Please refer to part 1 and part 3 of this series for background. Part 2 was my attempt to try and underscore what I was trying to get across by writing these series of articles. Yeah, I still have no idea why I wrote part 2 either. To recap, I had an idea to get comics in the school system taught as a high interest low level reading curriculum.
Step by step my process was:
Come up with the idea.
Do the research.
Figure out the barriers to entry.
Developed two specific programs: one for Texas, one for California.
Wrote the business plan.
All above steps taken, so now I need a partner.
First rule of fight club: never talk about fight club.
First rule of business: never use your own money.
That’s my first rule anyhow, rather or not you talk about it is on you but the less said about who is writing you a check the better.
There was a period in my career when I wanted to own everything so I paid for everything. I had some success but realized later than I should have, paying for everything can be a dangerous road to travel on unless you have really deep pockets and can afford to lose a grip.
A “grip” is a lot of money. Sorry, sometimes I revert back to where I grew up. You can take the man out of the hood but you can’t take the hood out of the man.
That’s not entirely bad and I’ll get back to that later.
I’ve done quite a few deals where I put up the development money and took all back end… meaning I waited for the venture to start making money to recoup and profit from it.
Sometimes paying for everything was a great idea, sometimes not so much. I don’t regret paying for development the projects I did so one but except for a passion project of mine I doubt if I will ever do it again.
If you have the cash and want to control and own everything in your deal financing everything may work for you. But before you empty your life savings to finance, direct and produce and own your project give this a thought, would anyone but you pay to do what you are about to do?
Each time I sign a deal where someone else is investing in my idea that further validates that I just may be on to something.
I mentioned above a passion project that I want control all aspects of the production. I’m holding out to completely control 100% of everything so I may bite the bullet and write the check myself but for now I’m still looking for the right partner to underwrite the venture.
The right partner is what I needed for The Action Files, my comic book reading program for schools.
And I’m back!
When looking for a partner, be very careful to consider everything, not just the money. I don’t care how much money they bring to the table – it can be a nightmare.
I’ll say it again, it can be a nightmare.
I can’t go into particulars as to why a deal or two bankrolled by a partner turned out to be a nightmare (gag order, restraining order, hit men and a angry midget among other less pleasant things) but trust me it can be so think long and hard before you take that check.
I was lucky enough to have three different companies interested in The Action Files. I met with all three and decided the best place for The Action Files and myself was powerhouse publisher Simon & Schuster. At the time they were one of the biggest publishers of mainstream and educational materials in the world.
At the time they were one of the biggest publishers of mainstream and educational materials in the world.
After a series of meetings we came to an agreement and The Action Files was no longer an idea I came up with a year before it was now about to be a reality.
There is one more step that no one seems to tell young people.
One of the things it’s very important to remember which no one talks about is the vetting process. Any serious player who is about to invest millions of dollars in your idea is going to do their due diligence and vet you. That, in layman’s terms, means to check you out.
The process may be as simple as asking for references or as in-depth as a full background check. So don’t even think about telling a company you did something that you did not do when discussing your resume or bio.
I’m not just a seller of ideas (content) but I’ve run a few entertainment divisions at major companies and was a buyer. As head of my own company I’m often pitched projects for me to take to a film or television studio, comic company or mainstream publisher that I’m already in business with. I’m approached to find financing or finance projects myself or partner with someone to create a project. I’ve been very successful in brokering quite a few deals that I did not create.
I’m currently developing a slate of projects with Wayne Brady as an example of how a partnership would work. Wayne and I are working on a book and an animated project.
Unless I know someone well personality or someone comes to me from a real good referral I almost never get involved with other peoples’ projects. I’ll give advice all day long but I’ve been burned too many times to get involved with others I don’t know from Adam. It happens from time to time but it’s as rare as a black guy from Compton voting Republican.
The vetting process can killed your dream deal faster than a sex scandal can kill your hope to be President Of The United States… Herman!
Tell people the truth about what you have or have not done. If your idea is a great idea and you have no experience at all tell the buyer. More than likely the company will respect that and proceed with that in mind.
