Dennis O’Neil: Comic Book Career Day
“Congratulations, young man,” I said. “You scored in the ninety seventh percentile on the comic book writing aptitude exam and so you’re my new Batman writer. I’ll need twenty-two pages by the end of the week.”
He smiled and left my office. A moment later, I glanced through the open door and saw him waiting for the elevator, straightening his tie. From forty feet away I could admire the gleam on his shoes.
Okay, it didn’t happen that way, or any way like that. It couldn’t, because there is no aptitude exam for aspiring comics writers. There is, as a matter of woeful fact, no defined career path, and if there were one, it would probably be changing about now.
But the god of full disclosure, if such there be, compels me to admit that, matter of fact, once there was a test for comics writing wannabes and I took it and I passed and that explains my life from about age 25 on. Roy Thomas, who had recently joined Stan Lee at Marvel Comics, sent the test to me at the office of the small newspaper where I was working and pissing people off. It consisted of four pages drawn by, I’m pretty sure, Jack Kirby, a piece of a comic book that was lacking words. The task was to add word balloons and maybe captions. Well, wouldn’t you have done it? Simple, easy, kind of fun. I typed something or other and sent it to Roy and late one evening a week or so later, he called offering me a job. I got into my battered station wagon and started trekking east…
I can’t say that I began a career in comics because I don’t consider what I’ve done a “career.” That term – career – implies planning and goals and maybe a timetable. None of that for me, thank you. It was catch-as-catch-can, a series of jobs, meeting the right people at the right time, screwing up, being given second chances, getting fired, getting hired, finally settling into a position that was everything a butcher’s kid from north St. Louis could ask for and retiring still young enough to get angry at politicians.
So I am not the guy you come to for advice on how to become the next Neil Gaiman or Frank Miller or pick your personal favorite comic book success story. I didn’t do what those guys did and maybe I couldn’t do what those guys did. But will that stop me from pontificating on the subject? Who you talking to?
Ergo: next week I’ll share with you the paltry few strategies I employed when my various editorial gigs required me to hire staff members or freelance creative types.
The thrills just keep coming…
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