Why There Isn’t a Spumco Coffeetable Book: My Personal Story

Spumco book cover

I occasionally receive emails asking something along the lines of, “Whatever happened to that John Kricfalusi/Spumco coffeetable book you were working on?” Recently, however, I’ve noticed that there have been some unflattering rumors about my involvement. That’s why I feel it’s time to set the record straight about what happened to the project. I should point out that this is a personal story written from my perspective, and you may get different versions from the other key players involved. My story, however, comes from first-hand involvement in the project and direct conversations with all the main players. To the best of my knowledge, it’s an accurate account of what happened.

I was asked in 2008 by PictureBox to work with John Kricfalusi and serve as the editor for a book celebrating his work and that of the studio he co-founded, Spumco. The publisher Dan Nadel assured me that, “You and John will have complete control over how the book is marketed, packaged, and presented. You know the audience and I know you, so that’s good enough for me.”

I worked closely with John throughout 2009 on the manuscript. I didn’t write a single word of the book, but came up with the book structure and molded the manuscript into shape. For those who aren’t aware, John is a terrific writer. I didn’t have to do much other than nudge him in the right direction. We ended up with an entertaining, educational and fun manuscript that I look at with pride, filled with new information even for those who think they already know all there is to know about the history of Spumco and John Kricfalusi.

During the time I worked on the book, PictureBox ran into financial problems. The reason Dan Nadel told me was due to disappointing sales of a huge two-volume coffeetable book about Gary Panter. As a result, Dan sold the John Kricfalusi book to Abrams ComicArts, a fantastic imprint started by the able Charles Kochman, who is now the executive editor of Abrams. PictureBox remained the book packager, and fundamentally, nothing changed in the production process, except that we gained a bigger publisher with deeper resources.

I was heavily involved on the visual side as well, and sequenced some early versions of the book. Unfortunately, the book began to unravel once it was handed off to the designer Norman Hathaway. It was almost immediately clear that he was a poor match for the book and didn’t understand John’s artwork or the presentation it needed. Dan, however, insisted on keeping Norman onboard because they were personal friends.

I was glad to wrap up my editorial duties and get out of there because I could see the whole project going south. On February 27, 2010, I sent an email to Norman where I expressed concerns that he was harming the book. In it, I wrote:

After multiple meetings about design and your phone discussions with John, I was all but certain that we’d arrived at some sort of a consensus of what John wants the book to look like. John admittedly hasn’t been clear about certain aspects of the design, but he’s been adamant about one issue: the use of white space. Your layout seems to purposely defy him on this essential point which, regardless of its importance to you, is a make-or-break issue for him. There is tons of wasted white space and columns that are filled with nothing or with a tiny piece of art. This process will not go smoothly unless you build and improve upon John’s ideas. John is asking for excitement for the eyes, a “visual blowjob” in his terminology. This current approach is tame, respectful, and completely at odds with what he’s has been asking for from the very beginning of the project.

Here are some of his early layouts that made me do a double-take:

Spumco book cover

Dan Nadel and Norman Hathaway ignored my advice and pushed onward, dragging John along with them into the mess they were creating. The results were, quite predictably, embarrassing and incompetent. I was told later that Abrams was concerned about the layouts they were receiving, but Dan convinced them that John loved the book and approved of everything.

It wasn’t until some time later that Charlie Kochman learned that John hated the book. John, for his part, wasn’t even fully aware of the deal that Dan had cut with Abrams ComicArts. When the details unraveled, Dan and Norman were removed from the project. To Charlie’s great credit, he took full responsibility for the mess and refused to publish the book in its dilapidated state, even though a lot of money had already been invested and it was nearly done.

The whole experience left me with a bitter taste. In my personal interactions with Dan Nadel, I found him to be untrustworthy (I had to threaten legal action to get paid for my work) and petty (he suggested I remove my parents’ names from the acknowledgments because they couldn’t spare an extra ten words to include them). As for his creative and aesthetic sensibilities, those are opinions that I’ll keep to myself.

I’m pissed that he wasted 18 months of my time, but more importantly, I’m angry that he kept an amazing animation art book from being published. This year was the 20th anniversary of Ren & Stimpy. It was a cause for celebration, and nothing would have been more appropriate than this long overdue volume about John’s contributions to the art form.

