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Image Expo 2013: I is for Illustrator

Maya Zach ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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Photo by Maya Zach of Emertainment Monthly.

In the illustrator panel, Jamie McKelvie, Chris Burnham, Paul Azaceta, Wes Craig, Nick Dragotta, and moderator Erik Larsen dish on how they got into the comic industry and explain their artistic methods.

Most of these artists struggled for years before they were finally paid to illustrate. Craig had the most typical story: he sent his art in to publishers to which he received generic rejections, after he improved he started getting letters that said something along the lines of “you’re almost there, keep writing!” The letter writing campaign didn’t pan out in the end, but he was noticed by DC Comics at Comic-Con and got his foot in the door.

Azaceta knew that he wanted to work in the comic industry, so he got a job doing production work at Marvel. He showed his art to the editors and anyone else at Marvel who would spare a minute for him. After taking in a lot of critiques and utilizing their suggestions (and hounding the editors consistently), Azaceta finally got a job as an artist. Though he knows that this chance was given to him because of the improvements he made by listening to the critiques, he thinks that part of it was because he just wore the editors down by his constant visitations. His piece of advice is to “be a stalker,” it is important to get yourself out there and let the editors know who you are and that you are determined.

One of the few commonalities between every panelist in regards to illustration is that they all ink their own work. Otherwise, they have very different workflows. Both McKelvie and Dragotta illustrate on the computer from start to finish using Manga Studio; though this makes it a simpler, more straightforward process for them, they are left with no original artwork to sell to fans. Burnham, Craig, and Larsen use very traditional methods that involve many steps, including blowing up the art numerous times. Azaceta is also fairly traditional, but uses fewer steps and relies on typing paper.

Each writer and artist pair works differently, but the trend appears to be that the longer the pair works together, the looser the script the writer prepares for the artist; as they begin to trust their artist more, the writer gives them more freedom to work their magic. Robert Kirkman prepares a full script for Azaceta, though he allows minor changes; Azaceta prefers to have more choice with his art, but knows that he will be allowed more leeway once he and Kirkman have been working together for longer. Kieron Gillen prefers to write a full script, but trusts McKelvie to make any alterations to improve the book.

Dragotta tends to receive scripts that just contain dialogue and a few directions; his favorite part of a loose script is the ability to create emphasis and tension through timing. Unlike the majority of artists, Craig does not even receive a script. Instead, he and Rick Remender discuss the plot and pacing of each issue of Deadly Class. Craig illustrates the issue with a basic idea of the dialogue, which gets perfected and added in after the art.

One of the biggest struggles that these artists have faced is pacing, since it is so different than in television and movies. When you turn the page, some of the story gets spoiled, because you notice the later illustrations. Sometimes writers who create full scripts don’t realize that their readers can get distracted and read ahead, which forces the artists to either go off script or let the comic suffer.

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