I’ve sold TV shows and I had noidea how to produce one when I sold my first show. I have a better idea now but I’d be an idiot to think that I could produce and an even bigger idiot to say that I wanted to.
The vetting process would have outted me faster than Ricky Martin on TMZ.
It’s not just making sure your background is legit – it’s also avoiding the one bullshit line that I’ve heard a million times and it’s just bullshit.
“Disney wanted to do this but I didn’t like the deal.”
I’ve heard that line at least a thousand times in 20 years.
It’s bullshit, and unless your name is Tom Hanks or someone of that stature using that line in a meeting will surely kill any deal you had dead if it was not dead already.
Yesterday at a restaurant some guy recognized me from a CNN interview I did years ago. He pitched me this project while I was waiting for a meeting. Frankly, the idea was pretty darn good and I was considering meeting with him to discuss it when he said…
“Disney wanted to do this but I didn’t like the deal, so I’m bringing it to you.”
“Whom did you meet with at Disney?”
Nothing from him but a blank look, because it was all bullshit. After what had to be a minute he said he had to check his notes and blah, blah, yada, yada, yada.
So, if you have the next great idea and you manage to get a meeting to pitch someone, tell the truth my friend, nothing but bad things can happen if you don’t.
My project from idea to signed contract took a solid year and a lot of work. The Action File reading program started in 1996 and has since moved to Pearson Learning where it’s still going strong.
As you go forward remember my second rule of business: don’t let anyone discourage you or try and kill your dream. Dreams do come true and maybe there’s a tip or two within this series that can help a little bit towards yours, young Jedi. Good luck… and if Disney wants to do your project let them.
Please refer to Part 1 of this series. Part 2 was my attempt to try and underscore what I was trying to get across. Yeah, I have no idea why I did it either. To recap, I was breaking down my deal that put comic books in the school system.
The program was called The Action Files and it’s a K-12 high interest, low level reading program. These were the steps I took and the questions I asked:
Q. Did my idea have merit?
A. Comics in the school system. Duh, duh, triple duh.
Q. What were the barriers to entry?
A. After researching I decided the reason why there was no comic book reading programs taught as a curriculum because of the educational climate and prejudices that were associated (at the time, which was 1996) against comic books.
In other words, no one wanted to see The Hulk on a textbook.
Q. If such a good idea, why had it not been done before?
A. Marvel and DC were light years away from my brilliance! Only I was smart enough to figure out how to get into the school system! Me and me alone!!!!!
Or…Marvel and DC were simply not interested in the market to approach it the way I did which was as a curriculum.
I covered all of this in detail in Part 1. Now comes the Nitti Gritty as to exactly how I was able to pull this off.
The idea of comics’ as a learning tool and comics in the school is not a new idea and certainly not just my idea. I realized that idea was a good one but it was a huge one.
So I fine-tuned the idea to a smaller more manageable and focused idea. Comics in the schools as a reading program. A curriculum based program complete with lesson plans and teacher guides.
From my research I realized that most states have different guidelines for their schools. No matter how smart, well done and even needed my reading program was, it would not ever be seen in a state unless it adheres to that states guidelines.
So how did I get around that? Did I do a program for all 50 states?
I created two different programs, one for California using their guidelines and one for Texas using their guidelines.
Why California and Texas? Why not my beloved New York and some other state I don’t hate like I hate both California and Texas?
Because there are no bigger players in the textbook market than California and Texas, where they go, goes the nation. Seriously, I can’t stand Texas and have no love for California but this as they say is business.
Did I care about the other 48 states and Puerto Rico?
Nope. Not for this deal. Sometimes less is more.
Now I had the program and knew the audience and had created The Action File Universe so now the question was how to get paid. Not how to get the comics into the classrooms.
I’ll say it again; the question after all this work was how I would get paid for this idea. Why was I not thinking about how to get the comics in the classroom?
Because that’s not what I do.
That’s so important. Many people try and be a jack-of-all-trades but end up being masters of none. I’m an idea guy. After the idea I’m like a deer in the headlights.
