It was a warm Sunday afternoon and everyone was feeling the exhaustion from a grueling week at Niagara Falls Comic Con, but folks that wasn’t going to stop me from attending the panel I was most looking forward to. And that was the artists panel on this particular day featuring writer/artist of The Flash and Detective Comics Francis Manapul, Yanick Paquette most recently of Swamp Thing and currently working on Wonder Woman Earth-One by Grant Morrison and Green Arrow vet Phil Hester who’s doing work on The Flash: Season Zero and over at Image Comics now.
The panel opened with only Francis ready to go so he started on how he broke into the industry. He said he’d make copies of his work and take it to all the cons and would show everybody who would look in hopes someone would give him work he went into detail about his very specific sample shots he’d use which showed real people, action shots and told a story. He used an example that he’d have a kid buying a hot dog be one shot (real people) then Galactus would almost step on this kid (action shot) and then the Fantastic Four showed up and by laying it out in that way he told a story with just those 3 shots. unfortunately none of that helped but he had befriended other up and coming creators so they would self publish stuff together and then use that as his sample to show that he could be published and that started to get small publishers on board and he made his way up from there. He then advised aspiring creators that the internet is a great tool and you could take more initiative to get your work out there but because it’s easier for everyone to do the same the competition is tighter.
During Francis’ story Yanick made it in and said he came in a bit earlier when there was tons of publishers before the collapse in the mid nineties so it was easier to get a job then. His first job was with Eros Comics which Francis coined “sexy comics”. but he said after that, which was a mini-series he seen himself grow so much as an artist he was able to get more work and just got better and better as he went along, he called this a “cool vicious circle” but it was easy for him to find work once he made a name for himself was because he was able to do likeness’ he was able to separate himself from the artists of the era that was very manga oriented. As far as advice he agrees with Francis that artists need to be able to draw regular people doing regular things since that’s what 90% of comics are. Phil Hester then spoke up about breaking in once the Turtles blew up since everyone with a $5,000 credit card limit became a publisher so he scraped the barrel doing work for terrible companies but eventually paid his dues and got real work, he went as far to say Eros would’ve been a step up for himself.
Phil then tackled the question of whether copyright’s protect the creator’s rights or the publishers. He said it’s a mixed bag but for the most part things work themselves out. Francis chimed in with his experience on The Flash where he created a villain Mob Rule and he has paperwork saying he was created by him and will get money if used but ultimately he’s owned by DC, he also touches on derivative characters which I wrote in-depth on my Gerry Conway piece so just check that out HERE. Ultimately Francis notes that it’s what you sign up for when you get into corporate comics, and some creators will refuse to create anyone new since they won’t own them and on that basis they will just play with the roster of characters at their disposal. Yanick added that he’s had no illusions that anything he created would be his own, a lot of time he’s told to draw something and he did it not thinking that it was going to be his character. He said he had a character he created in Young X-Men show up in the film Days Of Future Past and there was a screening with a bunch of lawyers to decide if he was going to get paid, he ultimately did not but he stressed that he had no illusions of getting paid, if he did he’d happily cash the cheque, because he did not he doesn’t feel his rights were infringed. Yanick further said he was friends with Herb Trimpe who first drew Wolverine and made tons of money from it, but it wasn’t expected he just so happened to be the man drawing that issue of The Incredible Hulk that Wolverine first appeared in. He further stated a lot of the time it’s creators down the line that make the character relevant but ultimately those creators aren’t getting the money on the back-end, Francis remarked that if that was the case Marvel would owe Frank Miller a lot of money for the Daredevil TV series.
When asked what their biggest inspirations were to becoming an artist. Yanick said comics were actually his second fall back option after biology (specifically bugs) and classical music. He never quit drawing so he went with that when he realized the other two weren’t viable. Francis said he loved art and loved stories and at the time he’d see creators making a ton of money and thought that he wanted to do that and he’s often motivated by other people’s work as he’ll pick up a book and wonder how they did it so great and push himself harder. When pressed about him inspiring other people to be creators, specifically on his work on The Flash. Francis said he doesn’t think about it since if he did the expectations would cripple him. He said it’s selfish but ultimately he writes for himself and if other people like it and it inspires them then that makes it that much better. The conversation then turned to expectations they place on themselves and how all three artists don’t like looking at their art once it’s out since they just see the flaws since that’s what they’re trained to look for, Phil added that he doesn’t know what good we see in their work. Francis then tackled the new 52 Flash and Francis spoke candidly about Jim Lee creating the costume for him and once he finally got three sketches when it became time to start work on the book all three were different so he simplified it and moved some lines but ultimately Jim put the leg work in.
