When I was a young man--in my 20s--and establishing my professional and semi-professional credentials as a writer of short stories, I decided to try to break into the comic book business.
This seemed almost too easy for me. First of all, I had grown up reading comic books. My parents owned used bookstores and soon after opening his first one, my dad found that he had accumulated around a quarter of a million old comics. So in short order I had at my disposal just about every comic book published between 1955 and 1967. And I loved comics. I genuinely adored the format and it appealed to me on just about every level. So in just purely terms of immersion, I was already about as learned as a youth could be about comics.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I was becoming enough of a professional writer that I could call myself that according to the bylaws of the Horror Writers Association. I'd sold enough short fiction at the level of five cents per word (or higher) to become a full, voting member of that then-new organization.
So...comics. Why not? I'd been surrounded by them as a kid, and I was still surrounded by them because I owned several comic book shops at that time. All I had to do was learn how to write a comic book script and research the markets and I was pretty sure that I could break in as a pro.
At that time the comic book market was changing, but had not undergone the throes of death and re-birth that the industry would later suffer. It seemed a solid bedrock kind of market and I was ready to try my hand at it. What I initially wanted to see was an actual comic book script so that I could know how to proceed.
And I finally got my hands on one. But not just any one. It was a partial script for a SWAMP THING issue by Alan Moore. Holy crap! That thing was dense! Moore used hundreds of words of script to describe a single panel! It was as if he was leaving almost nothing to the artists! Was this the way they were all done? Not only didn't I think I could produce a script like that, I didn't want to create that kind of script!
Over the course of the next few weeks I got my hands on other scripts by other professional comic book writers. And every one was different. No two of them was the same. One script that was given to me was written by J.M. DeMatteis (but Mr. DeMatteis says he never wrote in that style...so the artist must have mentioned the wrong name!). In that one (and I don't know how some of his other scripts looked) he used two words to describe five pages of action. The words? 'Everybody fights'. In that one, he was leaving almost everything up to the artist! (The artist on that script explained to me that the writer was using something called the Marvel Method, and he would go in and dialog everything once the story was basically told by the artist.) Man! I could do that!
But soon after that I sold another one and had written enough experimental script pages that I felt ready to tackle the job. I was pleased with the result and felt more confident about the format of scripting. Like every other writer out there, I was pretty much making up my own rules for scripting and making a go of it. It worked, and that's what mattered most. It certainly didn't look like one of Alan Moore's epic scripts, but it did the job.
After a few sales to TABOO and other smaller press publications (Fantaco and New Comics were two of
the publishers I'd sold to), Steve dropped my name to editor Dan Chichester at Marvel.
Feeling confident in my script-writing ability at that point, I got to to work and turned in the three scripts. Dan liked them, Marvel cut the checks, and I soon had the biggest payday of my fledgling career. I was making $50 a page for scripts. That was acceptable to me and I felt that, with my toe in the door, I could produce some pitches for some superhero books. Because that's where I really wanted to be. Writing Hellraiser yarns was cool...
But what I really wanted to do was write comics about Ben Grimm.