Denver Comic Con Day 3
Did You Know There Are More Comics Here?
Now that it’s the end of day 3, it’s interesting to look back at my articles from last year and reflect on the experience that I had this year. While last year I was only able to attend a few educational panels about comics, this year DCC offered many more awesome panels on comics than I could possibly have attended and yet I still had an incredible experience that allowed me to learn about some artists that I had never heard of before as well as aspects of the creation process that I was unfamiliar with them. It’s been an incredible experience that I will certainly remember.
Hey! Isn’t Your Style Too “Cartoony” for Comics?
This panel was the first of two panels which focused on the different experiences of artists who didn’t draw in the traditional, superhero kind of way like Jim Lee or Jack Kirby. The panel was moderated by RC Harvey and the panelists were Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani (both known for Itty Bitty Hellboy and Tiny Titans as well as the creator-owned properties that they co-write together), Jim Mahfood (known for Girl Scouts Magic Socks and also some work on Tank Girl) and Jim Campbell (Over the Garden Wall and some other creator-owned properties). Every single member of the panel (including the moderator) was a cartoonist that had made their name in comics by staying true to a more non-traditional, cartoony style that still brought them success.
As you might expect with a name such as this panel had, there was a fair amount of time spent on talking about experiences where they ran into relatives, friends or randos off the street who either didn’t understand how they made a living making cartoons or who tried to tell them that it wasn’t really a good style. In a particularly interesting story, Art Baltazar talked about how he had originally tried to do more of the standard superhero style and when he showed his portfolio to editor Bob Harris at DC, Harris asked him why he was trying to draw like Jim Lee when he was obviously drawn towards the cartoony style and encouraged him to make his own way.
Each of the artists talked about the cartoonists who had most influenced them, their paths to success (most of which was relying on creator-owned properties that they marketed and promoted themselves) and encouraged the beginner cartoonists in the audience to persevere and just draw as much as possible so that they could expose themselves to the same obstacles that had brought them such success.
While I had previously only read the work of Art Baltazar and Franco, it was very interesting to learn about how having this more cartoony style affected their progression as comics artists and the roads that they took to success. I was very impressed by the self-starting attitudes of many of them and how they’d really made a name for themselves in spite of all of the people telling them no.
Hey! Isn’t Your Style Too “Painterly” for Comics?
As a huge fan of the art of Brett Weldele and Jae Lee, I had been looking forward to this panel all weekend. Both artists have just absolutely gorgeous styles that I immediately fell in love with the very first time that I picked up one of their books. Despite going in as a fan, I was blown away by how great this panel was and just how incredibly educational it was for me. Moderated by Matt Wisniewski (thankfully less exciting than the panel that poor dude had to moderate yesterday), the panelists were Brett Weldele (known for Surrogates), Stuart Sayger (known for Lego Bionicle and Superman), Jae Lee (known for many stories but most perhaps for Inhumans in the 90’s) and Philip Tan (known for Spawn, Uncanny X-Men and Ironman). Each of these artists, as you may have guessed from the title, are known for having a more expressive, painterly style than the traditional hard lines of comics.
While I expected, and got, a discussion of how these artists preferred to paint (Sayger came in with ink stained fingertips) with physical media rather than digital, the panel offered an impressive amount of information for someone like me who isn’t terrible familar with the mechanics of graphic novels. Sayger started talking about how the machines originally used by comics publishing companies were actually owned by the mob and could only handle printing in such a way that dark lines were a necessity and the painting style was just too expensive to print and still make a profit. Jae Lee, taking pity on myself and some other confused faces in the audience, explained the process of scanning and how certain file types (specifically bitmap) tended to not translate the paintings well for printing and actually made it so that you could see the pixels. Less than ideal for someone who’s spent a lot of time trying to create beautiful art.
All of the artists talked about how it can be more difficult to get jobs if you have a reputation as a painterly artist because it is still more expensive to print that style since not all painting colors translate to digital colors even after scanning. In addition, painting isn’t as flexible since small details can’t be changed without having to re-paint it. When asked about whether they’d missed deadlines, Jae Lee remarked that he was known for missing deadlines and “it’s like a serial killer. Once you’ve killed a bunch of people, what’s a few more?” The entire panel took a very pratical, down to earth approach to the ways in which their careers had been affected by their painterly style. None obviously regretted it, it was just how they made the art, but it did sometimes create issues that they had to deal with. For the entire panel, being painterly meant sometimes refusing jobs because the deadlines were impossible or would require sacrifices in the way they did their art that would adversely label them as poor artists.
In terms of attentiveness and responsiveness to audience questions, tracking whether the audience understood what they were talking about and educating us on what it’s like to have a different, more expressive and abstract sort of style in the comics format, this panel was one of the very best that I’ve ever attended.
Between the cover artists panels and these two style panels, I really felt like DCC and Pop Culture Classroom did an amazing job offering entertaining and yet also educational comics content that kept me busy all three days. Every single day I had four or five panels that I was determined to see and even being exhausted at the end of the day was incredibly satisfying. The interactions with the artists in Artists Alley was even more delightful. I wish I’d had the guts to tell the artists how very much I appreciated their time and energy at this convention and I certainly appreciate everything that Pop Culture Classroom as put together. Can’t wait for 2018 to do it all over again! And stay tuned for a full DCC wrap-up later!