I don’t know nor do I want to know how the guy I hired to fix my car fixed it. Why? Because knowing how he did something does not mean I’ll be able to do it. So why waste my time trying? Hell, I know how and why my dentist drills my teeth but I’m not buying a drill so I can do it.
I don’t have millions of dollars (not anymore, here’s some advice kids, just say no) to pay for the creation, printing and distribution into the schools nor did I have the juice (influence) to get into the very exclusive education market.
I’ve got the juice now, trust me, I’m a doctor.
Remember. I’m an idea guy. The above is not what I do, even if I had that kind of bank.
I needed a partner. I needed a partner who would not only get it; they would also pay for it.
So, I took another month and wrote a detailed business plan. When that was done, I picked up the phone and called one of the biggest publishers in the world.
I was going to finish up the how and whys of the Action File school system deal this week and begin The Guardian Line Christian publishing deal. I’ve decided to take a step back and deal with some important particulars about these deal-making articles. I’ve gotten some feedback in person and by email over the last week that I want to address so I’ll finish those deals next week.
Someone asked me last week to whom did I think I was giving advice?
I replied: “Me.”
I started last week’s article by saying I was not bragging when I say I’ve got a ridiculous résumé and by ridiculous I mean bad ass and by bad ass I mean impressive and by impressive I mean yada, yada and yada. I stated that so it was clear up front that I am writing from a position of one who has done what I’m talking about. I have little to no respect for people who talk a big game but it’s only talk because they have never really been in the game they are talking about. Case in point, sportscasters who have never played the sport professionally but find it easy to second-guess players, managers and coaches on the field.
I’m not bragging when I say I’ve got a ridiculous résumé, and by ridiculous I mean bad ass and by bad ass I mean impressive and by impressive I mean… you know.
Really. I am not bragging. Consider one of my favorite sayings from the great philosopher Yogi Berra, who said “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”
Trust me on this. I won’t bore you with the details but I’m one the best dealmakers in the comics business if I do say so myself.
And… I do say so.
Yeah, yeah. I can hear the haters out there. Who is this guy? Except for Milestone and ComicMix I’ve never heard of him.
But I’m sure a great many of you love movies and have never heard of Michael Ovitz either. I’ll just leave it at that.
When I say “deal” I’m not just talking about getting a comic book done. I’m talking about expanding the medium to as many media platforms as my mind can conceive. Except for the movies (which I’m working on) I’ve done major deals in TV, mainstream publishing, education, the music industry, toys, the Christian market, radio and I’m working on a (get this) musical.
I’ve done very few comic books as a creator. In fact, I’m only done two mini series, a few covers had some work in a few anthologies and at Milestone. Yet I was named one of the most powerful people in comics for two straight years by Hero Illustrated in 1993 and 1994 and back then I had nowhere the résumé I have to day.
Of course after naming me to that list for the second time, Hero Illustrated went out of business. Coincidence?
Probably not, but who am I to say?
You may ask yourself, as I have, “Self, how the heck did he get on that list?”
It’s the art of the deal my friend, the art of the deal.
I’ve put deals major together such as creating a comic book universe as a high interest low level reading program which is now and has been taught in schools as a curriculum and I did that in 1996. It’s called The Action Files; it started at Simon & Shuster then went to Person Learning.
That’s a pretty big accomplishment, but not my biggest. 15 years later it still holds up as a badass deal.
I’ll use that deal as a step by step ‘”how I did it.” I’ll go from idea to how The Action Files came to be distributed in the school system by not one but two powerhouse publishers.
My step by step will be interspersed with asides which will (hopefully) help provide a better and true understanding of the what-and-why mechanics of the deal.
The Action File Deal
It all started with a great idea: comics in the school system.
I’m not the first guy to think of that not by any means. In fact both Marvel and DC have had comics in the schools for one reason or another for decades. Those “educational” comics covered subjects such as drug abuse prevention among various other public service content.
What made my idea different was this: I wanted to create a comic book universe that would be a complete reading program with study and teacher guides that allow for a specific curriculum to be taught.
Many young people go wrong when trying to do something new or groundbreaking they think that a great idea is all you need.
My idea was neither ‘new nor groundbreaking, but my program was both. With that said here are the steps taken that turned my idea into a deal and that deal into a reading program.
