I had been trying to break into comics since about 2000-2001. I had dreamed of working in comics since 1989, but hadn't really started pursuing it in any concrete way until then. From that time until 2004-2005, I sent in writing submissions to various companies, tried to sharpen my drawing skills, and began lettering comics. I also worked as an editor for a few small press companies, all at which I was developing projects of my own as well. I'll save all the details of those experiences for a later date, though.
In 2005, I was looking for an outlet. One company I had worked for fell apart at the seams, but through it I found this little comic news site called Comic Avalanche (don't bother looking it up, it is no longer there). I knew a couple of people who were writing columns there, and I figured I'd give that a shot. I had never written a column before, but how hard could it be, right? I mean, I was a writer, or at least I considered myself one. And I had edited comic scripts. I was also pretty good at writing papers in college, so why not?
(only snapshot I could find of the site - most of the images are broken. This is the design I did, though)
So I approached the guy who ran Comic Avalanche, Bryan, about writing for the site. I pitched an idea, which he immediately shot down. In fact, I think I pitched two or three ideas before he liked one. And I'm glad he did, because the idea I finally sold him on opened a whole new world for me.
The column was called "Indy-Pendant." It was a bad play on words I came up with that still haunts me to this day. The idea was to fuse the words "Indie" and "Pendant" together, hinting at the word "Independent." Meaning that indie titles were precious gems. Of course, the spelling "Indy" isn't really correct, and overall, it just looks and sounds a bit hokey. But oh well, it worked. The premise of the column was a spotlight on indie comics. I had mainly read Marvel since I first started reading comics, but had branched out to Image, Crossgen and DC. I had started hearing all these great things about these smaller companies and independent publishers, though, and thought it might be cool to give them a place to shine in the press. So I did.
For months, every single week I would spotlight a different indie title or company. I discovered a LOT of great talent and great comics through that column. I even eventually brought the column back to Comic Related for a time.
That column also opened up other doors for me, though. As I was posting to the site, I noticed the site didn't look all that great. In Bryan's defense, he was no web designer, but he did the best he could. This was also before Wordpress exploded, and his site was HTML, meaning you had to change every single page of the site manually when you updated links or whatever. I had dabbled in web design having designed a few of my own sites, and some others. So I took it upon myself to redesign his entire site. After all, if my work was going to be there, I wanted it to be presented in the best possible way. And since he didn't mind (he was thrilled, actually), I jumped into action.
Looking back on the design I did, it wasn't great either. But it was better than the previous version. Eventually, I even had my friend Scott D.M. Simmons design a mascot for the site: A superhero snowman. Scott also did headshots of all the contributors and an incredible montage of us all together.
(Staff montage by Scott D.M. Simmons)
As time went on, I would suggest things to Bryan for the site. One thing led to another, and somehow I became somewhat of an editor for the site. I was in charge of some of the content, and eventually I managed all the other writers on the site as well. I approved or disapproved columns, initiated other features, and wrote quite a bit myself. Reviews, my column, articles, you name it.
This was my first foray into comic press. The column opened me up to a whole other world of comics and comic creators. I established a lot of relationships through that column, and some of those people have kept in touch. One or two even landed me lettering jobs years later. It is an experience I cherish to this day, because without it, I may never have gotten to where I'm at now.
Working the site's content and with the other writers also taught me a lot. I got a crash course in not only managing writers and content contributors, but also dealing with the ugly side of that. When you are dealing with so many people, sometimes there will be disagreements, and things can get heated. I like to think overall I kept a level head and did my best to diffuse those situations, but there were times I look back and realize that I learned how NOT to react and behave. Good lessons learned.
Thankfully, I don't deal with any of that these days. I've been fortunate enough to fall into a few great communities of people that all work together to build each other up, like here on Comic Frontline. But that wasn't always the case. Still, I look back on my time with Comic Avalanche fondly and appreciate the experience and knowledge I gained working on the site. Without it, I may have never landed the job that pretty much changed my life.
Next time: Silver Bullet Comics
(Posts from my Blog on Comic Avalanche and various other things)