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By: Hess Sahlollbey
Whether you’re a Trekkie, an aspiring cosplayer or simply hoping to meet others who share your interests, this weekend belonged to the fans as they took over the downtown Toronto core. Punisher, Batman and Superman all have big releases this month and made their presence known from the moment I got off the subway and headed to Toronto ComicCon. An annual convention, Toronto ComicCon takes over the city center for a three-day affair full of comics, cosplay and everything in between.
What some fans may not realize though is that attending these conventions could result in your passions and hobbies one day becoming a career. That’s how it went for Michael Walsh, one of Marvel Comics’ biggest rising stars whom I had the pleasure of interviewing at the convention. We talked about his career, what he’s working on next and what knowledge he’d most want to impart on those who want to create comics for a living too.
While Batman’s home may be Gotham City, one of the biggest rising stars in comics actually calls the Hammer home. “I almost went to McMaster,” Walsh first tells me when I introduce myself to him having noticed my press badge and white McMaster T-shirt. As an alumni of OCAD, he’s familiar with touring the whole portfolio circuit when he was first trying to get published.
With a heavy, murky use of black ink, his art is difficult to describe. His substantial use of blacks is interlaced with cartoony elements. While the style may look simple, on a deeper analysis one can quickly surmise that it’s a stark juxtaposition to the emotional weight that his art carries.
While others on the Toronto ComicCon floor had booths rammed with books, art-prints, merchandise and T-shirts, Michael Walsh sat behind his desk with his portfolio of black and white art in front of him. He quipped that he doesn’t like travelling with his books, referring to all his illustration work that fans are always eager to buy straight from the creators at conventions. “They’re too heavy and I don’t want to lug them around, I’d rather put my art on full display.”
It’s that same art that has made him so prolific in all of Hamilton’s comic book shops. Whether it was Comic Connection, Big B Comics or Conspiracy Comics, the staff at all the stores held Walsh in the highest regard, eagerly describing his art style with all manner of positive superlatives. Walsh is also equally famous among his peers for his down to earth personality and eagerness to meet fans and talk shop. Even the staff at Mixed Media, an art store on James St North, pitched paintbrushes and inks to me by saying they’re the same ones Michael Walsh uses, long before I had the chance to make his acquaintance.
Walsh first work was Comeback, a comic that he looks back on fondly. Written by Ed Brisson with art by Walsh, Comeback told the story of two criminal agents, who could undo the untimely demise of a loved one, for a large nominal fee of course. “Comeback was my first professional work, it always gets compared to Looper, because of the timing of the release, but they couldn’t be any more different. Yeah they both had time-travel but Comeback was more sci-fi street-level crime. It was bad timing, but I’m always happy when it makes a Comeback [editor’s note: pun is Walsh’s own] and a fan brings it for to me to sign,” said Walsh.
These days however he’s one of Marvel Comic’s most prolific artists. His first job at Marvel was Hank Johnson: Agent of Hydra — a one shot that came out late summer. “Right now, I’m doing this X-men series, its called X-Men: Worst X-man Ever and it’s a five issue mini-series.”
Walsh’s next project will be a collaboration on The Vision with another rising star at Marvel, Tom King. King is a former CIA counter-terrorism agent and has been writing an ongoing based on the eponymous member of the Avengers. Filling in for art duties, he praises his collaborator, saying, “If you haven’t read Tom King’s work its so good. You need to check out his other work because I’m so happy to be working with him.”
His charisma and passion for talking about comics is easily contagious. Before he could get any work in comics however, Walsh was creating posters for concerts. Now he’s happily looking forward to what the future holds.
“I’m in such a good place right now, if I went back and I did something differently back then who knows where I’d be. I went through some really hard times with being unhappy with my output and thinking that my work was just not of a high quality,” he said.
“If I could impart one thing of advice on those that are coming up it’s that you won’t always be happy with what you’re doing. But to be at peace that you’re not always going to be happy with the stuff you’re doing but know that you can get better so keep striving and working for greatness in your own work.”