Step 1: Does your idea have merit?
In other words, is it a good idea to anyone else but you?
I knew my idea had merit because it just made sense. I knew this on a personal level because the summer I discovered comics I went from a forth grade student with a third grade reading level to a fifth grade student with a ninth grade reading level. I knew this because I had to attend summer school that year to be able to be promoted into the fifth grade. I tested third grade in July and ninth grade in late August.
Why had it not been done before with a major publisher? That was the question I had to think about. That led me to my next question and step:
Step 2: What are the barriers to entry and why has this not been done before?
After thinking and researching this question for a few weeks (another reason people fail: they think a good idea is somehow magically going to go away or be stolen if they don’t move the second they think of it. So they don’t do their due diligence) I decided the reason why there was no comic book reading programs taught as a curriculum is because of the educational climax and prejudices that were associated (at the time) against comic books.
In other words no one wanted to see The Hulk in a textbook.
When I ran this little tidbit by my then girlfriend she responded“That’s silly! Kids love comics!” True, kids love comics and very few kids would frown on reading them in school.
BUT, you are not selling to the kids; you are selling to educators and parents. Get it?
That’s another reason why some fail at this sort of thing. The idea is everything to them. They focus only on the audience that the idea would be great for. Very seldom is the end user the gatekeeper.
How many times have you seen a TV show and it just sucked? When’s the last time you felt gipped because you spent nine bucks on a movie that was just bad?
Have any comics that you wished you could not only get your money back but also find the creative team and beat them with your copy?
I’m sure the vast majority of the readers of this column have experienced some if not all of the above. Here’s the thing: that TV show, movie and comic book all started out as a good idea to somebody. I’ve had much better ideas and so have you than certain things I’ve seen in the movies or on television. Yet somehow the shitty stuff is on TV and my idea is not. That’s because all the people involved figured out and dealt with the barriers to entry. What happened when the movie or TV show was being filmed is not the problem you should be worried about while you are looking to sell your idea.
That’s another reason people fail. They ask for outrageous things the moment someone shows an interest. I have a dear friend who killed a huge animated deal at DreamWorks because he insisted on directing. He never directed anything in his life so guess what happened to his idea?
It went from a DreamWorks movie to just being another idea.
Here’s another thing most people will not tell you: ideas are a dime a dozen, ideas are cheap and there is very little new under the sun.
By no means is anything I wrote or anything I’ve managed to do a magic bullet for a deal closing. I’ve killed a deal or 50 in my career with bad moves and most likely will again. This series of articles hopefully will shed some light on the inner workings of real deals and how they got done.
Think “ABC” when it comes to deal making:
What good is any idea if it just stays an idea?
Next week, I’ll finish up the Action File deal and begin to tell you how I set up a comic book universe and animated film deal for the church market.
Until then if you are interested in deal making, Goggle Michael Ovitz. I’m good but he’s the best that ever was and compared to him I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut.
A cute and sexy squirrel, but still just a squirrel.
That line has nothing to do with this column. I just love starting a piece with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” I mean how cool is that?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
I started to look at comics differently. Up until that moment, comics were just a great vice in my life. Sure, I wanted to work in comics. Sure I loved comics but until that moment, comics to me were a simple, can’t do without, pleasure.
But… One day I was sitting in my study…what? yes, I had a study! That’s where I went to… study. So, one day I was sitting in my study when a bat smashed through my floor to ceiling window. At that moment I knew my path. My path was clear… That freakin’ bat must die!
Have you any idea how much a floor to ceiling window costs? A lot!
The bat was bouncing off my very expensive walls! Hey! When you see this shit in the movies and by this shit I mean people chasing a bat, rat, bird or whatever around their house, it’s all bullshit. In the movies the point is to get rid of the nuisance and provide comedy relief. The reality? It’s about killing the nuisance and avoiding bat blood on the walls of your Manhattan loft. After securing the bat, I started to…
Oh, you want to know what happened to the bat? Look, PeTA would be up my ass if I wrote what happened to that bat. I really don’t need to hear from those people so I’ll just say this, my .38 is missing a bullet and replacing a door is not that hard.
