Fan Expo '11: DC: DRAWING THE NEW 52 w/ Manapul & Paquette

Underwear, plants and de-aging were a few of the topics at DC's "Drawing the New 52" panel Sunday afternoon at Fan Expo in Toronto. DC executive editor Eddie Berganza joined two talented Canadians — The Flash's Francis Manapul and Swamp Thing's Yanick Paquette — to talk about the artistic element of reinventing their characters for the 52-title relaunch of the DC Universe.

Berganza addressed the notable de-aging of many main characters by saying that their in-universe age almost reflected how long they've been around in comic books. "For example, the Teen Titans need to be teens. We wanted Superman to be in his late-20s, because he's still figuring out what a hero is. Heroes who know what they're doing aren't as interesting."

Manapul said the first thing he noticed when he saw Jim Lee's redesign for members of the Justice League were "all the lines and inseams." He took that idea to update Barry Allen's transformation sequence, where fragments of the costume burst out of his ring as he runs into it.

Swamp Thing constantly changes from page to page, something Paquette clearly has a lot of fun with. "I'll look through books of vegetation, and see something gross, and say, 'This is growing on Swamp Thing today!'" He mentioned that when he was starting work on the new Swamp Thing #1, he didn't know that the DCU was undergoing a reboot, so later had to redraw some of the characters to gel with the current climate.

Manapul and Paquette each took turns drawing a sketch of their main characters under a projector for the audience to see. Paquette adorned Swamp Thing with a cluster of mushrooms growing above his left eye, and bees flying around his head. At the end of the panel two audience members were given the sketches after answering trivia questions.

Conversation then swirled around one of the most controversial changes: Wonder Woman's pants, and their subsequent disappearance. "We knew it would create discussion," Berganza said. "It's just a time to modernize. We don't want to be left behind because we were being too reverential."

"It depends on the weather," Manapul suggested. "Maybe when she comes to Canada she'll wear pants."

"Swamp Thing doesn't wear any pants," Paquette said, beaming.

Manapul discussed the creative process to reinventing Flash's archenemies, including some Rogues that have been around for decades. "The fact you could walk into a room, kick Captain Cold's gun and take it? I thought that was kind of old. A lot of them were created in the '50s and '60s, and if you read comics from that era they're a lot of fun, but if you apply it to something today, it can get a little silly.

"It's about making the characters interesting, and also making them a legitimate to Flash. Not just about their powers."

One audience member asked Manapul and Paquette what features of their characters were the hardest to draw panel after panel when producing an issue. Paquette said it wasn't much of a problem since the vegetation growing on Swamp Thing changes all the time.

"Flash is pretty easy to draw," Manapul said. "The only thing to remember right now is keeping all the new lines consistent, because there's a lot of them."

Manapul and Paquette also took some time to talk about the paths they took to get into the comics industry. Paquette confessed he had never attended art school.

"My first dream was to go and collect bug samples. I did my education in biology to become an entomologist," Paquette told the crowd, but he left the field after discovering that most of the related jobs were, in his words: "These bugs are killing our crops. Kill them." He bragged that he could probably identify every bug and plant crawling on Swamp Thing on a given page.

Manapul said that drawing comics was his dream since he was a young teenager, citing an 18-year-old version of himself showing his portfolio to Berganza, "who didn't seem particularly pleased with it." He said that aspiring artists need to keep working on their art, taking criticism from as many editors as possible, and continually showing them their latest art rather than old samples.

"Don't let it get you down," Manapul said. "Now Eddie doesn't stop giving me work."

Although Manapul didn't have formal art training, he spent a lot of time with other artists who wanted to break into comics. About 80 percent of the people he knew, he estimated, are working professionally now. "I don't mean to say don't go to school though," he clarified. "Go to school!"

When asked about their preferred mediums, Paquette says all his work is done on tablet now. "It's all digital now, man," he said.

"I just like brushes and pencils and paper," answered Manapul. "Keep it simple."

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