Cover to Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way #1 by Matteo De LongisOver the last few years Marvel Comics has identified a series of creators as their “Young Guns” - groups of artists and writers the publishing giant felt were especially poised to make their mark in the industry and become a new generation of superstars.
In early 2010 Marvel will get even further ahead of the career curve in a March-debuting two-issue series called Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way, a showcase that will not only spotlight a group of up-and-coming “breakout” artists, but also serve as a resource book giving tools, instruction, and advice to aspiring creators looking to become the future generation of Marvel “Young Guns”.
The project is outgrowth of Marvel Editor – slash – Talent Liaison – slash – Talent Scout C.B. Cebulski’s “ChesterQuest” (the “C” in C.B. is for “Chester” in case you were wondering), an initiative announced in 2007 that saw Cebulski hit the road and the air traveling around the globe to 20 cities over 9 months looking for the next wave of Marvel creative talent.
New Mutants by Gabriel Hernandez WaltaEach of the two 56-page issues will feature 6 brand new 8-page stories written by Marvel stars like Brian Bendis, Peter David, Mike Carey, Jonathan Hickman, and Marc Guggenheim, illustrated by one of the “Breakout” artists found during “ChesterQuest”, along with insider commentary from Cebulski on how the featured artists got their work seen and how they landed a Marvel gig, as well as comprehensive submissions information and a sample Marvel script.
For more details, Newsarama spoke with Cebulski, along with Marvel Associate Editor Daniel Ketchum (Astonishing X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Psylocke) and Assistant Editor Jordan D. White (Incredible Hulk, Incredible Hercules, Son Of Hulk).
Fantastic Four by Stephen ThompsonNewsarama: So fellas, for those of us old enough to remember it [guilty], Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way sounds something along the lines of a contemporary, cooler The Official Marvel Try-Out Book. Is the comparison apt at all? How are the books similar and different?
Daniel Ketchum: I think I'm familiar with the The Official Marvel Try-Out Book that you're referring to. That particular book broke down a comic into its disciplines (writing, penciling, inking, etc.) and had short tutorials on each one, almost like a paperback book version of a trade school. I think this book differs in that it's not as much a guide to honing a craft as much as it is about garnishing work once you've mastered that craft. It’s meant to be a guide for breaking into mainstream comics.
Spider-Man by Damion HendricksC.B. Cebulski: Yeah, they're not the exact same thing.
Back in the day, the The Official Marvel Try-Out Book was an amazing project to show fans and artists just how comics are made and how it's all physically done and produced, with actual pages for prospective talent to work on. Or "try out" on, I guess.
Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way will be a little bit different. This will be more of "how to" guide about breaking into comics in this day and age. It will spotlight Marvel's new policies on submissions for writers and artists, offer examples of samples scripts and penciled layouts & pages, talk to established creators on how they got their foot in the door, and most importantly, feature new, in-continuity Marvel stories, written by these established writers and illustrated by the 12 new artists I found during my ChesterQuest International Talent Search.
Nrama: Can you break down the different elements of this book, starting with the actual stories since you just mentioned them? Were they written specifically for this book?
X-Men by Paul DavidsonJordan D. White: The idea here was to showcase these up-and-coming talents by teaming them up with prominent Marvel writers on their pick of characters. So, yeah -all the stories were written specifically for this project and specifically for the artists who are working on them. It's a really unique opportunity in that respect-not a lot of artists jump straight into working with a name writer on one of their first gigs at the company. It's pretty exciting. The stories are 8 pages each (give or take).
Nrama: Can you mention some of them specifically? Some details on the characters/stories we mean.
White: We've got an untold tale of the New Avengers from Brian Bendis. A new Peter David Hulk story. Mike Carey takes us into the history of Psylocke for a look at her past and powers.
Nrama: How about the artists? Are they all publishing their first professional work? Are some of them indie/webcomics/international creators getting their first big break (at least in the U.S)?
Ketchum: One of the things I really like about this project is how diverse our group of artists is. They all have different levels of experience: some publish comics and albums regularly here and abroad, while others are currently working in other industries entirely (one of our artists has been working as a video game concept artist, for example). Some of these artists have actually already gone on to do other work at Marvel, some of which-oddly enough-will be published before this project sees print!
