Comic-Con isn’t over for Artists Who Did Portfolio Reviews – KPBS | Candle Made Easy

Although Comic-Con ended on Sunday, some attendees will be busy this week following up on the contacts they made during portfolio reviews at the convention.

Comic-Con isn’t over for everyone

Comic-Con attracts tens of thousands of pop culture fans looking to attend panels, shop for collectibles, and cosplay. But it’s also a place where business is done and artists connect to further their careers.

Comic-Con 2022: Storm King

Sandy King Carpenter runs Storm King Comics which had a booth in the exhibition space. The booth looked like a casual office with big black armchairs and a coffee table, and there’s a reason for that.

“The other side of Comic-Con that fans might not realize is that the publishers are here to do business. We hire people and our writers prepare our stories and stuff for the next year. We also talk to our distributors and we do our other business here. I have business meetings here all day long without having to leave the floor so I can still sign books for the fans and be available for my meetings in a comfortable environment. You watch presentations, you talk about digital distribution, you talk about what the new wave is and look at different formats. You want to be ahead of the game, not behind. And it’s all happening at Comic-Con, so welcome to my office,” Carpenter said.

Tom Doherty, editor-in-chief, publisher and owner of Committed Comics, said Comic-Con gave him the chance to meet artists in person at portfolio reviews.

Beth Accomando/KPBS

Comic-Con reserves an area in the Sails Pavilion for portfolio reviews. July 22, 2022.

Comic-Con had set up a special portfolio review area in the Sails Pavilion where professionals like Doherty could sit down with artists and sometimes spend 30 minutes going through their work and making suggestions on how to improve or where to go can look for jobs.

“For me as a publisher, portfolio reviews open up an opportunity to see more than what can be presented to me digitally,” said Doherty. “It’s really nice to actually be able to connect face to face with someone and actually physically look at their stuff and point out different things about the artwork that could work in a storytelling function, or just which ones different facets they actually have in their portfolio.”

And sometimes it’s more than just a meeting.

“For Committed Comics, we hired a tremendous number of people to do portfolio reviews here at Comic-Con,” Doherty said. “Some of them have been quite successful in the comics industry and I have no doubt they would have made it there anyway because they are extraordinarily talented people. But it’s nice that it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I had my fingers on that art.'”

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Julian Aguilera

An example of Julian Aguilera’s pencil and ink work.

Julian Aguilera is a penciller, inker and colourist.

“The penciller draws the actual drawing on a piece of paper, and then the inker goes over the person’s pencils, and then the colorist actually adds color to the whole piece. So it’s kind of an assembly line process,” Aguilera said.

Aguilera, which has done portfolio reviews in the past, was waiting for portfolio reviews with several companies at Comic-Con.

“If you’re looking for either work or even criticism, if you want to improve, this is probably the best way to do it. If you find an editor who likes your work, there’s a good chance you’ll actually get work… And if there’s no editor who likes your work, but maybe likes how you colorize or how you ink, then it actually helps to have a fairly rounded view of your work then it also gave me a lot of pointers on how to improve my artwork,” Aguilera said.

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Julian Aguilera

Julian Aguilera’s color mashup portrait of a Grogu Loki.

Maximus Spragovsky was also waiting for portfolio reviews. One of the things he does as a company is turn ordinary people into superheroes. During a portfolio review, a publisher suggested making an illustrated book out of the photos and custom art.


Carlo Castillo

Maximus Spragovsky takes photos that people give him and then turns that person into their superhero of choice.

Spragovsky returned for another portfolio review this year.

“I like to see myself grow as an artist because my style goes from comic book to more realistic every year. So it’s nice to see peer reviews to get their perspective on my work,” Spragovsky said.

Hank Kanalz is editor of Clover Press in San Diego. He looked at works by Spragovsky and Aguilera.

“It’s a way of seeing what the talent pool is like out there. It’s a great opportunity to meet new artists and new talent. You never know if you will find your next new artist. And it’s a great way to network and communicate with potential publishers and editors,” Kanalz said.

