Happy New Year! Thank you for reading and supporting Hall H!
Just a few words and a couple of shout outs before the interview – which was conducted at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con back in July.
“Why post the interview now?” you ask?
For a few deliberate reasons.
First, the Hall H blog was officially launched just before Comic-Con (in July). When I was doing research for possible content, one of the first things I came across was Orlando Arocena’s vector tribute for the movie, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (which still blows my mind) that he did as part of the Poster Posse. I emailed Orlando to ask if he would be attending Comic-Con because I just had to interview him. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be able to make it, but he did put me in touch with Don Thompson, “Purveyor of pop culture…burdened with glorious purpose…” and the man behind Blurppy and Poster Posse.
“Yeah…but why post the interview now” you ask again.
Okay Grasshopper, slow your roll.
Second, after my interview with Don, I thought the best time to post it would be at the end of the year, so I could couple it was some retrospective commentary – which I think is important because of the juxtaposition of a well established blogger (Don and Blurppy/Poster Posse) and one just starting out (me and my fellow Hall H cohorts). I learned a lot from his thirty minutes of “rambling” at Comic-con – most importantly, to support and always give credit to the artists and to also continually take chances since “opportunities are everywhere – you never know when it’s going to come.”
Third, since then, Don was gracious enough to let me interview Orlando at Blurppy / Poster Posse HQ in Orange County, CA a few months ago when Orlando was in L.A. for the iam8bit Sequel art show and for various business meetings (which also included a meeting with Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn), Hall H has grown a bit and Blurppy / Poster Posse are continuing to kick things up to notches unknown to mankind.
Orlando Arocena presents his vision of “Guardians of the Galaxy II.”
(Left to right): Orlando Arocena, James Gunn and Don Thompson.
So “Thank You” to Orlando for introducing me to Don, and a ginormous, super-sized “Thank You” to Don for doing what you do…and for being selfless and accommodating with your time back in July to rap about pop culture with a padawan blogger. Cheers to an even better 2015!
Alright. So, I guess tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name’s Don Thompson. I started Blurppy.com about 3 years ago and then halfway through it, about a year ago, little over a year ago, I started an artist collective called the “Poster Posse.” Basically, what spurred it on was I saw the very first poster for World War Z. It was just a black piece of paper with just a silver “Z” on it. You know, I really want to see this movie but the posters were not very exciting. So I reached out to a dozen artists and said “Hey, would you guys like to do posters for these?” And well, we just displayed them online.
How did you know these artists?
I didn’t know them at all. I just reached out to people whose art I liked. And…
Was it on Deviant Art or something like that?
No, just online, you know just seeing peoples’ print drops from galleries and stuff, Eight of the artists responded to me. I called them the “original eight” which is a Transformers reference, but we did that, we did World War Z for the first project. And we got lucky. Paramount saw it.
And they asked if they could buy it (read about it here).
Yeah. They saw it online on our website and they bought our very first project. They used it at Hot Topic, they used it on limited edition prints and they used it on giveaways, so it was very exciting!
After that, I started inviting more and more people. I’d see people’s work on Behance, I’d see people’s work on active gallery exhibits and artists would reached out to me. After each project, I get a bunch of artists who reach out to me and say “Hey. I like what you’re doing with the Poster Posse. Can I join?” In the beginning, I was letting people join. It’s gotten to 55 members now, so it’s at a point now where I have to be a little bit more selective.
I’m trying to be more strategic in my planning. I’m looking for somebody in Brazil, somebody in Russia, I’m trying to have someone on each continent. I have this guy in Japan, someone from Turkey, a bunch of people in France, UK, Canada, Mexico. Just trying to cast a wide net.
What’s great about that too is that when we do a project, I can ask like the artist in Japan “Could you re-tweet this in Japanese for us?” And as for the guy in Turkey “Can you re-tweet this in Turkish?” France, French, whatever it is, Mexico, Spanish. Whatever they do, they just cast a wider net for us. And we’re getting a lot more followers.
We’ve done 10 projects to date. Our last one was Batman – 75th Anniversary.
Yeah…those are beautiful!