The last time I spoke to John about the book was in May, and at the time, he wasn’t interested in picking up the pieces and starting over again. I’ve moved on to other things as well and don’t anticipate being involved in any future coffeetable book about Spumco. Dan Nadel, who is now editing The Comics Journal blog, is pleading ignorance about the entire affair instead of being honest about his role in the book’s demise. In a July 7 posting on his PictureBox blog, when someone asked what happened to the John K book, he wrote, “I don’t have any info on that. Try John K. or Amid Amidi.” And if you try me, I’ll be as transparent as I know how.

One thing is clear: Spumco and John Kricfalusi deserve a worthy tribute. I hope we don’t have to wait until Ren & Stimpy‘s 40th anniversary to see such a book.


  • Matt Sullivan

    Am I missing something? What’s so awful about this layout? I mean, yeah there’s some white space but this makes it sound like the guy was pissing on the Mona Lisa or something. It’s animation art. 2D animation art at that.

    • Justin

      He was looking for a “visual blowjob”. Come on man!

      • http://kandjcomic.com/ John S

        I see what’s wrong with it. It looks like a textbook. Ugh.

      • http://www.times5online.com John E. Williams

        The layout is unbalanced, the line spacing and rag of the text is sloppy, the images are just plopped down and sitting there, there’s no use of a grid, the spacing of everything is unbalanced and off. There’s nothing in the layout that is imaginative or fun or that remotely resembles the spirit of Spumco cartoons. It’s a textbook example of How Not To Do It and should be taught in design classes everywhere.

      • Ryoku75

        Some of the lay-outs looked okay but a number of them looked like hasty website lay-outs, like a website in progress.

    • amid

      White space was but one issue. The designer’s treatment killed the artwork on the page. John had certain ideas about what to do, and Dan and Norman ignored everything he asked for. If you see the entirety of what they made, it’s a joke and actually lessens the visual impact of John’s work.

      • Snagglepuss

        But what were his ideas. Visual Blowjob is a nice turn of phrase, but what did that entail? Ren and Stimpy style backgrounds? The neat little animation in the corners like in Chuck Amuck? Would it kind of be like his blog, a purposeful overload of strange and intriguing images?

      • katy

        I think anyone with an appreciation of the Spumco style would “get” the term ‘visual blowjob’. There is an intensity in his work which should be a joy to represent!

    • OtherDan

      It’s bland, and looks like an early html web page. I love hearing these no holds barred accounts. It’s too bad whomever could have righted it, didn’t.

    • Ben

      Yeah, it’s not horrible, but it’s just…boring. Especially considering the subject matter. It really should have reflected the animation itself, and visually popped. Here, it’s just like any other book.

      • Kevin Dougherty

        I agree. It’s far from “embarrassing and incompetent” but it’s not a “visual blow job” either. It’s on a par with any number of coffee table tomes I’ve seen. Somebody call Chip Kidd.

  • Rachel Y.

    While I’m glad this didn’t get tossed out into the world with that lame design, I’m so very sad that we’re being deprived of the tribute and celebration that you and John K. had initially set out to create. I sincerely hope this epic snafu doesn’t nix the idea forever!

  • Bobby

    I too am glad that this book wasn’t published. It ultimately would have taken away from John K’s legacy. I looked at Norman Hathaway’s work and he is not a very talented designer. He is a “safe” designer, and I suppose that is why Dan was so adamant about using a “safe” design since he probably could not afford another flop. In either case, the design layout is boring and uninspiring, especially for the kind of work that John has created.

    I hope Amid and John decide to start anew on what is sure to be a best-seller.

  • beamish13

    What a shame. I’ve really been looking forward to this book. We need more works on Canadian animators, as Karen Mazurkewich’s unbelievably great CARTOON CAPERS and Chris Robinson’s works are about all we have.

    • Dino

      Cartoon Capers is a dynamite read– an overlooked book about an overlooked animation industry.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I have a copy of that and can vouch for it, though I do know one Canadian animation bud who would think otherwise!

      • Gerard de Souza

        OT:
        Cartoon Capers is a good book but she jumps around chronologically sometimes and needs clairification in parts,IMHO. If I wasn’t into animation I may be confused or misunderstand some recounts.

