Sunday, December 31, 2023

STRIKE While the Fist is Hot


Angela Mao returns to the silver screen with 1973's WHEN TAEKWONDO STRIKES. My art for this package takes it's cue from the visual theme I established for a previous double feature of her films. Whereas the main characters were rendered in gray tones for the cover and in-color for the interior booklet of that release, this time I reversed that approach and put more color on the cover. 

The layering of characters, splattering of paint, and the angled, dimensional title text gives it some depth, without implying the film is presented in 3D. 

For the booklet the focus is shifted to Jhoon Rhee. I grew up near his dojo in Washington D.C., so his television commercials with that famous music and "NOBODY BAHDAHS ME, EDAH" slogan was ingrained in my impressionable brain from childhood. It's unfortunate he didn't do more films. But at least this one is getting an HD re-release.  

And for fun, to close out the year, here's some Chrismas card art I did for martial artists Karen Campbell and Cynthia Rothrock. HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody. May your blessings continue.

Catch you on the flip side.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Welcome to the Cult

I did this art for the Blu-ray packaging of Wong Jong's 1993 wuxia flick, KUNG FU CULT MASTER, starring Jet Li perhaps at the peak of his popularity. The first or a proposed two-parter, it's filled with fast-paced, high-flying wire-fu action and the requisite amount of double crosses. Who's on who's side? Well, the cover gives you a hint if you get confused. Heroes on top, villians down below. 

There was some marketing at the time of this release that accidently, and hilariously, mis-titled the film KUNG FU COLT MASTER. I remember the Hong Kong VCD was notrious in this regard. Now THAT'S a movie I'd like to see. The story of a horse who practices martial arts. Somebody get Roger Corman on the phone.

The film is jam-packed with characters, and quite a few big stars, so I felt the cover should reflect that element. Jet needed to loam large in his typical, stoic, offensive/defensive (come at me bro) pose. His name large across the top. While the art style and font choice coveyed the period, fantasy-action aspect of the film, so popular with local audiences at the time. Add some saturated colors to make it pop off a neutral background and bake for 20 minutes to a light orange.

Mao strikes back. Next time.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Urban Action Showcase

I designed this piece for the cover of a publication which showcased black actors/martial artists who flourished in the kung fu/martial arts action film craze that Bruce Lee helped kick off in the early 1970s. In fact, three of them (Jim Kelly, Donnie Williams and Steve Muhammad) appeared in ENTER THE DRAGON which celebrated it's 50th anniversary this year. 

Sammo Hung's protégé, Robert Samuels (DON'T GIVE A DAMN), and Taimak (THE LAST DARGON) round out the composition, along with the 'Little Dragon' himself watching over them.

For fun, I gave it a slight 1970s feel, with "racetrack" borders in green and orange. And I further aged it with some distressing as it was to be used for a limited edition t-shirt as well.

Next time, we send in the clones. Or maybe not. We shall see.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Deadly Strike!

Here's an illustration I did for a cover of a publication featuring Taiwanese actor/director Lu Feng, star of the 1978 Shaw Brothers film FIVE DEADLY VENOMS. (It might be fun to do a full series of these sometime.)

Lu is the deadly centipede coiled and ready to strike. Do centipedes actually coil? And are they even deadly? Well, I'm not going to find out. His blade looks pretty sharp to me.

And this is piece I did for a friend. Karen Campbell and Cynthia Rothrock getting their kicks. (The Welsh and Chinese dragons approve.)

The butt kicking continues... nex ttime. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Female Fighting Frenzy


This is a piece I illustrated a while ago for the cover of a new publication. It's now finally coming out so I can share it here. The lighting design and color palette help to tie the elements together while giving it a unique look. I enjoyed the subect matter so this was a fun piece to do. 

Not a whole lot to say about it other than... for those fools who underestimate Sally's knuckle guns, she also has a absurdly large rocket launcher concealed in her arm. Like all good robot women should.

After the art was done, a few new interviews were conducted so a second cover was created to reflect the additional content. This is that version below.

Next time... the Centipede STRIKES!

Friday, October 13, 2023

Feeling a Scary Shiver

Considering October is when the spooks come out, (and today is Friday the Thirteenth) I thought I'd share some art I did for a fun series of children's "horror" novels. Think Scooby Doo Mysteries except that the monsters... are real. Maybe the Goosebumps series is a better comparison.

I've been illustrating the SCARY SHIVERS series for a while and have enjoyed comin up with vaguely spooky dream-like imagery. All the while staying this side of good taste, considering the intended audience. (The world's full of weird jobs. Sometimes I get paid to draw an attacking hoard of hundreds of ferocious cave-dwelling roach-like creatures with glowing eyes and dripping fangs. Just another Wednesday afternoon at my place.)

