Top Ten Takeaways From The John Tyler Christopher Panel At ICE

by Oliver MacNamee

Once again the indie comic-con that could, The International Comics Expo (ICE), hit Birmingham with a handsome roster of talent for the good folk of the UK to feast their eyes upon and grab sketches and signings from. Along with Dan Slott (Ren and Stimpy), we had the likes of Will Sliney (Spider-man 2099), Freddie Williams II (He-Man/Thundercats), Ian Richardson (Halo, 2000AD) Glenn Fabry (Slaine, Preacher), Simon Myers (Dr Who) and one John Tyler Christopher (y’know, he produces THOSE Star Wars covers), who was the focus of the lunchtime panel hosted by Leonard Sultana, better known as An Englishman in San Diego.

This was also the only time I ever saw Christopher take a break, having promised in advance free sketches and signatures. It resulted in John staying on long after everyone else had packed away and he was still sketching away at his table till much, much later. Making many a fan very happy in the process. Including myself.

He may have threatened this would be his one and only ever visit to Europe because of his self-proclaimed fear of flying, but I have a funny feeling we ain’t seen the last of him over here. Fingers crossed.

So, what were the highlights of John Tyler Christopher’s panel, I hear you ask, after my somewhat longwinded preamble? Well, I’m just the man to tell you, having taken up a seat front and centre for this popular panel. Here’s my Top Ten Takeaways, without the annoyance of having to make with the clickerty-click after each and every factoid. We like to look after our readers here at Comicon.com.

  1. John has been influenced by Jim Lee and then Ian Churchill, especially Churchill’s run on Marvel’s Cable comic book.

  2. In 8th Grade, John’s teacher commissioned him to draw a Psylocke Marvel Masters’ trading card.  He was a huge influence on the young artist when others didn’t show faith in him.

  3. He studies Theoretical Maths and Psychology only to drop out with just one semester to go.

  4. He then switched to 3D animation, but that wasn’t a good fit either. But, this time he did graduate. He was on his way to becoming the artist we know today (after a stint in advertising, that is).

  5. Art Advice 101: “Look at what the trends are and do the exact opposite… do something that separates yourself from the rest of the pack.”

  6. Business Advice 101: Keep your prices reasonable, and everyone’s happy! The publisher, the artist and the fan! He learnt this early and realised that people are more likely to buy a $10 print, rather than a $30 print. The people who bought some of these earlier prints walked passed the Image booth at one con in Seattle often enough, that it grabbed Top Cow’s attention. Job done! Without a single portfolio review, John was signed up to draw Witchblade cover there and then. Nice.

  7. As for the Star Wars covers gig, he got those after a phone call from Marvel. He’d always harboured a desire to paint something like this, and here it was offered to him. However, having only just been told by both his wife and mother that he was taking on too much work, he had to produce the first four covers under the cover of darkness and when his family was sleeping. It’s not the worst secret to keep from your spouse, now is it?

  8. “Star Wars is different… This was special to me”. There’s now way around it; Star Wars sells. More than most things. And, as such John was the first artist to realise he could do a variant exclusive for his own webstore and not simply for someone else. The first exclusive, the Boba Fett cover, sold 3,000 comics in juts one night. Not bad for dipping your feet in the water of an untested business model. And, he’s been doing it ever since with some sweet, sweet exclusives too.

  9. Each cover takes about 40 hours from start to finish.

  10. “I don’t do Star Wars action figures’ covers, I do homages to the Star Wars action figures and therefore we have the freedom to keep the classic packaging.” Meaning, he can consider doing homage covers for figures that don’t, or have never, existed. Who then? “I would love to do an Ahsoka Tano cover… and a Captain Phasma.” Lucasfilm, Disney, are you reading this? To borrow from another well known franchise, please “Make it so.” Especially as Phasma has her own series out at the moment. Pretty please.

    One of those sweet, sweet exclusives

And with that, JTC went back to his table and a snaking line of grateful fans. Thanks for the great memories, John, and we all hope to see you on these shores again soon. Here’s to you and yours!

For a video of the full panel, click here now.