  • Jorge Garrido

    What a shame the business couldn’t foster John and Amid’s vision!

    No wonder the literary middleman is becoming irrelevant!

  • http://www.bigblogcomics.com/ Mykal

    What a shame. I was so looking forward to this book.

  • http://www.superhaters.com Nick Marino

    I can’t wait to see the online fallout from this blog post :)

  • Toonio

    It’s ironic how the processes that made the cartoon and the book fade into extinction were uncannily similar.

    As long I have my “pre-cioussss” R&S DVD collection I’m happy.

  • http://framesandpages.com pat

    Amid,

    You sometimes catch heat in comments for having harsh opinions. I wanted to thank you for not keeping this story safe and untold. (It’s also good that you took care to mention it’s just a personal story written from your perspective.)

    I was really interested to read this, since I could tell you a story or 2 of my own, about slippery business dealing with small publishers related to large animation properties. That would have to stay private though.

    If you care to write more, I’d love to hear specifics about why the approach that failed was “tame, respectful, and completely at odds with what John was asking for”, and what the approach should have been.

    Please post more about your experiences that cross over between animation and publishing, especially with launching projects like this.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

    Hm. This post may cause some potential buyers of the book who don’t give a god dang about book design (me) to scratch our heads and go “huh”? I would have enjoyed the book despite its layout which I never would have even noticed. Too bad.

    • Gobo

      You don’t have to be a designer or an author to know when something’s dull.

  • http://animationanomaly.com Charles Kenny

    Presuming that the cost of actually creating the book is considered “sunk” at this point, are there any (non-copyright) reasons why it can’t be released online?

    I’m willing to bet there are plenty of animators, illustrators and fans who would give their right arm for the chance to design such a book. Why not use this opportunity to give them a chance? I bet it’s possible to get a really decent book by December 31st :)

    • http://johnpannozzi.blogspot.com John Pannozzi

      I really like this.

      I beg you, Amid (as well as John K.), to get the manuscript and at least most of the pictures available to the people ASAP if you can.

      • http://highlyrecommended.blogspot.com Satorical

        I’d be astounded if the manuscript weren’t the property of the publisher–not John K. and/or Amid.

  • Mitch Kennedy

    This is a grave disappointment.

  • SOS

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, "Be considerate and respectful of others in the discussion. Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted." If you have a criticism, be constructive and mature."]

  • Dino

    Goddamn it. John clearly has a book trying to get out of him. I thought we were about to get it.

  • E. Nygma

    I have been a graphic designer/illustrator for over 10 years now and it is clear by the layouts, this guy didn’t understand John K’s vision. I have been a Ren & Stimpy fan since the beginning…please let me do the layout…I would do it for FREE!

    Such a shame. The artwork on those dull pages looks Amazing! John’s work is so chaotic, colorful, and unique…why on earth would he give this project the “safe” treatment?

  • optimist

    I’m shocked that some find the examples above acceptable. That layout as shown above IS poor, and it undercuts the artwork. John S. is right-it looks like a textbook. there is zero imagination or taste evidenced there, sorry to say.

    This really makes one appreciate really good art book design(to name but one example, Cartoon Modern’s was excellent).

    • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

      Re:
      “there is zero imagination or taste evidenced there”

      The Spumco INFO is there.
      The Spumco ART is there, no matter if it’s nicely arranged or not.
      That’s better than nothing.
      The content is more important than the manner in which it’s stacked.
      It’s unfortunate fans won’t see this effort, and the book’s real creators won’t be compensated as richly as they might have been.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I can understand your thoughts on this too. I would’ve been happy either way that such a book came out at all, good layout or not.

      • optimist

        I get where you guys are coming from as fans(I’m a fan too, and would love to read this MS and see all the art together).

        But the reality is that if this book had been done as shown here, it would in all likelihood be the only such book to come out for decades, if not ever. Once a book is done on this sort of niche subject-and I say “niche” because that’s what it is-there’s no second chance to do it. It would represent John’s art, be the last word on the subject. To have it done poorly would infuriate the primary person the book’s about. It’d be a terribly painful thing to him…can you appreciate that? it would be in fact a waste of all this material, really. That’s how I see it. Better to NOT do it poorly than to “just have it out there”.