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Carlos Castillo/KPBS

Hank Kanalz, editor of Clover Press, and artist Maximus Spragovsky on July 21.

Twenty years ago, portfolio reviews at Comic-Con were even more valuable because it was one of the few ways to show your art to a publisher without having to travel to their offices. Now artists can easily submit their work digitally. But Kanalz likes the personal connection combined with the digital one.

“People can email between these shows,” Kanalz said. “It was a way to speed up the process of finding new talent. But nothing beats meeting and welcoming potential new artists to the grassroots. So it’s nice to have personal feedback from another human being who can tell you which areas you should focus on and also tell you what you’re doing right, because it’s not just about what you’re told what to fix: You are also told what to do right and what to do more of.

The process can be extremely helpful for artists if they are open to what the professionals are telling them.

“If you go downstairs and talk to some of the greatest comic artists, they’ll immediately tell you, ‘I don’t know everything. I’m still learning too.’ And whenever an artist has stopped learning, they’ve hit a plateau and won’t excel anymore,” Doherty said. “The good guys are very open to criticism. At the same time, when I’m looking at a portfolio, I’m not going to sit there and say ‘that’s terrible’ and ‘that’s wrong’. It’s no use to them if I’m just being mean to them and killing their dream.”

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Beth Accomando

Artists Julian Aguilera and Maximus Spragovsky look at each other’s work while awaiting their portfolio reviews on July 21.

But sometimes it is difficult to hear criticism.

“You have to have a very thick skin in this business,” Aguilera said. “Some people will be bluntly honest with you. And then some people might actually sugarcoat it when you’re at that level. It’s best to just take notes and then come back next year and just keep trying to improve.”

Spragovsky chimed in: “Good constructive criticism is a great way to learn. He [Kanalz] evaluate my work. It was great. He complimented me, and that was great praise. He also gave me great advice, basically making my characters stand out against the background so my characters could stand out. So it’s pretty awesome.”

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Beth Accomando

Glitch Comic Creators Alston Novak and Sarah Landauer Receive Feedback from Committed Comics’ Tom Doherty at San Diego Comic-Con.

Alston Novak and Sarah Landauer brought the first few pages of their comic, Glitch, to get feedback from Doherty.

“It’s a project where Sarah does the writing, I do the art, and we just sat there and got feedback on what worked, what needs improvement, and where we could do better in the future,” Novak said. “It’s really helpful to get that insight, and honestly, it’s almost like being in a class with a teacher who can give you feedback, ‘Here are the next things to work on when you’re want to improve.’”


Alston Novak and Sarah Landauer

Excerpt from the “Glitch” comic by Alston Novak and Sarah Landauer.

Landauer added another perspective.

“It helps me get a better handle on what’s involved in translating the words into a visual medium in the scripting process,” Landauer said. “I think I’ve gained a lot of insight on how to help make things a little more dynamic and knowing what works, how much written dialogue should fit on a page, how to handle the storyline in a way that’s pro Page distributed to hopefully make the artist’s and the work of the letter easier on my part.”

Doherty loves the fact that when someone opens his portfolio, he never knows what he’s going to get.

“I never know what’s going to happen when the person sits down and says, ‘Here it is.’ And they open it, and it’s either a wonderful treasure trove of things, or I look at it and I’m like, ‘I’m very confused.’ I want to target (the review) to what I’m looking for. I am looking for someone who is creative. The other day I said to someone downstairs in the store, ‘If you’re just creating something because someone has something I want to ask you to create something, then I really don’t want to work with you’ – because for me, this is an absolutely passionate project, so I need to make sure the people I work with have the same level of commitment and drive.

Aguilera ended his portfolio review with Doherty on a very positive note.

“He ended up liking something that wasn’t on the pages I brought,” Aguilera said. “He wanted some of my personal work (a horror comic in the works). So I’m going to send him a cover of what I did and hopefully we’ll go from there. So I’m just trying to improve, which is the most important thing. And follow up with everyone you speak to.”

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