Wildstorm Editorial Director, and superstar artist, Jim Lee took a break from drawing Sunday to critique a crop of comic-wannabes looking for their first big break. Lee, along with Wildstorm Executive Editor Scott Dunbier, artist Ale Garza, writer Scott Lobdell, and colorist Alex Sinclair, displayed and discussed the entries to the L.A. edition of what might as well be called Wildstorm Idol. The prize? A paid three-month internship at Wildstorm in La Jolla, CA.
There was no clear semifinalist to this round, a surprise to even Lee. Instead, the Wildstorm team is giving four of the artist six weeks to complete another set of pages to continue on in the contest. Several finalist were not in attendance and will not be given the second entry, Dunbier said.
"What we're going to do, rather than pick a guy right here, is actually do another private submission," Lee said. "They are all really close, I thought we'd be picking a winner, but I don't want to pick a winner on kind of the spur of the moment."
Artists Lee Torin, Peter Nguyen, Oliver Nome and Nicholas Pitarra will all be given another chance to impress the Wildstorm talent scouts by submitting a second set of pages, to be assigned in the near future. The four finalist pages were displayed and critiqued during the panel. All of the pages were based on a Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning "WildCats" script featuring Majestic, Zealot, Grifter and others.
"This is not how we planned it at all," Dunbier said. "We narrowed it down to these four guys and we will be in contact with them. Each one of them had their high points and low points, as we all said, but all four of them could be professionals who end up working in comics."
The next section of the contest will be at Wizard World Philadelphia, and then eventually it will be narrowed down to one winner. The next script sample, a "Gen13" selection by Gail Simone, should be posted on www.wizarduniverse.com soon. The winner will be announced in "Wizard" magazine in late August or early September.
Before the critiques began the panel offered some advice on what makes a good submission.
"The best submissions are short and to the point. Really three pages is more than enough. It should be your best work and your most recent work. It shouldn't have stuff you did a year ago or two years ago. Three of your best pages you've done in the last month," Lee said. "Focus on storytelling. … You need to convey in those three pages what you know about storytelling."
Lee said the three-page sample should "pull" the viewer through the story.
Dunbier offered similar advice, "You should be able to tell what's going on from the pictures. You shouldn't have to depend on the dialogue or the captions."
Lee, who broke into comics in 1987 after college, brought his own samples to a New York convention which lead to his first paying gig from a famed editor. For Garza, his career began at age 18 after drawing constantly in high school.
"When I was a senior in high school I put together my own project and got it self published," Garza said. "I was drawing all the time. All through eleventh and twelfth grade all that I did was draw."
Lee stressed that to make it into the business, you have to put in both the time and effort to improve. He said after he finished college, he would draw every day panel-to-panel for eight to 10 hours a day.
"You have to be very intense about it," he said. "If you are only drawing once a week that is not enough. You should be drawing four to five days a week for six to eight hours."
Dunbier said to survive in the industry artist need to learn to be able to step away from their work and truly critique it.
"You really have to push yourselves. Look at your works in a completely realistic way. When you draw something think about the way you look at a comic book. You have to think about artist who you like and artist that you don't like, then take that same eye and look at your own work with it," he said. "You have to be brutally honest with yourself. The best artists are always their own biggest critics. They are always pushing themselves to get better."
The winner of the Wildstorm Talent Search had better prepare for brutal honesty. Lee said the Wildstorm staff is constantly critiquing each other's work and the intern would be no different.
"You've really got to put down your guard about accepting criticism. It's really hard to do, I know how tough it is to do … We are really blind to our own faults," Lee said. "We're all going to make mistakes, but you have to be able to learn from those mistakes."
Garza said the internship would be tough, but fun.
"Those three months are going to be like a comic book boot camp," he said.
CBR's coverage of Wizard World Los Angeles is Sponsored by Comics Unlimited.