Tim is a frequent collaborator and a friend. We have done may projects together including music albums, books, and live events.
As I was finishing art school Tim approached me about an idea he had for a story he called “Big in Japan” about a rock band that fought Kaiju. That was really all he had. He’d never written stories before (outside of songs), and I was still trying to find my voice as a narrative illustrator.
When he approached me with the idea I suggested a few edits.
My first suggestion was that he design the story as a metaphor for alcohol addiction. At the time Tim was 20 years sober (he’s still sober, I just don’t know how many more years he has succeeded as you read this!), and that was an issue close to his heart. I think he was already moving in that direction with his story, I just helped him verbalize the idea and cement it.
My second suggestion was that he use a cowboy robot instead of a samurai robot (which was his original plan). I told him that if his band were all Americans, it would ring more true to use an image from the United States as opposed to culturally appropriating images from a culture with which they would not be as familiar.
We sat in a Starbucks one night as I drew the robot he would eventually name “The Duke”.
We started with an 8 page comic Tim released at G-Fest in 2013.
Then, Tim wrote a novel, and I couldn’t make it a comic. It would have taken too long.
So I did a bunch of illustrations for his book, but the hardest illustration for me at that stage of my career was the cover. He REALLY wanted a collage cover based on the Godzilla movie posters.
This was my ultimate solution. I’ll tell you what worked and what didn’t.
I think the overall composition worked, though I hate the floating head in the top left corner…I just couldn’t figure another way to add that character, and Tim REALLY wanted the whole band playing, the Duke and Zargatron (the monster) fighting. He also wanted Tokyo tower and jets flying by. It was a tall order, but I solved it…mostly. I also hate the contrapposto (weight distribution) of Zargatron…he feels stiff and unnatural.
I was determined to do better in my next iterations.
The next Big in Japan project was a single illustration for G-Fan magazine. I actually shot a pretty good time-lapse video of the drawing process.
The second book came out in 2016. I was much happier with the artwork.
This time Tim let me design the collage using a framing device. I felt that all the elements belonged to the image, as opposed to anything needing to be forced (like the floating head on the first cover). I also felt that all the characters felt like they used their weight well…they occupied their places with a sense of reality, despite the abstraction of the composition.
I also set up this one with a green color palette, preparing to do the final cover in purple (completing the “secondary color” triadic idea).
Unfortunately, Tim never wrote a third book. His interests are now focused on an addiction ministry, and he’s doing really well with it.
I wrote one final Big in Japan short story featuring the bassist, Olivia Olivetti, as an intro to my own Kaiju world.
This image is based on a Jim Steranko cover from the 1960s.
I may eventually upload all the interior illustrations I did for the Big in Japan novels and stories, but I think you can see that it was a great project for me in terms of learning to compose images in this style. The work started in 2012, and ended in 2018.