The man who drew The X-Men
Thanks to endless barrage of comic book-inspired Marvel films, the superheroes the likes of The X-Men, Iron Man and The Avengers have spawned into billion dollar franchises. But what of the men that set the foundations for the box-office empire to be built?
William "Whilce" Portacio is one of those men. The Filipino-American comic book writer and artist may not be a household name, but his contribution to works including The Punisher, Uncanny X-Men, Iron Man, and Spawn, certainly has made them.
Having had a successful career at Marvel, in 1992 Portacio and six high-profile artists left to start up their own company, Image Comics.
Ahead of his appearance at this weekend's PopCon Dubai convention, Esquire Middle East caught up with him to hear his story:
ESQ: What got you started in the comic book industry?
WP: In my twenties, I brought my portfolio to the San Diego Comic-Con. It just so happened that all of the Marvel editors were looking for new talent at the time and I ended up getting a job that very day. I started off as an inker on a book called Longshot, which was Arthur Adams’ first comic book. Within a year I was working full time on drawing for The Punisher, and I eventually created the character Bishop in the X-Men (see image above).
Why leave Marvel?
I was one of six guys who were at the top of our fields at Marvel. We decided to form our own comic book company where we could individually create and control our own books, while continuing to benefit from the collection of publications and working as a group. The idea was that any profit would go to the creator, however, the flipside to that was that if there were any issues they also fell at the feet of the individual. All in all, I think our company is attractive to all creators. You can create your own comic book and be the sole beneficiary of your creation!
How long is the process to create a comic book cover?
The rough drawing that represents the layout of the cover usually takes around thirty minutes, from there it takes the editorial department an hour or so to approve one of the many cover ideas. When it comes to the art itself, from final pencil details to final inks for reproducing in print and final digital coloring, they all take one day to complete individually, meaning the process can take up to three days, from initial layout to the completed cover.
How has technology influenced your career?
Well, I was one of the first artists involved with exploring how to use Photoshop to colour comics. Technology has improved to the point where many artists will only use computers for producing art. I often do all the art for a cover digitally, from the layout to the final piece. With the software available today, we can speed up our production process and are able to work outside of our studios, anytime, anywhere.
Do you have a stylistic trademark?
The vibe of my work is generally associated with hardcore action, horror, and science fiction. Over time, I started to specialise creating mood via shadows and lighting. My work is also known for bringing visual atmosphere to the superhero genre. For example, instead of just drawing an ice character in a simple way, I would draw the ice shards falling of him/her as well as condensation effects.
Are you aware of the comic book market here in Dubai?
Over time Dubai has managed to develop quite a large comic book fan base. It is generally catered to by local companies like Comicave. But on a personal note, there is a large Philipino population in Dubai, and I always get great support showcasing my work here.
What will you be exhibiting?
I will be doing a meet-and-greet with fans, as well as signing autographs and taking selfies! I will do a short performance on how I put my pieces together, so that people can better understand the concept of what we do.
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PopCon will be held at the Dubai Outlet Mall, October 27 to 29. The three-day event will involve every element of pop culture by bringing together the comic and pop world. Entry is free. Visit popcon.com for details.