layout, illustrating it, arranging type?
I don’t see it as different things; it’s all part of one process. I think it’s a mistake to differentiate typography from illustration from concept. It’s all the same thing, it’s about making marks on a page. They should all work together. There’s not one thing I would prefer over another. I definitely like it when you can do something simply without any excess embellishments, though. I’ve been experimenting with that lately and it’s been working nicely. I think what’s most satisfying is when a solution works really simply and is strong and doesn’t need anything else added to it.
Who are your design influences?
Graphic designers would obviously be Milton Glazer and older guys like that.
A lot of the things I’ve been influenced by most are British transport posters, though, which are kinda nameless. Those posters haven’t been attributed to any one designer because they were done by work-a-day dudes who just did that stuff back in the day. That style really speaks to me. They’re very concept led and very bold because the idea is to communicate something very simply, which is what I really love about them.
I also love Greg Capullo’s work on Batman at the moment. I think he’s one of those guys with such an amazing style. He’s got such detailed illustrations but he also has great composition. He’s one of the best cover artists in terms of coming up with a great idea and a really graphic approach to things. I think he’s fantastic.
What sort of non-poster design work do you enjoy doing?
I can’t really talk about that! [laughs]
But I am working on another art show with a bunch of different stuff. I’m also moving towards video-game development, which is really fun for me. It’s something that I always wanted to do and an opportunity has presented itself to me to do it so I’m looking at that now.
Are you getting to design a video game from the ground up or are you freelancing design work for someone else’s game?
I’m working with some other people, and we’re doing it from the ground up. The most exciting thing for me is getting an input on the gameplay design and the narrative design. I’m a huge gamer and while that doesn’t make you a good game designer, it’s something that I really want to learn. The opportunity to learn how people make those things is super exciting to me.
What are some of your favorite posters you’ve designed for Mondo over the years?
The ones I like tend to be the ones that aren’t so popular. I really liked the Bride of Frankenstein one that came out. Some I really like some things and hate others. I really like the idea behind the Dirty Harry poster, but I think the execution on it isn’t very strong. I like the Evil Dead one but I would still go back and change it. I like the Captain America – Hydra one that I did, too.
Actually, if I had to say one that I would not change a thing on, it would be the American Werewolf in London poster. That’s one of my favorite ones, and I don’t look at it and go, ‘Oh, man, if only I had done something else it would be great!’ I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done but there’s nothing that jumps out at me as broken or janky. [laughs]
Jock says he can often intuit when people are going to put a Mondo poster on eBay as they buy it from the booth. Do you ever get that feeling, too? Do you even care what people do with the posters?
Whatever people do with it once they bought it is fine. The only real upsetting thing about it is that someone who puts something up on eBay prevents someone who really wants to own it from owning it. That’s it. I’d always rather people own it who enjoy the image than people just looking for a profit.
Are there any great ideas for posters you’ve had that you haven’t been able to execute because of licensing issues?
Not films, but I want to do Simpsons stuff. I want to do Simpsons stuff so bad!
I also really want to do older movies, maybe not so much the cult ones. I feel like Mondo really focuses on popular, geeky, cult movies. That’s fantastic, I love them to bits, but I kinda want to do more classic movies. I’d love to do Chinatown, for example. That would be amazing, I love that movie.
What sort of Simpsons stuff do you want to do?
I can’t say! ‘Cause I sorta may be working on something a little bit … But I want to do some Simpsons stuff that doesn’t perhaps look like Simpsons stuff. I think that series has so many amazing niche references that everybody gets that you don’t need to do it in the Simpsons style. You can have things that speak to how influential and affecting it was throughout the first nine seasons or whatever. You can throw those little references into something that perhaps isn’t their traditional style.
Are you a comic book fan?
Of course, I love comics!
What are some of your favorite comics right now?
I’m loving Fatale. I’m loving Daredevil, the Mark Waid run. I’m really enjoying Saga. The one I’m really excited about every month now is Scott Snyder’s new one, The Wake, which I think is fantastic. Also, quite similar is The Massive.
I’m a huge comics guy. I used to wait for trades, but now I started downloading the issues on my iPad! I’m addicted to them.
Being British, do you ever read 2000 AD?
I’ve never read 2000 AD, but Jock keeps trying to get me to read it! Actually, I’ve got a couple collections on my shelf I picked up but I haven’t read. I love that style of storytelling, I’ve just never had the opportunity to get into it. It’s also one of those ones that’s waiting for me and I know I’ll love it when I get into it, so it’s nice to have it there waiting for me.
Like recently, I always knew I was going to love Hellblazer, but I never really picked it up. Then they had a crazy sale, each issue was 99 cents or something, so I just picked up the first 100 issues. That comic has now become one of my favorite comics of all time in the space of a week! It’s crazy how good it is.
Are you working on any comics projects, yourself?
Yeah, I’m working on a cover for a Batman series, at the moment. Not sure I can say which one but that’s kind of exciting. I also did the Before Watchmen thing.
I love doing covers, but I think I’d much rather write than draw, really. I’ve got some ideas for stuff I want to do and I’ve got some people who might want to draw them for me. It’s just a case of deciding if I can jump in and write a comic or whether it’s something I need to learn and figure out how it works first.
So would you be working on creator-owned, work presumably?
No, actually I’ve got some stories I want to pitch for some other stuff. We’ll see …
So what’s next for you after the convention?
Some sleep would be nice! [laughs]