Thanks to a video camera and projector, the audience at DC's Artist Showcase panel at New York Comic Con on Sunday got to witness DC Comics' top artists David Finch, Francis Manapul, Tony Daniel and Jim Lee turn blank pages into portraits of some of their favorite DC characters.
As an added bonus, the artists handed out their completed sketches to members of the audience. In order to maintain a sense of order and fairness, the sketches were handed out through a bizarre game created by Lee that required members of the crowd to bring the artists a random object in exchange for the artwork. For instance, the first person that brought Lee a packet of ketchup received a Harley Quinn portrait. It worked out surprising well and avoided what probably would have been mad stampede every time an artist finished a picture.
While the artists worked, an active question and answer session took place. Fans came forward to ask about everything from inspiration and personal style development, to the best advice for aspiring artists.
"Do it for the love of it," Tony Daniel advised. "Never stop learning, keep improving and keep getting better."
Jim Lee was asked which character was his favorite to draw and he responded, "I don't really have a favorite. I always say, you have to love them all like they're your children, or they won't take care of you when you're older. I do enjoy characters like Wolverine or Batman, they're very visceral characters."
Another audience member asked Lee which super power was the most difficult to represent on the page. He answered, "Invisibility. If you do it right, you look lazy."
When asked what order the artist preferred to draw their books in, whether they started from page one or jumped around, David Finch admitted, "When I first started drawing this new Batman book, I was so nervous I jumped around and drew all the pages that didn't have Batman in them first."
Lee also noted new challenges facing artists with the move to digital comics. "There are things that the digital format doesn't allow that we used to do, things like the double page spread. Everyone has become very comfortable with the 22-page format, three tiers, 5 or 6 panels a page. That whole narrative structure is pretty much locked in. Well, when you go digital, you don't have to read comics that way. In fact, they aren't read that way."
The highlight of the panel came when Francis Manapul gave his spectacular rendering of Batman to what was possibly the most excited 7-year-old boy ever. Manapul still managed to stick to the rules of Lee's game by saying, "This picture goes to the first kid to come up here that is wearing a green T-shirt and red sweater and sitting in the second row." The boy leapt to his feet and dashed to the stage as if he was racing a roomful of other kids wearing the same ensemble.