Tag Archives: gary pullin

An Ecstasy of Ghoulish Visions

I first stumbled on the work of Gary Pullin a few years ago when we crossed paths on social media (I don’t honestly remember what platform, though I have a feeling it was on Instagram.) I had seen a Teen Wolf piece he had illustrated for a limited edition Skuzzles screen print and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I was crushing hardcore on this illustration, lost in the intricate beauty of the linework. The piece features a close-up portrait of Michael J. Fox’s Scott Howard, fully wolfed-out, and ready to party at the high school dance. What initially comes across as a simple illustration is actually layered with homage and film references, but what initially drew me in was Pullin’s deft hand at painstakingly illustrating Scott’s hairy visage. I mean, Scott’s a werewolf and there are hairs all over the place. Having spent my fair share of time as an illustrator I can attest to the madness that lay within a piece like this.  There’s this insane balance of detail and suggestion of shape when drawing hair like this, and it’s something that is painfully hard to make appear natural, flowing, and full. As an artist, I find this poster mesmerizing.

So it came as no surprise when I found out that 1984 Publishing was releasing an art book dedicated to Gary Pullin’s work that the decision was made to use this piece as the cover of the book.

Ghoulish: The Art of Gary Pullin is set for release next week and I couldn’t be happier to see such a beautifully handled collection of Gary’s work. Pullin is on the forefront of a new generation of artists and graphic designers that are taking back the commercial side of pop culture art. For the past 20 years commercial art has been in a massive slump due to corporations, studios, publishers, record companies, and ad agencies favoring heavily Photoshopped stock photography or obnoxiously digitally-manipulated artwork, in lieu of creative illustrations and paintings. The era of collectible mainstream album artwork, beautifully rendered movie posters, and painted magazine covers seemed to be long dead. But over the last few years boutique distributors, independent poster and t-shirt companies, and a handful of smaller magazine companies have been ushering in a new era of commercial pop art, and Gary is one of the most creative talents in the movement.

1984 Publishing was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to scope before its release next week. The hefty volume covers the bulk of Gary’s career from the earliest roots of his influences in classic monster movies and Saturday morning, live-action television shows (The Hilarious House of Frightenstein), his decade-long stint as contributing artist and art director for Rue Morgue magazine, on to his expansive portfolio of freelance work for numerous record companies, home video outlets and publishers (including a bevy of album and DVD covers, posters, and other merchandise.) The book showcases well over a hundred pieces of Pullin’s artwork, many of the pieces complete with color variants (posters), concept artwork, rare exclusives and previously unpublished alternate illustrations. I love that the the volume even makes room for his work in the enamel pin collecting community, a nice touch in a genre that doesn’t get much coverage in books like this.

Speaking of exclusives, I was so stoked that the book cover’s Gary’s contribution to the Mondo limited edition 45 records that were released a little over a year ago. Of the 4 variants, Gary’s was the hardest to get a hold of (it was a Texas Frightmare Weekend exclusive) and is still a hole in my collection. At least I can stare longingly at his Wolfman sleeve artwork now…

Scanning through these pages I’m struck by how complex Pullin’s illustrations are in terms of mashing up disparate textures, as well as his ability to playfully mix many layers of concepts and storytelling withing a single piece of art. Gary’s eye for story and design is super fun and he manages to cram in a ton of different ideas without muddying the waters, so to speak. Theie is a lot going on, but the work never feels cluttered. For instance, there are a couple of A Nightmare on Elm Street pieces in the book that look deceptively simple in execution, but as soon as you really take a look at the illustrations you’ll notice that there are layers, upon layers of imagery hidden within the pieces. The way Gary manages to utilize the blades from Freddy’s glove to serve both as the literal blades as well as doubling for the stripes in his iconic sweater was pretty much genius use of space.

This is a theme repeated in Pullin’s work where he finds so many creative ways to layer his imagery. On top of this, Gary never seems to lean too heavily on establish classic imagery from the films he works from. His posters very rarely evoke classic movie poster artwork or famous production stills, so even though he wears his influences on his sleeve his take on the material is highly original and Pullin’s style shines through. Yet all the same, you only have to glance at one of his posters for a moment to fully recognize the film he’s illustrating. In fact, as rich and layered as his artwork tends to be, Pullin has also mastered a subtlety of reference and wickedly deceptive simplicity to evoke a movie with the least amount of detail. Just look at these two pieces below for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Walter Hill’s The Warriors…

The brevity and extremely on point designs barely need to feature much in the way of detail to convey exactly what they represent. This is amazingly hard, this ability to boil down story and design to the bare essential. As someone whop dabbles in graphic design myself, I’m gobsmacked.

