Being a passionate fan of comics, it is only natural to dream and hope that one day you could possibly work in/with them.
Well, I might not work in comics, but I do live in a city that allows me to meet and be friends with people who are. My next couple of articles will be a series of interviews with people who work in the comic industry focusing on how they got into the positions they are in today. These people include artists, writers, retailers, editors etc.
Pie. Oh ya, that is right, this interview starts with pie. I sat down with Marcus To at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky in Kensington Market. After picking out our favourite slices, we sat down and chewed on some pie and talked about Marcus’ career.
Marcus is the current artist on New Warriors with Marvel, and has worked with other companies like DC, Aspen Comics, and Boom. Born in Alberta, he now resides in Toronto, has done covers for Valiant and recently completed a book with Archaia Entertainment called Hacktivist. Marcus is mostly known for his 19 issue run with Red Robin. “Not a lot of people do that anymore,” To said regarding Red Robin, “They don’t even go into double digits. Hopefully New Warriors can go that distance.”
Marcus first got into comics around the age of 12 or 13, he received a package of comics from his aunt for Christmas, “It was one of those packages of comics you can buy at Walmart, where it’s just random stuff,” he said. That and he was a regular viewer of the 90’s X-Men cartoon, which we are both a fan of, mixed with the fact that he always liked to draw, he was a comic book artist in the making. It wasn’t until his mid-teens that he made the connection between liking to draw and drawing comics, “from then on I basically stopped drawing pin ups and concentrated on drawing any kind of comic. I would make up stories or take pages from the books I read and I would just redraw that as a comic book page.”
All throughout high school Marcus would send packages out to comic book companies, he entered a few contests, but nothing really worked out. He never let that discourage him, he continued to draw his own comic books and build his artistic abilities. After high school he took animation at Capilano University in North Vancouver for a one year program. Only a few months after he finished the program he went back to school to do a computer science course, but that didn’t work out as he planned, “that didn’t work out because I couldn’t do the math. Although, that whole time I was still drawing my own comics,” Marcus told me. After he left that course he really thought about what he wanted to do as a career.
“I got the chance to go to Los Angeles and work under the table with a family friend, and from there I just made an effort to build an actual portfolio,” To explained. “Then I started hitting the conventions. That is how it really started. It was a little bit more of a, I wouldn’t say long route, but definitely an up and down route to get into comics.”
I asked Marcus to explain a little more on the details of going to conventions to try and get work, he went on to tell me, “I went to conventions and would talk to people. Ask them to look over my work.” Then in 2004 he made an effort to go to San Diego Comic Con to show bigger companies his work. “Going to smaller cons helped me perfect my portfolio. I had to know to have copies of my packets to hand out, and other things like that. Then the bigger conventions like San Diego gave me the opportunity to put my portfolio in the hands of people that could actually get me work.” And that is exactly what happened, Marcus got a tryout with Aspen Comics, “At the show they liked my stuff a lot and asked me if I wanted to come into the studio,” Marcus smiled, “That is how it all started.”
The first comic he worked on with Aspen was an Anthology called Aspen Seasons, but it was a prep for the Cannon Hawke mini-series, which he also worked on. “It wasn’t very good, obviously” he chuckled, “it was my first work, but it was a good thing that I was in LA because I had an opportunity to physically work in Aspen studios. It gave me the ability to learn from other people who were also in the studio.”
In the future Marcus told me, “I would like to develop my own ideas, I’d like to maybe start developing my own books and characters. Just for myself I guess. Hopefully build my own universe and from then on I could oversee things, maybe have my own line of books.” He also explained, “the only way to get anywhere with your career long term is to take the chances to do your own work. To have longevity and have something to do, to sell, and to have your own properties to sell is important too.”
I am personally excited to see more from Marcus, and to see where his future in comics leads him. I would suggest checking out Hacktivist and jumping on to New Warriors now while it’s still new, it sounds like he wants to work on it for a while.
Bonus Question Time: “What are some jobs you had before getting into comics?”
Fast food and grocery stores. When he was 15-16, he was a Night Cleaner for High Rises, “I worked with my friend, most of the time we didn’t clean we just emptied the garbages and sat in peoples offices. So, if you work in an office it’s probably good for you to put your stuff away.”
His dad also owned a restaurant, “so I did everything except cook,” he smiled.
Next in the series: Francis Manapul