How I Broke In At Marvel (Or: The Value of Networking)

Reposted once more by request:

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.

Captain Marvel!

Loved Captain Marvel! Great performances all around (Jude Law is always wonderful!). The film properly displayed Carol Danvers’ true superpower: the ability to get up after every time she’s knocked down and come back stronger than before. One of my two or three favorite Marvel movies.

Go see it and ignore the haters and trolls.

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-in-One # 5

mtio5I feel like I’m a bit of a broken record here but this was another amazing issue. This trek into an alternate universe reminds me of old What If? or Exiles comics and that’s not a bad thing at all. The ongoing mystery about Ben and Johnny’s failing powers continues and we get to see a nice reminder of how important the FF should be in the Marvel Universe. When they swing into action here, it’s nice to see other heroes being visibly excited to have them back. Hopefully when Dan Slott revives the actual FF series, we’ll get to see more of this there.

The artwork is solid and while I’m a little annoyed that Dr. Doom is along for the ride (and seems key to saving the day), I think this continues to be one hell of a fun series. If you love the Fantastic Four or just love a good adventure comic, please give this one a try.

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-in-One # 4

mtio4Another amazing issue! The art and story combine for a terrific story… and the cliffhanger was a really good one. It left me really excited for the next issue. Overall, this has been a great series so far with fun new characters, wonderful homages to classic Fantastic Four tales from the past and a nice mixture of nostalgia and forward-thinking events.

There was a twist with our doctor character this issue that makes me wonder what’s up with her…

I’m not 100% certain WHY Ben and Johnny are in this alternate universe, though. Is their plan really to just locate *a* Reed Richards and see if he can help them? That’s kinda… weird. Having said that, I like this universe so I’m not gonna complain.

The art was very, very good. I think I’m gonna like this guy.

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-in-One # 3

mtio3My new favorite title continues to roll along – though this time we have a new artist for the ride. I was disappointed at first because I’ve been really digging Cheung’s work on the book but the art by Schiti was actually pretty good and by the end of the story, I was fine with the switch-up.

Ben and Johnny continue to hunt for Reed and the rest of the FF family… and Ben’s still lying to Johnny about what he does (and doesn’t) know. In this issue they work with Hercules to locate someone that can hopefully restore the Torch’s powers… and it just so happens that said person is the girl that Ben flirted with in issue one. A big coincidence but I’m fine with it. I really like this new character and I’m pleased that it seems she’s going to be around for awhile.

I wasn’t too thrilled with the portrayal of the Mad Thinker for most of the issue – he seemed like even more of a loser than usual… but the twist at the very end has me very, very intrigued. Kinda a new riff on the Frightful Four? Could be cool.

Hydro-Man! One of my favorite lame villains. He has a good showing here.

The revelation about how the Fantastic Four are linked together… I like that a lot. Can’t believe nobody’s done anything like that before.

Another stellar issue!

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-in-One # 2

Another fantastic issue – Chip Zdarsky totally nails Ben Grimm’s voice and he straddles the line perfectly between nostalgia for the Fantastic Four and keeping things firmly grounded in the modern Marvel Universe. He even makes me like the current take on Doctor Doom!

Some fun elements here for longtime FF fans: Alicia shows up, we return to Monster Island for some hilarious election humor involving the Mole Man and Doctor Doom and at the end we see a great flashback to Ben and Reed’s college days.

All in all, this is by far my favorite new series from Marvel in a long time!

Things (now with extra STUFF!)

GGPRbanner2-817x350Currently splitting time between a new project for Pro Se that’s part of a shared universe and working on Lazarus Gray volume 8 (which is now over 40,000 words long). Both are going pretty well, especially Lazarus. Volume 7 was a novel-length tale but with this one, I’m going back to having a series of short stories. I’m currently working on the fourth tale for that collection and there will be one more after this one, making for a total of (hold on while I break out the calculator…) five stories.

I’ve been reading (and loving) THE MIDAS LEGACY by Andy McDermott. It’s the 12th book in the Wilde/Chase series and so far it’s shaping up as one of the strongest in awhile. I consider these books to be very good examples of New Pulp and I’m stunned that no one has turned this series into a movie or a television show. I’d watch it!

Seeing lots of “favorite/least favorite” posts of various types out there so I figured I’d jump in with my favorite comic book series of 2017. Here we go:

  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (BOOM)
  • Go Go Power Rangers (BOOM)
  • Savage Dragon (IMAGE)
  • Rom (IDW)
  • Defenders (MARVEL)
  • Amazing Spider-Man (MARVEL)

Looking at the list, I have to say that ASM *barely* snuck on the list. It’s been very up-and-down this year. Defenders is getting canceled so there you go… Nobody is more surprised than me to see two Power Rangers books on this list but they’ve been really good! Gives me a nice Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans era vibe and that’s high praise from me. Speaking of Titans, I am reading the ongoing Titans book from Dan Abnett but I alternate between enjoying it and hating it so it didn’t make the list so there’s no DC titles on my best-of. That’s *really* unusual!

What comics did you love in 2017?

FF Reviews: Marvel Two-In-One # 1

img_9423Everyone knows I love the Fantastic Four – but it’s been several years since Marvel has published a series starring Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben. The Marvel Universe hasn’t been the same without them.

Now Chip Zdarsky and Jim Cheung have revived Johnny and Ben in a series using the title of the Thing’s old team-up series. I’m gonna review the series in anticipation of a hopeful Fantastic Four revival.

So how did they do, overall? The art is GORGEOUS but I had no fears about that – I’ve loved Cheung since his old Crossgen days.

Zdarsky nails the characterizations for both Ben and Johnny. He captures their melancholy perfectly and he even makes me feel okay about Doom’s current status quo, which is impressive given my lack of enthusiasm for “hero” Doom.

I’m excited to see where this goes – this issue is mostly setup and character stuff so it is definitely written for the trade but I saw enough here to make me think that Zdarsky has a real love and passion for the FF.

BTW, I loved the Wizard reference – the Frightful Four are some of my favorite FF villains so I hope to see them in this book soon.

I give it 4 stars out of 4!

Current Goings-On

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I’m splitting my time between working on a Peter Pixie novel for Pro Se Press and a new Peregrine story. The latter is going quite well even though it’s been awhile since I’ve written Max Davies and his friends in anything other than a guest-starring role.

Mitch Ballard should be turning in the final images over the next week and then we’ll be ready to go into production on the crossover novel. His interiors, combined with Chris Batista’s wonderful cover, will no doubt make this one of my best looking books — and that’s not even mentioning the fine work done by Pro Se graphic designer Sean Ali!

I also got an update on the Johnny Dollar collection that I contributed to — it’s still coming from Moonstone and I really can’t wait for you to read my story. It turned out quite well, I think.

Comics-wise, Marvel’s newest Secret Wars just wrapped up and I had really mixed feelings about it. I’m just not a big fan of Hickman’s writing. The ideas are interesting but the execution never packs the emotional punch that I feel it should. In this case, the ending given to the Fantastic Four is interesting but overall the series just felt like a lot of sound and fury… signifying nothing.

Our art today is an oldie but a goodie – it’s by Anthony Castrillo

I’ll be back soon, folks.

 

From the Vault: How I Broke In At Marvel

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.