I'm often asked what materials I use. My advice here is, "Do as I say, not as I do!" I do 1" tall loose roughs, scan it onto my Mac, print a 10" blueline, draw a tight pencil, scan, print a 15" blueline on acid free animation bond paper, then ink with 2B pencil and Copics. One more scan, hire a flatter, then I color the drawing in Photoshop. This works OK for me, but artists who work digitally on every stage can work twice as fast. Check out Freddie E Williams II's The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics.
Learning to Make Comics
There are many paths to learning how to draw and paint. For beginners the most useful resource is Mark Crilley. Check out his YouTube education videos, where he can introduce you to many basic concepts in drawing. He focuses on manga, but the principles apply to superhero comics too. His fundamentals are sound. If you enjoy these, get his book Mastering Manga. His comics are pretty awesome too!
Some other great books are Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, Drawing Words Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, and How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema.
I graduated from the Center For Creative Studies, now called the College For Creative Studies. That was over 20 years ago. Again, "do as I say and not as I do." Don't just apply to CCS because I went there. If you're looking for an art school, check out work from their recent graduates. If they're making work like you want to make then add them to your options. Contact some recent graduates. Ask many many questions.
Breaking in to the Comics Biz
Finally my advice on breaking into comics. It's not even possible to break into comics the way I did. I sent photocopy samples to Marvel and DC. Neither company accepts mailed samples any more. In the modern day, start drawing and posting your work online. Don't worry if your early work isn't 'good enough' yet, people will be excited to see you get better. Meet other artists on sites like Deviant Art and Instagram. Go all out promoting your work on sites like Tumblr. Start a web comic. Self publish if you think you have enough fans. The best way to get work from Marvel and DC is your own published comics. Hopefully you'll do so well you'll never need them.
Breaking and Entering into Art and Comics
I figure if you're reading this bio, you're either interested in how I got a job in comics or how to keep your kids from becoming comic book artists. Good luck either way. Anyhow, I'll try to explain how I ended up working twelve hours a day sitting alone in a small room with only my dog Fina to talk to.
I was born in Chicago, but raised in South Bend, Indiana. The home of Notre Dame University. My parents were well-educated Korean immigrants who hoped their three sons would get prestigious degrees and move on to prestigious jobs. Didn't happen...
I was the most introverted of the three Ha brothers. Being both a geek and a first generation Korean-American made me seek out escapist fantasy, especially comic books. While my brothers were both more artistically talented than me, neither of them had the patience to sit for hours on end working on one drawing. Or maybe they just had better things to do. I was the only brother not to play high school football.
I think there are a lot of parallels between my generation of Asian-American comic book artists and the generation of Jewish artists and writers who created superheroes in the 1930's. Mystery men with super powers, secret identities, and absurdly Anglo names seemed to have attracted both generations. We were all the children of immigrants struggling to fit into America, and the fantasies of 1930's Jewish geeks still held appeal to 1980's Korean geeks.
All of the typical comics names from the 80's were influences on me: Byrne, Miller, Sienkiewicz, Simonson, Moore, etc. But the most important was Matt Wagner. Mage is still a magical series to me, and the stubborn Kevin Matchstick and Sean the ghost are personal archetypes to this day. My dream is to make a series that will be as powerful to you (and myself) as that book was to me.
Art appealed to me, not in and of itself, but as a way of creating comic books. South Bend public schools offered few classes in realistic drawing, so I took few elective classes in art. I mostly drew in other classes and after school. I was quite good at taking notes, then caricaturing the teachers before they moved on to a new idea.
My high school's newspaper, the Clay Colonial, was where I really began to understand the graphic arts. I won the Most Valuable Staffer award, an unusual honor for the staff artist. I don't know where my high school and college degrees are, but I know where that plaque is.
The most important thing one must do before learning is figure out what you don't know. When it came time to go to college, I had no proper portfolio and couldn't get into any self respecting school. Which is how I ended up at the Center for Creative Studies (now the "College for Creative Studies"). In my first two years, I learned how little I knew. The last two years I tried to learn it. Art school can be incredibly useful, but the degree itself is meaningless. My art was still a mess when I graduated. I've met kids stuck on farms their whole lives who can draw better than I did then, and I've met art school grads whom I wouldn't want working on the Clay Colonial. In Minneapolis I shared a studio with two artists who held day jobs and hadn't been to art school. They were incredibly dedicated and were better artists than I was when I graduated.
In my last semester at CCS, I sent out drawing samples to Marvel, and a week later to DC as an afterthought. Marvel sent an unintentionally vicious letter criticizing my perspective, anatomy, and technique, everything except my storytelling. In retrospect, they were mostly right about everything but the storytelling. Still, they were needlessly harsh.
DC was interested. They sent me a sample script, liked the results, and I've had regular gigs ever since.
I currently live in Berwyn, IL with my wife Lisa. She fills me with joy, and keeps me from going crazy. Our rescue dog Fina gives us both sunshine
How Gene became an Artist
by Mark Crilley
Gene as a kid
Gene as a kid
Gene as a kid
Work from High school and college
Letter from DC
© Gene Ha 2017 by Anette Nam Design