Thank you very much. That was a fun one. That was the biggest one we’ve ever done. It was a five day reveal, and we had over a hundred pieces of art. And we invited guest artists to come aboard. So we had some really great guest artists come on and contribute stuff. Poster Posse really embraced it and a lot of guys did multiple images. It was very well-received. It was great.
When you have a theme that you’re going to do, does each member have to do one, is it mandatory?
So here’s the thing with the group. I tell the guys what they do for me is free. What they get from me is exposure and media coverage. So it’s an open-door policy. Once you’re in the posse, once you’re in the group, you can participate in whatever project you want. If you’re too busy with clients, don’t worry about it. Come to the next project. If you don’t like the theme of the next project, don’t worry about it. Go to the next project.
I have people who have only participated in the first project, and I’m on number 10 right now. But they’re still involved, and that’s good. That means they’re busy.
The whole reason that I started this was to give up and coming artists, and artists in general the exposure that I felt that they deserved but weren’t getting.
I’ve talked about Matt Ferguson before. He did the art for the suitcase box set for Marvel Cinematic Universe – Phase One: Avengers Assembled. He did all the interior art for that. I was like, “Wow, this guy is huge.” No, he had a daytime job, and he was doing a lot on the side. I said, “You should be doing this full-time.” He said, “I’d love too!” So I said, “Let’s get there! Let’s participate in these projects, and let’s get the word out.” And it worked. He was able to quit his job this year and he’s doing art full-time. I’m not saying that’s because of me. I’m just saying that’s what I enjoy doing – trying to help people get there.
So Batman was number 10…how many more projects do you have lined up?
Batman was number 10. Yeah, we’ve got 3 more lined up for the rest of this year. I can’t talk about them yet, since they are all a work in progress.
I will tell you that we’re looking to branch out into TV. We’re looking to branch out into video games and we’re looking to possibly do some book stuff. Those are three areas that we would like to touch upon. I’ve reached out to people in those areas, so we’ll see what will happen. But yeah. I can’t give any hints. I think one of the things that’s so appealing about what we do is that one day there’s nothing online, and then the next day, guess what, there’s a brand new project…like “Whoa! This just came out of nowhere!”
I’m in an odd position because as blogger, I want to post as much as I can. I give people so much information as possible, so when I see a gallery doing a show, I’ll scour the internet for images, I’ll post as many images as I can for that show. What we’re finding out, is that people love those articles. But when they get to the gallery, they’re like “Well, I’ve already seen them all already.”
I want the Poster Posse stuff to be “no one sees it, no one knows about it till the day we launch it.” Luckily till now, the 55 artists have been able to keep it secret – not giving anything away. I think it has more impact.
Yeah, I think it does, especially from a marketing standpoint.
It’s exclusivity. I know that all the content from people like Nerdist, Slash Film, Collider, all those great sites, IO9…when they pick it up, I know they’re coming to my site to get it because it’s the only place the content is held. And they’ve all been great to me. Whenever they cover our stuff, they’re providing links back to us. It’s great.
Do you know how much traffic you get per month?
I think I looked last month. Our Twitter reach last month was a little bit over 300,000. Website, I think it’s averaging between 65,000 and 75,000 unique visitors per month. So it’s obviously not big, but it’s growing. So it’s a good start. I don’t advertise anywhere. It’s all word of mouth and it just kind of happens organically.
I was reading your website, you’re originally from Maine?
From Maine, yeah. I grew up in Maine. I’ve lived here (California) for 25 years now, so I’ve officially lived here longer than I lived in Maine. I just moved out here with a bunch of friends when they graduated from art school. And I have no artistic ability. They were the ones with the talent.
Did all of you decide to come out here?
Yeah there were like five guys that wanted to move out and they just asked me “Hey, we’re moving to California. Do you want to go?” And I said “Sure.” I wasn’t really doing anything. I said “When?” They go “We’re moving at the end of the summer.” I said “Okay.” And sure enough…summer came, and they’re like “Hey we’ll be there tomorrow. You getting your stuff packed?” I was like “Oh God. Okay yeah.” We didn’t know anybody out here, we knew nothing. We didn’t have jobs, a place to stay, nothing. And it just kind of all worked out. It was kind of crazy, how everything worked out.