However, none of that is important. What is important is, at the very moment when my bat problem was over I realized that comics were not just a way to spend another lonely night after masturbating.
What? Oh, like you don’t!
At that moment I stuck upon an idea.
The Art Of The Deal.
To put it another way, a step-by-step overview of a comic book deal.
So… starting next week I’m going to share with you in detail the inner working of one of my comic book deals. From idea to printed graphic novel.
I’ll use an existing but not yet finished deal from start to finish so if it goes south you will know why.
So fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a realistic ride.
Once more, I’m Not Michael Davis and I’m getting pretty tired of people thinking I am.
Allow me to explain…
Some years back I received a call from news outlets asking for my response to Tom Cruise’s winning of a lawsuit.
For those of you who may not know this, I’m the last person who gives a darn about what any celebrity does. Unless I know the celebrity personally and I know quite a few, I just don’t care and it’s not worth my time. If it happens to be someone I know I still don’t give a hoot unless it’s wonderful or horrible news.
Wonderful, like Wayne Brady being nominated for an Oscar or horrible like Bill Duke voting for Herman Cain. That sort of thing I would care about because those are friends of mine and I’d like to share in Wayne’s happiness and Bill’s drug intervention.
Do I care what Wayne has to say after being caught by TMZ coming out of Starbucks?
Errr, hell to the no.
People who care about every little thing a Hollywood star does are, in my book, idiots.
“Is Paris writing you a check? Is Britney checking out your blog? If you died of a drug overdose would Kim keep an all night candlelit vigil at your freakin house?”
The above is pretty much my response when people try and bring me into a conversation about some well know person who would not know me if I stalked them.
I say “pretty much” because “freakin” is not the word I would use. I’m really trying to cut down on my swearing.
A guy told me the other day that my swearing while speaking at the Hollywood Black Film Festival was “ghetto.”
And you know what? That bitch was fucking right.
The fact that he was in the audience to see me is ample reason for me to stop being me.
Note to self: Tell Stevie Wonder that being blind thing of his is ‘ghetto.’
Oh-if you ever have a chance to attend The Hollywood Black Film Festival you should go. It’s great. Yes, they let in white people.
But (sorry peter) I digress.
I told the reporter that I was really flattered (and I was) that they wanted my opinion but that I had no opinion on the Tom Cruise lawsuit win and in fact had no idea what the lawsuit was about.
Remember this was a serious news outlet and I was not going to give them my standard “Why the FUC…FREAK should I care? Is Tom Cruise writing me a check? Is he checking out my blog? If I died tonight of a hot threesome with two Asian girls (I say no to drugs), would Tom Cruise hold an all night vigil at my house?”
I was in a hurry so I politely got off the phone and went back to my dates, Katsumi and Asuka.
Not twenty minutes later while deciding between scented or unscented baby oil, my phone rung again and lo and behold it was another news outlet call. Let me be very clear: it was a different news outlet. The first call was from a TV news reporter and the second was a journalist from a serious newspaper. My mother did not raise any fuc…darn idiots so I listened to this guy and realized why I was getting these calls.
It turned out that Tom Cruise had won a $10,000,000 lawsuit against (you guessed it) Michael Davis. Michael Davis claimed he had a videotape of Tom getting busy with another guy. I explained to the guy that I was not that Michael Davis. We both had a good laugh and I hung up the phone.
By the way, all this really happened. All I’ve done is change the names of my dates. O.K… technically, one was my date and the other was her hot friend who came to dinner with us. In the man rulebook that makes them both my dates.
So I share the story with Katsumi and Asuka who both get a big laugh about it and Katsumi (my official date) and Asuka (her hot friend) begin to tease me about being gay and say I have to prove I’m not…
The next day…what?
What happened? Nothing that affects the story so I’ll just move on…
The next day at some goddamn…oh, sorry, some gosh darn unholy hour in the morning I get another call from a different news outlet and I just hang the fuc… fish up.
The asshol…the inconsiderate reporter who I had just hung up on calls me back. I scream into the phone, “I’m Not That Michael Davis” and hang up. He calls back…
Now I’m really pissed.
