I received the Naughty and Nice: The Good Girl Art of Bruce Timm book printer samples last Friday. One of the most important things to me is hearing the artist’s blunt feedback concerning a new book. I sent a few copies to Bruce and had the chance to get his reaction. We are both very pleased and love how it turned out. Now I’m anxious for the book to hit the stores and to hear what all of you think. While we wait for the books to arrive at the end of this month I thought I would share some pictures, and also include some stories over the course of the production of the book.
“Can you watch the booth for a little while? I’m going to go see if Bruce Timm wants to do a book together.” This was my asking my right hand man, James Walker, at Comic-Con in 2009 to watch the Flesk Publications booth while I tried to track down Mr. Timm. I didn’t know Bruce beyond meeting him as a fan a few times to get his signature. As far as I knew he had no idea who I was. (I never assume anyone knows who I am, or should for that matter.) I walked over to the Naked Fat Rave booth where my pal John Fanucchi runs the stand. I knew Bruce does signings there off and on throughout the show. Bruce happened to be there, along with a line of about 50 people all wanting his attention. I asked John if he could introduce me to Bruce and he was glad to help by bringing me behind the booth. I feel when you present yourself to someone you only have two minutes to introduce yourself, make your proposal and impress someone. If they continue to talk to you beyond those two minutes and ask you questions then you are in good shape. If you keep talking after two minutes and they aren’t asking questions, well, then you aren’t doing so well. Realizing there was a long line of people waiting for autographs and that he was busy, I made my introduction and inquiry in one minute, and then asked if he would be willing to talk about the possibility at his convenience. I was flattered to discover he knew of my company and he agreed to talk in the future. All in all I took about three to four minutes of his time and he was back to signing books in short order. It happened quick enough where the fans weren’t giving me the evil eye for extending their wait time.
One thing I was plainly aware of from the start is how busy Bruce is, along with his status in the animation and comics fields. I wanted Bruce to know I was serious, yet also give him his space and not be aggressive. I have a massive amount of respect for who he is and what he has accomplished and just basically stayed true to who I am and followed my gut on how I should present the book proposal to him. Originally my idea was for a 64 page collection of his personal female art that could possibly be a series of volumes that would come out a year or two apart from one another dependent on how much art Bruce could produce, or was interested in drawing. My goal from the start was a book that was on Bruce Timm, not a book that revolved around the characters that he works on. I wanted to see “The Art of Bruce Timm,” not “The Art of Batman” by Bruce Timm.
By spring of 2010 Bruce started sending me art, and sending me extra art, and then additional art, and the pieces just kept coming. I was flabbergasted to see so much amazing art. The book kept growing, morphing and expanding. I found myself rethinking the book with designer Randy Dahlk several times and sending updates to Bruce for his thoughts. By Comic-Con 2011 I had a 304 page preliminary designed book to show Bruce at San Diego. On the Sunday of the show Bruce found some time to flip through the pages. I could tell by a few of his comments that we didn’t nail it. There were issues with the pacing of the book. I sent the dummy book to Bruce after the show to give him time to absorb the design and offer suggestions. Shortly after, I received an email from Bruce that basically put into words what I was expecting to hear. He expressed that book needed an extensive overhaul. Let me state how exceptionally well Bruce phrased his email and gave clear explanations regarding how the book could benefit from a redesign. He offered many examples and suggestions. Sure, I wish we impressed him more, but I was in no way disappointed. I was energized about the possibility of improvement.
These pictures (above and below) represent a small sample of the pages I had printed out for Bruce to look over. All of the red pencil notes are his giving me his preferences for which pages were working and others that could benefit from adjustments, with explanations why. When compared to the final book, you will see in both of these examples that there are many pieces and page designs that were ultimately cut from the book.
It’s easy for someone to be sensitive about putting work and time into a book, then having to make a significant amount of changes. I’m not one of those people. I don’t take constructive criticism personally and look at them as an opportunity for growth. I got excited about charging into the book and improving it with Bruce’s suggestions. I took over the book from Randy. Randy had other obligations to attend to and I found it easier to just make the changes myself, rather than have Randy serve as an extension of my arm for me. It would probably take me longer to explain the changes than make them myself. Randy did good getting the basic template down. The rest could be wrapped up by me and Bruce. I dived in to redesign the book over the month of August and September. It’s fair to say the book was designed by Randy Dahlk, Bruce Timm and myself. There are pieces of all of us in there, but it really was Bruce who encouraged and pushed me in a positive way that got me stoked about redoing things until they were just right. Bruce really knows how to bring out the best in me and I feel like I gained a deeper sense of design over the course of these three months than the last three years. The things I learned will drastically change how I look at design and my approach for all books in the future. I’ve been publishing books for nearly ten years and I still feel like I am a student. I constantly work harder to improve the books I produce. It was quite the positive experience and an honor for me to have this opportunity to work with and publish a book on Bruce Timm.
These pictures show a grouping of printer proofs (above and below). These are made on the actual paper the book is printed on. I check colors, tones, values, shadows, darks and lights, a final check for typos, and anything else that grabs my attention at the time. This is my last chance to make any changes. Once approved the press specialist’s use them as guides to make sure the pages are printing per my approved specifications. I tell them what I expect in advance, then raise them to my level.
Here is a copy of the Naughty and Nice hardbound edition out of the slipcase and sans jacket. This front image and the back side artwork are not found inside the book and are exclusive to the deluxe edition.
One final topic from me is regarding the interior art. The high majority of images are of nude women. One thing that was very apparent to all of us working on this book is our desire for all of the women depicted in the book to be classy, elegant, and in general for the book to be respectful to women and celebrate them in their natural form. You will not find any images in our eyes that would denigrate or be disrespectful to women, or classify them as victims. We gave this quite a bit of thought since we hope this will be a book that women can open and enjoy, not just men. I consulted with a few women when putting together the book. I actually pulled out one piece that a certain individual felt went a little too far, even thought it looked innocent to me. She made a valid point why she felt it inappropriate and I listened. Everyone has different tastes and ideas about what is appropriate or not appropriate. I think we did a great job and if someone disapproves, well, this isn’t the book for you and that is OK with me.
From start to finish this project was a terrific experience. I hope you have enjoyed this post.