The interior art is rendered in gory grayscale, while the covers are presenting in full creepy color. The first three books in the series are THE CURSE OF SHADOW PARK, THE LEGEND OF THE SERPENT WITCH and THE WEEPING HOUSE.   

The author requested I refrain from illustrating the three tweenage protagonists thus allowing for the reader to better imprint themselves into the story. All the artwork is therefore rendered as POVs (point of views) further helping with the immersion. Here's a splattering of interior art examples featuring a couple creepy-crawlies. If you want more, well then you'll just have to buy the books.

That is... if you DARE!

Well that's all for now. Next time. Sci-fi action babes get the spotlight they deserve.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Royal Treatment

In the early 1990s Cantonese comedian Stephen Chow burst to super stardom in Hong Kong. His films often outgrossed even Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-fat movies at home. In fact, the top five highest grossing HK films of 1992 were all Stephen Chow films. (Hey dude, howzabout leave something for the rest of us!) It is from that very furtile period that these two films arose. Well, it's more like one 3 hour film chopped into two 90 minutes halves. With bottom-denominator Wong Jing at the helm, you know what to expect and yep, it delivers. Lots of nipple twisting. Philistines rejoice. 

For the outer packaging of the Blu-ray collection of both ROYAL TRAMP films, I briefly considered going with a super-deformed big-head caricatured cartoony style synominous with Hong Kong action-comedies of the time. But although that goes over well with HK audiences, I think my client's European audiences associate that more with straight comedies, and although this film is quite silly, I think the bigger draw to this market is the over-the-top martial arts action and not the Cantonese wordplay Chow is known for. So instead I played up the bright colors, the large recognizable cast, the fanciful costumes and of course Chow's goofiness... all wrapped in an ornate, slightly formal, Chinese framework.  

October is coming and that when the spooks come out. Next time.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

A New Revelation


Many have long lamented the dearth of original ideas coming from Hollywood, and rightfully so. Even the recent Oscars had to look to an independently produced film, EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE AT ALL ONCE, to give it's highest awards to.) So perhaps audiences seeking something fresh, just haven't been looking in the right place.

THE FP is nothing if not an original idea. The brainchild of it's monocular writer/director/star Jason Trost, the film (actually there's so far four films in the saga) is an irreverent dystopian science-fiction action comedy centered around two gangs who battle for control of the titular Frazier Park by, get this, competing in a video game called Beat Beat Revelation (think Dance Dance Revolution with added death by eletrocution for the loser and you aren't far off).

I was happy to be requested personally by the director to create the outer packaging design for the Blu-ray collection of the film series. The film's colorful characters and quirky visual effects provided ready-made inspiration for my cover design. It was just a matter of fitting the disparate elements together into something cohesive while still representing the somewhat chaotic nature of the dream-like universe of the films. 

This is one of those cinematic experiences where afterward you mentally question what you remember seeing, because it's just so fancifully preposterous. But if you can open yourself up to something different and just go with the new flow, it's a rewarding venture. Four rewarding ventures.


Time to Chow down with Stephen.
Next time.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Dine In. Take out. Kick a$$!


This is a fun new film project currently in development. Actor and filmmaker Michael Worth (KILLING CUPID) is aiming to reunite a bevy of kung fu cinema laureates with his latest cinematic effort, HOUSE OF FANGS. The film will be a dark action-comedy that harkens back to the style and sensibilities conveyed in beloved martial arts titles from banners like Golden Harvest, Shaw Brothers and Seasonal Film Corporation, mixed with John Wick style gunplay and generously sprinkled with Tarrantino-style humor.

Various veteran (amd modern) action actors are in talks, but the casting potentials include: Angela Mao Ying (ENTER THE DRAGON), Dragon Lee (THE CLONES OF BRUCE LEE), Bruce Le (ENTER THE GAME OF DEATH), Chiu Chi Ling (DUEL OF THE 7 TIGERS), Bruce Li (BRUCE LEE, THE MAN, THE MYTH), Don Wang Tao (THE HOT, THE COOL, AND THE VICIOUS) and Bruce Leung (KUNG FU HUSTLE). Rounding out the casting hopefuls are Michael Dudikoff (AMERICAN NINJA franchise), Mark Dacascos (ONLY THE STRONG), Scott Adkins (AVENGEMENT), Dolph Lundgren (THE EXPENDABLES franchise) and Lorenzo Lamas (SNAKE EATER trilogy). That's a veritable dreamteam of action icons.  

Worth is directing from his own script which is described as ‘DRAGON GATE INN meets JOHN WICK’ as a group of American assassins hiding out in a rural Chinese restaurant discover the owners of the establishment serve up much more than just good food!”. 

