JEDDAH: On the sidelines of the Jeddah International Book Fair, a panel discussion entitled “The secrets of making Marvel” took place on Dec. 15 with American speakers Benjamin Jackendoff, Nicholas Smith, and Andrew Bark, the unseen heroes behind the legendary Marvel comic books and characters.
Since 1939 Marvel has resonated in the imaginations of generations from around the world with different comic books, superheroes, movies, and legacy characters such as Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, and more.
Jackendoff, who is a comic book writer and filmmaker with over 20 years in the entertainment business, said: “I think filmmaking is an incredible medium. But it’s challenging because you have so many different aspects and different people weighing in.
“Comics move fast, and that is difficult, but it is also fun because you just get to create, then you get to see it out in the world. It is something that just came into my head, and we worked it out. So, there are obviously challenges in both, and I think there are rewards. But I love making comic books.”
Jackendoff fell in love with Marvel when he was 11 years old and has been working with Marvel Entertainment since 2017, writing “Masters of the Sun,” “Werewolf by Night,” “Ghost Rider Kushala,” “Marvel No. 1000,” and most recently, “Deadly Neighborhood Spider-Man.”
He said: “Marvel was always about the everyday person who then had to take on extraordinary powers and become something bigger than themselves, and really look at the world in a sort of macrocosmic way, battling their ego as well. Whether you take Dr. Doom, who is the embodiment of ego, and then you take Peter Parker, who will give you the shirt off his back, but still will save the world.”
Why do people fall in love with Marvel characters?
Bark, who is an animator best known for his work on “Morbius,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Iron Man,” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Stan Lee to express how the audience can somehow relate to themselves through the role of these characters, and how films carry profound messages.
“If you have a person that’s helping people out of necessity, or because he must do that, and it’s the right thing to do, then that person is absolutely a superhero.
“I think that’s something that is just very human; it appeals to everybody, especially when you are young. It is inspiring, so it is pretty accessible. I think of all the superheroes; even though they are covered in outfits and muscles, they represent something that is something maybe we see in ourselves as the best that we could be.”
Today, there are a lot of emerging artists and illustrators in Saudi Arabia who dream of making it into some of the big companies like Marvel, as they want their stories to be told to the world; accordingly, each one of the Marvel masters shared their advice with their Saudi audience.
Smith, who is an artivist, children’s author, and Hollywood film illustrator, said: “I always encourage people to just consistently, make art just make art all the time, or whatever creative endeavor, you have just like consistently work at that. I learned digital painting by just practicing once a week, but one art piece is out there every week. Work at it every day.”
Smith is also the author and illustrator of “The Golden Girls of Rio.” He illustrated the number one New York Times bestseller, “The 1619 Project,” “Born on the Water,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and “The Courage to Dream.”
He continued: “I would want to be remembered as an artist to use his art to just bring the world closer together, to use artivism, to call out those broken bones and inspire people to make a positive change, to make art that speaks to justice for all inequality.”
Bark, who is a strong advocate of artistic integrity, said: “Just making sure that whatever I am creating is about the truth or pursuing truth. True to myself, or that I find will be true to others.”
He also believes that people looking at things differently, looking at things outside the box, and exploring and being truthful to themselves, tend to come up with original ideas.
“Those are the people who develop and present those ideas. And those are the kinds of things that these companies are looking for,” he said.
Jackendoff said: “Be weird. Embrace your geekdom.”
The 10-day International Book Fair, which took place at Jeddah Superdome, was organized by the Ministry of Culture’s Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission and will end on Saturday. It has gathered 900 leading local, regional and international publishers and booksellers from 40 countries.