BY: ERICKA FRANKLIN
Cal State Long Beach prepares students for success. And while those majoring in business or teaching seem to have a clear cut path after graduation, some majors have a lot more risk involved. One that immediately comes to mind is art. The difficulty in gaining a job in art or illustration after graduation deters many inspiring artists away from the major, but CSULB alumnus Chris Bachalo wasn't one of those people."Yes, I guess you can say I defied the common stereotype as the starving artist," Bachalo said. At age 15, Bachalo took a career aptitude test that suggested he become an actor, carpenter or artist. After eliminating becoming an actor from his short list, he was left with a pretty simple choice between artistry and carpentry. He chose artistry. His choice was reaffirmed in high school when he attended a class with his friend.
"One day I had an open period and I decided to sit in on his class," Bachalo said. "I asked is this all you have to do, draw spheres and shapes? I thought, 'This is great!'"
With a career in mind, Bachalo sought the guidance of his parents for further instruction on what to do now that he knew what he wanted to do with his life. Like most parents who hear their children utter life plans such as artist, painter or illustrator as career goals, they were a bit hesitant to sign on.
"That idea [to become an artist] was far out in left-field," Bachalo said. "I can't say that they were real supportive. They didn't say no, they just always encouraged me to have a 'Plan B.' They were worried about the cliché, they didn't want me to be a starving artist and have to take care of me."
Bachalo decided that the best way to attain his goal of becoming an illustrator was to attend college. Bachalo enrolled in the illustration program at CSULB and realized that the school could offer him exactly what he needed to make it in the comic book industry.
"[CSULB] made me a better artist," Bachalo said.
One particular class that gave Bachalo a head start was an open course. Since he knew exactly what field of art he wanted to go into, he focused on comic illustration. However, that didn't keep him from discovering other aspects of art to make his portfolio stronger.
Looking back at his CSULB experience he said,"[My training at CSULB] has given me more opportunities in the field. I have a very broad set of skills that I have to work with as a result. When I'm working with drawing pictures and stuff I still reflect on certain skills that I learned there. I really benefited from going to school and learning the trade."
After graduation, Bachalo wasted no time jumping into the comic book industry. In just six months time he had landed his first major gig, penciling "Sandman" for DC Comics. Soon after, Bachalo was hired by DC for his first permanent work, as the artist of "Shade, The Changing Man," written by Neil Gaiman (Beowulf, Stardust).
"It felt great. I didn't feel it was real and it was happening so fast," Bachalo said.
Throughout the early and mid-90s, Bachalo continued to work for DC, but it was his work on the first issue of "X-Men Unlimited" in 1994 that gained him his highest notoriety. Based on the popularity of that first issue of "X-Men Unlimited," Bachalo was asked to work at Marvel Comics.
At Marvel, Bachalo has worked on a variety of titles, such as co-creating "Generation X" and working on "Uncanny X-Men," arguably the most popular title in the comic book industry at the time, as well as currently working on "X-Men." Bachalo has also recently expanded his illustration work to other mediums.
"Right now I just finished trading cards," Bachalo said.
"I worked for Nintendo DS to help develop an alien game, and another game I can't really talk about."
Department store Neiman Marcus even called on his expertise, and Bachalo was able to showcase his skills to a wider audience. "They wanted a comic book strip kind of art so that was really easy for me," Bachalo said.
Becoming an artist might have seemed like a dream at one point for Bachalo, but it's his reality. It is the reality that defies the stereotypes of artists and the reality that keeps his family healthy and happy while he continues to follow his dreams.
"I just love art," Bachalo said. "It brings pleasure to my life."
Dale Johnson contributed to this story.