THIS Is Why I Do This.

The Society of Illustrators held an evening panel entitled "Drawing the Line: An Evening with Comic Luminaries" three nights ago on Wednesday the 11th of May. The Society brought together mainstream American industry legends Jim Steranko, former Marvel Comics E-i-C Joe Quesada, and Walter Simonson to be questioned by Dennis Calero, a man with a young but varied career in comics himself, to speak about the craft of making sequential art.

Here's my Twitter blast from the evening with some new, fuller commentary from me:
Listening to Jim Steranko, Joe Quesada, & Walt Simonson at the Society of Illustrators in NYC moderated by Dennis Calero! Amazing.~@JonGorga
11 May
Jim Steranko: "You want to be in comics? Four words: Draw. Like. John. Buscema. Draw every day until you have maximum facility."
The statement sounds like he's saying 'Just get good enough so you can coast' but the three artists were talking about 'good-art' days and 'bad-art' days. Times when the pencil just doesn't flow over the page like it should. The goal, as a professional, is to be able, even on those really bad days, to produce work that is still competent.
Jim Steranko: "I can't recognize my own work as apart from other artists. I'm in the middle of the forest, I am the forest."
As an over-active creative myself, I am far too familiar with being unable to see the forest for the trees, but what Steranko is referring to here is seeing instead of his own style or his own hand, only his mistakes. More on this concept to follow.
Walt Simonson: "I had to quarry it from the blank page. I know two people who seemed to just trace it out: Jack Kirby & Bernie Wrightson."
Simonson revealed at several points over the evening genuine frustration at making the lines on the page do what they needed to do. And the subsequent unique solutions and creative diversions that resulted from that frustration.
"Your style is defined by the things you can't draw well because you have to make it work in your own way." ~ @JoeQuesada
Quesada followed this by saying: 'You'll always hear people say "Oh, I love how you draw feet" and you smile and thank them while you think to yourself: "I can't draw feet to save my life" because you came up with a creative solution to a personal stumbling block.' (This writer thinks it's entirely possible that the specific mention of feet was a side-jab at a certain well-known artistic punching bag in the American comics industry whose ability to draw basic things such as feet has often been called into question.)
"Great advice I received: You won't be good until you have complete disregard for your own work. You have to forgive yourself." ~@JoeQuesada
This was really good for me and I suspect any and every young artist to hear. He also said 'Somedays it's all coming out of the pencil just the way you want, and somedays it just doesn't flow. On those days you have to forgive yourself for sucking, take a breath, and go write or go walk in the park. Just take the time to be away from the drawing-board and when you come back tomorrow you'll be refreshed instead of losing multiple days to the frustration and anguish of being angry at yourself for sucking.'
Walt Simonson: "I came in the 70s. I thought I'd be in comics 5 years and get a real job. I never got a real job and I'm happy to be here!"
Simonson was asked about how it felt to see some of the things he'd created for the world of Marvel's Thor become three-dimensionally realized for film and he proceeded to share some delightful stories from his three days on the set of "Thor" a year ago.
Q&A time. I REALLY don't want this evening to end.
I really didn't.
Walt Simonson: "I took mythology classes in college, I was fascinated by the stuff as a kid and it had a huge influence on my work on Thor."
This was, I'm sure, especially interesting to hear for long-time Thor fans. The statement was part of Simonson's answer to an audience question for all three panelists: 'Do you find your work draws on mythology?'
Jim Steranko: "I think many comics creators are children of urban mythology."
This was part of Steranko's answer to the question about mythology. He went on to say: 'Comic-book artists often grow up in cities and draw cities. Into these urban settings they place gunshots and brawls and crime, but these guys have never been in a fight in their lives!'
Jim Steranko: "Don't try to beat us at our game. Find what's unique about you and you'll make a name for yourself." #makingcomics #advice
This is where things went from educational to inspirational.
"Pacing is important. Find the crescendo. There might be smaller ones, but find the largest. The explosion could be a kiss." ~ @JoeQuesada
Quesada illustrated this by telling a story. A younger and more popular artist in the mid-Ninties saw him at a convention and asked: 'How do you get that awesome pacing down, Joe?' And Joe asked the intense prototypical 90s artist back: 'How would you open a story with all the major Batman villains sitting in a hideout drinking tea?' And this young gun answered: 'I'd draw them really angry and excited with The Joker screaming so there was spittle flying out of his mouth and the tea splashing everywhere!' Joe then said: Okay, then on page two Batman crashes the party.'' This got the guy even more excited according to Joe: 'I'd have him crash through the skylight with glass everywhere and his boot coming right at the reader's face!' Then Joe said: 'Okay. Page three. An atomic bomb goes off. How do you sell it?' And the guy had nothing to say. Hopefully he learned something.
"I always do my main layout at print-size, otherwise you'll have to walk ten feet away to see your work as the reader does!" ~ @JoeQuesada
This is really interesting because it is industry standard to my understanding to work at roughly 1.5 times print-size. Marvel and DC's pencilers and inkers produce their artwork on huge pieces of bristol board that look almost like the boards we all used to buy to display our science projects with in elementary school.
"I took two #comics classes at #SVA. One with Will Eisner. One with Harvey Kurtzman. I failed both of them." ~ @JoeQuesada
Quesada didn't intend to enter the comics industry when he was a student. He took the classes for the fun of it and when push came to shove between doing those classes' finals or his non-sequential illustration classes? He just didn't pass anything in. He learned his sequential storytelling from a storyboard class he took at SVA. (I stand outside SVA's main building as I write these words.) He went on to say he saw Eisner years later at a convention and thought they could have a laugh about it now as two adults in the industry, but Eisner wouldn't have it. He was still mad.
Jim #Steranko: "Start with the story. The story will tell you what to draw, what to do."
I can think of fewer words that make for better advice for comics artists and/or comicsmiths. Find a good story, then find what that story needs on the page to be most effective.
That was one of the best #comics events of the season. #Makingcomics #advice & #comicshistory, all #wonderful! ~ @JonGorga
That it was.


Weekly Process Roundup 5/13/11

The weekly process roundup is a collection of sketches, pencils, inks, thumbnails, everything other than finished product, from The Long and Shortbox of It's favorite artists and illustrators, hitting every Friday.

Joe Quesada, Walt Simonson, Jim Steranko, and Dennis Calero gathered at the Society of Illustrators for a panel discussion about their history and working process on May 11th. The Long and Shortbox Of It was there and you can see some of the evening quoted on the @LongandShortbox twitter account. A more detailed account is forthcoming.

~ @JonGorga