by John from Altjiranga Mitjina
Trying to break in as a writer in the comic book industry can be a bit like the one legged man in a butt kicking contest. Every step forward you make means you land on your butt after your kick forward. Comic books are a visual medium. An artist can bring a portfolio to an editor at a convention and said editor can sit there and look at it within minutes and decide if this artist is worthy of working on the newest issue of Stupendous Man or not. Trying being a hopeful writer handing over a script to this same editor at a busy comic convention. You’ll be lucky if the editor agrees to take the script and promise that they’ll look at it later. Most times the hopeful writer is told to send for their submission guidelines and mail in their proposal.
The best way for a writer is to find an aspiring artist and hook up. (No, not that type of hook up, get your mind out of the gutter.) If the two can create a short story, combining art and words, than both have something to show. And maybe create something new between the two of them.
I’ve been writing and trying to break into the comic book industry for years. When I first started that was my method. Find some artists that were trying and hook up with them. And it’s worked. Finding Ron Wilber lead me to getting “Lizards” published in CRITTERS. Finding Dave Garcia lead me to getting some stories published in DEATH RATTLE. Finding Sam Kieth lead me….well, that’s a different story, a story of a missed opportunity.
When I “met” Sam neither of us had published anything. I say met, because I came across Sam in the mail, in a fanzine, and we didn’t actually meet for close to a year until we both made the trip to San Diego for the Comic Con. I knew when I saw Sam’s work that he was going to be a star. Even then I could see how good Sam was. We came up with some ideas and shopped a few around. We sold one or two to Kitchen Sink for their DEATH RATTLE comic.
Sam started doing inking work for Comico, then DC Comics. He got work on the SANDMAN. Sam was quickly becoming a hot name in the comic biz. We kept in touch. Sam is a nice guy and a very unassuming guy. Anyone that knows him will know what I mean. While Sam was becoming a star I was getting more work published. A few stories here, a few there, I felt like I was making headway.
When the Image creators broke away from Marvel and DC to form their own company they asked Sam to come along. All the Image guys were coming up with new characters and Sam was no exception. He created THE MAXX but didn’t feel comfortable enough with his writing skills yet to do the scripting chores on the book. He called and asked if I wanted to write it over his plots. Now does anyone need to know what I said?
I wasn’t Sam’s first choice. At that time Sam had been working with Bill Loebs on some other projects. Bill is a great writer (and artist as well) and Sam had asked him to do the MAXX project first. For reasons that are Bill’s own he bowed out. So Sam gave me a call.
I’m not sure of the timelines here so some of this may be a little off. MAXX was a ways off, so Sam and I would spend time on the phone talking about what he wanted. Sam kept telling me to let everyone know that I was working on an Image book, get my name out there. Somewhere around this time MTV approached Sam about turning THE MAXX into a cartoon series for their network.
Things were happening fast. And it was around this time that Sam called me up and told me that he had decided to go with Bill Loebs as the writer on THE MAXX. I couldn’t blame him too much, Bill was a much better writer than I was. I was and am a big fan of Bill’s work.
I bring this all up not to throw stones but as an opportunity lost. I’ve never really commented about the whole situation and do so now because it fits in the theme of this issue. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had written Sam’s book. Things didn’t turn out that great for Bill, through no fault of Sam or his book. So I can’t say that if I had written this book I would now be a big name writer. I can look back and realize that if I had written that book I would have probably went to work writing full time for at least awhile and missed the chance of meeting a lot of the people I know now. My life would be different, I don’t know if it would have been better or worse, but I would be in a different place.
I continued to write for a few more years, publishing a few things here and there, but never being able to decide that I was going to do this full time. And then I quit. (That’s a story for another time.) But now I’m back, trying to write, trying to find more opportunities.
Check out John at his blog altjiranga mitjina and keep an ear out for more Voices to Hear music reviews in a new platform from John soon.