The Hulk byCebulski: Yeah, like Daniel said, all the artists who will be showcased here come from different industries and walks of life. And different countries and cultures, which is actually the aspect of this project that is coolest for me. You'll be seeing the debut of German and Polish artists, for example, which are areas we usually don't see a lot of comic talent emerge from to come to work in the U.S. market. We really went global in our search and surprised even ourselves with the diversity of the artists we discovered.
Nrama: So is this a showcase for artists that are already at work on or developing other things at Marvel, or a public tryout in which you'll try to gauge fan reaction to?
Ketchum: The former. These artists each demonstrated something in their work that showed us that they were ready to draw mainstream comics at Marvel.
Cebulski: I forget the actual number of how many people we had submit to “ChesterQuest” right now, but the artists you'll see featured here in Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way are the 12 finalists we selected who originally impressed us the most. And as Daniel previously mentioned, some have already gone on to other projects at Marvel, or other comic companies actually, but the stories you'll find here are where they got their break.
Spider-Woman & Iron Fist byNrama: Now part of this book is apparently focused on how these artists came to Marvel, so I won't ask you to go into too much detail, but can you give us a sense of how these artists appeared on your radar? Completely different venues/methods?
Or is a more reliable or effective method of getting the attention of editors like you guys developing that you're hoping to share with the 1000's of aspirings out there with this title?
Cebulski: Some of the artists I met at conventions. Others sent in their portfolios as cold submissions. Some were introduced by already established artists. Others were discovered online. There's a story behind how each artist appeared as a blip on our radar and only goes to show how many different ways there are to break into comics. Telling those stories here, using them as an example for other artists, is a big part of the fun behind this project.
Nrama: And as you and Daniel inferred earlier, this book is focused on the how-to-get-your-work-seen part of the process, rather than technical craft, right?
Cebulski: Yes. We won't be instructing readers how to write and draw comics in this book. With Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way, we're assuming people are already operating at a certain artistic level with their writing and penciling skills, and this book will help show them what the next steps are to get noticed and get their foot in the door professionally.
xx byKetchum: Right. This book differs from many of the guides about working in comics in that it will contain advice on breaking into comics by the people who actually do the hiring.
Nrama: C.B. you've specifically been vocal and outspoken about how to and how not to try to submit your work to Marvel. Is this title your way of further broadcasting those guidelines to aspiring artists?
Cebulski: And writers. So many people go about submitting the wrong way. For years now, Marvel has lead the way in discovering and trying out new talent on our titles. Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way is now another way for us to further expand in this area, to show up-ad-coming creators the ropes, and put them on the correct path to working in comics, at least where submitting to Marvel is concerned.
Nrama: A slightly broader question if you guys don’t mind. You don't have to be an intrepid journalist to realize that Marvel has stepped up the AMOUNT of work you publish monthly over the last 5 years or so, all you have to do is look at PREVIEWS over the progressive years. This would logically create a greater demand for talent.
Cover to Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way #2 by Lost FishHow hard/easy has that need (for Marvel-level pros) been to fill the last few years? Is a project like this at least partially a proactive response to needing to find new talent out there to keep up with increased publishing demands?
Ketchum: I'm sure talent liaison extraordinaire C.B. could speak to this better than I, but I constantly find myself in need of artists and inkers and colorists. I imagine it's no different for my fellow Marvel editors. While I'm sure this project wasn't solely intended to address those needs, it certainly has had that result. I'm working with about three of the Breaking Into Comics… artists regularly now.
Cebulski: Partially less. I could go one for a long time in response to what you're asking here, and maybe we can do a separate follow-up with you later actually. But the quick answer is yes, we need more talent than ever these days, and not just because of the increased number of titles actually.
With many artists starting to pencil, ink and color themselves as well, this means there aren't as many monthly artists anymore, very few in fact, so we also need new artists to make up for that shortage so we can stick to our publishing schedules. And while we haven't necessarily had a problem finding "Marvel-level pros", a project like this will only help make it easier for us to do so, I believe.
Look for Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way in the upcoming Marvel March 2010 solicitations.