I frequently get asked how I got started at Marvel Comics — unlike most writers, I didn’t start at the bottom and work my way up. My first published work was from Marvel and I spent nearly four years writing for them. So how did it happen? Sit back and I’ll tell you a tale…
First, let’s backtrack a bit. In the early 200s, Marvel was producing a series of glossy hardbacks they were calling the Marvel Encyclopedias. They did one for the Marvel Universe in general, one for Spider-Man, another for the Hulk, one for the X-Men, etc. Then they decided they wanted to do one for what they were calling the Marvel Knights heroes — mostly street-level types, led by Daredevil. They had a writer to handle the Daredevil section but needed someone for Ghost Rider.
So around this time, Eric Moreels was their go-to X-Men guy. He had written the X-Men Encyclopedia and was set up for more work to come. I had known Eric for several years, dating back to our days in fanfiction. Eric had founded a group called Marvel-X and I had briefly written for them, creating a series called Pendragons. Marvel asked Eric if he knew anyone who was familiar with Ghost Rider and might be good to write that section of the book. If this were a short story, he would have immediately thrown out my name.
But he didn’t.
He threw out the name of another mutual friend of ours, Gary Dreslinski. Gary was approached by Eric but told him that he really didn’t know much about Ghost Rider but that he knew someone who did: me. Now, in the fanfic world at the time (and still today), there’s one name everyone associates with Ghost Rider — and it’s Chris Munn. But for some reason, Gary remembered that I was a GR fan and had written the character a time or two. Eric emailed me, explained the situation, and asked if I minded if he gave my contact info to his editor at Marvel, Jeff Youngquist. I blinked in amazement and said that I wouldn’t mind in the least.
Now, I’d always wanted to be a writer but by this time in my life, I’d tired of all the rejection letters and decided that writing was a hobby, not a career goal. But how could you turn down an opportunity when it falls into your lap? Answer: You can’t. I tried to restrain my excitement when Jeff Youngquist emailed me and said that he’d like to see a writing sample — a 500 word bio of a Ghost Rider character. He said I could pick anyone and I chose Deathwatch, a villain from the Dan Ketch Ghost Rider series. I wrote it up, emailed it to him and within 24 hours, I was confirmed! I then had to go through the whole contract deal but I was golden and the work led to more stuff with Marvel, including a steady gig on their revived Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe series. Before the Encyclopedia was finished, though, there was one more curveball to come: Jeff emailed me and asked if I were familiar with Blade and the vampire characters. Marvel wanted them included since the Wesley Snipes films were hot at the time. I knew who Blade was (mainly from the movies) but was unfamiliar with the comics… nonetheless, I said I was a huge Blade nut and was given that section to write as well 🙂 I bought up a bunch of Blade comics, made myself an expert and went from there.
So… what can be learned from all this? 1) Make friends. You never know when they’ll come in handy. 2) When someone asks if you’re an expert on something, I vote that you say yes and then become an expert. Of course, if Gary Dreslinski had lived by those words, he might have been writing at Marvel and I might still be cranking out fanfic for free on the Internet. So thanks, Gary, for being so honest.
I’ve been familiar with Barry Reese’s work for quite some time now. And when you’ve been reading an author who specializes in a certain area for a number of years, there are usually relatively few surprises. Oh, the stories are entertaining, but by that point, you’re usually so familiar with the writer’s style that you’re not going to be left with your mouth hanging open.
So imagine my surprise when Barry’s latest book, Rabbit Heart, was able to cause just that reaction in me.
Barry is well-known and well-regarded (and rightfully so) for his work on The Rook series, which focus on a supernaturally-tinged vigilante operating in Atlanta in the 1930s. It’s great stuff, a lot of fun to read. And most of the work I’ve read from Barry over the years has been in a similar vein.
Rabbit Heart is definitely not what one would come to expect from Barry Reese. Make no mistake, this is not a tale for young readers–and even some adults may find themselves put off by the very mature themes and situations present.
The book centers on Fiona Chapman, a young woman who was nearly killed as a child by a vicious serial killer. Only what no one knows it that Fiona actually did die, in a fashion. By the time she reaches her early twenties, Fiona embarks on a quest to confront her killer and this awakens her true nature, as an Archetype of the Furious Host. But this is only the beginning of her adventure. Her brethren kill humans with almost wild abandon but Fiona chooses to turn on her fellow hunters instead. And with the help of Ascott Keane, a legendary occult investigator, she pursues one such hunter in the town of Milledgeville in Georgia.
Rabbit Heart is extremely graphic. It’s brutal, gruesome, and strangely erotic–sometimes all at once. Sex and violence mix together in a way that may be disturbing to some, but is nonetheless gripping. I found it impossible to tear myself away from the book–I was disgusted and shaken to my core and I say these things as compliments. It takes a certain kind of writer to be able to bring about these emotions in a reader, and Barry has proven that while he’s very talented in his usual area of expertise, he’s also versatile and open to experimentation.
Although the central story will no doubt keep your eyes glued to these pages, what I found most fascinating was the taste of metafiction Barry uses. He does it in such a way that sets Rabbit Heart apart from similar tales, but which is subtle enough to avoid falling into the trap of smug arrogance or tongue-in-cheek camp that metafiction writers sometimes find themselves in.
If you came to this book because you’re familiar with Barry’s other work, rest assured that he definitely brings his A-game to the table. But don’t expect something with a similar tone to The Rook Chronicles–Rabbit Heart operates on an entirely different level. This is Barry Reese does grindhouse, and I for one hope we’ll see more tales of Fiona Chapman and Ascott Keane in the future.
I’ve begun work on the third book in the Lazarus Gray series — what’s that, you say? Where’s Volumes One and Two? Ah, welcome to the joys of publishing! Writers are generally pretty far ahead of the actual publishing schedule so frequently I’ll be doing promotion for a new release that I wrote at least a year before — and I’ll be currently working on a book that won’t be released for 1-2 more years. Lazarus Gray Volume One is in the hands of Pro Se Productions and should be released in September 2011. Volume Two (the novel DIE GLOCKE) is penciled in for a January 2012 release.
And I’m about to start the third volume when none of you have read the first! Trust me, though, this set of characters (Lazarus and his friends in Assistance Unlimited) are going to be worth the wait. Someday, I expect them to be neck-in-neck with The Rook in terms of popularity.
A new week, a new sales check. Let’s see what’s moving and shaking over at Amazon, shall we? The five bestselling Barry Reese titles are:
Looks like The Rook series is dominating the sales charts, eh? Nothing wrong with that!
I’ve been lucky enough to write both The Avenger and The Green Hornet but there are still a few classic pulp or pulp-inspired heroes I’d love to handle in either novel or short-story form: Doc Savage and The Shadow are probably on every pulp writer’s dream list, but I’d also throw in The Phantom, Seekay, The Phantom Detective and Indiana Jones.