Up on Thrillbent right now. I have to admit, I really do have mixed feelings about Galahad, and my opinion of him changes from week to week. In some ways, I’m still trying to figure him out; I thought I knew him and what makes him tick, and then he quite literally starts saying things that I couldn’t have predicted sixteen weeks ago. I’ve said this before about story structure–I think it’s important to know where you’re going with your narrative (we do), and it’s critical to have a strong beginning, but at least in my case, the more advance planning I do, the more stale it feels when I get to certain long-planned moments. So I try to avoid those. I liken it to setting out to L.A. from Florida by car, committing to taking US 75 to US 10W and a general time frame, but giving myself full permission to take spontaneous detours if I think they’ll make the trip more exciting or if I’ll learn new things along the way. Anyone who says they have every last little detail of their multi-part epic planned out right to every period and comma is either lying or a crash-test dummy. (Or Jonathan Hickman, sui generis he.)
That’s my unasked-for advice today for young creators: don’t feel locked in by your first ideas. Build flexibility into your narrative, and if at any time it feels like the characters are pulling you in some unexpected direction, FOLLOW THEM. If you don’t like where you end up, you can always backtrack, but NEVER be afraid to turn left instead of right just to see what happens.
Today has a special significance for me because–here’s something you probably don’t know about me–I’m a huge fan of Elvis Aron Presley. Of his music and, at his best, of the man.
I grew up in the Deep South to parents and maternal grandparents who were likewise fans. One of my earliest memories in this world is from the night of December 3, 1968–seated in my grandparents’ living room on Milford Avenue, mesmerized by Elvis’s 1968 Comeback Special. I was six, and I’ll bet you I didn’t take my eyes off that TV screen for one second, from the opening number to the spectacular closer. The man’s charisma was jaw-dropping. The way my mother and grandmother were practically swooning the whole time was not unnoticed. And Milford Avenue was in Tupelo, Mississippi.
And we’re live with this week’s installment. Who IS after Nocturnus and Galahad? Who knows this much about them? How do we get Troy Peteri to letter so much each week for so little money?
It went by and I almost missed it. Twenty-five years ago last Friday, I became a Comics Professional. I could have sworn it was August 10–I distinctly remember that Bob Wayne was hired a week before me–but I just checked the calendar. August 3.
I’d had a couple of stories published in Action Comics, but they weren’t anything to write home about. Mostly, my “professional career” had consisted of a long series of articles in various fanzines like Comics Buyer’s Guide and Amazing Heroes. I’d been the editor of the latter for about an hour and a half in late ’86, which deserves a series of blogposts in and of itself, and by spring of ’87 I was packaging and editing my own magazine, the ill-fated Comicsweek!, an industry news tabloid that was printed at roughly the size of a military parachute but with more hot air. It lasted five issues, the only thing remarkable about it was that it launched the career of industry pundit Sidney Mellon, and it was about as far ahead of its time as a wagon wheel is today…but DC Publisher Jenette Kahn noticed it when she was hiring for a new “indy-feel” imprint to be called Piranha Press, and while I didn’t get that job when I was interviewed, I apparently made a decent enough impression to be offered a regular staff gig as an Associate Editor.
This job, I should stress, at age 25, was all in the world I had ever wanted. Ever. I didn’t dream of being a writer or an artist. I dreamed of being a DC editor. This is true, my hand to God. Joining the ranks of Julius Schwartz and Robert Kanigher and Dick Giordano and others…helping guide the fates of the heroes who’d looked after me as a boy…that, I was convinced, was my calling. So I packed up what few things I had in my L.A. apartment, drove cross-country to New York, lay on a friend’s fold-out couch that Sunday night in sleepless excitement, and set out Monday, August 3 to the DC offices.
I wore my one suit to work that day (for the only time ever). It was raining that morning, but that didn’t make it any cooler outside in August in New York. I had no umbrella. It was a wool suit. And I wasn’t sure how the subways worked and ended up getting out about thirty blocks downtown. By the time I walked into 666 Fifth Avenue, I looked like a bar rag. Nonetheless, Ruthie the receptionist buzzed me in and Dick Giordano showed me to my desk, which I shared with an art director named Julia. Julia told me that the desk and office had belonged to the late Nelson Bridwell, who’d passed on a year earlier, driven to his grave (I’ll swear to the day I die) by John Byrne’s revamp of Superman. Nelson was a genius and the most well-read and well-educated man ever to hold a blue pencil, but because of his various health problems and his general “fanishness,” particularly his unmatched dogmatism regarding DC continuity, he wasn’t terribly well-regarded by his peers. Julia indicated the dark, triangular shadow on the back of the office door under the coathook. “There’s a shadow there because that’s where Nelson hung his coat, which he wore every day regardless of the weather,” she said. “We call it the Shroud of Nelson.”
If you’re wondering what an Associate Editor does–or did in 1987–I’ll list my job duties those first two days. Ready? Here we go:
I erased Green Arrow pages.
Eight hours a day for two days.
Back then–less so now that so many artists work digitally–but back then always, once an inker finished embellishing a pencilled page, the underlying pencils had to be erased so as to leave the cleanest possible ink lines. Normally, that’s part of the inker’s job, or the inker’s assistant. In this particular case, the inker was Dick Giordano–the book was Green Arrow #1, by Mike Grell, Ed Hannigan and Dick–and since Dick was also the Editor In Chief, rank has its privileges and sometimes, whenever Dick inked something, whoever on staff could be spared was the poor schlub who had to endure the thankless task of erasing. As the New Kid–especially since both Mike Gold and Andy Helfer had separately been told that I worked for them and thus it took two days for them to argue out who “owned” me (Helfer), I could definitely be spared.
It was an ignominious start to an editorial career that ended with far more drama than it began–I lasted August 3, 1987 to Christmas Eve, 1989–and while it had its ups and downs, I still have more fond memories of that time than of any other point in my career. And regardless of how brief my tenure was, it clearly led to bigger and better things, all of for which I am grateful. I still have gee-whiz moments about what I do for a living, and I still, on occasion, get a flash of unbridled glee about comics now and again even after all this time. But that Monday 25 years ago really was one of the greatest days of my life. Wool suit or no.
What a friend we have in Twitter. Hope you like the pop-up captions technique, because we use it to what I believe is strong effect in this installment. And, yes, most of those @TheRealGalahad followers are real. They’re fans of the series, and this is far from the last time we’ll be incorporating live tweets into the installments, so if you want to be part of the next round (and join the Insufferable universe and be in-continuity and EVERYTHING!), start following @TheRealGalahad and we’ll seek you out.
In the meantime, again, if you’re enjoying the series, spread the word to everyone you can. I expect some major growth to our readership in the coming weeks as we start to roll out some new weekly series, but in the meantime, every recommendation helps. Thank you for your support.