Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson opened the “Drawing the Line” panel at this year’s New York Comic Con by talking about how he feels some comic book companies — Marvel especially — have devalued artists. He said they slot them into books and treat them like cogs in a production, but he wanted to take time out to celebrate many of the artists who work at Image.
He then introduced the panelists: Image co-founder Whilce Portacio (“Non-Humans”), Tradd Moore (“The Legend of Luther Strode”), Mike Norton (“Revival,” “It Girl”), Craig Rousseau (“Perhapanauts”), Nate Bellegarde (“Nowhere Men”) and Fiona Staples (“Saga”). Stephenson asked each of them about their process.
Portacio prefaced his comments that he’s been drawing for twenty-five years and that as artists they all work twelve to eighteen hours a day and develop a process to simplify how they work, though he used to work differently because he’s currently inking all his own work. In his case it involves breaking the work down into stages so that if he’s interrupted he can come back to the work and pick up where he left off. As far as coloring he admits that he’s trying to learn but it’s a different approach because he’s an illustrator and is used to dealing with a line.
Rousseau said one influence on him has been animation work, where it’s all about simple shapes and pointed to a group shot of characters from “Perhapanauts”>. “There’s fifteen to twenty characters and you should be able to pick out who the characters are just from their outlines,” he said. Rousseau also called his eight year-old son his biggest critic. “If he can’t figure out how to read the page,” Rousseau said, then I’m doing something wrong.”
Norton said he’s working all digitally and it has simplified his process. “I do a lot of my sketching on 8.5′ x 11′ printer paper and then scan it in,” he said. “When you work on the computer, you don’t have to worry about erasing.” He added that the ease of erasing has freed him up and made it clear that he’s by no means a computer expert.
Staples said that unlike some of the other people on the panel, “Saga” is the only ongoing she’s ever done. “This is the first time I’ve been offered an ongoing,” she said before showing off some character and cover designs she produced early in the process of her collaboration with writer Brian K. Vaughan. She then discussed how she wanted Marco, one of the book’s protagonists, to look vaguely Asian because “there’s a lack of Asian leading men in comics and in all media in North America.”
Staples starts by penciling roughs by hand, “so [she] can leave the house,” she joked, before scanning the roughs in and working all-digitally from there. She also praised the Manga Studio software, which was echoed by Norton and Bellegarde.
When asked why he doesn’t work digitally, Moore offered, “it could be because I’m young and not jaded yet.” He explained it was about what he was comfortable with right now. “When you do things digitally, it’s a different tactile sensation.”
Staples said that digital saves her time because she’s able to skip the penciling stage and just go from pencils roughs to inking the pages digitally.
“One of the reasons I got into digital is I do so many conventions,” Portacio said. “So I can work whether I’m at a convention or sitting in the parking lot waiting.”
When asked about the trade offs for digital, Norton said he doesn’t have any original art to sell but that doesn’t bother him. “It’s freed me up in my head,” he said. “I’m not in it for the original art.”
“My job is not to make original art but to make comics,” Staples explained. “I’m lucky I can make a living on the book and don’t have to worry about selling originals.”
After working so many years and making hundreds upon hundreds of drawings, Portaction said, “It’s not that you get jaded, but you can’t get attached to every piece you do. It’s about the doing. Digital is just another medium.”
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