The Singapore Toy, Game, and Comic Convention (STGCC) 2018 had a plethora of amazing guests from different pop culture industries. Included in this year’s roster was veteran comicbook artist David Finch, Eisner awardee for Best Short Story, and whose work can be seen in many Marvel and DC books such as X-Men, Avengers, Batman, and Wonder Woman to name a few.
Early Days in Comics
David’s foray into the comicbook industry came later into his life. He had the talent towards the arts, but pursuing a career towards it was something his parents discouraged. Growing up, his father wanted David to follow in his footsteps as an engineer. But at ripe age of 20, and a high school dropout, David began reading comics and practicing its art style, beginning particularly in the classic X-Men book, The Phoenix Saga by John Byrne. Although this was not yet motivation enough to find a career in comicbook art, David expanded his artistic references to that of Marc Silvestri’s work, who became influential in firing up his late-blossoming passion for comics. It took two more years of refining his art and living in his mother’s basement before David professionally entered the comicbook industry in 1994 through Top Cow Productions.
In the early days of his career, David was lucky enough to have his idolized artist, Marc Silvestri, as one of his mentors. “He taught me so much of what I know. Not only that, he gave me an environment to learn in that was incredibly supportive. And I never had to worry about where my next job was coming from or really any of that. So many artists that I know had it worse, some weren’t getting paid, or were being treated badly. And I didn’t have to go through any of that so it was incredible. And he’s also just such an incredibly talented artist, that just watching him draw… it’s educational for me.”
Working with a Comicbook Team
“I think, personally, I do my best work when people leave me alone to do my best work,” says David. He admits he shares the same preference as that of other colleagues, be that of writers, inkers, or colorists. He continues on by claiming that there’s usually minimal collaboration between him and the writer. He prefers instead to do his job by getting the writer’s idea into an art form as effectively and as accurately as possible. “But also if I can bring something to it, I try to do that. I just try to make sure to do that within the framework of what they have written,” he adds. The dynamic, however, is slightly different when it came to working with his wife, Meredith Finch, on Wonder Woman. “It was very much her story. But we talked about it and I think we avoided fighting mostly because I recognize it was her story. So if I had an idea and she didn’t like it, I would back away and let her do her thing.”
David picked up some learning experiences along the way as well. Working together with inker/artist Pat Lee (WildC.A.T.S., Wetworks, Dreamwave’s Transformers), he learned a lot from Lee’s art style and incorporated it into his own artwork during their time at Top Cow. With Danny Miki (Youngblood, Spawn, Ultimate X-Men) on the other hand, their team-up in their stint at Marvel created some form of mutual learning, in which both David and Danny synergized their art styles with each other.
Challenges in Comicbook Art
David has worked and is working with characters that have lived in the comicbook universe for more than 50 years now. And for him, accuracy is always important, from the characters’ looks, the general feel, and the movement. He makes it a point that the art for these characters do not deviate in any way from what has come before. But at the same time, he also sees the need to make things more modern and akin to today’s standards. “I don’t want things to look too ‘real world.’ I want it to look like a comic. But I also want it to like it’s a real place; that it’s actually inhabited and could feel like something you could step in to. That’s the goal, and if it looks current, and it looks fresh, I’m grateful,” he explains.
David has also pointed out the importance of constant training and practice. He compares doing art as similar to handwriting, in that it starts off pristine, clean and precise but tends to lose detail over the years. With art, doing the same thing repeatedly means losing detail and forgetting some of the process. “I think I had times where I’ve realized I’ve forgotten a lot of things,” David recalled. To keep his skills honed, David tries to set aside at least half an hour of practice before he starts his work. “You can really forget how to do a lot of things. It’s something you really keep retraining consciously to maintain,” he quipped. For veterans, it’s usually not about improving anymore, but rather keeping the art style constant, but room for improvement is always welcomed. “I’d like to get better, but I also would like to… not get worse.”
Final Words for Aspiring Artists
David offers a motivational piece for everyone wanting to enter into the comicbook business, “I would say when it gets hard and you feel like it’s not worth it, it IS worth it. It’s drawing pictures for a living, it’s absolutely worth it.”
He relates this to the observations he had while working in Top Cow Productions and Image Comics during his early years. He would see many artists come in, and suddenly leave after a fairly short amount of time. “It was intimidating, just how good some people would come in. I think it’s because it gets hard. It’s hard to learn how to draw, and to get those skills. But there will come a point where you will find out your limitations, and so many artists would just quit when that happens.”
With the years of experience behind him, David knows that the experience is worth staying in the business for. And like any kind of work, there will be challenges to face, but it all boils down to the passion artists can have pressing on. “It’s drawing pictures for a living, it’s absolutely worth it. And it cuts through that time when the deadlines gets too hard or you have a scene that you just can’t figure out. You just need to push through those hard periods. That would be my number one piece of advice.”
Our remaining time with David Finch was spent chatting and demonstrating a quick sketch of Wonder Woman. Had we been given more time, we were pretty sure David Finch could have shared more of his learnings and experiences as an artist and writer working for the three big name publishers, Marvel, DC, and Image. He has an upcoming creator-owned comic under the Image banner, but has yet to reveal details about it.