Talent contests are frequent in the comic industry, acting as a gateway for talent to make their way through the door. Legendary artist Mark Bagley broke into comics in 1983 by winning the Marvel Try-out Book contest. Jason Aaron broke in with a 2001 Marvel talent search contest. But there have been winners we’ve never seen since, and some non-winners who’ve gone on to eclipse the people who they lost out to in the first place. The Shadow: Year One artist Wilfredo Torres may have not won CBR’s Comic Book Idol 3 in 2007, but he unknowingly joined some illustrious company of runners-up in that including Jonathan Hickman. And now, six years later Torres has proved himself to publishers and is now working on us, the pesky comics readers.
As I said, Torres’ name first popped up in comics when he entered and was placed in the running for the comic site CBR’s 2007 talent search contest, Comic Book Idol 3. Although he missed the mark in terms of winning the contest, it did put his name out there for other comic creators to seek him out for work. Torres’ first major assignment was drawing the four-issue Salem: Queen of Thorns series for BOOM! Studios, following it up soon after with a three-issue series for Digital Webbing titled Demon’s Regret. After that Torres switched up for a bit, co-writing a short for the small press book Terminus Tales Presents featuring a platypus fighting a monkey. After that, Torres entered a relative dry spell in terms of published work; he did samples for various publishers including an excellent looking Thor sequence for Marvel, but didn’t find more work until 2012 — but those three years off the racks proved to be an opportune time for Torres to hone his artwork. Torres leaped back into comics in 2012 doing a short story in Dark Horse’s Creepy #7, and followed that up doing a one-shot in the Mignola-verse with John Arcudi about Lobster Johnson subtitled The Prayer for Neferu. The work there really showed how far Torres had come since his initial break into comics in 2007, and he was quickly snapped up by Dynamite to launch a Shadow comic series with Matt Wagner delving into the dark hero’s early years.
Torres’ skill has rapidly expanded since he broke in back in 2007, now harnessing a straight-forward approach that has shading reminiscent of Michael Avon Oeming but with the gestures and storytelling of Michael Golden — a great combination. Here’s a sample of his work starting with pages from his most recent The Shadow: Year One, going through various pin-ups he’s done and even some unpublished sample pages for Marvel’s Thor.