The comics industry is a hard place. With so many people wanting to jump into the world of comic creation, the slots available to new artists and creators are highly coveted. Yet, even with this fact, though perseverance, dedication and talent, it is still possible to break through and make a name for yourself.
One such artist that has made this move is Mike Feehan. A comics illustrator based in Canada, he has worked to be a part of the industry for years. Building a name for himself, and now working with DC Comics for the Snagglepuss Chronicles. He recently had a chance to work with Pizza Pops on the unique “What a Time to Be Weird” campahn. He recently had the chance to talk to CGMagazine over the phone about his career, working on this project, and what he would suggest to new artists looking to follow his path.
CGMagazine: How did you get involved with this particular Pizza Pops campaign?
Mike Feehan: Well, I know and have worked with the director and I’ve always been a fan of the ads that he’s done, I think he’s fantastic director. I found out that he had put out a call for applications for people who were interested in and had nerdy talents, or what will be perceived as weird or nerdy hobbies. And I knew that they went to Toronto Comic Con to kind of scout out people who were involved in that scene. And I am a comic book artist and illustrator. So I am very much involved in that scene. So when I saw that they were looking for people like this, I sent in an application or an audition for it.
CGMagazine: And what was the application process like?
Mike Feehan: It was kind of a long process of back and forth. They did provide an outline of what they wanted the comic to be like, and then I threw some rough versions of that. And then we had some back and forth to help develop it further. This process went up even to the day that the ad was actually being shot. I was there on set, still working away and making some changes and additions to the final comic book product.
CGMagazine: So now, did when you made this comic book, was it a full comic book of just what you see in the ad?
Mike Feehan: It was just what you saw the ad. It was cheated a little bit on the set. So it looks like it’s fuller. But it was just a cover two pages. And there is one additional panel that was cut and never actually made it into the ad. So to cover those two pages and one secret panel.
CGMagazine: Will we ever get to see that secret panel?
Mike Feehan: I don’t know. I was wondering if I can post it anywhere. But I’m not sure. Maybe they’re going to actually use that in something in the future.
CGMagazine: Now, beyond doing ads like this, what do you enjoy about the comic book industry? And what do you enjoy being part of it?
Mike Feehan: It’s something that I always felt like I needed to be part of or needed to do. I am someone who’s drawn my whole life when I was a kid. Even though I wasn’t really collecting comic books that much, I was drawing them. It’s always something that I did for a hobby all the way back to when I was six years old. And when I got older, I went to college for graphic design and then animation and I thought that was the most likely career path for me, I thought that would satisfy my need to do illustration and, and be creating artwork.
Because I didn’t think that it was possible that I could be a comic book artist living all the way over Newfoundland, having no connection to that industry, I thought that it was completely out of reach for me. But after years of working in graphic design and printing and just not feeling fulfilled, I just kind of decided to go for it and started saving up money. So I could travel to other cities to go to a convention to meet with editors and learn writers and just build a portfolio. It’s something that’s always been in my blood like it’s just a passion that I needed to achieve.
CGMagazine: You mentioned that you kind of took time to kind of move from illustration to comics, how did that process work for you? And for anyone else that might be right now in illustration and looking to get into comic books and working in the industry, What advice would you give?
Mike Feehan: Well, a lot of it is focusing on building a portfolio of comic book art. So like sequential artwork. And I think that when a lot of people, you know, doing an illustration, doing a single piece of art is very, very different than creating a readable, flowing story. And you need to build a portfolio of comic book art that showcases your storytelling abilities. The only way to learn how to do that is to just do it. So I started just writing my own stories and drawing them, then I would show them to editors or writers or people who could give me feedback. And I’m like to feedback. And I would apply that to the next story that I wrote and drew. And then eventually I had writers coming to me saying, “Oh, can you draw this for me, and then we’ll try to pitch it to a company together.” And then my portfolio just kind of slowly kept building like that. And I was doing that. On the side, while I was doing illustration and graphic design work, I would just slowly building this portfolio. And year after year, I would go to conventions and get it reviewed until one time someone said, “hey, yeah, we’ll hire you.”
CGMagazine: Who was the first place that hired you?
Mike Feehan: I just did a book last year with DC Comics. And they were the first people to hire me. And it was kind of I’d been doing the interviews, going to these conventions, particularly one in Toronto called Fan Expo, going to these portfolio reviews for over seven years, I think just being like, hey, please look at my stuff. And never get Oh, this is pretty good at where I would get come back next year, you know, try something different. And it got to the point where I was kind of given up on portfolio reviews, I started trying to just do my own thing, and maybe work with some writers already gotten to know but I was at this convention, I had a table there selling my artwork. And my girlfriend said “you know the DC portfolio reviews on Amazon right now. You should you should go.” I was the very last person to get into that portfolio review. And the editor took I stuff and then he brought it back to California showed another editor and she hired me on this book pretty.
CGMagazine: Now for you mentioned going to these cons and getting these portfolio reviews was very important for you would you suggest the same thing for aspiring artists?
Mike Feehan: I think that what I’ve heard is that while going to roll your reviews, kind of was the norm to get noticed and hired decades ago really. And it’s not the way to break in so much anymore. usually people are found through the internet or through connections like that. Mine was kind of a rare case to happen in 2017 when it happened. But I do think that one, it can happen. I’m proof that they can happen if they like your stuff. But to getting professionals who look at Comic Book art every day. And this is their job to critique this stuff. And know whats good enough, having a face to face moment with them and having them look through your work and give you honest critiques that will help you improve your art so that he does get to that entry level is invaluable. It’s like I definitely recommend that it might not they might not hire you right out of the gate. But you’re going to get advice and information that will really really help your artwork.
CGMagazine: And I have one last question for you just in the process of building any of these artworks you do? What is the tool set you use?
Mike Feehan: I normally do my work on a Mac using a Wacom tablet. But for the entire piece for the ad, I did the whole thing on an iPad Pro. It was great because it’s very portable, very easy to use. I use a program called procreate. The setup was great because actually, I brought that to Toronto with me when they were shooting the ad and I was able to have my iPad on set and make adjustments when I was doing the travelling. The director contacted me and asked for some last minute changes. And I was able to do all of that on my iPad, and it just worked very, very smoothly.