I hate putting “filler” in this blog with so very many cool jobs out there to still be discovered, but I am awaiting some answers to recent interview inquires and at the moment I don’t have a completed interview to post.
Fortunately, I myself have had quite a number of “cool jobs” here and there over the years that I’ve been saving up for an occasion such as this.
Believe it or not, one of them was writing stories for Marvel Comics in the early 90s.
How did I get this cool job, you ask? Nepotism, of the most blatant sort. If you know nothing whatsoever about comic books, and don’t really care to learn more than can easily be absorbed by hanging out with comic book fans all day (just picture being trapped in a room with 20 Kevin Smiths — that is what the late 80s and early 90s was like for me) — but you still want to write for Marvel Comics, then do the following:
1) Marry a guy who works as an assistant editor at Marvel Comics Group;
2) Make sure that you mention numerous times in a condescending way how easy you think writing a comic book would be;
3) Make sure the guy you marry cannot remember correctly the number of pages that should be in an “annual” as opposed to a regular comic book issue (ten extra pages) until the writing deadline is 24 hours away;
4) Wait for him to call you at work and say “Didn’t you say it would be easy to write a comic book story? Do you have some idea that you can throw together by tomorrow? Or should I just let them fire me? I need a five page story by tomorrow morning or I’m Fritos here at Marvel.”
5) Stay up all night discovering that it isn’t quite as easy as you thought it would be, but be determined that a bunch of comic book geeks are not going to get the best of you, and you’d rather your husband not get fired and hang around the house all day.
So despite the fact that I knew very little about comics, I did it with some major help from my then-husband, asking him questions like, “So I need a villain for Iron Man to fight who is lame enough that my heroine can take him, contemporary to the time the story is set, and stupid beyond all reason because I’ve got a great line for him to say.” He was good about giving help like that, but left the story itself to me.
I permanently added to the lore of the Marvel Universe in just five pages, by providing an “origin story” for the secretary to Iron Man’s alter ego, Tony Stark. I called it “The Awesome Origin of Mrs. Arbogast” and didn’t even realize until months later that the artist who created the pictures to go with the story was Steve Ditko, one of the most revered Marvel artists from the “golden age” of comics. He was one of the co-creators of Spiderman and Dr. Strange, for goodness sake…how did that happen that I got that lucky?
I have no idea, but I’ve been able to get instant ‘street cred’ from comic book fans ever since.
So in keeping with the theme of the blog, I should complete my “interview” and say that the thing that I loved about the job was getting to work in the Marvel editorial style, which meant that what I first wrote was a “plot” — basically just a description of the action with not too much detail and not too many character speeches. This “plot” was delivered to the artist, who chose how to tell the story visually (and I must admit that Steve Ditko added a great deal and inspired me to make the finished product much better than I’d originally hoped I could accomplish!) The best part was seeing the pencil artwork for the first time, and being inspired to do the rest of my job, which was to write the “script”, adding the word balloons of character dialogue and even the sound effects like “Bam!” and “Thwack!” Two weeks later after inking, lettering and color, my story was a go.
The thing I hated about it was that the entire time I was writing this story and working with the editor and the other creative people involved, I felt guilty. I kept asking my husband, “Am I wrong, or are there about 10,000 more qualified people that would cut off a finger to be able to do what I’m doing right now?” He kept telling me, “Yes, but getting to write comics is a “right place right time” kind of job, even if it’s all you ever wanted to do. Just be glad you were in that place at that time.” I still have a little guilt over it, but it isn’t as though they let me write X-Men for years on the basis of that story; I just got to write little fill-in stories like this once in a while for as long as my marriage lasted.
As for how to get a job writing comics — I can only recommend that you persevere. I did see artists and writers submit their work again and again, and be rejected with some kind criticism, but keep at it and finally get the work that they wanted. Me? I was just in the right place at the right time for the Iron Man Annual – Terminus Factor, 1990.
And yes, I do still have a crapload of copies of that comic book — each one worth about $1.50 apiece at current eBay prices….so at least my retirement is covered, right?