LightBox Exhibit Recap: “Marvel Comics: Much More Than the Marvel Way” with CB Cebulski and Rickey Purdin

Lightbox Expo may be an animation industry convention, but with so many talented young artists in attendance, Marvel Comics arrested for their first presentation at the expo. Focused on newcomers to the comics industry, editor CB Cebulski announced that they had never done this presentation before. CB was joined by Marvel Comics Talent Scout Ricky Purdin for a panel titled “Marvel Comics: More Than Just the Marvel Way,” which examined the various disciplines of the comics industry, both inside the pages of a comic book and its eye-catching cover .

(CB Cebulski, Rickey Purdin, Marvel, LightBox Expo)

After a brief look at the Marvel Bullpen debut under the guidance of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, creators of “The Marvel Way” of comic book creation, CB and Ricky gave attendees a more modern look at how comic books are made. The average Marvel comic has six individual contributors, with CB serving as the seventh honorary editor-in-chief.

The process begins with a writer, who writes the story as a screenplay. The author describes all the action, makes panel layout suggestions, and writes the dialogue. A cartoonist takes the script and creates a general outline of the comic, which can then be reviewed and revised. Once done, an inker enters and finalizes the lines, adding details and fleshing out the backgrounds. There are cases where the penciler and the inker are the same people, but they are often two separate artists. The fourth contributor is coloring pages and the fifth, an often overlooked contributor, is lettering. Last but not least comes the cover artist. As an example of all of these disciplines, CB and Rickey shared a single-page progression from the recent Amazing Spider-Man #1 written by Zeb Wellsin pencil by John Romita Jr.inked by Scott Hannacolored by Marcio Menyzlettered by VC Joe Caramagnaand with general release cover by John Romita Jr., as well as a wide range of variant covers by Romy Jones, Alan Davis, Travis Charest, Marc Bagley, Peach Momoko, Artgerm Lau, Jim Cheung, Humberto Ramos, Patrick Gleson, Young Skottie, Bengaland In-Hyuk Lee.

Speaking of workload expectations, the average writer, penciler, and inker can create ten comics a year. John Romita Jr, for example, sketches an average of one page a day, and a typical comic is twenty pages. There are exceptions to the rule, like Jack Kirby, who might produce multiple comics each month, and Japanese artist Peach Momoko, who does her own writing, penciling, inking and coloring at record speeds. Peach was used as another example of the process of creating a comic with progressions of Demon Wars: Shield of Justice #1which also presented some key differences between making a Japanese manga and an American comic.

CB Cebulski has final approval of all Marvel Comics covers, sharing that while all the artists are still working from home, one of his favorite parts of Marvel HQ is a cover wall they swap with all the latest. versions to ensure that each comic stands out on its own. Cover artists are often hired for one-time assignments and are tasked with submitting an average of two to four sketches for variety. Marco Checchettowork on Silver Surfer was used to show how the cover changed from the preliminary sketch to the final design. Featuring the character on an iconic flight through space, something as simple as moons around a planet in the background needed to be rearranged before moving on to final ink and color. The conversation also included the typical cover layout, leaving negative space in specific places for the book’s title, publication number, and any other messages that might be added in an effort to help sell the book on a shelf.

With much of the comics industry having gone digital, there has also been a lot of conversation about variant covers. Whether it’s attracting a wider range of collectors and retailers or changing the approach to how a cover catches your eye on a digital platform like Comixology, he offered an interesting look at how the comic book industry is ever-changing. There was also a brief discussion on the new format of Marvel Infinity Comics, which read vertically and break the traditional comic framework. Many legacy comic artists find this medium difficult to draw, while artists with a background in animation tend to do better, opening doors for different types of audiences to work for Marvel Comics. Another advantage of the digital process is that all contributors to a comic do not need to live near each other, or even in the same country. It is truly a global effort.

Artist Devin Grayson once said that getting into Marvel Comics was “like getting out of jail.” Rickey shared that he’s tried to streamline the system, but getting a foot in the door is always a challenge. For all budding comic artists, Marvel Comics sends out sample scripts so they can show off their skills in pencil drawing, inking, coloring, or all three disciplines. As a casual comic book reader, this presentation was an eye-opening look at the current state of the comic book industry. The panel was so successful that CB and Rickey ran on time, graciously offering to meet attendees in the hallway afterwards to answer any remaining questions. Their passion and generosity for the comics industry has certainly rubbed off on everyone and inspired many aspiring artists to consider lending their talents to the world of Marvel Comics.

Visit to learn more about the annual event held in Pasadena and how you can attend next year.

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Lisa M. Horner