Ho! Ho! Ho!
My guess is the question comics pros get asked most often is how they broke into the business. I hate the question. The really short answer is: I knew Roger Stern and when he became an editor at Marvel he asked me to write a story for him. But, because so many people love to hear the stories and Xmas is a time to spread love and inspiration, I've decided to ask some of my fellow pros for their stories (the short versions). Merry Xmas.
Howard Cruse, cartoonist: I snuck in through the cellar, thanx to the underground comix movement in the '60s and early-'70s followed by my run in the '80s doing my bi-weekly 2-page strip in The Advocate. Mark Nevelow, the original editor at DC's Piranha Press (since renamed Paradox Press) at DC Comics, thought well enough of my alternative-press work to sign me on to do STUCK RUBBER BABY in 1990. Given that there's no slot in the current comics field for whatever it is that I have to offer, however, I can't swear that I've actually "broken in" yet.
Lee Nordling, editor, Platinum Studios: As a cartoonist/illustrator, by being on staff at weekly newspapers and magazines and tackling the assignments that suited my skills... and submitting my work for consideration to local publications. As an editor, by associating with fellow cartoonists in a southern California-based organization called C.A.P.S. (Comic Art Professional Society), getting involved in the board... and getting recommended by Mark Evanier for the freelance job of overseeing the creation of the comics that packed out with the Masters of the Universe toys. As a comic strip writer: by knowing that Don Dougherty was leaving his comic strip writing gig at Disney Publishing/Creative Services, getting the phone number of his boss... and getting the opportunity to freelance some samples. Succeeding there, they offered me a staff position as a comic strip writer... and, after the strip work dried up, I was developing new concepts and writing in-house generated children's books. As a comic book writer, by being on staff at Disney when Disney Comics started up, and, based on my in-house experience with the characters, being asked to put my money where my mouth was by the editor of Mickey Mouse Adventures. The thread that runs through the all of the above is: knowing somebody and having enough chops to do the job.
Lovern Kindzierski, writer-colorist: I was working on honors year of my B.F.A. at the University of Manitoba. I was behind on paying my rent and had to go down to the offices of the property management firm and negotiate payment with them. I got into the lobby and ran for the elevator as the door was closing. The guy inside was nice enough to hold the door for me. Once inside I realized that the nice guy was George Freeman. He was glad to see me and told me he wasn't sure that his brother was going to contact me. I had no idea what he was talking about and said so. He then told me he needed an assistant and had remembered me from when I had applied for work at Captain Canuck. He thought that I had been a friend of his younger brother and had asked him to let me know he needed help. After I tended to my rent I dropped in to his studio which was in the building and did a try out blueline page of ELRIC: SAILOR ON THE SEAS OF FATE. The rest is history. I broke in as a writer broke into comics when my agent Mike Friedrich co-published an AIDS benefit book for Marvel. Tim Sale was looking for a good Christmas story to do for the book. Mike let me know and I pitched one to Tim that he liked and I was in. Later Keith Giffen called to tell me he had seen my work and welcomed me to the "ranks of the truly reviled."
Rafael Kayanan, illustrator: While attending art school in Sarasota FL, I left my photocopies to the con organizer, who saw them while I was getting critiqued. At that con were several pros - one was Pat Broderick. He took my samples to DC and a week later I get a knock on my door from a fellow student residing in the dorms. He said someone named Dick Giordano was on the dorm phoneline (booth) for me. Dick said come to NYC for the day on DC's dime. This was before e-mail...
Charles Vess, cartoonist-illustrator: In the early 70's in Richmond VA at CU (his former and my current University)I meet Michael Kaluta. On his frequent visits to Richmond (there's nothing like those Southern girls to get a guy moving) we became friends. In 1976 when he was establishing THE STUDIO with Smith, Jones and Wrightson, Kaluta needed someone to split his apartment rent with so he could afford to rent that studio space. He asked me and so I moved to NYC and starved for awhile. Through Michael I meet many, many comic book personalities one of which was Archie Goodwin. Archie was stopping by my table of art at an Creation Convention and asked me out of the blue if I would like to do a story for Epic illustrated. Six months latter I had finished my first 8 page story (can we all say,"I chocked a bit..."). Then I was off and running for a long stretch of work at Marvel.
