Welcome, X-Fans, to another eXciting edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT! So, a funny thing happened recently…
Guys, I went viral.
Yes, after 36 years on this planet, my life finally has meaning–and it’s all thanks to the House of X/Powers of X hardcover (out this Wednesday!). You see, I was at AIPT headquarters and took a picture of the just-received advance review copy of the collection. I tweeted it, and then the notifications didn’t stop for the next several days. 1,904 likes as I write this.
— Chris Hassan (@ChrisAHassan) November 29, 2019
I guess it’s safe to say people are really excited about this hardcover. But having held this beauty in my hands and flipped through it, I can confidently say it’s a work of art (oh, and the story’s pretty great too). Among the many people who shared my tweet was the designer and creative director who helped reinvent the look of Marvel’s X-Men line: Tom Muller! It made me think, isn’t it about time Mr. Muller made his X-Men Monday debut?
Fortunately, Tom was more than happy to answer a few questions and provide insight into his design process–which has become an essential aspect of the modern X-Era.
AIPT: Welcome to X-Men Monday, Tom! Something I’ve been curious about… each and every X-Men series now has a credits page, in which you’re credited as “Design.” On an issue-by-issue basis, what exactly does that mean? Where do your responsibilities begin and end?
Tom: That’s a good story. When we were working on the run up to House of X and Powers of X, I created the overall design treatment alongside Jonathan–including specifying the fonts we use throughout the books, page templates, design elements and overall guidelines; which Jonathan then used to flow in his contents and graphs. So what you see on the page is a weird Krakoan mutation of design between myself and Jonathan. At the core, these templates and elements needed to be very production-friendly and adaptable so other folks–like Marvel’s in-house teams–can produce things like credits, intro pages, etc. In that sense, I’m very hands off, but my fingerprints are still all over it.
AIPT: You redesigned the X-Men’s “X,” which is a logo that’s pretty much just been an “X” in a circle since 1963. What was your process like for reinventing such an iconic logo? Did you feel pressure to create something that could be used for the next 50 years?
Tom: During the design process for the “X” symbol, we were first and foremost focussing on the application on HOX and POX. The idea was definitely to update the mark and do something different from what’s come before; whilst maintaining that link to the heritage and brand equity the X-Men has built up. The initial design options I presented to Marvel were a bit more left field, although we ended choosing one of my preferred designs. Keeping the “X” contained in a circle is obviously a nod and semi-continuation of the brand, updated for this generation. Whether it will still be used in 50 years time is not something I worry about. It’s more important to design something that’s relevant for now that is strong enough to stand the test of time.
AIPT: Of the new series’ logos you redesigned, do you have a favorite? And if so, what makes it special to you?
Tom: I think the HoX and PoX roundels and cover dress worked really well, and we successfully did something different with the covers–making the “X” the most important part of the piece, with everything else neatly incorporated in the logo.
As for the Dawn of X logos; I’m obviously pleased with the X-Men logo, because its the X-Men logo; and I’m quite fond of how the New Mutants logo turned out, with the “X” embedded in the “A.” The Marauders logo was fun to do as well, especially with the inclusion of skull.
AIPT: Speaking of new logos, I noticed the new Wolverine logo and the just-revealed Hellions logo have the “X” in the “O,” whereas X-Force’s “O” has no “X.” Is that one of the design rules moving forward? There has to be at least one “X” in the logo to let the audience know the series in part of the X-Family of titles?
Tom: Yes–One the the notes I received from Jordan White and Marvel is that all logos in some way incorporate the “X” mark, even when there’s no “X” in the name–hence the embedded “X” marks in the logos for New Mutants, and Wolverine. For Fallen Angels, I went slightly off-piste and incorporated the “X” roundel in the logo. It’s another way of creating that visual connective tissue between all the books through the branding.
AIPT: So is it safe to assume the new Giant-Size X-Men series is getting a redesigned logo as well?
Tom: Maybe? Yes? No? I don’t know at this point.
AIPT: In terms of the custom font you created for the X-Line–what did you aim to get across with these stylized letters?
Tom: The custom font literally grew from the “X” mark. The “X” was the first graphic I designed for the family of books, and I wanted to create a consistent brand to run across all books. So using the core traits of the new “X,” I built out the display typeface with a lot of alternates for specific glyphs and two widths.
AIPT: The Design variants you did for the Dawn of X first issues fascinate me. Did you try to make design decisions that are relevant to the individual series, or were they just a chance for you to cut loose and design the most striking covers possible?
Tom: A little of both. The concept behind the abstract patterns on each cover is inspired by DNA sequencing; and each pattern is an abstract representation of the teams in each book. Of course, the goal was to make these covers as striking as possible to really make them stand out on the shelves.
AIPT: In general, how often are you in touch with Jonathan and what’s it like to collaborate with him?
Tom: It depends. Jonathan is obviously extremely busy, so we’re in touch when we need to be. Sometimes thats a lot, sometimes it isn’t. I think we’ve got a good understanding and feel for each other’s work and approach which creates a sort of shorthand approach of discussing things.
AIPT: In a past X-Men Monday, Jordan named the “No More” data pages at the end of HOX #4 as his favorite moment from HOX and POX. Could you talk a bit about what went into creating this powerful spread?
Tom: That’s an amazing mega-spread, and its 100% Hickman magic.
AIPT: Well, while we’re talking about magic–I had a chance to flip through the House of X/Powers of X hardcover and was wondering if you could talk a bit about this collection’s design.
Tom: It was clear that the hardcover collection was going to be a special book, so I wanted to make sure we could push it a little. I love working with Pantone colors in print, as they’re very vibrant (more so than traditional CMYK mixes). We had the option to print five colors, so it was a no-brainer for myself to add something extra. The great thing is that we have an amazing new piece of art from Pepe Larraz for the cover. Marvel wanted to keep the overall look of the front of the dust jacket close to the HOX and POX cover dress, whilst we decided to redesign all the chapter breaks for the collection, as well as the opening and credit spreads; hence the running motif of the “X” throughout. The neon key line on the cover (it runs across the dust jacket) just ties everything together; and gives it a subtle extra layer of surprise and delight.
AIPT: Finally, as a designer, where do you find inspiration?
Tom: Anywhere, really. In all the work I do, I always look outside for references and inspiration. A lot of this new X-Men look and feel is equally rooted in sci-fi as it is in information design, The International Style, editorial design, fashion, architecture, etc. I think that’s how you can create interesting and relevant work that lasts.
AIPT: Something tells me the design elements you’ve contributed to the X-Men mythos will be around for a long time, Tom. Thanks for taking the time to chat!
That’s it for this week’s edition of X-Men Monday, X-Fans–have an eXceptional week!