Also on your website, you have an eclectic list of “loves.”
Some of the stuff on that list wouldn’t even register on most peoples’ charts. I put DiPietro’s Italian sandwiches, back east we have these sandwiches that are amazing. DiPietro’s Market is a local store by my house, and I literally…as soon as I get off of the plane when I go back and visit, I go straight to DiPietro’s Market and I get a sandwich. Same thing with Humpty Dumpty chips. It’s food-related again. There’s a barbeque chip on the east coast made by Humpty Dumpty, any time I have one of those chips, it’s kind of like that scene in Ratatouille, when that guy eats the Ratatouille and then has visions of his childhood. As soon as I eat one of those chips, I’m in 4th grade, in elementary school, paying a quarter for a bag of chips and I’m so excited to open and eat it. I could taste the flavor, the smell, it all brings me back; it’s kind of crazy. There’s a lot of different stuff in there.
Yeah, The Smiths, The Cure…
That’s when I grew up. In the 80’s, 90’s, I still love it, and I still listen to it all.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I think what’s happening with the group now is the more I get into these projects, the more opportunities seem to be coming our way. It’s becoming more of an agency if that makes any sense. I’m literally going all out, I’m spending the entire show here trying to make connections.
I made a great connection at a movie studio the other day and I talked about movies, but I also mentioned TV, and they were really excited about the fact. “Oh you would do this for TV?” I’m like “Absolutely. It’s one of the things we want to embark upon.” So, I’m out trying to find all these contacts to bring work back to the group. And that’s good. It’s paying clients for them. They get paid for this stuff and it helps them. It adds to their resume. It’s great to be able to say I officially worked with Marvel, for Guardians of the Galaxy.
Oh yeah, I saw that post, that tweet.
Yeah, that’s great. So Marvel bought a bunch of our posters and they used them in various ways. One was for the official IMAX poster. They used one here, at Hall H, for the official giveaway poster. They’re doing some other things online with them so it was exciting for the guys to be called up and asked to participate officially, in one of the biggest movies. I’ve seen the movie, they let me go see it early. It’s fantastic. I don’t see how it’s not going to be the biggest movie of the year.
It’s funny, we’re sitting in Guardians, and I noticed parents were laughing and kids were really into it. The first thing my son asked me, well halfway through the film, he goes “Dad” (he sees me receive all these packages that come to the house all time for the blog), you have to get this on Blu-ray when it comes out.” I’m like “I will. I will.” And then the movie ends, and as soon as the credits start, he was like “Dad! Are they making part two?” And I said “I think so.” He goes “Yes!” He stood up in the theater and he was like “Yes!” And everybody was like “What?” So it’s a movie that will appeal to adults and kids. It’s probably one of the funniest movie to date. It was a great project to be associated with, and they’ve been fantastic to work with. They’re so nice and accommodating and just very, very good people to work with.
Yeah, It’s probably more like an agency atmosphere where I have work that I can farm out to these talents, and I don’t know how much bigger the group will get. Like I said, I get so many requests from people and it’s from really talented people. I mean it’s from really good people that are asking, and I just… with 55 people it’s kind of a big project to handle. Who can do this project, who can do that. It’s great to have that, but I don’t know if the group will get much bigger, but probably more like an agency now.
So is this your full-time job?
This is all I do. I used to work in action sports and I was a customer service manager. I worked for two of the biggest companies in action sports for over 15 years. First with DC, and then with Sole Technology (makers of etnies).
Yes, I was in DC when they first started. It was very very back in the day, I was there for the first 7 years which was phenomenal.
Were they located in Huntington Beach (CA)?
No, they were down in Vista (CA). So that was fantastic because we come here (San Diego) and do conventions and it was like we were rock stars. Everybody wanted to be a part of it. So after the economy kind of had a tough bump in the road, I just did a blog. And it kind of progressed, it progressed to Poster Posse. I couldn’t be happier.