Eric Shanower, cartoonist: During my final year at the Joe Kubert School, I sent out samples of my work to most of the companies then publishing comics (First, Eclipse, Pacific, etc.), and made visits to DC and Marvel whenever anyone would see me. My first pro sale would have been the rights to a 4-page story to Pacific, but in the middle of that, Pacific went under. The day before graduation from Kubert's, I got the job of lettering an issue of Warp for First - my first pro sale - which turned into more lettering, then inking, then a graphic novel series. The day after graduation from Kubert's Karen Berger called from DC and asked me to draw and letter a story for New Talent Showcase - my first pro work actually drawing. And from those beginnings more stuff just happened.
Eric's latest project, the first collection from his AGE OF BRONZE series, a really cool story of Ancient Greece, is A THOUSAND SHIPS, available in hardcover from Amazon, and in softcover from Diamond, Amazon and the LPC Group. The hardcover and other items are also available through Eric's website. Stunning story and art.
Michael Netzer, digital artist: I come from a Detroit, a town that had a penchant for sending comic book creators to NY. Rich Buckler, Jim Starlin, Alan Milgrom, Walt Simonson, Greg Theakson, Arvel Jones and Keith Pollard to name a few. Theakston introduced me to Neal Adams at the '75 Detroit Triple Fanfair Con and Neal invited me to Continuity if I'd want to try getting work in comics. In November '75 I hitched a ride with Arvel and Keith on one of their forays into NY. At Continuity Neal basically said that I'd have to make my own way into getting work from the big 2 - and that it wouldn't be easy. I started making some calls and landed an appointment with Jack Harris at DC for the next day. I came back from the meeting with a back-up script for Kirby's KAMANDI. It all actually happened way too fast as did the first few years of working in comics. I suppose it was just a lucky escapade, especially when I think of all the guys that were hanging around Continuity for years waiting for their first script.
Kurt Busiek, writer: I interviewed Dick Giordano, then DC's editor in chief, for a college term paper on publishing. At the close of the interview, I told him I was hoping to break in to comics as a writer when I graduated. He suggested I send in some sample scripts, so I spent my next break writing four full scripts for various DC characters, and sent them in. Dick wound up parceling the scripts out to the editors of the books the scripts were written for. I got a tryout from Julie Scwartz that didn't develop into anything, and an invitation to pitch "Tales of the Green Lantern Corps" backups from Ernie Colon. I did, and my first pro script sale was "The Price You Pay" in GREEN LANTERN #162. While I was working on a second GLC script for Ernie, I noticed that POWER MAN & IRON FIST, over at Marvel, kept running fill-ins written by the editor, and the promised new regular writer didn't seem to be materializing. I thought the editor, Denny O'Neil, might be able to use some fill-ins written by someone else, so I wrote up a story outline and sent it in, along with a note saying I was already writing professionally for DC. Denny asked me to flesh out the outline into a full script, so I did -- and wound up as the new regular writer of the series for a year. After that, it was more a matter of trying to stay in comics rather than break in, but that's another story.
If you're celebrating Russian Christmas, January's a Kurt Busiek cornucopia. His new DC series POWER COMPANY debuts in JLA #61 and a crossover event called "Powersurge," and his much-loved ASTRO CITY returns in DC's SEPTEMBER 11 benefit book.
Dave Gibbons, writer-artist: I drew stuff for fanzines and undergrounds and hung around the Fleetway offices during my lunch-hour and after work when I was a surveyor in London. I got some work doing balloon lettering, which gave me the opportunity to study original art up close. I also drew joke pages for them. Eventually, I ghosted one of the regular adventure artists while he was on vacation for a month. Then an art agent saw my work and I was off and running.
