“PAPER GIRLS” #1: SPOILER-FREE, I PROMISE
LATE BREAKING NEWS
ADVICE TO A LETTER HACK IN THE MID-1990s
- Type up your letter and print it out. Most people’s handwriting is not nearly as legible as a good dot matrix printer can be. The minor hassle of ripping the sprockets off the side of the pages and ripping the pages apart along the perforations is nothing compared to the extra hassle of asking the assistant editor to read your handwriting.
- Buy a roll of stamps. When you’re writing 5 or 6 letters a week, you don’t want to have to go back to the post office every month for a new book of stamps.
- Have a unique-sounding and -looking name. “Augie De Blieck Jr.” and “Olav Beemer” are already taken. And don’t even think about “T.M. Maple.”
- Keep it short. Letters columns are a page or two, at the most. (DC is usually two, but that won’t last forever.) Keep your letter pithy. They don’t want one person to hog the whole page. They want to cram in as many people as they can. And you won’t like it if they have to edit your letter for space. They’ll inevitably chop it up in the worst possible way.
- Once they print one of your letters, don’t stop writing. They know your name now. They need more people they can reliably count on for being able to string together English sentences. The good news is, much of your letter writing competition isn’t publishable. You’ve already proven that you can write. Press your advantage.
- Write early. Yes, odds are good that the assistant editor or intern will be doing the letters column at the last minute, but better to be safe than sorry. If yours comes in late, it won’t matter how good it is; the comic has already moved on.
- Write about a particular issue. Editors want their letters columns to discuss a certain issue. Stay inside those confines.
- Write something different. See what all the other letterhacks are talking about? Write about something different. Take this issue to praise the letterer or the colorist.
- Try a gimmick once in a while. Try a poem. Review the comic like a blockbuster movie. Think limerick. It’s a long shot, but it’s good for your creative juice and will give the editors options.
- Spell check. Your word processor likely includes some help with this.
- Grammar check. Your word processor is less reliable on this. But do proofread. Remember, your job is to make the editor’s job as easy as possible. Being a letterhack is often very similar to being a comic book writer; everything gets back to making the editor’s job easier. You want them to like you.
- Write in a tone and style that matches the letters column. Different editors have different styles. Read the other letters. Read the editor’s answers. Do they want questions? Do they just want a critique they can print without answering? Do they encourage writers to talk back and forth across issues? Are there running gags?
Looking back at this advice, there’s very little different in writing as a letterhack than there is in writing as a wannabe author of the comic itself. Write legibly and pithily. Spell and grammar check everything. Be the editor’s friend. It’s the same job, just for different parts of the comic.
A few of these rules would hold up today, actually. Just ignore bits about printers and stamps…
THINGS I FOUND INTERESTING IN FRANCO-BELGIAN COMICS THIS WEEK
- “Que du Bonheur” looks like a humorous family strip. I like the art style. Izneo carries it digitally, and has preview pages. Might be worth a look at it someday.
- The other Best Looking Franco-Belgian comic for the week is “Les Campbell,” which has had three books released in the last couple of years. It’s a humorous pirate adventure tale, from the looks of it. The art is beautiful, and described as being somewhere between Morris and Uderzo, which explains why I like it so much. It’s also being serialized in Spirou magazine, which means it’s also available on Izneo.
- If I’m reading this right, the French comedy series, “Les Rugbymen” is getting what is effectively an Artist’s Edition. Interesting.
- And “Appa” is another book that comes in both a manga edition and a BD edition. It’s a kid’s fantasy that looks influenced by some popular manga, but has some nice cartooning in it.
- Some publishers promote a book by arranging a spot on a television talk show or a big city newspaper. In Belgium, they send their characters rappelling down the side of their buildings. Of course.
PLAYING COMICS PODCASTING CATCH-UP AGAIN
- I don’t know that I’ve ever heard Alan Davis on a podcast before. Orbital in Conversation takes care of that for me. It’s a great interview, and they spend time talking about the circumstances behind “Excalibur.”
- I don’t know that I’ve ever heard John Arcudi on a podcast before, either, but his interview on Off Panel this past week was entertaining, as well. Some of the language is not work or child safe, but it’s a great listen. And, yes, “Rumble” is a good book.
- Art Adams. I know I’ve never heard him talk before. I don’t think I ever saw him on a panel in San Diego or anything. But the Nerdist Writer’s Panel: Comics Edition featured him from a panel back in May. It’s another great look back at a man whose career is legendary, even if his work ethic wasn’t always.
- I’ve heard Skottie Young on plenty of podcasts over the years, but the latest one on Off Panel is worth listening to, as well.
- The Oatley Academy podcast has two parts of a Jason Brubaker interview up by the time you read this. Part one is here and I assume the second part will land at this URL today. Brubaker — who once hosted a comics podcast of his own, remember — is an interesting fellow. He’s another alumnus of the Image Comics generation, as so many artists I hear talking on comics podcasts are lately. As big an influence as Image is having on comics lately, so much of it was planted in its earliest days in the way it excited so many creators. It’s an interesting generation shift to come.
- And, finally, Scott Kurtz appeared on Antony Johnston’s podcast, “Unjustly Maligned” to discuss the Garfield comic strip. He does a great job in defending the orange tabby. Related: Johnston’s new comic at Image, “Codename Baboushka” is out next week.
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