The glue that binds this book together is provided by April Snellings, who infuses the chapters with thoughtful interviews with Gary that drill into his influences and process. Her ability to tie together the threads of his experience, his passion and his work makes the book a very interesting read for any fans of horror, movies, or just graphic design, illustration and painting. Though a lot of artist spotlight books are typically just heavily illustrated collections, Ghoulish: The Art of Gary Pullin is a much richer, more layered examination of a very talented creative, which somehow manages to perfectly reflect Pullin’s style.

Again, the book is set for release on May 8th, and can currently be pre-ordered through Amazon in two different packages…

If you just want the hardback book, you can find it here.

But there is also an Amazon exclusive set that features a signed book, an 8×10 signed 3-D print of the film House, and branded 3-D glasses as well for just $10 more. This set is limited to just 250 pieces, so you might want to snag this one fast.

Exclusivity Vs. Fandom, or Why it Sucks to be a Collector These Days *UPDATED*

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it bears repeating, I don’t like being negative here at Branded in the 80s.  First and foremost this site is about celebrating the nostalgia of the 80s and all of the cool stuff that goes along with loving that decade.  But I’m human and just like everyone else there is some stuff that just really grinds my gears.  Typically when there’s something that really gets on my nerves I’ll force my better half to listen to me gripe about it for a few days, then I’ll focus on something positive and just get over it.  But every once in awhile I just want to get all my thoughts out on paper (so to speak) and process the negativity in a slightly more productive manner.  Can I get a decent article or editorial out of it?  Well, let’s see.

This past week one of my favorite movies of all time, the Monster Squad, was suddenly trending in the news due to the announcement that Mondo would be releasing the film’s soundtrack on vinyl this October.  To get people excited for that release the company decided to also release a vinyl single this May featuring the two pop songs from the film, Michael Sembello’s “Rock Until You Drop” and the end credits “Monster Squad Rap”.  Frankly, this is outstanding news as I’ve been dying for the soundtrack and score on vinyl for years.  La-La Land Records had just recently released the Bruce Broughton score on CD (and it sounds amazing), but I was really hoping for a nice piece of artistic vinyl, something that I could put out and display.

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So, considering this awesome news, why am I so bummed?  Well, the Mondo single release is going to be made available in four variant editions, each featuring beautiful sleeve artwork by some really swell artists and different colored vinyl pressings.  The releases include artwork by Gary Pullin, Randy Ortiz, Jason Edmiston, and the folks at Phantom City Creative (the latter two I featured during my Month of the Monster Squad a couple years ago.)  Here’s a look at the four release variants…

Dracula cover with art by Phantom City Creative

Dracula cover with art by Phantom City Creative

Wolfman cover with art by Gary Pullin

Wolfman cover with art by Gary Pullin

Frankenstein cover with art by Jason Edmiston

Frankenstein cover with art by Jason Edmiston

Gillman cover with art by Randy Ortiz

Gillman cover with art by Randy Ortiz

Alright, amazing cover at and super cool colored vinyl, so far so good.  While I’m not crazy about variants and the thought of paying for the same two songs four times, that’s totally something I’m willing to do as a huge fan of the Monster Squad.  So what’s my problem?  Well, two of these variants are going to be exclusives.  Actually technically three of these are exclusives, I just happen to live in an area where one of them will be readily available.  The Gary Pullin Wolfman variant will be exclusively available at Texas Frightmare starting this weekend and the Ortiz Gillman edition will only be available in record stores in the UK in May.  The Edmiston Frankenstein edition is going to be exclusively sold in record stores in the US in May, and the PCC Dracula version will be sold online at the Mondo site also starting in May.  So, for Monster Squad fans like me living outside of Texas in the US the Wolfman and Gillman editions are going to be a bit tricky to get our hands on.

