One of the most interesting parts of working in the comics biz is not just writing and editing funnybooks, but collaborating with and getting to know some of the top talent in the industry, including people you admired–and even idolized–over long periods of time. There’s also nothing quite like spending time with someone who has influenced you personally or creatively, and then having them tell you that they like your work. In fact, it’s pretty awesome.
Here are some pix of creators I’ve worked with or just gotten to know over the years. A number of them have even become some of my oldest and/or closest friends. Some I’ve just had the good luck to warm my hands on the glow of their talents. Others still don’t know that I’ve been stalking them for quite some time now.
Jim is one of the classiest fellows you could ever hope to work with, and I don’t just mean his dapper dress. A true comics legend in every sense of the word, he remains one of the most down-to-Earth icons of the industry, a humble and magnanimous guy happy to give fans his sincere attention. He’s also sharp as a whip, able to hold conversations on seemingly any subject. It was a genuine thrill to have him work on my Hercules books at Radical.
BOOM! Studios Publisher Ross Richie is one of my oldest friends here on the West Coast, dating back to the days when I was writing for a fledgling Wizard Magazine and Ross was a marketing dude for Malibu Comics–with a waistline, no girlfriend, and… hair. (What kind of hair? Middle-of-his-back, crazy wildman Ramen-noodle hair. The kind of Jheri curl that makes Rick James says, “Gahdayum, motherfucker, those are some Jheri curls.”) Since then, Ross has lost the afro and gained the hand in marriage of the beautiful Johanna Stokes, writer on some of the best books BOOM! has published to date.
Despite that, Ross still enjoys the occasional snuggle of his man-boob, nostaligic for the days of our torrid slacker bromance, which ended tragically when I killed his D&D character–who was a giant man-turtle, and a pirate, and spoke with a Mexican accent from the 1950s. So, yeah: sorry, Jose Miguel Rincon, but you had to go.
While at IDW, I became pals with Ben Templesmith, whose wickedly sarcastic humor could not be more in contrast to his 30 Days of Night partner Steve Niles, one of the most genial and soft-spoken guys you could hope to meet; especially considering he became famous by writing stories about vampires chewing people’s heads off. Steve has an intensely creative mind, which has led him to become one of the most prolific writers in the industry; in fact, the Star Trek: Borg Spotlight I wrote for IDW had originally been Steve’s book, until his professional commitments surrounding the 30 Days of Night film forced him to pull out and me to take it on. Much as I had a blast writing it, I’d still love to see what Steve would have done.
Arthur’s a true superstar of comics, virtually singlehandedly launching an entire industry trend with his sensational Marvel Zombies work, though he’s an accomplished writer as well. In addition, he’s an athlete, scholar, professional rock star, and–if I’m not mistaken–also a secret-agent brain surgeon who test-drives rocket cars. Arthur did covers for my Hercules and Aladdin books, and they’re some of the most atmospheric and provocative images I could have hoped for. A true class-A talent.
Mark and I were both on the same message bulletin board in the early days of the Internet, long before most people had even heard of it, and years before anyone–including us–had any notion of a “World Wide Web”. I remember that one day Mark posted an unexpected message, saying essentially that he thought his new project would be huge, an industry game-changer, and woe betide anyone who doubted his word on it. And, I also remember thinking, “yeah, okay, Mark–you and every other writer on the planet.”
And then Kingdom Come came out, was huge, changed the game, like a bolt of Showcase #4 Speed Force, and woe betide me for having ever doubted him.
I’d later use Kingdom Come to turn my wife on to comics, and I think BOOM! Publisher Ross Richie snapped this picture of us right after Mark spoke on my cell phone to my wife, who gushed quite embarrassingly for several minutes about how awesome his work was. He probably thought she was weird–which she was; but, also, right.
Mugging for the camera with Rick Remender–one of the busiest writers in comics, and deservedly so. Rick’s doing a great series for Radical called Last Days of American Crime, and I had the chance to work on its early stages, including some very cool initial character designs. (Rick also worked on the early drafts of the first-ever Star Trek issue that I edited for IDW, so I was happy to return the favor.) I once called Rick from the office to talk over his series, and he had such an intuitive grasp of character and story that it makes you realize he’s going to be one of the most notable comics writers of his generation.
KIETH R.A. DeCANDIDO
KRAD and I go way, way, WAAAY back, to when we were both nobodies and looking to break into the industry. Of course, now he’s a disturbingly prolific big-shot novelist, while I’m still just nothin’. (I told him I’m now working on a murder mystery; it’s about a writer who gets killed at a comic book convention after sucking up all the best assignments from his fellow starving authors. Keith laughed. Yeah, ha ha ha, motherfucker.) While the Star Trek editor at IDW, however, I did hire Keith to write a Klingon issue for me–a courageous, out-of-the-box decision, to be sure–and he of course rewarded my bold creative intuition by knocking it out of the park. So, OK, maybe I’ll let him live.
What nobody should ever do, though, is let Keith pick the movie when you’re going to the theater on Christmas Day. I mean, Shindler’s List, Keith? Really? “Happy birthday, Jesus! And thank you, Santa, for bringing so many presents! Now let’s go watch a three-hour film about Auschwitz.” Nice.
