Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How Not to Break into the Comics Industry - Chapter 4

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

During the first few years of my reading comics, the internet had already existed, but not as the go-to reference resource it is today when you can Google anything and anyone. So I was not quite sure if Ralph Macchio the comics editor was the same Ralph Macchio who starred in the Karate Kid movies. It did make a bit of sense. If I was a has been actor with a flailing acting career I would also use my fading celebrity status to get an interesting job elsewhere. Even before my visit to New York I found out that the two Ralph Macchios were two different people.

Ralph Macchio
Ralph Macchio
 In 2000 Ralph Macchio was editing the Spider-Man books and that made him the most important editor for me. The Spider-Man books received many of my letters and many of my story submissions were Spider-Man related. Around that time it was announced that Axel Alonso, fresh out of a long stint at DC Comics' Vertigo division, is going to take over the Spider-Man books. Ralph Macchio still had one popular Spider-Man book to edit: the instantly popular Ultimate Spider-Man. He was still a very important editor.

The problem was that I had no one to introduce me like Charlotte Jackson did for me with DC Comics and Joey Cavalieri. I decided that this was where my intense letters writing campaign should come in handy. If I would call Ralph Macchio and said hi, maybe he would be intrigued enough to agree to see the dedicated letters writer from the Middle East. What the worst that could happen? He would tell me that he is too busy to meet me?

During my stay in New York I stayed with my aunt and uncle. They had a great big apartment on the ninth floor at 3rd Avenue and 11th street. Most of the time I was alone as they were both working during the week. So there I was all on my own sitting next to the phone with a piece of paper on which I had scribbled Marvel Comics' number. I picked up the phone and dialed the number. A recording asked me to dial the last name of the person I wanted to talk to and then I waited nervously. I almost wished the answering machine would pick up so I could avoid making this call., but no such luck. Ralph answered with a "Hello."

I hung up and stared at the phone.

What a moron. Why did I hang up? What was the big deal? Now I had to wait at least five minutes to avoid explaining why I hung up. The easy and cowardly thing to do would be to simply not call again. I do not know the guy and I bet comics and book editors are too busy to answer unsolicited cold calls on the phone. I had this inner conflict raging in my mind. Oh no, I am not going to just leave it. I will call him and he can tell me to fluff off if he wants to, I really have nothing to lose here.

I have history with acting and theatre. I was in two different youth groups as well as being a theatre major in high school, followed with a foundation acting course in LAMDA when I made the move to London. So this was just another acting exercise. I had to decide what to say, rehearse it a few times until it stuck and just deliver it when Ralph Macchio would answer on the other side. If I could memorize entire plays, a couple of sentences should not be a problem. No need to hang up in a panic when I know exactly what to say.

I practiced a few times and called again.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Ralph?"

"Yes?"

"It's Michael Bregman. I happen to be in New York for a few days and I wondered if I could drop by to say hi."

That was it and it worked. I knew all these letters would end up being worth it. Ralph agreed with me a time and date and the conversation ended. I was so freaking pleased with myself and I was grinning ear to ear.

The grin disappeared instantly when I realized I agreed on a date that falls on my visit to Chicago. I had to gather up the nerves again to quickly call and move our meeting. I felt as if I was pushing my luck, but Macchio did not have a problem with it and we agreed on another date. Relief!

Finding the Marvel Comics offices (they moved since) was a piece of cake. New York's grid design made it very difficult to get lost. I arrived early and excited and waited in the reception area waiting for Ralph to pick me up. It was very fancy with a big glass wall decorated with Spider-Man's symbol. I could not believe that I got to visit the offices of both Marvel and DC in the same trip. Obviously I was doing something right and if I kept it up I might just finally get my break. That was the interesting thing. With all of what was happening and the people I met the fanboy in me never took over. I was completely focused on my quest to publish my first story and nothing else will do. So while my fanboy was constantly stimulated he was kept on a very tight leash.

Ralph arrived and we shook hands. I did not get a proper tour of Marvel Comics, only the parts we were passing on the way to Macchio's office. There were two young people there who were very nice and polite and I can only assume they were his assistant editors. I mentioned casually my letters to the letters column and  Ralph had no idea what I was talking about. 

I did not know if I should feel like a complete fool or like a cunning mastermind. I cold-called the man out of nowhere and got to meet him without him having any idea who I was. I would have expected him to ask "who are you?" or "why?", but I guess I introduced myself by name with such confidence he thought I might be somebody. Who knows? The important thing is I was standing in Mecca. With all due respect to DC Comics, I was a Marvel fanboy back then.

I handed Ralph a few Spider-Man pitches and he informed me that he is leaving the books and that I should contact his replacement Axel Alonso. Once again I felt as if I ran like crazy to the docks only to see the ship sail away on my arrival. We chatted politely and I told him I thought he was getting the better deal with Ultimate Spider-Man as it was a fresh and focused start while the Spider-Man books were currently a bit of a mess. He agreed. LA Williams asked me to drop his name to be considered for an editor or assistant editor position when I told him I was going to visit Marvel Comics, so I did, but nothing came out of that either. Just another shot in the dark.

We parted ways and  another visit came to an end. I got no free comicbooks this time, but on the other hand my pitches were accepted gracefully without any funny faces, so I could not really complain.

I visited both Marvel and DC Comics and now the only thing ahead of me was the three days comics convention in Chicago where I was determined to get Joe Quesada's attention. Months later I also followed up my Spider-Man pitches with the new Spider-Man editor, Axel Alonso, who has been recently appointed as Marvel's new editor in chief, but we will get to that later.

Mickey



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

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