        Amid put a lot of time and hard work into writing the text, and I’m sure he wants his work to be read even more than you do. The fact that he’s relieved(if pissed) that it was killed in the form seen above says it all, doesn’t it?

        One more thing: it’d be one thing to expect a clever, colorful, balls-to-the-wall layout 20 or even 10 years ago, maybe, but these days coffee table art books are on a whole other level, much more sophisticated and imaginative across the board. That’s why there’s no excuse for the above. It looks like disinterest or laziness.

  • http://johnpannozzi.blogspot.com John Pannozzi

    On the bright side, Thad Komorowski is apparently working on a book about Ren & Stimpy, there’ll be an article called “The Oral History of Ren & Stimpy” in a forthcoming issue of Hogan’s Alley, and I recently hear that John K. and Craig Yoe are working on a deluxe collection of the Spumco Comic Book series from the mid-’90′s, so there’s still plenty of stuff coming out that should be of interest to Spumco fans.

  • http://HeroicalMasterings.com Peter

    Wow this read like me talking about the New York art scenes hahaha. You should be blacklisted 4evar OMG! I admire your honesty and fearlessness and talent at setting fire to water-spanning constructions.

  • Taco Wiz

    I am angry beyond belief.

    I’ve been waiting for this book for years. Two years ago I used to do a Google News search for John K. and Spumco (two different searches) every single day in order to get new information as fast as possible.

    All my rage.

  • Billy Batz

    Thank God you didn’t get Chip Kidd, everything would be cropped off and out of chronological order. Self publish it, lay it out the way John wants, we will all buy it.

  • Dario

    What John does is different and he deserves the book he wants because he KNOWS. Amidi, I imagine you must be tired by now, the same JK, but guys come on! Put yourself together and get this gem out. Many, many people around the world have been waiting for this book. You can’t feel like you don’t want to do it anymore or for a long while because of all you went through with this book.

    Well, knowing this you mentioned here makes me think a lot: now I wonder why we don’t have good arts books of Mary Blair… or what’s going on with Art Lozzi, Frank Montealegre (Hanna-Barbera), among others and the artists from WB. So much art to be published, but nobody knows anything…. Everybody takes care of “the art book” of Pixar and DreamWorks, but I’m only waiting for the art book of Maurice Noble (apparently in 2012).

  • secret goldfish

    I really don’t like the design either but have worked for many years as a designer and cannot tell you how much it can shit you to end up taking direction from several different people at once who think they are designers themselves and who basically really just want a monkey with the right technical skills to make their ‘vision’ appear.

    It might sound weird but If the designer was hired by the publisher, then it is really only the publisher he is obliged to answer to. Sure if it is a book about John then it would be great if the two could work well together, in fact that is probably the only way to end up with a good book, but you don’t necessarily know what was going on behind the scenes between the designer and publisher. For instance the designer might have been promised creative control before taking on the job and he might have done the job at a reduced rate as part of that deal only to end up finding himself taking orders from a committee of people who are not actually paying his wage. When that sort of thing happens the designer has three choices;

    1) Grit your teeth, be polite and accommodating, but stew inside that a group of people who have no personal obligation to pay you for your time are wasting it as well as steamrolling over the designs of the guy who was actually employed and given the title and responsibility of ‘designer’

    2) Ignore the committee and only speak to the publisher (the only guy actually paying you)

    3) Tell the committee to ‘fuck themselves’ and then be perceived by everyone as a flaky tantrum thrower.

    It sounds like you got number 2.

    It also sounds like what you really should have done is have John design his own book and work with a typesetter/finished artist (if John lacks experience/understanding of print production and the print world.)

    Another way to see the designers side of things is to ask yourself how often did the designer read your copy and suggest you changing it because he didn’t like it, I’d guess probably never. One of the problems with design is that everybody thinks they’re a designer whereas copy and writing are much more respected. You only have to look at the children’s book industry and see how often a writer (of an often limited number of words) more greatly benefits from credit and residuals than the artist who may have spent a great deal more time and effort illustrating the collaboration. It is no wonder that many children’s book artists end up deciding to write their own books.

    Like I said, I don’t like the layouts either but this is only one part and one side of the whole story which I’m glad you pointed out.