Yes! But I’m Not That Michael Davis!!!
Sir, this is not going to go away I’d like to give you a chance to tell your side of the story.
I’m not that Michael Davis! I work in comics!
Is that how you want to play it? O.K, I’m a comic book fan. What comics have you done? Tell me that and I’ll leave you alone.
L I G H T B U L B ! I say nothing. I just let the question sit there.
Who’s Stan Lee, Michael?
I say nothing, let another long moment pass and then I say…
You won’t edit me so I look like an utter fool?
No. I’ll paint you in the best possible light.
Tom was here last night. In fact he left his wallet and one of the Polaroid’s.
You have his wallet and a photo? What’s the photo of?
You (slow sing-song voice) know…
Can I come out and talk to you?
I told him sure and set up to meet him at Jerry’s Deli, a popular but not nearly as New York deli as people in L.A. think it is.
I don’t go and about an hour after I was supposed to meet him I get a call asking how much later would I be, I told him I’d be right there. I never showed up and he never called back. I assumed that was the time when his fact checkers discovered I was not that Michael Davis.
Yesterday, I get an email from one of the biggest agencies in Hollywood. I’ve been represented by two of the biggest agencies in Hollywood and every so often some agent at another of the biggest agencies in Hollywood tries to recruit me.
Yeah, it boggles my mind also. Hollywood. What a bunch of morons.
So getting an email from a huge Hollywood agency is not new to me. This email was a dream come true. It was about a movie deal.
I’m written TV. I’ve written books. I’ve written comic books. I’ve written for magazines. I’ve illustrated books, comics, magazines, etc.
I’ve hosted my own syndicated radio show. I’ve designed toys (out in Feb 2012; plug) I’m on the net. I’ve even designed stage sets for big name music artists.
I’m my own “King of all Media” just like my hero, Howard Stern.
I’ve never had a movie deal.
I’ve sold a screenplay but that as they say is that.
Everyone who works in comics wants a movie deal. I don’t care who they are, they want a movie deal.
I really want a movie deal. I want to see my work on the big screen. I don’t care if it’s a huge hit or a dismal failure, either way I’m golden.
If it’s a hit then I have a hit movie. If it’s a dismal failure then Hollywood fuc… fowled up my creation. It’s a win win!
My dream had come to pass! This huge hollywood agency was emailing me to tell me that I was going to direct my movie!!
Wait a sec…what movie? Wait another sec, me direct? A movie? I’ve got as much chance of directing a film as Herman Cain has of becoming black.
Not going to happen.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve directed hundreds of films. In fact Katsumi and Asuka starred in a one called “Two minutes and finished.”
It was a thriller.
So I am a movie director (my medium is video…sometimes hidden video) but as good as I am there is no way anyone is going to let ME direct a big Hollywood movie.
Then it dawned on me. I’m not that Michael Davis. I’d had meetings with the big Hollywood agency from which the email was sent and they must have gotten me mixed up with the Shoot Em Up director.
So, no movie deal for me. ;-(
It was an honest mistake. These things happen. The agent who sent me the email was quite nice when we met and perhaps one day this will be the agency that does do my movie deal which I know is going to happen!
You doubt me? Don’t. The world is littered with many who have doubted what I can do. Like my illustration teacher at Pratt who years ago told me in front of the entire class that as good an artist as I was I’d still never amount to anything because of my personality.
Less than ten years later I reminded him of that little fact when he tried to submit his work to Motown Animation and Filmworks where I just happened to be President and CEO.
I love that story.
Hey Gerry, how you living? I’m good! We should have lunch! I’ll pay. Call me! If you don’t get me at my home in NYC call my home in L.A. Yes, you can call collect!
I tend to hold grudges against people who are dream killers. And no, I’m not working on that. I’m keeping that personality trait.
Just to recap, when it comes to Tom Cruise, gay porn and mega movies deals I’m not Michael Davis. Like I said, these things happen and unless you are a complete idiot and refuse to believe I did not claim I had Tom Cruise on tape having a nude swordfight without any swords I will continue to laugh these things off. Hey, at least for a few seconds I knew how it felt to get a big Hollywood movie deal!
