Thursday, July 16, 2015

The First and Best Critique I Ever Had

Unearthed from the archives of shame ( i.e., my studio) I came across my submission that I sent to Comley Comix, who published Captain Canuck in the early  late 70's-early 80's. Through the fog of nearly 35 years I am trying to remember how I came about doing the samples, getting the story, etc. I don't remember if they had a tryout or I came up with the story on my own.

 I had just graduated from High School and was really trying to get into comics, going to cons and showing samples. I might still have these original pages someplace in the attic, I'll have to check. I was still living with my parents in Ann Arbor and working/dreaming towards my future career from my bedroom.

Anyway the amazing thing to me was getting this gracious and informative reply and crit back from George Freeman and Jean-Claude St. Aubin only a few short weeks after I sent the samples. Those were certainly different and more personal times, the industry was smaller and in certain ways the same way it had been for 40 years.

I am posting this to also show the perspective student, the up-and-comer cartoonist out there how I started ( and sucked) and how the best artist are the giving kind like George and JC, who took time out from their busy schedules to give me, then a nobody, a great crit! What a gift this was.

 I poured over that thing a zillion times---every thing they said was of course true! Unlike now when there are a zillion books and schools giving you the how-to on comics and cartooning--back then there were none available to me in Michigan. I lived too far from new York to apprentice, or go to the Kubert School. There were also no cons every weekend like today, only maybe 2-3 times a year. I hadn't even been to Chicago or San Diego sometimes you'd go to a con and there would be no artists to show your work to.

I always think of this crit when I teach or give crits at cons or in class and how helpful it was, even it took me a few more years to break in as a pro---but my work improved a lot just from this feedback.

 The part that was really the most true was about not being myself, a thing a lot of young artists struggle with. I think my natural ability to be able to mimic styles as well as liking a lot of different artists contributed to my artistic schizophrenia. The young artist wants to emulate and be their art heroes---its so natural. I might still suffer from some of that today as I have worked in a lot of different styles and projects.

I think for some, they only have one way or a very clear way of working from the start, but I didn't. I did feel a bit self-conscious and stiff on this and it showed---thankfully both George and JC saw something there---enough-to give me a great critique instead of just tossing it in the trash---where it likely deserved to go.

I think I started another set of samples but if  remember by the time I was working toward finishing them Captain Canuck was canceled--what a drag!  I always loved George's art, he also did the great Jack-Of-Hearts mini-series for Marvel and some great DC Batman stuff. I have reminded him of this kindness on his part and thanked him for what he did for me when I met him in person many years ago now.

So feast your eyes upon early Mike Manley art:

                                                        George's sketch relying out my splash

                                             George's letter above and Jean Claude's below

                           My letter art  that they both liked more than the art in mu samples---remember always be yourself--whatever that may be. Never give up on your dream, but also be serious about them too!


Chris Hlady said...

Brilliant. Thank you.

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