    • amid

      Secret Goldfish — You missed the second paragraph where I explained how the publisher had promised John and I “complete control over how the book is marketed, packaged, and presented.” That was the deal Dan stressed to us all along . . . until we started the design phase, which is when he and his designer suddenly decided they knew best.

      • secret goldfish

        Hi Amid, no I didn’t miss it and I don’t doubt that the publisher promised you that, what I meant to suggest is that the publisher was probably foolish enough to have promised the same thing to the designer without you knowing (or the designer knowing what he’d already promised you and John), unfortunately it happens all the time and is most likely the tragic and simple actual cause of the whole debacle, which sucks for everyone.
        Sorry if I came off harsh, it just seemed that the designer was going to become the fall guy in the talkback due to the design being a little uninspired. While I don’t know him or think much of his design, I can certainly empathise with the situation. Cheers though and thanks for the story hopefully you and John can get something up again in the future, I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it when/if you do!

    • http://www.MouseTracksOnline.com Giovanni Jones

      As a writer, but not in the children’s book industry, it seems that, where I work, everybody thinks they’re a writer, too. They wrote their school paper and letters to Aunt Rhonda, so they know good copy, too. Sometimes they tell you to change something that you really crafted with loving care, but can’t tell you how, using the infuriating phrase, “I’m not a writer, you figure it out,” when I already did.

      I’ve worked on literally hundreds of projects and occasionally have seen my work appear in final form in ways that don’t always please me. I have a voice but don’t usually have the final say. Few of us do. You choose your battles, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.

      I can really see both sides, as far as Amid & John who could not stand to see their project finished in a way that did not befit it, but I also agree that fans never got any book at all.

      Personally, I would not let the book die and take it elsewhere. Why let Lucy get away with pulling the football away? It’s painful when she does, but there’s always the chance that one day she won’t. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I usually beat a dead horse repeatedly — even when I’m the horse.

  • secret goldfish

    sorry about the rant, forgot to mention that the thing that sucks the most is the fact that we, the fans, don’t get a well deserved (for John) overdue book.

    If I was the designer, I would’ve taken taken option no 1 and just gotten things done, but I’m a huge John K fan and would have been easily convinced to design the book for free, which is not the wisest financial choice.
    Passion and enthusiasm can easily make you broke, hungry and worst of all leave you disillusioned, you do end up with a nice book though!

  • 4000

    Its a shame this never came out,the artwork alone would have been amazing to look at.

  • http://erikbutter.blogspot.com Erik Butter

    The layouts looks like a total uncreative bore.
    What an arrogant a***e thinking he is in control of a book which has nothing to do with him.
    Hopefully a cool book about Spumco, how it’s meant to be gets made. I would definitely buy a copy!

  • http://benmitchellblog.blogspot.com Ben

    As the jackass behind the ‘unflattering rumour’ I’d hastily clarify that twitter’s word count limit may have muddied my meaning. The info I’d been given was that Amid had worked on the book and John K hated how it *turned out* (rather crucial phrasing I omitted, my apologies), as described in this post. At any rate Chris never brought up the book during the Q&A with Jon last month and I was still very curious, so I found this article very interesting and enlightening, especially seeing the layouts. I still hope, like many others, it comes to light one day.

  • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto

    I don’t know anything about graphic design but I guess I can imagine how the design could be more creative. However, I think this design would be good enough. I find it pretty clear and I can see the artwork well. I wouldn’t qualify this as atrocious. They could have gone creative in inefficient ways but it’s just a very simple design and I don’t find it “boring”, if the actual drawings are fun that’s all I need.

    Anyway, I also hope someone publish something like this someday.

    And this is not really related, but I would also wish that someone would edit the Ren and Stimpy dvds in Spain or other countries. Spongebob dvds and blurays are everywhere while such an important show like Ren and Stimpy is still not very well known in my country. I’ll probably end up ordering the seasons via Amazon, but I’m not quite sure if they will work…I think my dvd reads almost everything.

    • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

      Regardless of what you think of this layout, the issue is that the designer was ignoring direction from those who were driving the project creatively.

  • joe

    Damn. I’m not the biggest John K. fan, but I’d definitely buy a Spumco art book.

  • JC

    what about the book cover art for this article? Is that just a mock up?

  • Snuggleplus

    Could we see an example of the original layout?

