It's alway been a open secret (to anyone who reads this blog or knows me, at least) that I never meant to end up being a comic book artist. I had originally intended to be a comic book writer, and since I had some basic art skills I was able to draw the stories I was writing when I was in college. And later, after writing and drawing a few things at Caliber in the early 90s, I started getting offers to work at Marvel and DC, but not as a writer, or a writer/artist, but as an artist, full stop.
Like any ambitious young comic book creator, I leapt at the chance, and in a funny way I've always kind of regretted making that leap so early in my career, before I'd had a chance to establish myself as an artist AND a writer. And I've always felt a little guilty about that regret.
Truth is, I'm incredibly lucky to have been given the chance to work in comics at all - a medium I have loved since my mother brought home a Star Wars comic from the grocery store when I was 6 years old - and I feel fortunate to have been asked to work on so many great books. I mean, if you'd told me when I was a kid that I'd draw a major DC crossover with every character I've ever loved in it, I would have laughed in your face and gone back to reading my Doctor Who comic. And if you'd told me I'd get to draw a Doctor Who comic... well... not to be crude, but I probably would have wet myself.
I've always been grateful to work in comics in any capacity, and especially grateful to still be making a living at it after 18 years, a longer career life-span than most comic book creators get, no matter how talented they are. But I have to admit I've spent far less of my time in those 18 years actually drawing, and far more of my time trying to convince people at all of the companies I was working for to let me write something.
See, I'd always thought that if I got my foot in the door as an artist, I'd have a much easier time selling people on my writing. Only it didn't turn out that way. For whatever reason - whether I just wasn't as good a writer as I thought (probably true), or editors had come to believe that comic book artists couldn't be very good at writing comic (possibly true), or simply that I had been typecast as an artist and no one was particularly interested in me writing when they had so many other writers to choose form (most definitely true) - I just wasn't able to get anyone to take my writing ambitions seriously.
There have been notable exceptions to this, of course. Mark Chiarello at DC, Ben Abernathy at Wildstorm, and most recently, Denton Tipton at IDW, have all gone above and beyond to help me try to get some writing projects off the ground. And in Denton's case, it led to me getting to write some actual Doctor Who stories. Yeah... that younger version of me just wet himself again.
But even now, after 18 years in the industry, when I'm lucky enough to be offered work from places like IDW, it's still as an artist. And believe me, I'm happy to get it. At the end of the day, no matter how big a fan I am of Doctor Who, drawing projects like that are first and foremost how I pay my bills. I'm thrilled to do them, and happy for the paycheck attached to ANY work for hire project. But there's always been a part of me - the part that sits and writes notes on all the Doctor Who story ideas I have bouncing around in my head, or the things I would do if anyone let me write a Blue Devil comic, or an issue of Hellblazer, or even the SeaQuest comic book reboot I've always wanted to do - that's never quite satisfied.
And that's why every editor I've worked with has gotten an endless stream of pitches, carefully worded pleas to write the books they've assigned me to draw, and in some cases, outright begging to let me write something, anything, I didn't care what it was, just so long as I could write it.
But the answer is always the same -- sorry, but no.
And that's when the impulse to take my toys and find a comfortable corner of my own kicks in. Well, if YOU don't think my super-awesome story is worth doing, I'm just going to go over there and do it anyways. Without you. THAT'LL show you!
Yeah... I've never acted on that impulse, of course. My career would have gone up in flames if I stomped my feet and threw a temper tantrum every time someone wouldn't let me write something. Instead I've always tried my best to take the rejections in stride and keep plugging away with the drawing, all while planning out the next thing I'm going to pitch at them.
NEXT TIME: Secret Projects and Changing Industries