Saturday, March 19, 2011

Panel Review - Breaking Into Comics: The Marvel Way

Breaking into Comics: The Marvel Way
Panel: C.B. Cebulski, Matt Fraction, Skottie Young, Fred Van Lente, Mike Norton, Tim Seely, Jeph Loeb, Mike Pascuillo

C.B. Cebulski introduced the panel to discuss the methods they each used in order to break into their current respective careers;

Matt Fraction (Fear Itself, Invincible Iron Man) Fraction had been doing short films and animated pieces during relative obscurity, and would give the completed DVD's to executives at different publishers during exhibitions. Fraction stressed that it took a good number of years of creating and publishing short films that he had written before he was noticed and picked up by Marvel. "In short, submit it to those who can hire you."

"Send everything you can to Steve Wacker (Marvel Editor)", replied Jeph Loeb to laughter and applause.

Skottie Young (Wizard of Oz) moved to Chicago to go to Art School, and was swayed to attend Wizard World with his portfolio. He literally had no comic experience or artwork to show, mostly skateboard art and graphic design work. A representative from Image comics left his card for Young, and after a brief stint doing artwork for their company Marvel offered him a fill-in spot for an X-Men comic. "I had 10 pages of comic experience, but I said 'Of course I can draw the X-Men!'"

The panel discussed briefly how it's not difficult to "break" into comics, but it's difficult to stay in. "With most comics now ending at 4 to 6 issue arcs, you're constantly having to prove yourself and keep breaking into comics," said Young.

Mike Norton (Gravity, Youth in Revolt) targeted books that he enjoyed reading, briefed himself on the continuity, created samples and submitted those to editors. "I was rejected over and over and over." His method of breaking into one of the largest companies in comics was simple; he kept submitting to smaller independent companies until he was noticed.

Jeph Loeb (Batman: Hush, Hulk) had one of the more interesting routes into Marvel. He started as a Hollywood writer, working on such movies as Teen Wolf and Commando (essentially the same movie). He always wanted to write comics, and was picked up by DC. Hollywood writers, normally seen as the "enemy" in comics, weren't given the big books, and Loeb was denied both Batman and Superman. He picked up an obscure team called "Challengers of the Unknown" and impressed the editors at DC enough to give him bigger projects.

Loeb discussed his meeting up with Tim Sale, and how their partnership led to The Long Halloween and Dark Victory (two of the more influential Batman books, Dark Victory being the main inspiration for 'Batman Begins'). A Marvel executive called him and offered him a role on the X-Men title.

"Do you read the X-Men? Yes. Do you want to work on the X-Men? Yes. Are you available? Yes. Do you know what happens in the X-Men office? No. Perfect."


  • Do you have artists who work at home? There’s only one Marvel staff artist, all free-lancers are employed on work for hire, they work from home and email/scan their work.
  • Do you use prima colors or use Photoshop? Photoshop.
  • Trenchcoat weirdo: Does Marvel accept written submissions outside of comics or does it have to be published? We’ll accept webcomics, published comics, blogs, anything not in script format.
  • Can I submit my graphic design portfolio? Cebulski: Drop it off at our booth.
  • Thanks to Cebulski, for your twitter feed, a lot of good advice (applause). What common things are put into their pitches? Fraction: Spiderman/Nick Fury in the comic, hellicarrier crashes. Cebulski: Think small (8-10 pagers), nothing too grand with main characters that already have writers. Biggest mistake is huge ideas.Loeb: Find characters that fit into the niches of other books that are still cool stories. Find obscure characters and give them a voice. Fraction: “I learned very early that I would only write for characters that I feel for, which has served me very well.” Seeley - Conversely, I was offered characters that I wouldn’t normally write for but are big, popular characters, was all in for that.
  • Cebulski: Brush up on continuity, he gets submissions that have already been told. “I had this story in my head that I’ve had since I was 8. And it reads like an 8 yr old.” Fraction: “It’s about a robot that runs on poop and boogers.” Norton: “I’d read the hell out of that story.”
  • Nerdy attendee: I’ve had a superhero team in my head since I was 10. How would I submit my team to be looked at, how can I condense this story? Panelists didn’t understand question, Loeb finally saves the day; Take a comic book, write down what happens on each of the pages, explain it like you’re talking to a child or a blind person. “in a balloon, try not to have more than 16 words in each panel.” Van Lente - “There are lots of different designs of script format, no one uses the same thing”. Fraction: “I need to find how I write to my artist, every artist is different.”
  • What recommendations on college education to help write comics? Most participants mentioned dropping out of Grad School (Van Lente). Seeley: “I have a comic book writing degree!” (laughter) Norton: I went to the one thing that was closest enough, got a degree in graphic design, learned about conceptualizing ideas, finding shortest way to solve a visual problem, translates well to illustration.”
  • If you have 2 of 3 (writer, penciller, inker), what advice for putting together a portfolio with only 2 of 3 or all 3? Cebulski: Put what you can on the page, but do the other stages (if you ink, do pencils and then ink) Quesada: If you show it in stages, then do that, but focus on one discipline and do it well.
  • Is there ever too much persistence? Cebulski: Oh yeah (laughter) Young: If you can be honest with yourself, you can take your favorite comic and say “I’m in this same area” or “I’m not even close to this”, be honest.
  • Any suggestions for sending in finalized portfolios or submissions? Cebulski: Show original pages, bring notebook to take notes on changes that an editor gives you and apply that. Be professional.”

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