Scott Morse, artist and designer, has two motives in producing the Ancient Book series of art volumes: to bring more attention to his talented friends and to find freedom. Putting together The Ancient Book of Sex and Science, out in June, he found that they didn't "have to answer to anybody but us".
This second book in the series brings the group of four former Pixar co-workers halfway through their planned set of four. Two years ago, The Ancient Book of Myth and War sold out within a couple of months, and next year, both Monsters and Magic and Time and Space will be released. These coffee table art books have loose themes captured in the title, but mostly, they allow the artists to make things up and "go as crazy as we wanted to go," says Morse.
Morse started the series to put his friends on the map and help them build names off of their work. "They should all have fans for who they are." And who are they? Lou Romano worked on the production design for The Incredibles, as did Don Shank, and both also worked on the upcoming Up. (Romano has also done many voices for Pixar, including Linguini from Ratatouille.) Nate Wragg, now at DreamWorks, designed the end credits for Ratatouille. Each of the four designed the cover of one of the books in the series; Sex and Science is by Shank.
The 80-page hardcovers are inspired by, of all things, 50s and 60s Golden Books. According to Morse, "everyone in animation has these books," featuring art by such noted children's illustrators as Alice & Martin Provensen, Mary Blair, and M. Sasek. The contributors to the Ancient Books wanted to pay tribute to this '50s animation design aesthetic. Each Ancient Book contains 36 or so pieces of art facing a page of information about the work, such as title, medium, and notes on the creative process or subject matter. The pages are divided evenly among the four artists.
That's not all Morse is working on. "Because of my day job at Pixar," he says, "I can experiment with comics and weird stuff." One of those unusual ideas is Magic Pickle, a successful series of chapter books published through Scholastic. There is one graphic novel and two chapter books out now, with Magic Pickle and the Garden of Evil due next month (May), and Magic Pickle and the Creature From the Black Lagoon out in the fall. These titles have a huge fanbase of kids of librarians and Morse is currently shopping the film rights. Morse finds Scholastic "very supportive" and notes that the books "are selling incredibly well, better than anything I've done in comics."
He's still loyal to that format, though. He's constantly working, because he doesn't want to do just Magic Pickle or just one type of story. The monster books of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko inspired his new series, Ten Against the World. Out of a planned 250 pages, he's done almost 50, and he plans to decide on a publisher once it's completed. Another new series is called Strange Science Fantasy, which is also inspired by pre-hero comics of the 1950s. He's still determining the format and price for this project, but the goal is to do 48-page graphic novel ideas in a style that's more compressed than most comics today.
Sex and Science will have a gallery show May 16 in Los Angeles. The book, limited to 2000 copies, is published through Morse's own Red Window imprint and distributed to the comic shop direct market through AdHouse Books. A PDF preview is available at the main page.