You've probably seen his work and never really noticed. Much like a really well-functioning housekeeping staff at a resort hotel, design guru Tim Daniel's efforts often gussy up the look of another creator's book without the fans being any the wiser. But ShadowlineOnline is well aware of the key role that Daniel has played in many of our books as well as those from Image and other publishers as well, so we decided to give him the "10 Questions" treatment in hopes that the fans could finally get to know him better!
1) Not many people are going to know who you are, but many Shadowline creators surely do since you're such a behind-the-scenes guy. Tell our readers what you have worked on with Shadowline (and with Image).
Well, I consider Shadowline, Skybound, and Image Central (from time-to-time) to be home. There are a handful of folks that had enough trust and faith in me to let me fulfill a dream by working on their books and they are Jim Valentino, Robert Kirkman, Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Spencer - primarily. Each one is responsible for giving me a shot and getting me started. Shadowline has meant a slew of books like Existence 2.0-3.0, Forgetless, Shuddertown, Morning Glories, Infinite Vacation, ShadowHawk, Meta4, Fractured Fables, and 27. Image Central has brought opportunities like Sky Pirates of Neo Terra, God Complex and Mice Templar. Skybound has been unique in a sense. I divide my time between web development, merchandise and, occasionally, books. I wrote and designed the 4-issue Walking Dead ‘Survivor's Guide’ and recently contributed to The Infinite #1 Hardcover. If you're wearing a Walking Dead t-shirt or perhaps looking forward to the TWD lunchbox this fall, then that would be my handy work as well. I have a profound belief in -- and appreciation for -- creator-owned work, so I was pretty damned grateful when Bendis invited me along to write and design the Powers Encyclopedia and do design for Scarlet, Takio, and Brilliant. Most recently I’ve been designing covers for his Complete Library re-issues. I’m talking the cool stuff like Jinx, Goldfish, Fire, Torso, and including the entire run of Powers Premiere Hardcovers.
2) What is the corporate logo you admire the most?
Strange thing - I don't. I don't tend to wear them. I don't care to endorse them by having them on my back, shoes or coffee cup. However, there are so many clean, timeless designs to draw inspiration from. The thing that most preoccupies me is communicating so much with very little. This must be the hardest thing I've had to train myself to accept when approaching a book. When I look at design, believe it or not, I look at TIME Magazine. So clean! All the space is used so effectively and judiciously. Every bit of content has room to breathe and thereby reveal itself discretely, yet in concert with the whole presentation. I'm fairly obsessed with it in that I want the books I design to do more for the reader with less on the page.
3) When you're working on putting the extras into a comic book collection, whether it's a trade paperback or a special hardcover edition, what sorts of things do you need to keep in mind that readers may not have thought about?
I think about what I want to see - which is everything! I think about the things that not only the reader will enjoy, but the aspiring creator might find instructive. Comics are such a great medium for this. An aspiring creator is literally holding in their hands the blueprint by which they can manufacture their own creation. You study a number of different books, and from a close reading you can gain tremendous insight into the process. Extras can really illuminate that, as well as extend the reading experience. As far as specific content, I don't always get to make this decision, as it is creator-driven or often an editorial/publisher decision. In those instances, I switch gears and think about how every page should have production value. Every single page of a book better re-pay the reader for their dollars spent by presenting something visually interesting and hopefully in a fresh manner they've never quite seen before. The emphasis then is on creating a visual motif, some combination of elements that accentuate the story. 27 or Shuddertown are examples of that approach. I hope the reader gets that, and feels that there was strict attention and a sincere desire to enhance their experience on every page.
4) What is your favorite novel?
Michael Chabon's 'Kavalier & Clay'. Hands down. Not just for the incredible, epic tale, but for the literal impact on my life. In 2002, I was coming off of nearly five exhaustive years with Amazon.com and read the book. I made the decision right then and there that I would do whatever I could to fulfill my lifelong dream of working in comics. I started in earnest after my move to Missoula, Montana a few months later. While it took some time to actually break through and see something I had designed in print, thankfully,that experience has continued to grow. That and Mr. Chabon was kind enough to sign a print I designed of the Escapist clocking Hitler. He even wrote that I had the Golden Key, so I can’t let him down now.
5) Is there anything in comics that you've seen and thought, "Darn! I really wish I would have thought of that!"?