The New 52 continuity became the next topic and specifically the nay-sayers. Francis mentions that he believes 90% of them didn’t even read a book, they were just mad that the continuity they knew and loved was wiped out and were upset, Francis sympathized that as a fan he’d be mad too but he countered that it was worthwhile since the first day of The Flash being out and doing a signing he signed for more kids than he had ever before. Without continuity reboots the characters and situations would get stale. Yanick blames the internet, which Francis agrees with as he said he spoke to Dave Finch about Wonder Woman and all the flack he got online but he takes the call centre stance on it all, no one calls in saying they are happy about their service you only get the negative views so he just believes for every negative there are 3 – 4 positives that go unsaid. Speaking of negative, a fan asked about Alan Moore and their feelings towards the situation. Yanick spoke candidly since he worked with Alan for two years, he said Alan is an anarchist but you can’t be that without money and power so now that he’s got a lot of money and power from working for major corporations he can now take his revenge by going anti-corporation. Though all three understood DC and Alan’s side of the coin they all agreed that something fishy went on with the Watchmen rights.
A fan then asked what achievement they are most proud of in their career. Phil talked about writing The Coffin but ultimately he holds his art in such low regard that whatever he last worked on was his best work, a statement which Yanick agreed with as he believes it’s a good thing to constantly be evolving and getting better since you don’t want to hit the downside of your career ever. Francis then praised the art he saw from Wonder Woman Earth-One and Yanick said that 2.5 year project will likely be his favourite when it comes out but since it hasn’t it’s Swamp Thing since he was able to draw bugs (his true love) among other things. Francis spoke about a number of projects he enjoyed working on Adventure Comics with Geoff Johns since he grew up a city kid it was doing that book that he realized he loved drawing farmland, as far as writing it was The Flash because when he wrote them they felt very personal to him. He talked about a piece of advice Geoff gave him which was “write what you know” so although he did not know how to run fast he knew what it was like to be overwhelmed, mostly based on that book because he was writing and drawing a monthly title for the first time. So he was able to relay that to Barry in the book and Mob Rule was a physical manifestation of that. He compared it to his work on Detective Comics where he couldn’t personify as much because it was very procedural book. It was at this point the moderator asked why Detective Comics was being referred in the past tense and essentially, although without saying, Francis implied that his run on Detective Comics is over.
The moderator then asked Francis about his TV show “Beast Legends” and he said it wasn’t what he originally signed up for as the three scientists were supposed to go on an adventure and explain it to him and he’d draw the beast in question, but the producers quickly realized that scientists hanging out with scientists is boring so they had him and one of the scientists out on the road since they liked the dynamics between them, but it lost a bunch of money in the end. The panel then ended on a question about movies driving the state of comic books, Yanick spoke about DC going for a dark, gritty take to oppose the lightheartedness of Marvel and his personal preference is to avoid violence, he hates drawing it, it’s boring, etc. Not that it doesn’t help him though as he used the Man Of Steel movie as everything not to do on the Wonder Woman project he’s working on since he felt that movie was everything Superman shouldn’t be so it influenced him in an opposing way.
Phil said from a creator standpoint he doesn’t tailor anything to Hollywood since he’s had a lot of work optioned the very first thing they do is strip away the cool stuff and you just sit back and hope it still has the core value you intended. Francis then explained that he does think of movies when creating but not in the way you’d expect. He said when he started on The Flash he knew all the cool stuff you could do in movies so he felt he needed to do something even cooler on the page which is why he did all the crazy layouts in The Flash especially during the parts of the story where Barry was having difficulties focusing he would do a strange panel layout and it would force the reader to focus so they are connecting with Barry without even realizing it.