Not making any money, but I got a wife that understands this opportunity here and God bless her. She puts up with my nonsense. I work. I drop my son off at school at 8:30 in the morning. I work from 8:40 to usually 3pm when I pick him up. Play with him until 8:00 at night. He goes to bed, I work from 8:00 at night to probably, to 1am, sometimes 2am in the morning. So my time is really regimented where I don’t even watch TV anymore.
How old is your son?
It’s funny – I was standing in line earlier to pick up my badge and struck up a conversation with a father and son. It was one of their first time at the San Diego Comic-Con.
That’s going to be a great time for them.
So I did an impromptu interview with them. It was kind of interesting to see the generational relationship between them. The father like me, grew up reading Marvel Comics and The Avengers. His son was more into Xbox and video games.
It’s a meshing of both worlds. Xbox does have a presence here, there is all that virtual reality stuff, Fox has that Oculus Rift thing where you sit in Xavier’s chair. They’ll both have stuff that can gravitate to here. That will be perfect for them.
I’m going to assume that’s the same relationship you have with your son?
Yeah! We go to Avengers, Thor, all that stuff; we watch Agents of Shield, he watches Arrow. I attended the Warner Brothers panel for the Batman TV series and I’m really excited that Warner’s releasing that original Batman TV series on DVD and Blu-ray, because I grew up watching that show.
They’re releasing that whole series on Blu-ray for the first time. So I want to sit and watch it with him since it’s so different than the superhero stuff that he sees now. And when I was growing up, it was cutting edge. It was exciting and I literally couldn’t wait for the next episode to show on TV.
I love the “Mexican Standoff” episode with the Green Hornet and Bruce Lee as Kato.
Yeah they talked about Bruce Lee, so it’s funny that you mention that. So Burt Ward (Robin) yesterday mentioned that he lived in the same complex as Bruce Lee. He said, “We would spar together. I was actually a black-belt and Bruce and I would spar together. And he wanted to be on the show, but when we fought he didn’t want to lose.”
Yeah, I read that somewhere.
Burt Ward also said, “So…he didn’t win. It was more of a draw. But yeah, I used to know Bruce, and Brandon was only 6 months old at the time.” It was pretty interesting hearing him tell that story.
If you could go back in time and tell your 13 year old self one thing, what would it be?
Save all your comics. Save them all. We didn’t have stuff like this growing up. I’m 48 years old, I was born in 1966. We didn’t have any outlet like this. The Internet, all this stuff is so accessible for kids. On Saturday mornings, that’s when you saw your cartoons. You couldn’t just turn the TV on, Monday to Friday and watch whatever you want. You literally had to sit by the TV on Saturday morning just to watch cartoons.
It’s a different time now. It’s easier to access, which is great. – but it kind of takes some of that specialness away, because when I see those Christmas specials, whether it’s Snoopy or whatever it is, The Grinch, you only saw it that one night on TV sitting on the couch with your family, waiting for it, sitting through the commercials, not fast-forwarding. And it was a special time.
So I think kids have access to stuff now which is great, but I do think a little bit of that specialness is being taken away as well. So when I was 13, let me think. Yeah, I would say save all of your comics, don’t open your toys. Thinking back now, I’m like “what was I thinking?”
I feel bad that I burned my Optimus Prime.
Oh yeah. You destroy them. You melt them. Nothing funner than melting your plastic toy. So you get back here and like “What! $5000?! Oh nuts…” Yeah. And I lived in Maine, so it was a lot different too. There was not entertainment industry. There is an outdoor culture in Maine, it’s beautiful there, but it’s a lot different back then. Smaller, slower paced.
What city did you grow up in?
South Portland. It’s about an hour and a half out of Boston. We would drive to Boston to go record shopping for the day. Would drive to Boston for the day and be like “Oh. We’re out of the city. We’re out of our home state.” We’re in Boston and it’s an hour and a half. It’s no big deal. But, back then, it felt like a big deal. When you walk up and down Newbury street, you go through every single record store looking for all the imports that you could not find in Maine. And you go to Newbury Comics and go to comic book shopping. We timed it on Wednesdays to get the new releases and it was a lot different.
Is Newbury Comics still there?
