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 2000s, 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 curve-ball 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.
I ended up working for Marvel from 2003-2006, when I decided to branch out into the world of New Pulp. My heart was happy with the decision, though my bank account has never forgiven me.
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.