The panel started off a bit late, so once it began, Steve Epting jumped right into discussing his work with the gathered crowd of Comic-Con International attendees, starting with the earliest examples of his art from the age of 10. Two drawings of Spider-Man were shown, and while not necessarily masterpieces, most in attendance felt the work was above and beyond a typical young boy.
According to Epting, he always enjoyed comic books, but he never actually expected himself to one day became a comic artist - the job just sort of fell in his lap. His first professional work was for First Comics in 1989; specifically background and detail work in “Nexus” and art duties on a Nexus spin-off miniseries, “Hammer of God.” He downplayed the significance of the title to his career, and hoped no one tries to track it down thinking it’s some sort of amazing lost art by Steve Epting.
In 1991, he got his first work with Marvel Comics on “Avengers.” Simply put, he got lucky. He had been sending packages to the Marvel offices over the course of the summer, right when they were having issues getting the (then) biweekly “Avengers” book out on time. Desperate for more artists to maintain the publication schedule, an editor spotted his art and gave him the job.
In 1998, he headed over to DC Comics, where he would get to work on Superman. Sadly, after a few months, the entire Superman staff were fired and replaced, and as consolation he was given art duties on “Aquaman.”
Three and a half years later, he moved to Florida, and started work at Crossgen on “Crux.”
After Crossgen folded, he headed over to Marvel Comics and has been there ever since. At first, he was mainly given covers to draw, because he and Marvel were waiting on Brubaker’s contract to finish up at DC Comics. At that point, he and Brubaker got reboot “Captain America.”
Asked if he now misses Cap, Epting said he did miss the character and comic book a little bit, especially since he had gotten to know the characters and designs so well. With his new work, he has to do more research and design which can be time consuming.
In response to one question, Epting revealed that he is currently working on issue #3 of “The Marvels Project,” and as mentioned in the previous answer, the research and design can be a bit tough because the book takes place in a specific time period in the past. He hopes that fans will forgive him if there is accidentally a ’42 coupe in a scene set in 1939.
Describing his drawing process, Epting began by saying that he draws tiny, one-inch high thumbnails detailing the plot given to him. He then draws out a loose version of each thumbnail on an 8 x 11 page. From this, he gauges the detail and quality, and makes sure the action is properly conveyed in a larger frame. Epting then scans the page into his computer, and shrinks, rearranges, or enlarges any panels, as needed using Photoshop. He prints out the rearranged material on an 11 x 17 piece of copier paper, which he then tapes to the back of a piece of Bristol paper, using a light box to finish the page in ink.
Asked if his covers follow the same process, Epting explained that it is a slightly different one. For the interiors, he draws the plot given to him and hands it in, but with covers, he will create around four thumbnails of different designs, which the editor then chooses from. “The editors always choose my least favorite,” he joked. It usually takes three to four days to complete a cover, and since issue 25 of “Captain America,” he has mainly been producing digitally painted covers.
An unused cover of Thor was then shown, depicting Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and Captain America. The story took place during the Disassembled storyline, and as it evolved, the Hulk was taken out of the story. The editor thought the cover would still work just as long as he got rid of the Hulk in the background, but Epting felt the cover would just look silly with such an empty space in the background where the Hulk once was. He thus drew an entirely new cover featuring only the three characters that appear in the story.
A Steranko inspired page from the current series was then shown, and when asked if the groundbreaking artist inspired him, he responded that, “Ed Brubaker’s whole run is inspired by those three issues of 'Cap' Steranko did in 1969."
Epting revealed that he did not do any design work on the New Captain America’s costume, but there were many different designs by Alex Ross for everyone to choose from. One design, similar to the current look, depicted the triangular shield on Cap’s chest as protruding out from his chest and shoulders, and the famous wings on the side of the mask were moved to the front forehead. Luckily for everyone involved, they listened to Epting when he felt the design would look better with the original ‘wings’ and a skintight triangular shield. Epting likes Alex Ross’s design, and is glad he didn’t have to come up with on because he would be too worried about how fans would accept it. The final costume took three or four weeks for everyone to decide on.
Epting’s dream projects include Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Batman, and another shot at Superman.
His inking process is mostly brush and some pen work, and when asked how he inks Cap’s shield with its bold lines and shape, he answered, “That shield is a pain in the ass.” Luckily, Photoshop has helped him out immensely, as he currently has about 50 designs of the round shield seen from different angles. For things like buildings and small background details he will use a micron pen.
Lastly, Steve Epting said that the plan for him after “The Marvels Project” is to return to “Captain America,” but he did admit that things could change in the next eight months.