I think they’re still on the Newbury Street, but I think it’s a lot different now. They’re a rare breed. Like Mile High Comics, a few comic book stores survived – it was big experience going there. We loved it. We used to love spending the entire day there. We’d go get our favorite pizza. We walked by Fenway Park, it was so cool, listening to The Smiths or The Cure.
So, if you could have dinner with one real person dead or alive, and one fictional person dead or alive, who would they be and where would you have dinner at?
Real person dead or alive and one fictional person dead or alive. Real person would be… there’s so many. I think someone like… I’ve seen Robert Downey Jr. interviewed and he just speaks so fast. He’s so intelligent, and he’s just got a lot to say and he has a lot of different… I like what he has to say. He’s really interesting.
Chip Kidd. He’s amazing. I met Chip Kidd here and we talked for like five minutes and it was amazing. The guy is just so talented and he’s so… he makes you feel like you know the guy. And he’s easy to talk to. I’d love to sit down and talk to Chip about stuff.
Fictional guy, let’s see. Do you like Batman? I do like Batman, I will not lie. I feel he’s a tortured soul so that might be tough conversation.
So I guess The Poster Posse Batman 75 tribute was a really important project for you.
It was amazing. Everybody was into it. It didn’t take twisting anybody’s arm to participate and the info-graphic that one of the artists did at the end was very telling too. It said something like “90 Batman images, 1 Robin image.” I’m like “Oh okay. Well, not much Robin out there.” But there was a lot of Joker. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. There’s no rules on these projects. I just said “Look. Anything Batman related.”
For instance, Florey down in Australia, just did five Joker prints. So all Batman related. They did different variations of Joker from different films, whatever on TV, so it was cool doing that. Orlando did the Batman from 1966. He did three of the villains. That was phenomenal! You know what I notice I say a lot in these interviews? I say “phenomenal” a lot.
I did that in an interview with the documentary Twenty-Four by Thirty-Six and I was in front of the camera, and the director was behind the camera. He was filming. “Bla bla bla, phenomenal. Bla bla bla bla bla phenomenal. Bla bla bla, phenomenal.” Then at the end of the other one I said “Did I just say ‘phenomenal’ 5 times?” The director said, “Don’t worry, we’ll edit it out.”
So I’m going to come up with a new word for you guys. Yeah, I’d say Bruce Wayne would be “amazing.” I know Robert Downey Jr. is another. I consider him more of an actor. I don’t want to peg him as just Iron Man although I can’t imagine anybody else playing that part. I feel bad for the guy coming in who has to play the Joker again. I thought Heath Ledger just dominated…you know what? Heath Ledger.
His performance in The Dark Knight was one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever seen in cinema since I’ve been watching movies because I was totally removed from the fact that it was Heath Ledger. It literally was like 10 minutes into the movie before I go “Oh wow. That’s Heath Ledger.” Like it was that good! It was dark, and he did a fantastic job.
And a bunch of that was ad libbed.
A lot of it was ad libbed. It’s amazing that he can go to that place and create that character so well. That’s how I pictured the character in my mind all these years. Maybe not the Cesar Romero version from the TV show, which I loved at the time, and I still love – like I said, I’m going to watch it with my son. But the Joker is a dark and demented character and he really brought that to the table. And that was phenomenal. Phenomenal…(we all laugh).
Oh, where would you have dinner at with all these people?
Well I’ll tell you what, I love Italian food, and I love pizza. And there’s a place in Oceanside (CA) that I would love to take them. It’s low key. It’s called The Privateer. I was there last night, actually. They make all hand-crafted food. Everything there is amazing and it’s just benches, they have a bar, a little small bar. It’s a very small place, but it’s got a surf vibe. I like the atmosphere. You walk in, you feel like you’re at home.
Seriously, it’s great, great great pizza. Ah, Jesus. I might even go there on the way home tonight. It was so good!
Do you have anything else you want to add?
No. I’m good. I appreciate you guys talking to me.
I’ll let you guys know when we get new projects. If you want, I can send you press releases…in case you guys want to cover them. What’s your website going to be like?