It’s good to laugh!
Now if a huge check shows up from a major movie studio and it’s the director’s fee from the next big budget Michael Davis movie I’m going to laugh at that also, all the way to the fucking bank!
Fuck that guy from The Hollywood Black Film Festival. I am THAT Michael Davis.
Comics made the mainstream news only with some event regular folk could understand and think was worth going into a comic book store for the first time…ever.
Superman is dead.
Superman gets married. Which is the same thing as being dead.
Spider-Man gets married.
Spider-Man becomes Latino and black.
Spider-Man gets divorced (because he became Latino and black).
Archie kisses a black girl.
Archie is booted out of the Tea Party (you know why).
The news that DC is being kicked out of major bookstore chains because of an exclusive deal they made with Amazon is messing with my head.
That’s not the only thing either, I read an article in Wired magazine recently that stated that iPads could both revolutionize and destroy the industry.
Again. My head is being messed with.
I don’t want to see mainstream media talk about comics unless it’s a new comic book movie, Comic Con or Archie uses the ‘N’ word during a argument with his black girl friend.
Yes, I know I’m being naïve. Yes I know that comics are a business and change is inevitable, yada, yada, whatever. I get that.
I long for a return to the good old days when the press would make a big deal out of The Death Of Superman and regular folk would be naive enough to buy dozens of copies because it never occurred to them that Superman would be back.
“It’s a comic book you moron.” I said to about a zillion people who were shocked that Superman was not dead forever so the 50 copies they purchased along with the 50 billion sold would not be so valuable as to put the kids through college.
I remember a “regular folk” about to pay a retailer $40 bucks for two copies of The Death Of Superman at a NY Comic Con when the very same issue was cover priced at a newsstand in the lobby of the Javits Center where the con was being held.
I told the guy about the newsstand price and assured him they still had plenty of copies left. He thanked me like I just handed him a winning lottery ticket. Man, was he happy!
The retailer, not so much.
Yes, mainstream press, give me that kind of comic book news and keep your gloom and doom for what you do best: Lindsey Lohan.
Maybe, just maybe Grell wouldn’t ask me. I mean he had yet to speak one single word to me in the two plus hours I was in his room.
No such luck. After Grell asked everyone in the room he turned to me.
“What did you think?”
All I had to do was lie. Why didn’t I? I didn’t because lying to me is never an option. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I think lying is such a terrible thing, it’s because I have a horrible short-term memory. I’ll never be able to support a lie once I’ve committed to it.
In other words, if I lie about something and the subject ever comes up again I won’t remember what I said originally.
“It’s not like me to sleep with a man on the first date,” said the very beautiful woman.
“It’s not a first date if I’ve known you forever.” I said with my best Billy Dee Williams voice.
“We just met yesterday.”
“But in my dreams I’m known and loved you forever.”
“You…you love me?”
The next morning I said goodbye and said I would call later that day so we can have dinner and talk about our new life together.
Two weeks later…
“Why haven’t you called me??”
“Who is this?”
Now, here I was faced with lying to Mike Grell a man whose work I loved. I thought long and hard about simply saying I liked the movie. I mean what did I have to lose? I’d most likely never see him again. He was not nice to me at all when we first met and the show did suck.
Then I thought about what Denys Cowan told me about Grell when I told him I was invited to watch Sable in Grell’s room. “Mike Grell hunts.”
“Really? What does he hunt?” I asked wanting to know every thing about the idol I was about to meet.
“It’s not what he hunts.” Denys said. “It’s what he hunts with.”
“Grell hunts with a bow and arrow.”
I didn’t (still don’t) know a lot about hunting but I instantly recognized just how bad ass you have to be to hunt with a bow and arrow.
So now I’m scared as shit to lie to Grell.
What would happen if I said I loved the show and then someone asked me the same question later and I told them the truth and Grell found out, hunted me down, choked the life out of me and then shot me with an arrow?
Hey, stranger things have happened to me.
I decided not to lie. He asked again, “What did you think?”
“I like the comic book better.”
Yeah, sometimes I’m a fucking genius.
