Once again we return to our So You Want My Job  series, in which we interview men who are employed in desirable jobs and ask them about the reality of their work and for advice on how men can live their dream.
Some people think that growing up means leaving behind all your boyish ways. On the contrary, one of the great things about becoming an adult is that you can take the things you could only imagine and dream about as a boy, and bring them to life. That’s the line of work Francis Manapul is in. He’s a comic book artist for DC Comics who is currently working on The Flash comics that are coming out next month as part of DC’s ambitious re-launch of all 52 of their characters (all the comics are starting back at issue #1). Francis gets to create the Flash’s world and his adventures–pretty cool. Now you just need to attain the “landing an awesome job” superpower!
1. Tell us a little about yourself (Where are you from? How old are you? Describe your job and how long you’ve been at it, etc).
I was born in the Philippines, but grew up in Toronto, Canada. I’m currently the writer and artist on The Flash which is part of The New 52 for DC Comics this upcoming September. I’m 31 years old and have been working as an artist for the past 11 years.
2. Why did you want to become a comic book artist? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
When I was a kid my dad used to buy me Superman comic books, so the interest was always there. However it was my discovery of an issue of X-Men, which had Captain America, Black Widow, and Wolverine teaming up and was drawn by Jim Lee, that really sparked the fire for me. The art was dynamic and exciting; I remember thinking to myself: “I never knew comics could look so cool!” Prior to that I was just a casual comic reader, but after that I became a rabid comic fan. I followed artists more than the characters. My passion for comic arts cemented itself when I was around 14; it was then and there that I made it my life mission to become a comic book artist.
3. How does a man become a comic book artist? Is it something you can go to school for? How should a man prepare and learn the requisite skills?
I never went but going to school certainly helps you hone your skills as an artist. Learning the basics and focusing on anatomy, figure drawing, and storytelling is a good start. There are plenty of books available on those subjects, and I know this through experience. This part of your artistic journey doesn’t really stop; the learning will always continue on how to make yourself a better artist. As a comic book artist you really need to learn how to draw just about everything. After all you want to make the story seem believable. Early on in my development I really focused on improving as an illustrator, but in the past few years my focus has been on storytelling. The ability to do both well is really what separates the men from the boys in this industry.
4. How competitive is the job market for comic book artists? How does a man find his way into the job and what sets an applicant apart from others?
It’s pretty competitive in that most editors are more likely to hire a tried and true professional rather than a young hot shot which is too much of an unknown quantity. Not only are you competing with aspiring artists, you’re also competing with working professionals. A way to really separate yourself from the pack is to have a good combination of illustrative skills along with a strong storytelling ability, and to be able to produce in a timely manner. It also helps to be a nice guy. This is a collaborative medium, and quality work really is a result of team synchronicity.
5. What is the best part of your job?
There are so many great things about this job I don’t even know where to start. Aside from doing what I love to do, which is draw, I get to play with these big iconic characters. I get paid to make my imagination come to life. It also opened up many doors for me which was completely unexpected. Before working in the industry, the furthest I had traveled outside of Toronto was Buffalo, New York. Since then I’ve been all over the world and have gotten to see and experience many things. I even got to co-host a tv show which combined my love of travel and drawing. With this job it really does feel like the skies the limit.
6. What is the worst part of your job?
It’s all consuming. When I’m relaxing all I can think about is work. From how to improve my craft as an artist, to where to take the characters that I’m writing. The social aspect of your life really does take a hit, since those timelines can move, but not deadlines.
7. What’s the work/family/life balance like?
It’s really tough to balance all of that. I would say that my time is predominantly consumed by work. The blessing and the curse of this job is that your passion for it doesn’t allow you to stop. But the negative is that at times you do miss out on some family events, or simple movie nights with my girlfriend. It really helps to have very understanding people in your life. Finding the balance is still a work in progress for me. Hopefully I’ll have it figured out soon!
8. What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?
The biggest misconception about my job is that the general population thinks what we produce is just for kids. What we create are entertaining stories that can be enjoyed at any age. Comics are a storytelling medium, so much like music, movies, and novels, it is capable of covering any subject matter and genre. The limitation is really only up to the creators.
9. Any other advice, tips, commentary, or anecdotes you’d like to share?
To survive and thrive in this industry you really have to be passionate about this job. At the risk of sounding cheesy, you really have to give it your all, 110%. If you’re not exhausted and ready to pass out, it means you’ve been slacking and should keep working and drawing. As much as it takes out of you physically and mentally, it’s really worth the tears and pain.