Sunday, May 01, 2011

How Not to Break into the Comics Industry - Chapter 1

Prologue   I Chapter 1 I Chapter 2 I Chapter 3 I 
Chapter 4 I Chapter 5 I

When I first started reading comics regularly around 95-96 I was into specific characters, especially Spider-Man who was a childhood favourite from the early cartoon shows. I did not care much for any of the behind the scenes stuff and did not give the credits any attention. At first it did not matter to me who edited, wrote or drew the stories. Slowly certain writers and artists stood out as better than others and I started paying attention. I also realized that if some people can do it for a living, why couldn't I?

The internet had still not quite hit the mainstream when I got on-line. I had a very slow computer even for the time and the depressingly slow dial up connection was a struggle. I would load up an HTML page and keep myself busy for the two minutes it would take to load up. During that time I went on IRC chatrooms to talk to people from other parts of the world just for the novelty of it. Kids today take it for granted, but for me it was mind blowing. The rest of the time I started hanging out on what was probably the first Spider-Man message board (AKA SMB). It was a collection of comics-related message boards that is amazingly still around today and in a very similar format to what it used to be 15 years ago. There I got to start chatting to other fans about the Spider-Man comics and was quite shocked to find out that most people did not like the Clone Saga storyline which I had really enjoyed. There were instantly two camps on every single issue and it was fun bickering and arguing about it as if it really mattered (it didn't).

The peak of my dorkiness was creating a small website that petitioned the return of Ben Reilly, Spider-Man's clone and temporary replacement who was then killed off to wrap up his storyline. In my defense I was only nineteen.

While making new friends all over the world, the real fun was brushing elbows with industry professionals. Paul Jenkins, Todd Dezago, Peter David, Tom Brevroot, Karl Kesel and many others who popped in and out to answer fan questions and just hang out.

There were some nice surprises along the way. I got to ask certain authors questions about their work by e-mail and compliment them for their work. I wrote to Karl Kesel , who was writing Superboy at the time, to tell him that his new storyline looks great, but I missed the first two issues and will wait for the tradepaperback. He wrote back to tell me that it was unlikely the story, fun as it was, will be collected and asked for my address. Shortly after, I received both issues by post and they were signed with lots of cute scribbles. These two issues are probably the most cherished part of my collection tied with my copy of Amazing Spider-Man 5 Miron bought for me when we just started dating and wanted to impress me (He did!)

With the introduction of e-mail it was easy and quick to submit pitches to editors. The downside was that it meant that lots of fans and would-be writers were flooding these addresses with pitches and it was difficult to stand out. I submitted story pitches everytwhere I could. Some of them were OK, but others were raw and amateur. Some editors, like Tom Brevroot, understandably brushed off any attempt to pitch as I am sure I was not the only one trying. Some interactions I had with various editors were actually quite lengthy and will be mentioned in detail later on, but actually one of my biggest disappointments was from a very short interaction.
Stuart Moore
Stuart Moore was editing Punisher at the time (around 2000). Garth Ennis just started his immensely popular run and I had no expectations to even get a reply. Sending in my Punisher pitch was just another shot in the dark. The story was very simple; the Punisher takes down a man with mystical powers who then puts a curse on the Punisher before he dies: all the people the Punisher has killed over the years will rise up from their graves and come after him. What would be a nightmare scenario for most is a delightful treat for the Punisher as he has loads of fun killing the same bastards a second time. He would go for a third serving if he could!

Within less than a day two replies from Stuart Moore waited in my mailbox. I wondered why two: if he wrote to say he is not interested that should only take one message. So with great anticipation I opened the first message. He loved it! He did not just like it, it seemed he was actually excited about it! I got off my computer chair and did a little happy dance. I was so thrilled: I finally made it! I was going to write back to him to ask what he would like to see next, script samples perhaps?

Avenging Angel Punisher
Then I remembered there was a second e-mail. I should probably read it before I write anything. My heart sunk as soon as I started reading it. Stuart got back to me and said that after he talked to his boss (I presume  it was Joe Quesada who was heading Marvel Knights at the time before becoming Marvel's CEO) and they were not crazy about taking the Punisher in a supernatural direction after the failure of a recent storyline turning the Punisher into a demon fighting angel. The story was considered a failure and Garth Ennis managed to save the character by giving him a new realistic and gritty direction. I was frustrated as my storyline was nothing like that story and would leave the Punisher character just the way he was without affecting the status quo. I agree that the Punisher works best when fighting mortal mobsters and criminals, but since he is living in the colourful Marvel Universe there is no reason why he can not occasionally deal with crazy scenarios. I tried hitting the iron while it was still hot by quickly sending Moore a few more story ideas, but nothing stuck.

To add insult to injury the Punisher has eventually returned into a supernatural territory in 2008 when he was killed off only to return as a living dead creature called "FrankenCastle".

It was not the last time one of my concepts would catch the imagination of a comics editor only to be eventually rejected due to objection from above or in order to avoid clashing with current ongoing storylines. I should take it as a compliment that I even got that far, but when I think about it I can not avoid feeling a bit bitter.

I am going to drown my sorrow with a bottle of Vodka (or rather chocolate milk, whatever is in the fridge right now) and continue chronicling my adventures later.


Prologue   I Chapter 1 I Chapter 2 I Chapter 3 I 

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