Manuel Tavares—Featured Artist

Manuel Tavares, a studio art major, is currently dedicating his time to designing and writing his own comic book series–a western titled 3 for 3.

He started the project in order to prepare himself for future career opportunities and serve as self-promotion. “Right now, I’m thinking of it as a job, because during the summer I spent eight hours a day just painting and drawing,” he said. However, he manages to balance professional drive with a genuine appreciation and enjoyment of the art form. “I figured this is my first project, so I’m just going to do it for the love of it, not so much for the money because I know I’m not going to make anything off of the first one.”

The comic Manuel is working on is a revenge story modeled after classic western movies such as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and Fistful of Dollars. “I used to watch a lot of westerns with my grandpa when I was younger, so that holds a deep place in my heart.” Manuel could not say much more about the content, because in addition to being a revenge story, 3 for 3 is a mystery, and he wants people to read the comic to unveil the story.

Manuel’s love of comics started when his mom got him his first comic book,  an issue of Todd McFarlane’s The Amazing Spider-Man. “I just looked at the pictures,” Manuel said. “I don’t even think I was old enough to read.”

Even now, when working on his own comic, Manuel focuses on the pictures. In order to create a page of his comic, Manuel’s process includes sketching thumbnails of the pages, tracing them onto another page, applying more detail with pencil, then taking the page to Photoshop. On the computer, Manuel colors, layers, and applies textures to his drawings. Adding the words — dialogue and sound effects — is the final step of the process. “I know the base plot of it, I know a few key points, a few dialogues that are written out, but mostly it’s just going to be on the spot writing. I figured I could learn a lot from that.” Creating a single page from start to finish takes Manuel approximately seven hours.

But the artistic process is not always straightforward. “After a while it takes a toll on you. I had to take a week off because I was so brain dead.” Manuel keeps an open mind, and sometimes his ideas are subject to change. He describes moments when he looks back over his work, and decides that it does not live up to its potential. “Then a spark will come out and I’m like ‘let’s just redo this whole page, and we’re going to change the story a little bit, and it’s going to make it even better’. . . The writing changes as I go on.”

In school, Manuel is developing skills that lend to his comic book creation. But before college, he was largely self-taught. “I just started drawing as a kid.” Initially, he replicated other people’s drawings from comic books and video game covers. Manuel said he really dove into drawing and started to get more serious about it during his senior year of high school. To learn more, he started reading how-to books and listening to podcasts. And of course, he spent a lot of time drawing.

If everything goes according to plan, 3 for 3 will be completed by mid 2018. So far, Manuel has sketched out the entire series and completely finished the first issue. When he does complete it, Manuel plans to release his comic on a variety of web platforms before creating a website. He is going to release one issue per month, for a total of six issues at about twenty two pages each.

“I probably will [print it] eventually because I really want to print something out and hold it like ‘This, I did this.’ But we’ll see. It might be a few years down the road.”

Manuel has lots of plans for the future, which is something that enables him to be so dedicated now. After his time at Appalachian State, he would like to go back home and take classes at community college to learn game design, so that he could work as a concept artist or visual developer for game studios. Furthermore, he has several ideas for future comics that he would like to create. 3 for 3 is just the beginning.

“Finished, not perfect,” a quote from artist and comic book writer Jake Parker, is a mantra that Manuel models. The idea emphasizes the importance of finishing projects without getting caught up in the imperfect details.  

“Anyone can learn to draw. It’s just a matter of the hard work that you put into it. I’m still learning. I have a lot to learn. . . Just keep working hard. It’s going to be hard; if it was easy, everyone would do it.”