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   Paul D. Storrie
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Makin' It

Obligatory obscure reference for the month: No, this column will have nothing to do with actor David Naughton.  If you don’t get that one, you’re not as big a TV geek as I am.  Or you’re younger.  Probably both.  If you’re not sure what the obscure references were in the previous columns, go read them now.  I’m pretty sure there was at least one in each.
Recently, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about my status in comics.  Specifically, folks who feel that I’ve “made it” now.  That I have finally broken in and become a real, live, honest-to-goodness comic book professional.  After all, I’ve written for DC.  I’ve written for Marvel.  I got to haul my butt down to the bank and cash those nifty checks with the superheroes on ‘em.  Come July, I’ll get to realize one of my dreams -- seeing my name on a Captain America story in print.  Later this summer, I’ve got a 5-issue DC mini-series called Gotham Girls where I get to play in the very cool Animated Series sandbox crafted by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm.  This month marks my Marvel debut with a story for Mutant X.  By what criteria haven’t I hit the comic book big leagues?

Well, that’s the tricky part.  The criteria.

When I was starting out, my criteria were pretty basic.  I just wanted a comic book in print and I didn’t want to pay to publish it.  That, to my mind, would make me a comic book pro. 

Now, some of you may quibble with the “pay to publish part” and I won’t argue that self-publishing isn’t a noble and difficult endeavor.  However, to my thinking back then, there was an added cachet to getting someone else to foot the bill.  Why?  Well, we’ve all seen self-published comics that were far less than professional.  Some barely make the level of amateurish.  The way I saw it, having someone willing to foot the bill to put my work in print meant that I wasn’t deluding myself about its quality.  If someone is going to plunk down the cash to see a story printed, that person must believe in it too.  A lot of people I know still see those as the defining characteristics of being a pro.

In any event, that was my measuring stick.  I hit that mark with my first series, Robyn of Sherwood, from Caliber.  In fact, I was insanely lucky that I got to start out on a series, instead of a single issue or a story in an anthology.  Only as soon as I reached that pinnacle, I realized that it wasn’t all I’d cracked it up to be.

After a very short time, having an obscure, black & white book didn’t feel like being a pro to me.  I doubt anyone questions the obscure part of that equation.  After all, “if a tree falls in the woods” and all that.  A whole lot of people will probably contest the idea that having a book in color is any kind of landmark.  For me, though, it was.  After all, color books dominate the American comic book market.  Ironically, black & white is fine for our daily funnies in the paper, but when it come to comic books, color seems to be a dividing line that denotes ‘real’ comics. 

It ain’t right but it’s true.

Where I hit that particular mark is a bit fuzzy to my mind.  I got a gig doing a color book for Moonstone Books (Robin Hood & the Minstrel) back in 2000.  Thing is, because of some logistical nightmares, bravely fought by editor Joe Gentile, in launching the color line, the book didn’t come out until after I had snagged some work in the proverbial Big Leagues.  Specifically, an inventory story for DC’s Batgirl.  Only that hasn’t seen print. 

Still, I had hit the big time, right?  DC and Marvel, to the American comic book audience, are the top.  Not to take anything away from Dark Horse or Image or any of the other great publishers out there, but DC and Marvel have been the giants for decades.  So, did I “make it” when I did my first story for DC?  It kind of felt like it at the time.  I was pleased and proud and I got plenty of slaps on the back from people who sure seemed to think that getting a DC gig was “it”.  The paycheck sure was nice, I’ll tell you that much.

Like I said, though, the issue didn’t see print and “I wrote something no one ever saw” is kind of dissatisfying.  Fortunately, that Batgirl story led to more work.  My first published story from DC, Batman Beyond #23, came out in July 2001, in glorious color.  Surely that was the final hurdle?  A color book from an industry giant!  What more could I need to feel like a pro?

Well, I stepped back, gave my burgeoning career a close look and decided that working for both of the industry giants would be a pretty good indication I’d arrived.  That and a multi-issue series.  Preferably more than the four issues of Robyn of Sherwood that I’d done. 

The last part came first, when Lone Star Press tagged me to develop and write a 6-issue mini called NIGHT & DAY.  Only it’s taken a long time coming together (for various and sundry valid reasons that I won’t go into here).  That means it hasn’t hit the shelves yet.  I guess I’ve always hung on to that initial idea that something that hadn’t hit the shelves didn’t count.  Yet.

Then, I landed the aforementioned Gotham Girls.  What’s more, it was a proposal I concocted on my own (inspired, of course, by the Batman Animated Series and the cool Gotham Girls webtoons at www.gothamgirls.com) and pitched cold to DC.  That it got picked up was awesome.  That it transformed into a 5-issue mini-series was amazing.  All that added up to a petty big argument for having finally and completely arrived.

What’s more, within a short time, I was talking seriously with editors over at Marvel.  Before long, I had two projects lined up.  2002 seemed like the year guaranteed to satisfy, once and for all, every criterion I could possibly have for really feeling like a comic book pro.  Certainly a lot of friends, relatives and fans are telling me I’ve arrived.  In particular, people who are starting their own climb up the ladder seem to feel I’ve reached the top.  They’re kind of puzzled when I don’t quite share their enthusiastic view of my current perch.

Not that I don’t appreciate everything that’s come my way.  It’s great to have something you’ve worked for come to fruition.  What’s more, I’ve been fortunate and I know it.  Getting where I am requires almost as much luck as it does perseverance. 

Still, I haven’t landed that monthly gig yet, the standard of the American comics industry.  I haven’t hit a point where I’m able to completely support myself on my writing work either.  Two more important benchmarks, to be sure.

All of which leads me to a couple of conclusions.  One, as you climb the ladder, your goals are going to keep changing.  It’s all a matter of perspective I guess.  Two, and this ties in to one, ‘makin’ it” in comics, as in life, isn’t so much a destination as it is a path.  You don’t really arrive; you just keep walking and take your satisfaction from the trip.


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