We Need to Talk About Mondo Part One: The Beginning, by Chase Beck
The Second ever MondoCon, MondoCon Austin, is coming up. It is a celebration of art, cinema, music but mostly poster collecting. As an eager and excited attendee I thought that it would be fun to share my relationship with Mondo with you.
To my Midwesterner eyes, Texas appeared to be a barren sun-scorched wasteland. A place that humanity could not and should not survive. But slowly, I learned that Texas provided a few redeeming qualities. In the spring here, you can enjoy excellent crawfish boils, the Alamo Drafthouse is a one of a kind film-going experience featuring awesomely obscure programming, and Mondo is a great place to get posters. Mondo, if you’re not familiar, is a company that commissions limited-edition poster art from various artists. As a rule, nearly all of the prints they release feature classic and contemporary films, television shows, or comics. There is a thin line between fine art and illustration. Mondo and its artists have adopted a business plan that brazenly straddles that line.
Appropriately enough, the art/illustration gap is not the only one being bridged. Mondo is bringing high quality artwork and pristinely beautiful poster design to the masses. While it is possible to order a Mondo print from anywhere in the world, for one reason or another, I had never done so until moving to Texas. More’s the pity. Shortly after I arrived in Texas, Mondo announced that they were moving out of the storefront at the original Alamo Drafthouse in Colorado and into a Gallery in Austin, Texas. While they had been commissioning and selling prints since the early 2000’s, this expansion marked a profound transition for the company.
Movie posters used to be worth something. Before large format printers with photograph quality dpi, artists were paid to design meticulous advertisements for films. In the days before downloadable film trailers, endless television commercials altered and aimed at every possible demographic and shameless merchandising tie-ins, these posters were often the only form of advertisement films had. Today, one only need go to the movie theater to recognize the glut of advertising available. Often a single film has multiple posters. Furthermore, these posters often consist of throwaway composited photographs of actors’ faces against a backdrop of (depending on the genre) fiery explosions, color-saturated skies, or ominously lit hallways.
What Mondo has done is put the artistry back into the movie poster business. What had started as event posters (Rob Jones’ Cinemania and Tim Leagues’ Evil Dead Trilogy), much like show posters for concerts and band performances, had slowly morphed into homages to influential films and fan-favorites. The key to the success of Mondo is two-fold: Mondo releases prints in limited runs (around 350 or fewer) often with even rarer variants, and they release their prints at local gallery showings, special events, and random times online. In this way, anyone and everyone can be a collector. Since their price for each print is rarely over $50, and buyers are limited to one of each print, there are plenty of prints to go around. In this way, getting into the collector market is easy but, once there, you will always be hunting your white whale – the poster that got away. For me, it’s Ken Taylor’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This print, celebrating Disney’s 1964 classic, was originally released at a price of $50 in March of 2012 but today can rarely be found with a selling price below $250. Other prints are going for far more (See Olly Moss’s Star Wars Original Trilogy prints). But the true joy of owning one of these Mondo releases is seeing the beautiful work of art hanging on your wall.
Be sure to check back in for “We Need to Talk About Mondo Part Two: Mondo Today”