The minute I found out that custom book binding was a thing that actually existed, and that people were using it to create their own hardback collection of comic books, my first thought was: Uh-Oh. Because right then, I knew I was in trouble.
I’ve been a design geek for ages. I spent a big chunk of the 2000s doing CD mix discs as presents for friends and family – doing them incredibly lavishly, so that they weren’t just random mixes, they were themed experiences that had been tracklisted and mixed together to a boggling degree. (You can see some of my previous work over at my design Tumblr, Discs of Fury). The potential of taking some of the comics that I’d been collecting and turning them into a uniquely designed book that I could design how I liked, of maybe even adding a small section of extras at the back… well, it blew my mind. It gave me lots of ideas, and one of them was doing a collected edition of Casanova – the mind-melting comic book by Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. It’s a saga of multi-dimensional espionage and action that’s massively influenced by 1960s cult movies like Danger: Diabolik, and is also one of the most out-there and experimental comic books I’ve ever read. It’s stuck with me a lot over the last few years, and I liked the idea of giving it the lavish edition it deserved. It’s always a bit vexxing when a comic I love gets a half-hearted presentation, or is given a nice presentation but other, lesser comics get something an awful lot better. This was the chance to redress the balance, with something deserving.
And of course, because this is me we’re talking about here, it all got a little out of hand.
This is what I ended up with, and it’s a bit of a monster. 12 issues, in all. An 8-page intro section. 4 page dividers between the first and second miniseries, and between the second and third. And then, at the back, 160 pages of extras (totalling the 60 pages of extras that appeared in the first two-colour run of Casanova back in 2006-2008, along with interviews with Matt Fraction, a script, and 30 pages of art by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon). All of which I designed myself, and tried to get looking as nice as possible.
(A note for anyone who’s thought “Hmm- looks like the graphics on the cover are a bit stretched” – you’re right. The bookbinders made a bit of an error with that, one they are hopefully (fingers crossed) going to be fixing very soon.)
I spent a huge amount of effort on this. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to design, and tried multiple versions of the cover before finally getting it right. The back cover took me almost as long, and while a few mistakes were made, a lot was learned, and I know a hell of a lot more about printing and book design than I ever did before.
One of the main reasons I did this was because Fraction, Ba and Moon were all going to be at the Thought Bubble comic con in Leeds that I was going to, which gave me a deadline and also resulted in me pulling out all the stops to make it as impressive as I could. The end result was being able to get it signed by Matt Fraction, and getting a bit overwhelmed with how amazed he was by it (I often get reduced to slightly embarrassed grinning and thinking “Don’t say anything stupid!” in these situations), and I also was able to get both artists to do quick sketches in the front and back of the book, which basically left me in a state of complete fanboy shock.
I’ll definitely be doing this again. Despite some things not going according to plan, there’s nothing like having an idea and then being able to turn it into a physical thing you can hold in your hands – a unique object that isn’t quite like any other graphic novel or comic collection out there. I might just go a little easier on the extra material next time…