Monsieur Elliott had the good fortune to serve as my Editor-in-Chief during his time at Radical; an association that reinvigorate his stature in the industry, after having exhausted the cache of his earlier collaborations with such faded luminaries as Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Matt Wagner, Simon Bisley, Mike Mignola, Dave Gibbons, Peter Milligan, Kevin Eastman, Ted McKeever, James O’Barr, Kevin O’Neill, Dave Dorman, Steve Pugh, Michael Zulli, and several dozen other sub-Harris creators. He remains a gentleman, scholar, top mate, and prefers to be introduced at conventions as “Andrew Steven Harris’s editor”.
Steve came up through the ranks of the UK comics industry working alongside the likes of Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Jamie Delano and Ian Edginton before crossing the pond with them during the British invasion of the ’90s. He’s drawn characters ranging from Hellblazer to Superman to Marvel’s mutants, with some Terminator, Judge Dredd and Witchblade mixed in along the way. Also as fine a pub companion as you’re ever likely to find.
I first met Batton many years ago, when I originally moved to San Diego (his wife, Jackie Estrada, is head of the San Diego Comic-Con’s Eisner Awards, the Oscars of the comics industry), having already been a huge fan of his Wolff & Byrd series from the days that we both worked for the folks over at TSR. As fellow former Brooklynites, we’ve both now migrated to the warmer climes of San Diego–and once that happens, my friends, there’s no going back.
David is a top-notch writer and artist who actually got his break into Marvel during a NYC blackout, when Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada lit some candles and read David’s horror masterwork Strange Embrace from cover-to-cover. (I’ve read it straight through as well; it’s hypnotic.) Among nearly countless other books (notably Spawn and various X-titles), David went on to write one of my favorite series of recent years, the scandalously overlooked Silent War, with one of the most powerful final pages in recent memory. (Like all good highwayman writers, I even nicked its structure for the final page of Star Trek: The Last Generation #3.)
David had a Silent War sequel planned, ultimately skitched by continuity changes in other company titles, but one night over dinner he told me it involved destroying the entire Marvel Universe, in a miniseries that I dubbed “Sing Along With Black Bolt”. Was he just joking? Is David’s mind really that epically deranged? Go read Strange Embrace, kiddies, and you tell me.
MICHAEL ALAN NELSON
One of my pals from BOOM! Studios, Michael and I share a special bond as Writers Who Have Three First Names. I’ve also agreed to keep my hair long enough for both our heads, though he has wisely not made use of that and has instead opted for stylish headgear. Michael is far and away Boom’s top go-to writer, virtually singlehandedly establishing its Fall of Cthulhu franchise, as well as masterminding the company’s massive breakout hit Hexed.
Sam works as head of Johnny Depp’s production company, but that doesn’t begin to measure his talent. He wrote Radical’s flagship series Caliber as his first comic book work, and as an editor who has dealt with many screenwriters looking to cross over into comics, I can tell you that it ain’t easy–in fact, many of them crash and burn halfway through their first issue, unable to master the pacing, format and economy of language, which is a far more disciplined art than writing for the screen. Not so with Sam–his very first issue sold out and went to second printings, and the finale of his series delivered one of the best issue-long action sequences I’ve ever read. He’s a stellar guy, too, with two great kids and an incredibly fertile mind, knowledgeable on everything from entertainment to politics and history. Definitely watch for more work from him.
M. ZACHARY SHERMAN
My buddy Zach Sherman is a true pro, one of those rare multitalented creators who could have gone into any one of a half-dozen careers, and instead excelled at all of them. He’s written comics for Marvel, Image, Dark Horse and Radical, spent years at ILM doing visual effects for films like Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, lent his talents to film, TV and video games–and, oh yeah, since he’s also a U.S. Marine, he can probably kill you with two fingers. Amid all of that, he’s also a Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica geek. So, basically, the version of me in an alternate universe where I’m not a lazy slacker who needs both hands free to take a human life.
DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE
Okay, this is actually my wife, the lovely and talented Ms. Jennifer Perez, with her idol and yoga guru, wrestling legend DDP. (Oh, excuse me–it’s not yoga, it’s YRG: “If yoga was a bike, then YRG would be a Harley Davidson motorcycle.”) Dallas will turn you from a lazy slacker who needs both hands to take a human life into a diamond-cut specimen of physical awesomeness. And, if you don’t, he can also kill you with two fingers.
WORLDFEST FILM FESTIVAL
Not really a comics-related pic (not yet, anyway), but two of my screenplays won three awards at the WorldFest Film Festival in Houston, 2007: A Bronze for my SF/Actioner “Mortal Coil”, a Platinum in the teleplay category for my TV pilot “Project Wideawake”, and a Gold for Project Wideawake in the overall category. (No, Wideawake doesn’t have anything to do with the X-Men, and Mortal Coil doesn’t have anything to do with Hamlet; they were just the titles that fit.)
Another screenplay of mine, “The Fallen”, hadn’t been eligible for the competition, being already under option through the British Film Council.