You don't have enough space on the webpage...any time I work on a project I have that experience working with the creator or editor/publisher. Every week when I read the new books, every month when the solicitations hit...all the time. Pointing to specific design work, I look no further than Jeff Powell's Olympus or The Light. The Image design crew is amazing; Drew Gill, Jonathan Chan, Vincent, Monica and Jana, not only do I study their books but they’ve proven to be wonderfully patient mentors and guides. Check out the Skullkickers trade, Invincible Compendium, and the Cowboy Ninja Viking collections as a few examples. All unique and speaking a language all their own. Jonathan Hickman's stuff is something I continually refer to, in order to remind myself to take risks and push boundaries where possible. The Y The Last Man dress for everything produced, from singles to hardcover editions. Those would be the holy-grail style ‘Damn!’ moments for me. Ultimately, the list of those moments is simply too long and occurs all too frequently for me to name any more names.
6) It's 2am and you're starving. You're raiding the fridge and the cupboard. What are you about to eat?
CHOCOLATE. Satisfies and stimulates. One square of dark chocolate with salted almonds and I'm up until 4:00am...but my daughter would argue that I am the cookie monster.
7) What is the one special feature to a comic book that you have had a hand in coming up with that you're most proud of being a part of creating?
I don't think pride enters into it for me - satisfaction maybe? Anything I do that passes muster with a creator, editor or publisher, I'm pretty happy about. To me they are the owner, first reader and critic rolled into one. If any email comes back to me in caps and riddled with exclamation points, then I know I've done something worthy (or it can also mean I'm heading back to the drawing board). There are times when I don’t want to touch a piece. I think about dressing work by Mike Allred, Mark Bagley, Rodin Esquejo, Christian Ward, Joe Eisma, Charlie Adlard, and Alex Maleev and if I let it, it gets my hands shaking. There are times when I just hope not to do damage! But the question suggests I have to pick – so I thoroughly dig the second and third print covers I designed for Infinite Vacation. I felt like a DJ with Christian Ward’s amazing art. I remixed and re-mastered it into something new but truly honoring the original work. I look fondly back at the first cover for Existence 2.0 because it was my first design work in print. There was no cover for the book and I think my effort there, similar to the Infinite Vacation covers, moved things forward. I’m pretty happy to have contributed in that way.
8) With what comic book character do you most identify with yourself?
Bendis' Scarlet. She has a sincere desire to stop the crazy and might be a little so herself. Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead), in that as a father I see that passion to do anything necessary to preserve and protect your loved one. Glenn. also from TWD, because let’s face it, sometimes I do the dirty work and no one may notice - but that’s the job I signed on for!
9) What sort of tools do you need to use day in and day out to create the masterpieces you do?
First, I read and observe. I scan the racks in stores, and not just comics; books of all varieties, and posters, DVDs and video game packaging, magazines, junk mail, and websites. Design is pretty much everywhere. Then I rely on collaboration. A given project can have multiple inputs, and often it requires an ability to synthesize them into a presentation that satisfies everyone’s desires. Time management. Did I mention that? Everything is always on deadline, always immediate and always of the highest priority to the individual creator. I’ve got to deliver and fulfill that promise. Not so surprising that a lot of what goes into this is less technical skill and more interpersonal, so relationship building and trust are crucial.
I routinely use what I like to refer to as a pencil and paper, sketching out ideas. Then there is Photoshop, my bread and butter. I have a serious deficiency with Illustrator and In Design so Photoshop is my go-to. I use it extensively as a result. I really want to pick up Brian Haberlin’s Digital Art series on DVD (the dude is a genius!) and try to round out my skill set a bit more.
10) I heard from a little birdie that some guy named Tim Daniel will be writing a comic in the near future for Shadowline. Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about that dirty, dirty rumor?
Sordid. Terrible. Nasty. Wait, are we talking about the bird or the rumor? The book! You mean the book?! I am! And for me this is pinnacle-type stuff happening. I guess I could summarize it in two words - Mehdi Cheggour. He's the artist and my creative partner on the book. We’re starting to hear or see the names of Nate Simpson, Nick Pitarra, Joe Eisma, Rodin Esquejo, Christian Ward or Riley Rossmo to name a few, used in context with the likes of Mobius, Quietly, McNiven, and Sienkiewicz – well honestly I think you're going to be hard pressed as a reader not to utter Mehdi's name in a similar context. I can also safely offer this, the title is Enormous and it is a big, grand, action-adventure piece. See you in 2012!
Tim Daniel's work can be seen virtually every time you pick up a comic book from Shadowline. And as mentioned already, Enormous by Tim Daniel and Mehdi Cheggour comes out in 2012.