  • http://www.ekaterinaoloy.com Katia

    Such a terrible shame. Thank you, Amid, for sharing your story and hopefully sparking a new interest in those that may have forgotten about the man who brought us happy, happy, joy, joy.

  • Conrad

    (as a Creative Director myself…) This looks like the Creative Director, who’s resume is incredibly diverse and accomplished, either didn’t fully think through the assignment, applied his own aesthetic to the material, didn’t actually direct his team (relying on an Art Director similarly undisposed to think about the assignment), or a combination of all three. You could replace all the art with literally any other pictorial subject and it would be no more or less appropriate. That smacks of being out of touch with the creative challenge at hand. This is book design by the numbers, and damning.

  • Geneva

    I’ve been wondering about this for years! What a crying shame. I really hope it sees the light of day with a more appropriate design sensibility somehow/someday. This is a book that’s needed to happen for so long.

  • akira

    well i’d pay instantly for any scrap of John K/ spumco artwork that was published, but i’m glad a lame book doesn’t get published, in hopes of seeing one that comes closer to his intentions of how the spumco artwork should be presented.. if a book came out and didn’t sell because the layout sucked, people would just blame spumco/john k for the lack of success.
    thanks for telling us the behind the scenes story… let’s get chip kidd on this project!

  • http://allofmyheroes.blogspot.com/ Jeaux Janovsky

    Maybe Craig Yoe should be handed this. http://yoebooks.com/

  • http://ianjq.tumblr.com/ Ian JQ

    Wow, that’s disappointing. I was really curious about what happened to this. What a waste.

  • http://www.maroonedcomic.com Tom

    Wow, those “layouts” suck the life right out of the art. That looks like the work of a first year graphic design student. I’m really surprised. Hope this books finds a home someday.

  • http://cartoonsof1943.blogspot.com Ted

    In the absence of a general Spumco book you could buy for Xmas, there are Jim Smith sketchbooks you could buy for Xmas…
    http://jimsmithcartoons.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-sketchbooks.html

  • http://www.caricaturesbydave.com Dave Stephens

    Many, many, MANY really horribly designed art books sell very well because the ART IS WHAT PEOPLE ARE BUYING. I would have loved to buy a boringly designed coffee table book with John K. art in it and while I’d notice the blandness of the design briefly, I would treasure the art in it for a lifetime.

    Lifetime appreciation trumps brief disappointment always and forever…

    Is the design ever more important than John K.’s art? Nope. Is the limo that carried Elvis more important than Elvis? And do you really care about the limo? Really?

    Just think how many album covers were pure garbage flavored design and yet how many were sold because of the music, NOT the album cover…

    • optimist

      Just because there are”many, many, MANY horribly designed” art books out there doesn’t give a pass to more crappy layout and design…what kind of an argument is that?

      I don’t believe Amid was aghast because of how it’d look to potential buyers. I think he thought it was a crap job, period, and that it ill-served John’s work.

      You’re right in one respect-there are plenty of “do it for a buck” cheapo/lame/’good enough’ publishing results on shelves. Amid was just determined that the Spumco book wouldn’t be one of them.

      • http://www.caricaturesbydave.com Dave Stephens

        Design = Vehicle.

        John K. = Elvis

        I don’t care about the limo. I want to see the star.

        Are you worried about the paint job on the car, how shiny the chrome is, how fast the car goes? Elvis fans don’t care about that – they just want to hear the man SING.

        On the other hand, I agree that more white space = less John K. artwork, and that’s a mistake for sure, but I would still rather have less artwork in a published book than NO artwork in book never made…

        Well, maybe the book will be made into a digital book or an iPad app and a great designer can have a crack at it – there’s no reason that can’t happen, is there?

      • amid

        To extend your analogy, Dave, if the limo breaks down, the star will never arrive and you’re not going to see him.

        I do agree that John’s ideas would be better suited to a digital book format, like the iPad. Personally, I don’t have any plans to do traditional books after the Ward Kimball bio. Never say never, but I’m ready for something beyond paper and ink.

      • Rock

        It’s more like if Elvis were supported on stage not by top-notch musicians, but by a Salvation Army band. Interesting at first, but ultimately disappointing.