Our site is going to be called “Hall H” – but it’s sort of an ironic twist. Hall H today (at SDCC) is all mainstream but we kind of want to bring it back to how Comic-Con used to be. So when we go around here, we want to give notoriety…some attention to artists that deserve it but don’t have it.
Great that’s awesome. I mean there’s a lot of people, and it’s funny. First of all, you guys remember Comic-Con was never this big. It was half the size…if that. And it was all comics. It was comics and posters and there was t-shirt stuff and whatever. But now all those people are pushed to the ends now. I’ll be walking around and nobody is at their table. I walk around and come back and nobody is at their table.
Isn’t that crazy? I don’t get it sometimes. I think it’s sensory overload here. All your senses have gone crazy. First of all, the smells are absolutely horrible. Thousands of sweaty nerds is not fun.
We just wrote something about that (see our Comic-Con Basics Guide).
Sweaty nerds are not a good mix. Heat, humidity in San Diego is not good for these guys. But any how your senses get overloaded – the sights, sounds, your feet hurt, your back hurts, you’re hungry. Food in here is not that great. Virtual reality stuff, got lines for posters and toys. People getting signings. It’s a lot to take in, and I think a lot of the people are sitting right there, but not a lot of people are stopping to talk to them.
And they’re just like “Hey. Come check out my stuff.” And I try to always stop by. Someone who makes eye contact with me and says “Would you like to take a look my book or my comic?” I’m like “Sure. Absolutely.” I’ll give them 3 minutes of my time. You never know. I try to tell my group, I say “Opportunities are everywhere. You never know when it’s going to come.”
We’re participating in an art exhibit in Prague. We were asked by somebody in Prague to participate in an art exhibit so I have five members doing art for it. And it’s a non-paying thing but the way I laid it out there, is like “Guys, you never know where this will go.”
So is one of your goals to get a retainer with one of these studios to produce art work for them?
You know what? I like right now that we can work with multiple studios. I think that would be interesting. I think right now we’re in an interesting position because we can offer a studio multiple looks of something at no cost. It doesn’t cost anything to participate in the project. When they like it, that’s when they pay for it. And that’s fine. But I choose projects that I think that would resonate with fans. I choose projects that interest me. And I try to choose projects that I think will stir the creativity of the arts involved. And it’s hard with 55 people. Not everybody’s going to like Transformers. Pretty much everybody liked Batman but people aren’t going to like Star Trek, Pacific Rim, I mean we had fantastic turn out for that, but there are people that, like you know, “I’m going to work on the next one.” I’m thick-skinned. I learned after about the second project like “Okay. Not everybody’s going to participate in every project. Don’t get upset about it.” They need to get paid. You’re not paying them so let them do work for paying clients.
And not every project’s going to a home run. Some projects are way more successful than others, way more. Guardians was the perfect example of that. We posted Guardians with a two day reveal and we posted Guardians at 9am in the morning. By 9:10am, James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy) started re-tweeting each image and giving credit to the artists. I’m like “Whoa! What’s going on?” And he re-tweeted to me going “Here’s one by Orlando. Here’s one by Matt Ferguson…love this art.” I’m like “Whoa.”
That was a huge success for us. He called Marvel and said “Hey look. We need to use some of this art.” So that worked out good for us. But other projects haven’t really hit or taken off like I thought it would. And that’s fine. But I’m trying to keep my finger on the pulse. For the remaining projects for the rest of the year, I think there will be some good hype behind them. We will be doing another anniversary project. The other two are movie related. I do have an artist who is working on a music based project with a company in the UK. No book stuff yet, no video games stuff yet, but it’s a work in progress.
Well thank you for your time. It was a “phenomenal” interview!
Thank you…I know I ramble…
I go to these meetings, Marvel or whatever and I’m always telling myself “Let them do the talking. Let them do the talking. Let them do it.” And as soon as they go “We really love this piece of art.” That’s Orlando, and let me tell you about Orlando… And then that’s it, I’m done. In my head I’m like “Shut up! Stop talking.” And this guy’s going “Well, keep going dude. They’re loving it.” “No they’re not.” Yeah, I talk way too much. But listen, good luck with the show!
Alright thank you. Good luck to you too!