Saturday, April 26, 2008

the untold saga of Anime Hell flyers

For years I've been doing a free-form anime-themed clip show called "Anime Hell". It started out as hotel room parties at SF conventions in the late 80s, and as anime cons came into being, the event moved into function rooms and eventually 1000+ seat ballrooms with giant video screens, projectors, PAs, and all the technological accouterments that are really hard to operate when it's 10pm on a Saturday night and you've had a few. Today five or six separate groups of people do "Anime Hell" type events at anime conventions in two different countries.

The show itself has been described as "all about the corniest, strangest and otherwise anime/anime-related things out there," and that's not a bad description. I've shown educational films, anime music videos, fake commercials, clips from 60s 70s and 80s anime, scenes from 8-bit video games, homemade Indiana Jones films, parody subtitles, promotional beer cartoons, anti-drug PSAs, European TV singers, and dogs riding bicycles.

Part of the fun of the show is the promotional flyers; I started making flyers for the Anime Hell parties in the late 80s with clip art and markers. When I started doing all-night Anime Hells at Atlanta's Dragoncon, the flyers got more elaborate.

(flyer from Dragoncon 1996)

Eventually stronger graphic elements started to come to the fore, as I determined scientifically that teeny tiny text might not be the best thing to read when it's taped to the wall of a hotel elevator.

Anime Central's Hell, 1999

The "Hell" logo with the flames was taken from the early 70s Marvel war comic "War Is Hell". The other clip art elements came from damn near everywhere - Chick comics, old UFO magazines, Weekly World News, Archie comics, Dirty Pair "mooks", old encyclopedias, whatever would hold still long enough to photocopy. I stopped doing Anime Hell at Dragoncon in... I wanna say 1999, and concentrated on Anime Weekend Atlanta and Anime Central, but for some reason I didn't do flyers for the AWA shows. Anyways, everybody at the early AWAs knew what Anime Hell was.

(flyer from Anime Central 2001)

In the early '00s the capacity crowds and my laziness meant I wasn't doing any more flyers, which was OK since the months before two conventions were taken up with feverish preparations anyway.

When I moved to Canada in 2004 and started doing Anime Hell at Anime North, I knew I couldn't slack off any more. Canada had no idea what Anime Hell was. I needed to get back on the job!

This flyer is my first color flyer, and features a totally reverse-engineered "Canada" logo. For the next year I went back to black and white, but produced five different flyers, of which this is one:

At this point I was getting more into taking an image that already had ironic or kitsch value, and manipulating it in a very basic way. There are 10,000 people at Anime North and most of them are only going to be able to see this flyer for five seconds, max, so a lot of frippery details and confusing, conflicting images will only deflect my message. So simplification became my watchword. My AWA flyer for that year was even simpler:

For the next Anime North I went back to color, taking a cheesy movie poster and reworking it to my own advantage. It's still a little busy, in my opinion.

For AWA that October, I had been really stuck for ideas and was getting desperate, until I saw a one-sheet for EASY RIDER. What resulted is the simplest and the best Anime Hell flyer I think I've ever done.

Sailor Moon's head is a little off, but other than that, it's perfect; the quintessential mix of weird and powerful and kitsch. Besting that flyer is a tough challenge, and I don't know if I'll ever do it, but this year's Anime North flyer is a strong contender:

Anime Hell, Saturday May the 24th, 8pm, Doubletree International Hotel, International Ballrooms B and C, Toronto Ontario Canada. Brought to you by Anime North. See you there!


Anonymous said...

I can't believe no one commented on the Dio and Doraemon of the Dead posters/ads/visages of visual splendor.

I people not like Dio? Is that what the problem is?

d.merrill said...

How anyone could fail to appreciate the rubber-suited splendor of "Holy Diver" is beyond me. I did hear favorable commentary on the flyers while at their respective conventions, though.

Sarimia said...

Anime Hell was mentioned to me only once via a facebook discussion (planning our AN trip for this year, 2009) and my friend and I both thought it was another anime convention! Wow, we're idiots. But hey, now I know what it is, I"m going to check it out.

d.merrill said...

Make sure you stop by this year because it's gonna be awesome!!

Show up early to grab a seat. The room fills up fast.