The movie also reunites Worth with fellow action veteran Andy Cheng (SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, THE RUNDOWN) following Isaac Florentine’s U.S. SEALS 2: THE ULTIMATE FORCE (2001), on which Cheng also served as fight choreographer.

For the teaser posters, my influence was an old 2-color ad for a Chinese restaraunt that was on the back cover of a multi-page newsprint flyer given out by the American Theater in Washington D.C. in 1988. This theater is where I enjoyed a Hong Kong double feature every Sunday evening. Best six bucks I ever spent. (Oddly enough, that exact restaurant is where I had dinner with several visiting HK movie actors years later, but that's another story.)      

If this sounds like the kind of movie you want to see. (And if not, you need your head examined.) Here's your chance to help make it a reality. Back it HERE!

To Hell with another stale Hollywood rebooted remake or reimagined regurgitation. Drop by HOUSE OF FANGS for a steaming dish of fresh action served "piping hot". (Not to mention the tastiest dim sum in town.)  

Here's the Heckler & Koch UMP-9 version:

And a Glock 19 version:

Double swords version:

Again, check it out HERECatch you nex time.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

She Shoots Straight

I created this piece of key art for the 1990 Hong Kong action film SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT (aka LETHAL LADY). This Corey Yuen-directed film was a starring role for rising action starlet (and Sammo hung's future wife) Joyce Mina Godenzi. The half Chinese, half Australian beauty was the 1984 Miss HK pageant winner who, like many others before and since, transitioned her talents into acting.

Under the tutelage of action master Sammo Hung, Joyce appeared and later starred in a handful of films in the late 1980s and early 1990s before retiring from showbiz. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Hung's 1987 action masterpiece EASTERN CONDORS. Godenzi and Hung wed in 1995 and she had a small cameo in Jackie Chan's 1997 film MR. NICE GUY, directed by her husband and shot in Australia.

SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT is Joyce at the peak of her powers as an action actress. Her brutal climactic battle with American-born Filipina bodybuilder, Agnes Aurelio, is legendary. And they even got a rematch in LICENSE TO STEEL. The wonderful cast features "big" Tony Leung Ka-fai, Carina Lau, Yuen Wah, Chung Fat, and even Sammo himself in a small role. (Even Mark Houghton gets a brief cameo.) Eagle-eyed viewers may even spot cameos from Amy Yip and Isabella Chow who a year later would blaze across cinema screens in the hit Cat III film SEX AND ZEN.

The films rarely slows down, has a bit more dramatic depth than these types of films are normally afforded and is a lot of fun. That high energy is what I attempted to capture in my cover art. Everybody gets their bit of action while Hung oversees the carnage. Bullets and fists fly in equal measure. And, trust me, you wouldn't want to be in the way of either one.  

Next up. Too old to rock n' roll, but too young to die? There's trouble in town. Time to raid the martial arts retirment home and get the band back together for one last bash. That's NEXT time.

Monday, July 31, 2023

The Fury of Rothrock

Cynthia Rothrock has the unique distinction of being possibly the only American actor to get her cinematic start in Hong Kong action films. A superior athlete, Rothrock segued her status as the undefeated World Champion in Martial Arts Forms and Weapons into a equally successful career in the world of action filmmaking. After several popular martial arts action films in Hong Kong she now primarily works on US productions as an actor, writer and producer.

In 1989 after appearing in various supporting action roles, HK juggernaut studio Golden Harvest gave Cynthia the lead role in an action comedy called THE BLONDE FURY (retitled LADY REPORTER for the export market). I won't go into details of the fragmented production schedule, but the final result is a thoroughly pleasing romp full of exciting set pieces and ernest performances. These Hong Kong performers truly risk life and limb for our "popcorn entertainment".

Commissioned to do the remastered Blu-ray package, I endeavored to capture that late 80's visual aethestic (right down to the "VHS sticker") while still making the art feel vibrant and fresh. The movie is a bit "all over the place", and so is the cover art. Her name above the title is sharpie marker on masking tape. Perhaps a little bit "punk". The film did not have a strong marketing campaign upon it's initial release so I was free to come up with my own vibe.

 The booklet cover art carries forward the same visual theme.

We'll continue the "ladies kickin' ass" theme next time with another popular film in the Hong kong girls with guns action subgenre.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Canton Boxer

THE SKYHAWK is a 1974 martial arts film, unique in the fact that in acts as a bridge of sorts. A passing of the "action movie torch". It stars a veteran superstar actor (nearly 70 year-old Kwan Tak-hing who had already portrayed folk hero Wong Fei-hung in about as many films) passed his prime but still kicking, along side up-and-coming superstar Sammo Hung, and powerhouse action actors Carter Wong, Hwang In-shik and even Nora Miao.