      • http://www.MouseTracksOnline.com Giovanni Jones

        But if Elvis got out of the limo, he could have fixed it, I’ll bet. Then he would have made it to the concert.

        But it would have gotten his white sparkly suit all greasy. Then the concert would have looked yucky.

        But Elvis’ mama or Red might have washed his suit, then the concert would go on as planned.

        Or if Elvis’ limo couldn’t be fixed, he and the boys might have walked a few miles to the next town, where some eager young fans — who couldn’t afford concert tickets — were sipping pop at the malt shop.

        Elvis would have given them an impromptu concert. The townspeople would gather at the little town square and Elvis would stand under the modest but bright Christmas tree and sing “Silent Night.”

        And that’s how Elvis saved Christmas.

  • Kyle Maloney

    Nice to finally know what happened, really bummed though that it won’t be coming out any time soon.

    I get where John’s coming from, I wouldn’t want it published either, on the other hand I just want the content. Sure, the layout sucks, but missing the anniversary sucks more.

  • Chris

    Definitely a project for Chip Kidd. The thing would sell like hotcakes – Nickelodeon nostalgia is huge.

  • http://she-thing.blogspot.com Caty

    It’s…it’s just like the Mary Blair book. Terrible.

  • marcoshark

    Amid,
    You guys (You, John K and the Spumco Gang) Should have packaged this yourselves. I think you can still do this! Time to think about A Cartoonbrew Imprint!!!

  • PassingBy

    Yea, pretty bland layout work, but I’m more interested in the ones that were rejected.

  • http://tonymora.blogspot.com/ Tony Mora

    How about Kickstarter Amid?

  • Khont

    I only took 1 design class in college and I think even I could have done a better job. Any true fan of Spumco would expect all of the visuals to pop. It’s a book about animation. It should be animated. I probably wouldn’t finish reading it simply because it would feel too much like reading a history textbook from high school.

    • Snagglepuss

      What would you have done specifically?

  • http://www.fooksie.com Fooksie

    While the layout is bland, boring, etc., would it really matter? I would much rather have a crummy book with Spumco art throughout, than not have one at all.
    Years back, I had ordered some stuff from the Spumco site,
    coloring books,pencil toppers, and as an extra bonus, they threw in some doodles that John did on some crappy note pad paper, while he had been on the phone. Those sketches are all over the page, without rhyme or reason, and on sh!tty paper, but they are still great.

  • Steven M.

    My heart is truley broken. Thought atleast they didn’t release it in that bland and unimaginative state, it’s a shame it’s not being properly done be real designers.

  • http://totald.blogspot.com/ DarlieB

    What varied opinions.

    I completely understand Amid why it all folded and why you both decided to drop it. If it was not as intended there was no point in doing it. So much of what we do ends up this way and if your name is on it you should have the control you were promised. If it ever gets made it should be up to that “Spumco” standard. I dont think they ever put anything out to be just art, it’s really entertainment.

    No one should be heart broken. John has had his blog and there is a vast amount of info and art he puts out. Actually it’s one of the best blogs out there. The effort is appreciated in an age of quick bucks so dont feel bad.

  • Brandon

    What a bummer.. I was excited about this book when I heard about it on John’s blog some time ago. Oh well, I’ll still be looking forward to a Spumco book, I couldn’t care less if it’s released on an “anniversary” year or not. And surely the layout could be improved upon, but I wouldn’t want a bunch of drawings all competing for my attention on a single page. A little white space is good to let the drawings stand on their own. The design and layout should be clean also to not compete with the drawings, which is the reason we all want this book in the first place.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    I am not a graphic artist per se, but this is not an example of crappy or thoughtless or terrible design. One could argue it is safe and/or pedestrian, but certainly not crappy. John K is not a graphic artist as far as I know either.

    It looks like The Illusion Of Life layoutwise. That could be a plus or a negative in some eyes.

    I’m with Dave Stephens and Frank Panucci on this.

    • FC

      Do you know how much knowledge and experience goes in to creating effective imagery? Graphic design is a foundational skill that works hand in hand with image-making of any kind. For you to make that kind of assumption shows just how little you know.

      The samples shown above are textbook and extremely dull. Hardly befitting the work being featured.

