It was a marvelous day at the De La Salle – College of St. Benilde as student-artists and fans both went on a Creative Day Out with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief CB Cebulski; Vice President of Walt Disney, Greater China’s Creative department Allen Au-Yeung, and Filipino Marvel pencillers Harvey Montecillo Tolibao and Leinel Francis Yu.
The Marvel Team (as we would like to collectively call them) spent the whole day sharing how superheroes like The Avengers come to life through fashion, design, and merchandise from Au-Yeung. We also had some news about the direction the Marvel Universe is taking straight from Cebulski himself.
Their presence was also the perfect time for aspiring Marvel artists to ask how they can break into the comics industry and possibly get a job working at the home of the most well-loved superheroes. Here are five things aspiring creative professionals need to do, according to The Marvel Team:
1. Work on your skill.
When a twenty-something, fresh graduate stepped up to ask Cebulski what he needs to do to be a Marvel artist, he answered this right away: “Talent comes first,” so you gotta work on it through continuous drawing and practice. Yu, who first had the chance to draw the no.4 top-selling book at the time — Wolverine — exactly 20 years ago, said it is better to be proficient with both traditional and digital medium no matter how cutting-edge some tools can be. “It helps when you want to keep the art to sell or simply to display,” he said. He did recognize, however, that illustrating digitally can improve stroke control of the pencil on paper. Yu also suggested to keep on flipping the image to see mistakes as it gives you a fresh perspective. His trusted and highly-recommended software applications are Clip Studio Paint (also called Manga Studio) and Flipnote Studio.
2. Build your portfolio.
Cebulski shared that all Marvel artists are freelancers sourced from all over the world, which is why the editors rarely see the artists. What they do see on a daily basis, however, are their works. “Art speaks for itself,” he said. This is the reason why he strongly encouraged aspiring creative professionals and comic artists in attendance to build a portfolio. He suggested a six-page or more portfolio that can show illustrating and storytelling ability, which Cebulski said: “Should prove that you can take characters from panel to panel.” He also said it is ideal to create two sequences — one that is action-packed and the other, the superheroes outside their costumes. The new Marvel EIC also offered his Twitter DMs as a means to have him check and comment on works. “I’ll gladly respond to your submission,” he added.
A year of internship and mentorship under Fil-Am comic book writer and artist Whilce Portacio also became Yu’s gateway to Marvel. When Portacio showed his works to Marvel editors, he was well on his way to his first big break.
3. Get feedback.
“It’s good to have input from other people,” Yu said during a quick Q&A with Tolibao just before his solo panel, where he shared his creative process in detail and in motion. “Rejection will always happen. There are illustrations they won’t like and there are illustrations that fit just what they need. You just have to do what you have to do,” he continued. Au-Yeung, who has extensive experience in branding and design consultancy on corporate identity, also encouraged artists to market themselves and their works by maximizing the Internet and social media (a.k.a. Cebulski’s Twitter DM). This way, the artist can get valuable feedback from fellow artists and mentors.
4. Be professional.
For creative professionals, deadlines are meant to be met – strictly, at that – so even if it’s a simple homework from a non-favorite professor or a relative commissioning your work, it’s good to practice professionalism early on. “Being professional is actually bigger than being talented,” Yu said. “You really have to be dependable because people are waiting. In our case, they (Marvel) are losing money when you don’t submit on time,” he shared, to which funny man Tolibao agreed jokingly, “Oo, dapat may puso ka rin para sa iba.”
5. Believe in what you can do.
Cebulski earlier shared that talent comes first, but Au-Yeung reiterated that passion is just as important. “I always tell my co-workers, ‘If you don’t like the job, go home.’ Passion is first, which is why I always hire people who are passionate, not those with great skill but little passion,” he told MB Life during the panel interview. He also encouraged young creatives to believe in what they do and what they can do. “We always want to show how we respect creativity in Marvel,” Au-Yeung said, citing the company as one that “continuously push boundaries.”