Friday, March 23, 2012

Hunting for talent in Manila

(Published Mar. 24, PDI-Super)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“What we’re looking for is original, something we haven’t seen before,” said Marvel Comics’ C.B.Cebulski, senior vice president of the company’s Creator and Content Development, during his recent visit to Manila.

Cebulski was in the country for the “Next Comic Marvel” event and talent search, organized by National Bookstore. The call for art submissions yielded a total of 244 entries, which the talent scout and “Loners” writer went through and shortlisted to 35 hopefuls shortly after his arrival last week.

“There are about four people who are definitely ready to take the step to working professionally at Marvel or the US comics industry,” Cebulski revealed during an interview at the Hotel Intercon. “The next step for me is I take their samples and I go back. I have meetings with the editors at Marvel and I try to find a place for them. So nothing is guaranteed just yet. It’s a matter of the editors deciding which artists are right for which projects.”

Cebulski added that his first visit has been “extremely fruitful,” elated at seeing a number of promising talents. “I am über-impressed. I go to any country and my goal is to find one artist. If I can find one artist to bring back to Marvel, then my trip has been a success. Usually, it’s hit or miss. The place I had the most success with was Italy. I can find one or two artists with each trip; I can safely say that we can hire at least two pencilers and two colorists from the Philippines!”

He expounded on his admiration for established Filipino comic book artists from previous decades. “What’s unique about the Filipino artists in particular is that there is a ‘giving back’ in the artistic community here that I don’t see anywhere else.

“Going back to the ’70s, Filipinos artists, once they made it, they didn’t just rest on their laurels. They turned around and started studios. They wanted to train the next generation, to take their knowledge and their experience and the connections that they’d established, and give it back.”

The talent scout, author of the “100 percent autobiographical” Image title “Wonderlost,” has gotten used to immediately identifying aspiring artists’ influences, and is determined to keep looking for more “original” art styles.

“Basically what I’m looking for is something unique,” he said. “It’s okay for artists to take inspiration from other artists. Everyone is influenced by someone. The trick is to walk the line between inspiration and originality. You have to cross over to originality sooner than later in your career.”

Marvel continues to accept online submissions for penciling jobs. Writers, however, may have a harder time breaking in, according to Cebulski. “It’s almost a Catch-22. To break into Marvel, writers have to have been published somewhere else first. You have to break into the comic industry. But it’s easier than ever before with the Internet, doing web comics, doing self-publishing, selling your work on your own website or blog.”

He also disclosed that inkers won’t be rendered obsolete any time soon. “That’s a myth I’m happy to dispel,” Cebulski said. “The art of inking is invaluable. Digital inking is being phased out, in a way. It’s hard for a computer to understand linework. Inking is not just filling in the black line. It’s embellishing; it’s enhancing. Inking is fixing the flaws of the penciler. A computer can’t do that.”

Cebulski foresees the continued branching out of American comic books to different media, and more people buying collected editions. “I think we’re going to see more TV shows, definitely more movies,” he said. “The trade paperback market is still continually growing, which is a great sign for us. The future of comics right now is figuring out exactly what digital is.”

He added that despite the advent of the digital format, fans and collectors will always support the more established monthlies. “Print will never go away,” Cebulski enthused. “As much as comics is a reading experience, that’s just 50 percent of the whole experience.

“It’s about a culture, about community, about collecting. And you have all those people who have been reading Spider-Man since ‘Amazing Fantasy,’ or reading ‘Fantastic Four’ since the beginning; they go to the shop every month and get every issue, and they’re completists. So we can’t just stop publishing ‘Fantastic Four’ as print. There are those people out there who are hardcore enough, and I’m one of them, who want every single issue in that long box!”

(Photo by Oliver M. Pulumbarit)

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