Marv Wolfman, writer-producer: I wrote and drew comic stories for fanzines and published four of my own: THE FOOB (a comedy/satire zine), SUPER ADVENTURES (A super-hero fanzine with original stories), STORIES OF SUSPENSE (a horror fanzine with both comic and text stories) and WHAT TH... (an opinion fanzine). I sent them to every editor in the business (easier then than now) Both Dick Giordano and Joe Orlando asked if I'd like to try writing something for them. Secondly, on my own I wrote a revamp of Blackhawk and sent it to the BLACKHAWK editor, George Kashdan. I hated the book that he was doing - he turned the Hawks into something called "The Junk Heap Heroes" and it was awlful. I wrote a full script. A year or two later Dick Giordano found it unopened in his desk when he replaced Kashdan as editor. He read it and bought it. Thirdly, Len Wein and I sold a story we wrote, drew and lettered to CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN. It was our very first sale - and we kept the copyright on the story. Because it was sold on newsstands it was, I guess, a professional magazine, but Calvin Beck, the publisher, was the, well, strangest publisher I'd ever worked with.
Michael T. Gilbert, cartoonist: I tried to break into comics while in college, sending stuff to underground comix like SLOW DEATH and YELLOW DOG COMIX. Close, but no cigar. Likewise with attempts to break into Warren's CREEPY and EERIE, starting in 1971. Approached DC a couple of times with no luck. In 1973 I decided to self-publish my own underground comic, NEW PALTZ COMIX, and eventually did 4 issues over a span of ten years. I remember actually going door to door selling them at my college (New Paltz, in NY). Oy! About a year after college, I moved from NY to San Francisco to get work in the dying underground comix scene. I sold a strip (Inkspots) to the underground newspaper THE BERKELEY BARB... my first pro sale. Then in 1976, I made an appointment with Mike Friedrich in nearby Hayward Ca., to see if I could sell a story to his sci-fi comic, STAR*REACH! He didn't buy anything then, but a week later he called asking if I'd like to do a story for his upcoming funny animal series, QUACK! (One of the artists had dropped out at the last minute). I came up with my Wraith series, and eventually broke into STAR*REACH and a few underground comix too. With that I was off an running... and on my way to future work on Elric for Pacific and First, Superman and Batman stories for DC, Donald and Mickey stories for Disney and my own monster-fighting series... MR. MONSTER!
Al Davison, writer-artist: I published my own comic when I was 17. Our own Angus McKie printed it for me, and it received a good review on Radio 1 by DJ's & comics aficianados Kid Jenson and Paul Gambacini. Went to comic cons, got to know some editors, eventually sold a couple of short stories to Fleetway's new comic anthologies, 'Crisis' and 'Revolver' and even persuaded them to let me keep the copyright! Did the BRUCE LEE graphic novel in 1980, after Linda Lee saw my serialized comics biography of Bruce in a British martial arts magazine. 1987 produced the first version of SPIRAL CAGE which was published by Renegade, they went under, and in 1990, Titan published the expanded version. Dave Sim described it as 'the most important comic published in the last ten years' just before deciding not to say anything nice about non-self published comics ever again... phew! Nothing much in the way of work, after this until I sent some 'Book cover samples' to the Sci-Fi editor at Victor Gollancz. She knew SPIRAL CAGE, and commissioned a graphic novel THE MINOTAUR'S TALE. I started getting work from the US when Art Young set up the short lived English office of Vertigo.
Al's latest book is SPIRAL DREAMS, published by Slab-O-Concrete and available through Diamond or Amazon.
