A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike King

by Eric Grubbs

SlayerMK-195x300 A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike KingHave you browsed Heritage Auctions collection of Pacific Northwest concert posters from the 1980s and 1990s? If you have, you’ve seen the name Mike King. If you’ve never heard about him or his work, you are missing out! Let’s take a look at some of his posters that were on auction recently.

The Prolific Mike King

Mike King is from the Portland, OR area. He played in bands in the 1980s and made posters for shows in exchange for admission to them. At the time when people who put on small shows with local and national bands had zero access to high-end materials to make the kind of posters the big concerts could, they did things themselves with whatever was available for cheap or for free. With copy machines becoming more accessible each year, now there was no excuse not to make something. By default, designing posters this way had its own aesthetic.

Designing more posters year after year, King made a living as a poster designer, as well as designing album covers, T-shirts, and advertising campaigns. If a band was on the radar of the hip college rock station or zine, chances are good King designed a poster for them.

From the Afghan Whigs to John Lee Hooker to Nirvana and Slayer to Sun Ra and ZZ Top, King continues to turn out roughly 100 posters a year. He’s made over 5,000 posters in his career with no signs of slowing down.

His work has been featured in the Experience Music Project in Seattle, the Museum of Design in Atlanta, the Bold Hype Gallery in New York City, and Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. You can see more of his work in Maximum Plunder, a hardcover coffee table book that contains images of over 1,000 poster designs of his. You can see more of his work online through his website, Crash America.

King’s Posters on a Recent Auction at Heritage

Let’s take a look at some of Mike King’s posters, that were recently in a Heritage Auctions in early April.

Slayer

SlayerMK-195x300 A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike KingThis poster was for the Seattle and Portland shows on Slayer’s Reign in Blood tour.

They were the first two shows of the tour. The Halloween show at the Moore Theatre in Seattle is known for the live debuts of multiple songs from the classic LP like “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death.” The peace signs on the bottom left and right corners were a way to call for less violence and more happiness by the local promoters for shows like this one. This particular copy has signatures on both the front and verso from King in pencil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Flag

Black Flag was a mainstay of the American hardcore underground throughout the early to mid-80s. But things came to an end not long after this show in Portland.

BlackFlagMK-195x300 A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike KingThe band finished their tour in Detroit in June and founding guitarist Greg Ginn called frontman Henry Rollins and said he was quitting Black Flag. Black Flag was Ginn’s band as he was the sole original member, so that was the end of the band until reuniting many years later. For this show, Painted Willie and Gone (which also featured Ginn) were both on Ginn’s label, SST Records. The poster is signed in the bottom right corner by King.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danzig

This Danzig poster was for two Pacific Northwest shows for the former frontman of the Misfits and Samhain.

DanzigMK-195x300 A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike KingIn between Danzig and Danzie II: Lucifuge the band played Portland at the Pine St. Theatre with Indigo Zeros as the support act, and then Seattle at the Underground with Mudhoney as the support act in early January 1989. Signed in the bottom right corner by King.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oasis

Having just come from Japan, Manchester, England’s Oasis went everywhere to promote their game-changing debut album, Definitely Maybe. For this show in Portland at the tiny Satyricon, it was the second date of their first full US tour. OasisMK-195x300 A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike King

It was still the original lineup, as drummer Tony McCarroll was sacked the following year, prior to recording their blockbuster second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Only a couple of days after this show, the seeds of why Noel Gallagher will never reunite with his brother Liam were born. Their show in Los Angeles at the famed Whisky A Go Go was disastrous due to drug use. Noel would later go AWOL and eventually return to the group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elliott Smith

Two posters for two different shows, together in this lot. ElliottSmithMK-300x227 A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike King

Both are offset printed. First, an 11″ x 17″ poster (with a rare printer’s goof where the Monqui Presents/Doc Martens logo is cut off halfway) for a show on Thursday, February 25, 1999, at La Luna. In Near Mint condition. Second, an 11″ x 17″ poster (with Mike King’s signature in pencil in the bottom right corner on the front) from a show at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Saturday, June 3, 2000. Two years later, Smith was found dead from self-inflicted stab wounds to the heart.

 

 

 

 

Sunny Day

poster for Sunny Day Real Estate’s headlining set at Paradigm with San Diego’s No Knife opening.

SDREMK-195x300 A Look at the Work of Poster Designer Mike KingSunny Day Real Estate had released The Rising Tide two months prior. The Seattle emo legends were touring as a five-piece, adding Greg Suran on keyboards and guitar and Nic Macri on bass. At the end of the tour, the band called it quits again because of ongoing tension with guitarist Dan Hoerner. Offset printed. Signed in the bottom right corner by Mike King in pencil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Join GoCollect as they delve into concert poster collecting. In the coming months, a concert poster collecting guide will be launched. Learn more about concert poster collecting with GoCollect’s Concert Poster Collecting 101 Guide.

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