Marvel, DC & Star Wars Artist Shares Three Rules of Comic Art
Based on his experiences of illustrating the universes of Marvel, DC Comics, and Star Wars, the iconic artist Walter Simonson has shared his three key lessons about creating comic book art. For fans who aspire to work in the industry, his advice is not to be missed.
Throughout his career, Walter Simonson has worked on titles such as Thor, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Orion, Wonder Woman, Manhunter, and Detective Comics among many others. For longtime fans, his style is immediately recognizable and his name on an issue is a stamp of quality. While he is generally associated with these past eras of the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics, he continues to work today and teaches a course on visual design. Recently, Simonson illustrated the cover for Beta Ray Bill #1, which released on March 31.
In an interview featured at the end of the issue, Simonson said that his NYC Visual Design course could be compressed into three simple rules for drawing comics. Firstly, he advised artists to question their own work, regarding whichever specific comic they were bringing to life. “Every time you have a question in your work about the comic you’re creating– the writing or the drawing or coloring or lettering or whatever–your direction should always be: Is my answer to this question making my story better? Because that’s what you should be doing in your comics — telling stories to the best of your ability. And whatever your answer, if it isn’t making your story better, you need to rethink it.”
Simonson followed up this point by recommending artists always consider using references for their work. Whether they use photographs, or visit a specific site to get a more realistic grasp on perspective or find reference through other means, he highly recommends this be a part of every artists’ process. “What you see, really see, goes through your eyes into your brain, gets scrambled, and comes back out through your hand. So you need to train both your eye and your hand and their interaction with your brain, because that is what makes both training and improvement possible.” Lastly, Simonson straightforwardly addressed the fact that being an artist for comics isn’t an easy profession. “Comics is hard work. Get used to it.” For anyone who has had experience illustrating, this is a blunt reminder that it doesn’t necessarily get easier and the job requires a ton of determination and dedication.
In fact, it might even become harder in certain ways, as personal preferences can change and self-imposed standards will shift. Even when an artist invests in their craft as much as humanly possible, it is never a guarantee that a company will be interested. Through following these rules that Walter Simonson lays out as lessons he learned throughout his career, he encourages followers to pursue the arts as he has. However, it isn’t going to be as simple as one might hope and it’s going to require a lot of hard work.