Luckily the film lives up to it pedigree. Packed with memorable action set pieces and lots of emotion, it stills thrills action fans today, while hinting at the lofty heights Hung would achieve in the decade to come.

For the cover art I followed the same visual template I designed for a previous series of kung fu/wuxia films from this period. It features larger than life villian, Hwan In-shik, menacing in a blue color theme with our weaponless heroes huddled in the center.

The booklet cover design shows our heroes walking toward their final showdown amongst the ruins of a Thai temple, rendered in a shilouetted minimalistic style. Why can't they make movie like this anymore?

Next up. The blonde fury herself, Cynthia Rothrock, gets her due in a starring role.

Monday, June 26, 2023

The Dragon Remembered

This year, 2023, marks a milestone in the history of kung fu cinema. It's now been fifty years since the release of Bruce Lee's 1973 seminal martial arts classic, ENTER THE DRAGON. The film was not only a financial success at the time, but was equally influential to subsequent action films and television programs. 

Bruce was in the middle of producing his magnum opus, GAME OF DEATH, when Warner Brothers offered him his first starring roll in an American film. So he paused his work on that film and made BLOOD AND STEEL (which he demanded by retitled ENTER THE DRAGON). 

Sadly, his untimely death right before the release of this film also meant he never got to fully expereince this new global adulation, or have the chance to complete GAME OF DEATH in Hong Kong. Just as Lee broke thru to worldwide stardom, his burgeoning career, and his life, abruptly ended. Aged just thirty-two. 

I was commissioned to produce some artwork for the cover of a retrospective look back at Bruce's Hollywood starring debut. Although the full-color image was utilized, two alternate monochromatic versions were also produced. (see below)

Bruce Lee cast a long shadow. We explore what has happened in those shadows, and see what the legendary Sammo Hung was up to the following year. Next time.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Remember. Revisit. Respect.

Late last year I was comissioned to create a poster for a new documentary which celebrates Bruce Lee's first major film role, 1971's THE BIG BOSS. The doc locates and revisits the surviving filming locations in Thailand as they exist now. 

Usually my clients for Blu-ray movie covers offer no direction. "Can you make us a cover for such-and-such film by next Friday?". But this time, my brief directed me to use this iconic shot of Bruce from the film as the focus image. (As well as incorporate the required text.) 

So my main concern, given the similar title, was to avoid confusion and clearly convey that this is NOT a poster for THE BIG BOSS, but a new documentary about THE BIG BOSS. So to that end I "watermarked" the background with many behind-the-scenes photos from the film. And pulled one such image to the forefront in the lower left corner. One in gold and a second version in blue.

I created a title font for the film, similar to the bold red original, but now distressed as if from age, set against a muted silhouetted Thai landscape. For added interest I included a familiar black shape of Lee performing his famous jumping kick from the film's finale. 

Below is the less common blue variant.

This year is an important one for Bruce Lee fans, as it marks a milestone. We shall dig deeper into that next time as we continue the Celebration of Bruce Lee. Would that make it a "Cele-Bruce-tion"?
I'll show myself out.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Going Mad

There are two diametrically opposed ways to approach designing packaging for a film franchise boxed set.

  1. Find a simple iconic image that can embody the entire cinematic saga —  For instance, this could be a lone X-Wing Fighter approaching the Death Star for the Star Wars saga.
  2. Or... attempt to represent ALL the main (and some supporting) characters of each film in the collection, crowded together into one busy composition.
Personally, I prefer the simple elegance of the former, but feedback indicated film fans wanted the later. So chaos rules and madness is the order of the day. 

The art style and color palette is a continuation of what I used for a series of similar films such as the first MR. VAMPIRE, THE DEAD AND THE DEADLY, and ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND.  

The four horror-comedy films collected for this presentation (MR. VAMPIRE II, MR. VAMPIRE III, MR. VAMPIRE SAGA IV, and VAMPIRE VS. VAMPIRE) are thematically connected by the jiangshi (hopping Chinese vampire) genre, with some reoccurring cast and crew. In typical Hong Kong fashion they are sequels in name only, without repeating characters or any over-arching storyline. Regardless, the films are a lot of goofy fun, and are prime examples of this uniquely Hong Kong film genre made during the original jiangshi boom of the 1980s.  

The essay booklet cover art features a jiangshi rendered immobile by a prayer scroll attached to his brow. A familiar sight in all of these types of films. This is an example of a more minimal design approach.

I also designed menu backgrounds for each film, but I don't know if they were used.

That's all for today. Catch me next time... for something new.