Terry Beatty, cartoonist: In 1979, after a failed attempt to land the "Annie" gig with the Tribune Syndicate, Max Allan Collins and I attempted to self-syndicate a weekly page of comics features to small town papers and "shoppers." We never quite had enough clients to make a buck, but we kept it going for a year. Our biggest client was THE CHICAGO READER, which only ran one of the six features we offered -- the "Mike Mist Minute Mist-ery." Dean Mullaney saw the strip in the Reader while at Chicago Con - and asked if we had enough for a comic book collection. We did, and he published it. Soon after, he called Max and asked if we could do some sort of PI feature for his upcoming Eclipse magazine. That turned out to be MS. TREE - which accounts for twelve of my twenty years in the biz, and has led to everything else I've done. I had also been doing covers and columns for Alan Light's TBG, but I don't think that actually led to any work - it was just fandom fun. As for my current BATMAN ADVENTURES gig, I got that because I sent an extra set of samples I had prepared for DC's licensing department to the book's editor, not thinking it would lead to anything, but not knowing Rick Burchett was about to take an extended leave to work on SUPERMAN ADVENTURES. The six month gig they offered me has turned into five years, and it's still going strong.
Bob Ingersoll, writer-lawyer: Back in 1975, Tony Isabella told Paul Kupperberg and a friend of mine from college that Charlton was looking for stories for their horror books. The friend told me. I submitted some stories to Nick Cuti "over the transom" and he bought them.
Bryan Talbot, writer-artist: I was unemployed after finishing a degree in Graphic Design. There was only one local design studio and, being married with two small kids, I couldn't afford to move to London where the work was. Two years previously I'd met Lee Harris , a Portobello Road headshop owner and occasional publisher and shown him some sketches and ideas for a comic story. He'd offered to publish it if I ever drew it. Now having the time, I drew it and hitched down to London to show it to Lee who, true to his word, published it (BRAINSTORM COMIX #1) and told me to get on with the second issue. I ended up working in British underground comics for 5 years before gradually breaking into mainstream comics.
Bryan's brilliant THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT was mentioned a couple columns back, and is still available in hard-and-softcover from Dark Horse Comics and Amazon. You can order his classic ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT and the sequel HEART OF EMPIRE as well, but the hot ticket this season is the new HEART OF EMPIRE CD-ROM, which, besides including the entire graphic novel in three different stages (the pencils, the inked work, the final lettered and colored product), has interviews, reference material, a skeleton key to the various influences and sources for the work, an index, new work, and the entire LUTHER ARKWRIGHT graphic novel. And more. If you ever wanted a phenomenal crash course in the way comics are made, or you're looking for a great present for someone who would, buy it now - or order it through your local comics shop or bookstore.
Jason Hall, writer: I "broke into the comics business" with my partner, Matt Kindt, by making a completed product and showing it to publishers at the San Diego Comic-con. We made mock-up versions of our two books, the comic MEPHISTO AND THE EMPTY BOX (which I wrote and did breakdowns for) and the graphic novel PISTOLWHIP (which I did some additional writing on). We put these together just as we envisioned them looking if published (full-color covers, specific "aged" paperstock, professoinal binding, etc.). We also created a slew of promo items (character tobacco trading cards, paper dolls, postcards, stickers). Then we got a table in the Small Press area at the San Diego Comicon in 2000, made a nifty display (complete with homemade circus banner), had the mock-ups on display, handed out promo items, and tried to generate some interest. But I think we were the only ones who weren't actually selling something. We handed out packages containing the mock-ups along with all the promo stuff to various publishers. Within two months we were signed with Top Shelf, who at first thought the books were comps of something already published. Both MEPHISTO and PISTOLWHIP came out this past July. I have a story called, "A Wookie Scorned..." coming out from Dark Horse in STAR WARS TALES #10, out Dec. 12.
