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Heads Up: “Fist to Face” — The Art of Mirko Ilic



On Monday 03 September 2012, “Fist to Face,” a one-man show of Mirko Ilić’s comics, illustration, and design, will open at the National Museum of Montenegro in Njegosev Muzej Biljarda in Cetinje. Mr Ilić will attend the opening and lecture. All are invited.

Truth be told, I suspect that few if any of the people who read this blog will be able to make it to the show in Montenegro, but I really like Mr Ilić’s poster and wanted to share it with you all.

Also, I think that some of you might be interested to know that exhibition coincides with the publication of Dejan Krsic’s Fist to Face, a 320-page, career-retrospective book on Mr Ilić’s work that is scheduled to be published in October.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Mirko Ilić has a reputation as a rebel, but his iconoclasm is matched with tremendous gifts as an illustrator, a designer, and an educator. Ilić is a visionary and a leading voice of visual culture across disciplines and continents.

This visual biography of one of the most prolific and distinguished designers of the last half century traces Ilić’s formative years as a precocious youth in Yugoslavia during the Communist-bloc era; his early illustrations for comic books and magazines; and his eventual move to the United States, where he quickly achieved notoriety as the art director of Time magazine’s international edition and The New York Times’ op-ed pages. As a designer, Ilić has constantly pushed his craft to new limits, experimenting and reinventing himself at every turn.

Throughout his illustrious career, Ilić has collaborated with design luminaries like Steven Heller and Milton Glaser. He has designed album covers for Rage Against the Machine, created film titles for You’ve Got Mail, and written or designed a number of books, including Genius Moves, The Design of Dissent, The Anatomy of Design, and Stop Think Go Do.

He has taught advanced design classes at Cooper Union with Milton Glaser and now teaches illustration at the School of Visual Arts. His studio, Mirko Ilić Corp., has received awards from the Society of Illustrators, the Society of Publication Designers, the Art Directors Club, I.D., Print, and HOW.

If you can scroll through Amazon’s extensive “LOOK INSIDE!” preview of Fist to Face and still resist pre-ordering the book, you’re a much stronger man than I am…

UPDATE (06 January 2012):

I didn’t have Fist to Face in hand when I posted the above notice, but I DO have it now, and I’m thrilled to report that the book is a must-have for anyone with a love of first-rate, politically engaged, razor-sharp illustration and graphic design. If you’re a fan of Mr Ilić’s comics, however, the news isn’t quite as good. Yes, the book reprints a number of short comics by Mr Ilić, with an emphasis on one- and two-page stories, but not all of the pieces are translated into English and some are excerpts only. And yet, if your only language is English, and you’re a fan of Mr Ilić’s comics, you will almost certainly discover work here that you’ve never seen before, and perhaps you will even be inspired to agitate for an English-language collection of “The Complete Comics of Mirko Ilić.” (I know I want one — I’m looking at you, Fantagraphics!)

Certainly, Fist to Face is a book you will want to read from cover to cover — the story of Mr Ilić’s journey from Yugoslavia (now Bosnia) to the big time in New York City makes compelling reading — but it is also a book that one can easily dip into from time to time for inspiration. The two main features that make the book so accessible to casual browsing are 1) an extremely generous selection of illustrations and designs from every phase of Mr Ilić’s illustrious career and 2) the inclusion of numerous comments and observations from Mr Ilić’s co-conspirators and contemporaries as well as provocative quotations, in boldface type, from the man himself, distributed throughout the book, posted in blocks alongside the images.

All of which is to say, whether you have hours or minutes to spare for looking and reading, Fist to Face delivers the goods. In every respect, the book is a knockout.

Comics · Here, Read · Look Here · Mirko Ilic

Look Here, Read: “Du Même Côté” by Mirko Ilić

“Du Même Côté” (“On the Same Side”) by Mirko Ilić was published in Métal Hurlant #57 (November 1980), pp. 81-82, with the two pages that comprise the story printed back-to-back on the same leaf. Here’s what you would have seen if you had read the story thinking it was the usual comics fare:


But “Du Même Côté” was not exactly the usual fare. Here, more or less, is what you would have seen if you had held the pages up to the light:


My apologies to everyone, including the author, for any and all deficiencies in the above presentation, but I think — I hope! — my crudely photoshopped images are clear enough to give you the flavour, at least, of Mr Ilić’s formal experimentation.

However, if you’re still unsure what, exactly, is going on in the story, you could do no better than to read the description of “Du Même Côté” that Mr Ilić himself posted here at RCN on 21 September 2010 at 10:08 am:

At that time, I was into playing with comics as a media, and the idea of the comics was to be printed on both sides of the page. Because characters are two dimensional, they don’t have a sense of third dimension. When they are standing against a white wall / magazine sheet, and hearing voices on the other side, they don’t know that they’re actually hearing themselves on the reverse side of the page. When they are shooting / stabbing into the wall, they don’t understand that they are actually killing themselves as the knife comes through to them on the other side of the paper. Only when you hold the page up to the light, do you understand the full picture.

Not surprisingly, it was the above description that prompted me to hunt down a copy of Métal Hurlant #57 so I could present “Du Même Côté” here for your, and my, reading enjoyment. And though it cost me a few bucks — 8.25 EUR, to be exact — I think it was worth it. But then again, I have a real soft spot for black humour and bleak endings.

BONUS LINK (added 23 August 2012):

Mirko Ilić Blog > Metal Hurlant – as of today, 23 August 2012, you can now read “The Same Side” in English on Mr Ilić’s own blog. I am delighted to see that he used the same technique that I used above to simulate the process of holding the physical pages up to the light. Simple but effective.

Comics · Here, Read · Look Here · Mirko Ilic

Look Here, Read: “Survival” by Mirko Ilić and Les Lilley

Hey, kids! I think it’s time for more comics, so here, straight outta Heavy Metal, volume III, number 10 (February 1980), is Mirko Ilić and Les Lilley’s “Survival”:


To read the five single-page fantasies by Mirko Ilić that were published in Epic Illustrated back in the day, click here.

I wonder… is the Corben influence on Ilić’s comics as obvious to you as it is to me?

Another visible influence: Rene Laloux’s 1973 movie, Fantastic Planet.


Success Secrets of the Graphic Design Superstars: Mirko Ilić