MondoCon Keeps the Fans Happy
Movies, comics, posters, and music highlight MondoCon Year Two
Twelve years ago, Mondo was the little store selling T-shirts at the original Alamo Drafthouse on Colorado Street. It got into the poster business for a 2003 screening of six sexploitation shorts, presented in Stag-O-Vision. Now it's one of the most recognizable brands in pop culture collectibles, selling prints, toys, even sweaters, and this weekend it gathers creators and collectors in Austin for the second ever MondoCon.
At last year's inaugural show, Jay Shaw was just one of dozens of print and poster artists displaying their work and meeting their fans. This year, he'll be busy behind the scenes, in his new role as one of Mondo's creative directors. He said, "I don't know if it's more on my plate. Last year, it was all me. This year, it's a whole team."
Like the first MondoCon, the weekend mixes special screenings with artist Q&As and signings, and the all-important artist booths for filling those last gaps on collectors' walls. But lessons were learned from last year, not least moving it away from the opening days of the Drafthouse empire's other cult conclave, Fantastic Fest. "Now it's taking place during ACL," noted Mondo regular Kevin Tong. "Out of one fire, into the lava pit."
If MondoCon is a time to take stock of the print empire's history, Tong is its Ken Burns. His first Mondo print, for a 2008 special screening of Streets of Fire, was sold out of what he called "the 7½ floor of the Mertin-Flemmer Building" – the notorious 4-foot tall gap in the Alamo South Lamar that served as the company's office/storage closet. He said, "They were literally working out of the crawl space that you couldn't stand up in." Now Mondo has offices, a warehouse, even a permanent gallery space, and Tong has become one of its mainstay talents. Even he isn't sure how many prints he's done for them. "I've lost track," he said, "I've probably done 60 prints, but if you're counting all the variants, it's probably 100."
For Shaw, Mondo's success was that it reminded people how much they could love a great movie print. He said, "In the early days, really just doing posters for screenings at the Alamo, I think it just really struck a nerve." On the other end of the business, he credits his predecessor Justin Ishmael for building Mondo's relationships with the studios, and presenting bespoke print runs as "a very viable thing for them." He said, "Once you get that level of attention, everyone else follows."
That included a talent roster that reads like a who's who of designers. Regulars like Tong, Tyler Stout, Jock, and Shaw's fellow creative director Rob Jones put Mondo on the pop culture map. Tong's 2010 schematic of R2-D2 for their Star Wars series, and his 2011 Iron Giant print, garnered mainstream headlines: It helped that he was already successful, so while Mondo boosted his reputation, he boosted theirs. Now he's seeing it expose fresh talent. He said, "In recent years, they've started this trend of working with up-and-coming artists, and helping them explode."
That's the real pressure on Shaw. Mondo's reputation is as the place for the next hot print, and the next hot talent, and MondoCon has to express that energy. He said, "Everything has to be right. Everything has to be incredible, and the fans have to freak out, and go, 'I can't wait for MondoCon 3.'"
MondoCon takes place Oct. 3-4, at the Marchesa Hall and Theatre, 6226 Middle Fiskville. For info and tickets, see www.mondo-con.com.