Terrance Griep Jr, writer: Before I even really discovered conventions, I started a letter-writing campaign. I wrote to every independent publisher I could find in the early 1990's... which translated to quite a few letters. Looking back, everyone was much nicer to me than I probably deserved. Eventually, I was contacted by Dennis Mallonee of Heroic Publishing. He listened to my plotlines over the phone which felt like an acting audition... although a thousand times more nerve-wracking. This eventually led to my first story in print, FLARE FIRST EDITION #5, February 1993. I sent a copy to every editor at DC and Marvel and eventually interested some DC editors in some revivals (none of which crystallized). Then I got smart and started attending conventions and parlayed that one credit into more and more. Bronwyn Taggert gave me the break of my career by hiring me as the primary writer on SCOOBY-DOO - technically an anthology book - when DC got the license in 1996. Four editors later, I'm still writing it and still loving it.
William Knapp, writer-artist: I'm not really certain I have broken into the comics biz. I began by drawing stories for AMERICAN SPLENDOR. Through a truly bizarre set of circumstances, I was introduced to Val Mayerik and assisted him on a bunch of short stories for Pacific and the VOID INDIGO graphic novel. He had been doing a few stories for Harvey Pekar and suggested me to ink a story another guy was penciling. Since Harvey was only using local Cleveland artists at the time, he'd take on anyone with a pencil. He liked my end of things well enough, I guess, to continue giving me stories to do. I moved to NYC in the mid-80's and managed to wrangle a spot in DC's New Talent program which didn't pan out anywhere like it was supposed to. More years of sending out samples and getting the rare fill-in here and there. With the industry collapse in the mid-90's, I decided to go the self-publishing route and released 8 issues of THE FURIES to less than stellar sales. Taking what I learned from doing the series, I decided to head off into the world of graphic novels and in 2000 came out with my first one, FAITH: A FABLE to really fabulous reviews and less-than-fabulous sales. I'm currently working on my next novel A THORN IN THE SIDE: THE STORY OF JOHNNY HOPPER, which I hope to finish some day.
Tony Isabella, writer: I corresponded with various editors and writers while working for a newspaper. When the newspaper went on strike, I called Roy Thomas to see if there was any opening at Marvel. As luck would have it, Marvel needed someone with editing/proofreading/writing skills and a good working knowledge of their past comics to package reprints for Great Britain. The job paid poorly, but it gave me the opportunity to get into the American comics as an editor and writer.
Thanks to all my guests this week. So what does this tell us about breaking into the business? Same as any business: network and persevere.
Let me know if you want to see more of these meager beginnings, because I know all kinds of people in the business. But next week, we'll have the first official Permanent Damage guide to holiday gifts, courtesy of a prescient message from Juli Harumi. Who's Juli Harumi? Stay tuned.
Call it It. Call it Ginger. Call it Segway. But call it... a scooter?
In 2000, inventor Dean Kamen announced he was working on an invention that would re-invent cities, save the environment and completely change the way we live. Tech moguls oohed and aahed, kept their silence, and presumably invested. About two weeks ago I started wondering what became of "It," but this morning my question was answered, as Kamen unveiled his colossal achievement: a souped-up electric Jetsons scooter, balanced with gyroscopes and capable of zipping along at a whopping 15 mph.
Unless I'm missing something, we're looking at a hula hoop. Admittedly the technology behind it is very clever. Hopefully it'll lead – quickly! – to something else. The scooter itself is a great idea, if you live in a temperate area where inclement weather is unknown and everything you need is within a mile of you... in other words, if you live in a movie. I can see it being a big deal in Manhattan, where yuppie businesspeople will use them to zip to lunch through midday traffic jams, flipping the bird at stalled taxicabs and probably causing all kinds of accidents, but I can't picture many Hollywood producers cruising 30 miles to work down the 101 on them. At 65 lbs, you can't exactly carry it anywhere. And there aren't many cities that can afford to create a whole new traffic infrastructure to accommodate them. Prototype or fad? Or were just a lot of people doing the wrong kind of drugs?
Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.
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I'm reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I'll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send 'em if you want 'em mentioned, since I can't review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can't do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.
If you enjoy PERMANENT DAMAGE, check out our brother column, Larry Young's LOOSE CANNON.
If you want to know something about me, you can probably find the answer at Steven Grant's Alleged Fictions.