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STGCC 2011 Report: East Meets West

We’re writing to you live from the Singapore, Toy, Games and Comic Con (STGCC) 2011 where things are really dynamic here at Suntec. The booths are awesome (just look at the Hot Toys one!) and the crowd is just fantastic.

We’ve just come from the East meets West panel where Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski (no labels needed!) was surprised to be asked to host/moderate things at the last minute, but he really asked the right questions and anyone who is a stranger to the other guests like Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Sonny Liew, Kieron Gillen and Stephen Segovia would have felt like they’ve known them forever.

But we’re just blown away by Paul Levitz, former President of DC and just about the most genial man you could ever hope to meet.

Having been in the industry for decades, Paul brings with him a library of experience from almost every aspect of creating comic books. He first mentioned how, unlike his own initial foray, he noticed that there was a whole generation of new creators who had grown up on both manga and comics from the UK and US. This showed in the way they told their stories, both in terms of pacing and panelling, and in the kinds of themes they tended to cover.

For example, he shared how, with his own upbringing, he found it unheardof to have a story that didn’t involve some conflict or another. According to him, more Eastern themes of family and honour and just building up the community were harder to accept in the past, but there was a greater appreciation of the balance between conflict and integration in stories today.

Paul also mentioned how “Western” stories could be told with a distinctly “Eastern” appearance, citing DC’s very own Teen Titans animated series as the perfect example of how an anime-influenced show by Glen Murakami could still appeal to Western audiences and leveraging on superhero characters.

Ultimately, said Levitz, the key was for aspiring creators to create their own voice, and not limiting themselves to a single medium. Reflecting on how much comics has evolved in the past two decades alone, he said it was key was for creators to be open to different ways of telling a story. With technology being the way it is today, you don’t need to be a comic book artist to be a comic writer. Just use clip art and typography tools to ensure your talent shines through.

Of course, it’s not just hard work and skill, and there’s the element of luck and timing involved. Sometimes, you just have to find out how to be the solution to a comic book editor’s “problem”, saying how Sonny Liew’s first work with DC was mostly about being the right fit for a miniseries they wanted to launch back in the day. “Just keep banging your head against the brick wall until (the wall) breaks, that’s how we’ll find you,” he said. After all, “there’s no such thing as an unemployed writer, just starving ones”.

His advice to aspiring creators? Avoid what he calls “roadblocks and speedbumps” in the craft, referring to anything that could take readers out of the story due to a poor choice of words, perspective or even the number of panels. At the end of the day, editors want to see someone who has a firm hold on their industry, without needing too much handholding.

And if you ever wanted to find out how Alan Moore broke into US comics… well, that’s a story for another time.

Reporting to you live from STGCC!

Peter Lin

His teenage years spent nursing a giant man-crush on Steve Rogers, the first Captain America, Peter naturally found himself drawn to many other heroes who depicted strong, manly qualities, including the honour-bound warrior Worf, first Klingon in Starfleet, and the muscular rock hard abs of The Thing.

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