How I finally realized my dream to get a comic book published — at the age of 45
There comes a time in one’s mid-40s, where you have to just grow up, be an adult and start to write comic books for a living.
At least, that’s what I’m trying to do after spending the first 22 years of my working life in news media. This past Wednesday, Marvel’s “Old Man Hawkeye #1” hit comic book stores — the start of a new 12-issue series, and more personally, the first big step in a leap of faith for a journalist who turned 45 the next day.
I’m attempting to make real a day-dream I had as a preteen in my childhood home — only at an age when I now have a daughter approaching high school and an apartment with a mortgage.
At the time that I left the New York Daily News in December 2016, I had the perfect newspaper job for a nerd like me… on paper. As a film editor, I got paid to watch movies before their release and interview stars. But it became obvious to me after surviving successive waves of layoffs, that one day I would leave, whether under my own power or not.
Applying for coveted positions elsewhere proved crushing. A small percentage of resumes yielded phone calls from HR departments, an even more miniscule percentage interviews. The offers I did receive were for 70% of my Daily News salary.
But over the years of covering the geek beat as a journalist, I had built contacts and friendships within the comic book business. I treated those connections as church and state for fear of any conflict of interest. But nearing my Daily News exit, I pitched my close friend, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, a spec script for a “Star Wars” comic. Though Lucasfilm, which has final approval on the property, ultimately rejected my idea, the Marvel editors were impressed enough to give me another chance.
My first eight-page story was published last May; two months later, I successfully pitched the prequel to “Old Man Logan,” a popular series that inspired the 2017 Hugh Jackman movie, “Logan.” For “Old Man Hawkeye,” they teamed me up with artist Marco Checchetto, a rising superstar in the field.
The road to my dream job hasn’t been easy, but here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:
· The biggest key has been having one responsible adult in my household. My wife is the superhero who brings in our family’s health insurance with her management job at a bank.
· Before I got started, I thoroughly researched comic books. I reverse engineered the classic scripts I liked, I read (and re-read) dozens of “Hawkeye” comic books to understand the character, and I questioned other writers about the inner workings of the industry. I couldn’t fumble around as a beginner on my first assignments for the biggest publisher in the business — even though I am one.
· Finally, I put together several freelance gigs courtesy of former colleagues who moved to leadership positions at other outlets. Those part-time gigs keep the lights on while I try to build up a self-sustaining comic book career.
There’s no script for this, but at least I’m chasing a dream while keeping my feet on the ground.
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