“So do I.” Said the man who would soon become my close friend, he added, “Let’s get something to eat.”
So, there I was at dinner with Mike Grell (sitting right next to him) John Ostrander, Kim Yale, Denys (who finally showed up) and tons of other comic professionals that I was totally jazzed to meet.
I was in Heaven. During dinner, Mike and I talked and after finding out I was an artist he asked to see my portfolio.
The next day changed my professional life.
I showed Carol Kalish my portfolio and she gave me a cover assignment for Marvel’s Open Space anthology. I then met with Mike Grell and after showing him my work he made a call to Mark Nevelow. Mark was the brand new editor of Piranha Press, DC Comics new mature reader imprint.
I’ve always been smart when it comes to seeing and seizing opportunities. That doesn’t mean I have not blown some opportunities. Just because I have a knack for spotting them and acting does not exempt me from screwing something up. Been there done that…often. Not this time.
I was to spend another two weeks in Ohio hanging with Denys at a friend of his house. I cut my trip short so I could get back to New York to work on the Open Space cover and meet with Mark Nevelow. I met with Mark and was commissioned to do Piranha’s first project, ETC.
I mentioned in part one of this series that I was about to accept a position running the Art Department of a prestigious prep school. When Mark gave me ETC I changed my mind. It wasn’t just the project that changed my mind, it was the people I met at that Mid-Ohio Convention and my unchanged love of comics I’ve had since I was a kid. The people I met were so wonderful to me that I decided to take a leap towards the dream I was right about to simply let go.
Denys Cowan invited me to The Mid-Ohio con. I met Carol Kalish who gave me a cover assignment and became a great friend and adviser. I met John Ostrander who invited me to meet Mike Grell. Kim Yale kept me from fleeing Grell’s room. Mike Grell called Mark Nevelow on my behalf. Mark Nevelow gave me the ETC series.
I decided to stay in New York and work in comics.
The people above are whom you can blame for me working in comics.
I wrote this with young artists and writers in mind.
Most of you have no idea what I’ve done in comics because I don’t illustrate many comics. The fact is I’m known mostly as a deal maker in the industry. You may not know me but I’m quite sure you know some of the creators that have come out of my mentor program or some of the work I’ve done in TV or The Black Panel.
Or maybe not.
Here’s what you should know if you really want to have a career in comics.
Talent is great.
Desire is wonderful.
Having a dream and sticking to it, priceless.
None of the above will matter if you don’t try and build relationships with good people. I’ve said it a zillion times, I know good people. I’ve pulled off some unbelievable shit in my career but without good people in my life it most likely would have still been shit but that’s about all.
Myr. Grell, Mr. Ostrander and Mr. Nevelow my sincere thanks to you kind sirs.
Ms. Yale and Ms. Kalish, you will never be forgotten and my thanks to you as well.
To every young creator, I leave you with this:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”
Please take a look at last week’s installment before continuing on…
As I said, I’ve had a very interesting career in comics.
Denys Cowan and I were biding time until the premier of Mike Grell’s Jon Sable series on television. I’d been invited to watch it in Mike Grell’s hotel room and I invited Denys.
We were wandering around the 1987 Mid Ohio Con and I was on Cloud 9 thanks to John Ostrander, who issued the invite. While Denys was looking at comics at a retailer booth I moseyed over to a creator’s booth. As I mentioned before I talk to everyone and the thought of looking at someone’s work while they stand there and watch me look at their work is just crazy to me.
So, being me, I started asking questions about the copies of what looked like a quickly Xeroxed and even more quickly stapled comic book. One of my pet peeves is presentation. I don’t care how good an artist you are if the presentation of your work sucks I simply don’t want to look at it.
Hey, I don’t care how good a chef is in the kitchen or how good the food is, if I see a roach I’m not eating in the restaurant. I mean who the Hell wants a haircut from a barber who’s own hair is a mess?
Not me my friend, not me.
The book I was gazing at looked homemade – but – the two guys behind the table were cool as shit and the comic was the most original thing I had ever seen in comics before.
The artist and writer I was talking too were Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird and the book was Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles.