Reporting Steve Stevenson
For those of you who’ve toed the line between art and pop culture, you’ll probably be familiar with Mondo; the go-to website for limited edition poster art inspired by classic and cult movies, with a permanent public gallery in Austin, Texas. And if you’ve heard of Mondo, you’ve probably heard of Olly Moss; currently one of Mondo’s most popular artists, famous for his bold print re-imaginings of some of your favorite movies. Star Wars? Check. Bat Man? Of course. Avengers? Olly’s all over that.
So when Mondo announced that the first ever UK Mondo gallery “Mondo So Far” was going to be curated by Olly Moss, and that a free glass of wine was included in the ticket price, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for Man Cave to dust off its monocle and get all up in the culture.
The opening night is much hyped, and does not disappoint. The White Cloth Gallery in Leeds is packed to capacity with a mix of trendy socialites and hardcore geeks, all finding common ground in prints that are at the same time both instantly recognizable and refreshingly original. Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, Planet of the Apes; you can barely turn around without being punched in the eyes by clever poster takes on great cult films.
It’s no surprise that the Mondo So Far opening is a sell-out event; Olly’s latest run at the Batman franchise saw him sell 10,000 copies in 24 hours, and as an easygoing twenty-something who happily admits his lack of formal training, Olly himself is becoming something of a poster boy for great art at its most accessible. This makes getting close to him at the scheduled Q&A a little difficult without stepping on doe-eyed, pink-haired art groupies.
Introduced by Mondo’s Justin Ishmael, who looks like Chewbacca’s rock star little brother, the Q&A has a friendly, party-like atmosphere, and though Justin and Jock (another of Mondo’s British heavyweights) will be taking questions, Olly is very much center stage. He begins by answering the most obvious question to ask a guy who makes movie posters for a living. “I really liked movie posters growing up. I remember vividly my first experience of really liking a movie poster, and this is really embarrassing because it was The Phantom Menace poster.” He says. “No, no. Seriously. Yeah, Shut up. No f@$% off,” He continues as the assembled crowd begins tearing their hair out and setting themselves on fire. “Hang on, let me redeem myself. I remember being a young kid and being in the theatre and seeing the poster with little Jake Lloyd and the Vader shadow and thinking that the poster told the story much more effectively than any other poster in the series. It was such a simple way of doing it, you know? It had quite a profound effect on me. It was the first time I looked at a movie poster and saw it as anything other than a ‘Hey! Coming Soon! Three Ninjas!’ Or whatever.”
Placated for the time being, the geeks put away their pitchforks and burning torches, but appearing a little blasé about his influences is all part of Olly’s refreshingly unpretentious demeanor; “Growing up I read a lot of Sonic the comic… You know, the hedgehog…I didn’t really care about stuff growing up. I didn’t really care about anything. I know, I was such a teenager.”
Olly is a little more serious when it comes to the technical side of his work for Mondo. When asked about the difficulties he faces securing the licenses to the movies Mondo uses, he exchanges a world-weary glance with Justin. “The licensing thing can be difficult. They’ll say something like ‘Oh you can do Ghostbusters, but you can’t paint Bill Murray.’ Or ‘You can do Top Gun but you can’t draw Maverick or Goose or Val Kilmer.’ What does that leave? Planes and Volley ball? That’s f@$%ing stupid.”
“I want to do more classic British films, which there isn’t really a market for. It’s difficult. And its not so much that we don’t try, it’s more… if you take a look around here you’ve got Star Wars, The Avengers, Kill Bill and there’s a model for licensing those things, but if you say ‘I want to do a Get Carter poster’ then they don’t know what to do. It’s really tough.”
The Q&A dies down to with some promising hubbub about Mondo’s next work with Studio Ghibli, and then Olly gets his pen ready for the small army of fans queuing up to have a book signed.
There’s plenty more to see in the gallery, with a team of artists painting some poster replica’s “live” for a charity auction at the end of the night, and with Jock’s Shaun Of The Dead prints selling like hotcakes. It’s hard to imagine the gallery will be short of visitors for its two week run. For now though, its time to relax and take in some of the coolest graphic art either side of the Atlantic.
Now that you’ve read about the party, check out the full gallery of Mondo’s amazing pop culture images.
If you’re in the mood for further musings on kick-ass works of art, read Steve’s guide to 2000AD Characters Who Deserve A Movie (Besides Dredd), and if you want more retro redesigned for the 21st century, why not reverse polarity with ’80s Versions of Modern Movie Classics?