  • http://trickunicorn.com trickunicorn

    It’s somewhat disheartening to see creative people arguing here that the design of the book doesn’t matter. As a freelance illustrator, if I tried to justify dull work by insisting that “it’s good *enough*,” I would quite rightly be raked over the coals by my clients. John K.’s influence on current animation is incalculable, and he deserves better than this slapped-together job.

  • Mike

    I hate it when you get an art book, and they only have tiny pictures and a bunch of words from some random art critic.

  • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

    IMO this designer guy grabbed a copy of The Illusion of Life and thought “Yeah, I’ll do something like this.” Only the end result was coming more tepid and uninteresting.

    Tony Mora’s Kickstarter idea is great, and should be considered.

    The final Spumco book should be playful, colorful, and over the top. John wanted a “visual blowjob”, and I’m actually imagining some ‘popup’ giant lips coming out of the pages ;)

  • llj

    This type of layout and design is not uncommon in the book world, so I am not aghast at something I see all the time. I do see, however, that by taking an “academic” approach to the book design that it’s totally going against what Spumco stands for, and for that I concur with most of the comments here criticizing it. Moreover, I am totally against this sort of underhanded “we know better than you” attitude of book design.

  • max brass

    Animationwise, artbooks suck anyway. It’s nothing like the real thing. Sorry for being candid on that, maybe the alcohol.

    • http://cartoonsof1943.blogspot.com Ted

      I think something like Canemaker’s Avery book does a pretty good job of showcasing the animation art, even if I’d prefer more complete images of the media it’s on (and of course I’d prefer lots more pages in the book itself). It’s at its best when it’s showing you what isn’t on the screen, which is not especially like the final product.

      Something like Batman:Animated is more of a guided tour, and subjects the reader to a point of view, but is great in its own way, and still does a good job of showing the reader a bunch of art that isn’t on the screen (which is what I think animation books should do by and large; if the cartoons are available to watch, that art is out there to see already, so that type of imagery would largely serve a book that’s a filmography or a monograph, but not an “art” book, to my mind).

  • Jim

    To be fair: when was the last time any John K project was completed.’Visual blowjob” isn’t art direction. It’s about as meaningful as saying ‘make it fun’ or ‘make it cool’.
    Now you guys have more to complain about. Mission accomplished.

  • Matt Shoelace

    Speaking as a fan of all parties involved, what a gigantic bummer.

  • Gary

    You ever looked through “The Art Of Tony Millionaire”? Now there is a book I’d define as a “visual blowjob”. Entirely awesome.

  • http://raytracer.com manray

    Hathaway’s work is mediocre at best and it is corporate in its style. John K is neither of those things. Hire a designer who “gets it”. There are plenty of them out there. No, we don’t need another crappy coffee table book (particularly one that looks like a 50′s era Social Studies textbook) and we certainly don’t need a crappy one for John K. I adore the guy- he’s a true American icon. He deserves better than this. Think “bold, graphic novel, punchy, edgy”.

    Someone posted the Kickstarter idea. That would be a good way to get it off the ground again. You would have no trouble getting the money for it. Then, assemble a jury of competent designers (and John) and accept submissions from designers who would be interested in pitching their ideas. Pick one and let’s represent John the way he deserves to be represented. He’s a frikkin God. Seriously, let’s get a Kickstarter thing going. I’m ready to pitch in.

  • zooman

    Great post, Amid. Thanks for your candor. In so many ways it’s not about whether the sample page design was good or bad, or whatever. Design is good when it best communicates the intended message — not how best the designer demonstrates his style — and the intended message is a celebration of an animation icon. Ren & Stimpy were insane and to not present them in the ‘visual blowjob’ sense would be an injustice. It’s not a treatise on animation. I’d vote to have David Carson do it if he’s still on the planet.

    I’m guessing the issue of saleability reared its ugly head and the publishers were hoping to reach a wider ‘non-artist’ audience with a tamer design.

  • Pat

    Any Spumco book should be about 75 % art 25 % text. Nobody buys a coffee table book for the words. Suffice it to say Dan Nadel is still a douchebag.

  • Mr Horse

    No sir, I didn’t like it!

  • anon

    To call John K a “true American icon” is a misnomer. An icon certainly but he’s Canadian.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darvant-Petroleum/795387737 Darvant Petroleum

    what a shame. john k. needs this to be done correctly.