Though record stores in the UK will be offering copies of the Gillman pressing for sale online (for instance Transmission Records and Norman Records), I’ve been hearing that they will be refusing or refunding orders coming in from the US to keep the European exclusivity intact.  This is frankly (excuse my french), frustrating as shit.  On the one hand I applaud the convictions of these record store owners for sticking to their guns, but on the other I just want to give them my money in return for a product they are selling that I really want to buy.  Similarly, with the Pullin variant, from what I understand you have to attend Texas Frightmare in order to get a copy.  So, I live roughly 1,400 miles from Dallas, TX and had pretty much zero chance of making it out to the show this weekend.  If I want to snag a copy of that disc I have to crowd-source my shopping list and hope that I’ve made a contact on one of the social media channels I frequent who might be going to the show.  I also have to hope that they don’t mind standing in line for me, hauling the record around all day, and then taking the time to ship it to me after the show.  I’ve met a bunch of super gracious folks who have done similar “muleing” for me in the past, but I hate asking this of people every time there’s some exclusive I want at a show I just can’t get to.

Exclusivity.  I’ll be honest, the whole concept just baffles and enrages me.  It’s not that I feel a sense of entitlement or that I should be able to get everything that I want.  Trust me, I learned at a very early age that not only do we not typically get what we want, but that it’s probably better for our moral character that we don’t.  If these records were simply limited editions (which they are, on top of being regionally exclusive), and they all sold out in a matter of minutes I could deal with that.  But being denied even the chance at getting them based purely on my geographic location is like kicking a wolfman in the nards when he’s down.

Hell, I’ve even been on the lucky end of this stick in the past having easy access to exclusives (like the Halloween Hot Wheels Ghostbusters Ecto-1 variants at my at-the-time local Kroger grocery stores) and I’ll be honest, it didn’t feel that great.  Being a collector I was acutely aware that there were a ton of people in other states that wanted those exclusives that didn’t have access to them.  I had to make the tough choice one year of either leaving these Hot Wheel toys on the store shelves, or buying them all up and sending them out to friends in other states for cost.  Sure, I got to feel good about making sure collectors that wanted the cars got them at an affordable price, but I also was put in the position of a scalper, keeping other local folks from being able to buy them. It just felt crummy all around.

Bottom line.  I’m a super fan of a cult film who already feels a little marginalized because there isn’t a whole of collectible merchandise available for said film.  I’m already scouring the internet for rare items to celebrate my love for the Monster Squad (from Japanese movie pamphlets to rare publicity photos from the film’s premier.)  So now, on top of that I have to basically be denied access to cool new collectibles, or choose to pay ridiculously inflated prices on eBay for those collectibles from the scalpers that will inevitably flood the market days after the release.  That is the environment that exclusivity breeds.  These records that sell for £12 at the UK shops will be bought up by bottom feeding scalpers that will turn around and sell them for upwards of £40 to £50 on eBay or the Amazon Marketplace.  The sad fact is that this is a trend that I do not see ending anytime soon.  The companies that release these exclusives are getting exactly what they want (which is selling through all of their product in a short window of time), so why would they change to a more fan-friendly model?

*UPDATE*

So, just as I figured two things happened.  First, the Wolfman Texas Frightmare variant was next to impossible to get for all the reasons stated above.  Not only was I unable to source a copy from the show by reaching out on social media, but the leftover copies were put online at Mondo and sold out in a few minutes.  I’m not saying I have a huge reach on social media mind you, but I have a decent number of contacts and I even had both the cover artist, Gary Pullin, and Andre Gower from Monster Squad retweeting my call for help to no avail.  Second, checking eBay only a week after these records started going on sale and we can already see scalpers reselling these Monster Squad releases for two to five times their suggested retail price!

IMG_5731

This is after just one week!  When folks start getting these records in hand I can almost guarantee that the Wolfman, Gillman, and Frankenstein variants are going to be selling for upwards of $100.  In fact…

IMG_5740     IMG_5742

For a two-song, 7-inch single.  I’ve heard arguments for both sides of this exclusivity game, and both have their merits, but I just can’t believe that this is the best way to go about marketing niche products aimed at fans, to fans.  Again, I am a huge Monster Squad fan who is willing to drop the $60 plus shipping for the four variants, and yet, with cash in hand I am barred access from the get-go.  I mean, I’m looking at the list of things required to pick up a release like this (money, awareness of the releases, checking availability the moment they go on sale, connections in areas where the exclusive releases are going on sale, etc.) and I check every box.  Well, every box except the one that reads: “Willing to pay upwards of 700% the price to douchebags who want to price gouge because the item is exclusive.”  Screw that check box.  Like I said, these days it really sucks to be a collector.

What about you, where do you stand on exclusivity?  Is there something awesome about this marketing concept that I’m missing?