The next wave of Marvel Comics titles got a spotlight Saturday in New York via the next wave of Marvel Comics artists at the "All-New Young Guns" panel during the inaugural Special Edition NYC convention.
Newly minted Marvel talent scout Jeanine Schaefer introduced the panel of "Wolverine and the X-Men" artist Mahmud Asrar, "Guardians of the Galaxy" artists Nick Bradshaw and Sara Pichelli, "Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man" artist David Marquez, "New Avengers" artist Valerio Schiti and "Inhuman" artist Ryan Stegman. Despite some early technical glitches on showing off the line-up's art, the crew in the promotion each got some time to ply their wares and their personal stories.
The discussion started with that perpetual con question: How did you get your start in comics? Pichelli recalled her immediate entry into Marvel via 2008's "Chester Quest" – a recruiting promotion led by former talent scout CB Cebulski whom Schaefer joked "has left the little people behind."
Stegman's career took a more traditional route, going from self-publishing "Midnight Kiss" to small press withe Dabel Bros' "Magician's Apprentice" series, which was bought by Marvel, leading him to a relationship with Editor Mark Paniccia. The artist joked that because he'd heard Marvel may buy the Dabel's studio, he stayed up for 48 hours to go from one "Kiss" deadline immediately into a set of "Apprentice" tryout pages.
Bradshaw's career started in the gambling industry, where he designed casino slot machines – both the art for the outside of the machines and the animation for their winning screens. He dropped the soul-crushing experience of using his art to feed the habits of nickel slot addicts after some work doing covers for the Hero Initiative charity, which caught the eye of Marvel Editor Nick Lowe.
There are no easy routes to publishing in comics as Marquez and Asrar both attested to, working for years in smaller gigs and self publishing before catching the eye of editors at the bigger publishers. Schiti similarly said that the earliest work he showed to Cebulski was "terrible," and that it took him several years after making initial contact in order to sharpen his skills enough to gain a wider audience.
Schaefer stressed that the common theme between all the Young Guns' stories was adhering to a strong work ethic while also occasionally forcing yourself away from the drawing board and out of the house to make professional connections at conventions. Marquez called Twitter comics' "water cooler" and expressed gratitude that today it's easier to get your work out there and build contacts than ever before thanks to the web.
"It's a constant process of breaking in," Asrar said, noting that your best reference for a new job is your last work. Bradshaw put part of the onus for breaking new talent on the fans, saying that people who commission Artist Alley denizens to do pinups or other art pieces help contribute to the spread of an artist's work that may eventually get picked up by an editor.
On the collaborative front, each artist spoke a bit about how they not only work to achieve the challenges set by their writers but also to "one up" other artists. Stegman said that he has a group of artist friends he'll show his stuff to, hoping for praise.
"If one of them will say, 'Yeah, that's pretty good,' it drives me INSANE," he joked. Pichelli said that sometimes you need another artist to tell you to stop redrawing panels over and over, and just turn your pages in on deadline.
When the slideshow got started, the artists showed off the Special Edition jam piece they did where each creator chose the character they wanted to contribute. "I said right away, 'I want to do Magneto!' and then I thought, 'Wait...I'm working on Medusa,'" Stegman joked.
Schaefer showed off Asrar pages from "Wolverine & The X-Men" #5 and 6, featuring some Fantomex action and a prime roll for Doop. Daredevil will appear in issue #7. Bradshaw takes the lead on "Guardians of the Galaxy" #15 and talked up his massive Rocket Raccoon spread, saying that it took forever to complete with the right balance of cute and awesome for the character. Marquez is continuing his collaboration with Brian Michael Bendis on "Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man," which features the return of the Green Goblin and Peter Parker in its first arc, but the question for each is "How?"
Pichelli's "Guardians" art for Marvel's "2014 Unlimited Plus Gift Box" was shown off before shifting to her work on the "Trial of Jean Grey" crossover between "Guardians" and "All-New X-Men." The panel said that the artist's next Marvel gig is under wraps because it's super secret. Before that, though, fans will see her work on the cover to "All-New X-Men" #32 featuring Miles Morales.
Future movie star Doctor Strange makes his return soon in "New Avengers" as drawn by Schiti, who also chose the character for the Special Edition jam piece.
Stegman spoke on his changing art style for "Inhuman." He said he started with a Geoff Darrow-esque clean line, though the detail started to drive him insane, so over the course of his issues things shifted to a darker, brushier tone. The artist introduces a raft of new characters he helped design in issue #6 including two called Naja and Flint.
In the question and answer period, Marquez offered up the keystone books on sequential storytelling for a teacher hoping to start a comics art program for teenagers, including Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics." Schiti said the most important thing is to read "a LOT of comics" as Marquez joked "by Marvel!"
Asked about their influences, the panel gave a wide range of responses, including Pichell's love of Stuart Immonen and Jason Pearson, Stegman's championing of mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo, Bradshaw's heavy influence from Art Adams and Mike Weiringo, Marquez's love of Travis Charest, Asrar's early obsession with John Buscema's "Conan" and Schiti's evolving tastes going from John Byrne when he was younger to Chris Samnee today.
The question of short runs versus long stretches of working on a single title came up, and Asrar and Stegman agreed that longer runs are good, but they wouldn't want to do a book for more than a year before moving on because if you don't change things up, people start to forget that you're working on getting better. Bradshaw said that his longer stretch on "Wolverine & The X-Men" was satisfying because writer Jason Aaron changed the expectations for the book in each story arc.
"I still think we would have found other stories to keep that interesting, but I'm happy to be working on 'Guardians' now," Bradshaw said, noting that while he enjoys the book now, he may want to change things up before too long. Pichelli expressed gratitude for her long run establishing who Miles Morales is, but once that job was done and the character was accepted by readers, she was happy to move on.
Stegman revealed that he worked on an early Marvel digital project – before the Infinite Comics projects came along – with writer Frank Tieri that was supposed to be a tournament of fights between Marvel characters that would be guided by fan votes. Though he worked on the art for eight months, the project eventually was scuttled.
For their hit list of Marvel characters they'd like to draw, Pichelli chose Daredevil, Stegman said Thor "because I'm obsessed with Walt Simonson," Bradshaw wanted to do a classic Hulk story, Asrar wanted Thor as influenced by Norse mythology, Schiti picked Spider-Man and Marquez dramatically declared "Darkhawk!"