So, you're a struggling indie writer doing that self-publishing thing. You get yourself noticed and end up winning a Xeric Award, a grant from the Xeric foundation that assists self-published authors with getting their comics out. You get even more notice and even a bit of critical acclaim as a result. So you're a Xeric Award winning writer doing the Indie comics thing. Your book was well received and got some attention. The next obvious move is to work for Marvel Comics, right?
That's what writer Daniel Way has done. Two years ago Way received a Xeric Grant for his self-published comic "Violent Lifestyle." Since then he hasn't had any other published work, but that all changes this Wednesday when "Tangled Web #16" hits the stands and the spotlight on Way gets a little brighter.
"It's a two-part story called 'Heartbreaker' and it's about just how much of a bad-ass the character Tombstone really is," Daniel Way told CBR News when asked what readers can expect from his first work for Marvel Comics. "I gave him a heart attack (in the middle of robbing a federal bank), put him on blood-thinners (which makes him physically weak) and tossed him into the most unforgiving prison on earth, which is full to the rafters with deadly criminals who all want him dead and know that he's vulnerable. The guards and the warden hate him, too. And who does Tombstone have to protect him? Rocket Racer, Hypno-Hustler and Big Ben...so he's fucking screwed, right?
As for how Way scored the job of writing a two part Marvel comic, well, the story is a unique one.
"It all started a few years back, when I first met [Marvel Editor] Axel Alonso. At the time, he was operating an independent citrus market on one of the busier California freeways. He told me that he was considering going into comics and asked for some advice. I uttered some sage words, purchased a bag oranges, then left him with the words: 'Good luck, asshole...I mean, Axel!' The next time we spoke, he was offering me a job. Small world, huh?"
All joking aside, the inspiration for the story came from Alonso, and Way, without needing much encouragement, ran with it.
"Alonso, had mentioned maybe doing a Tombstone story, and that sounded real fuckin' cool to me. Since 'Tangled Web' is there to explore and expand on the characters in Spider-Man's world, I wanted to do something that showed what this guy's really made of, not his exploits. So I stripped away all the extraneous bullshit and made him fight for his life."
"I'm comfortable writing good stories -- it doesn't matter for whom," said Way. "I'll always do independent projects, but right now I've been given the opportunity to do something else. The way I see it, if you're going to go corporate whoring, Marvel is, at this point in time, the best place to do it.
"And I'm not gonna lie to you: It's fucking great."
For Way, his creative background doesn't have its roots in formal training at a University. Rather he's spent a good part of his life living it and writing from that experience.
"I wish I had a really impressive answer for this one, but the fact is that I spent most of my high school years stoned to the bone and completely fucking bombed out of college because I didn't give a shit and I wanted to get drunk and get laid, instead. Plus, I didn't have time for that shit -- I had to get my ass to work."
Marvel Comics' Marketing Communications Manager Bill Rosemann told CBR News he felt Way was like "the Kid Rock of Comics." We asked Way why Rosemann would describe him in such a manner and he was as perplexed as we were.
"I'm not sure...why don't you ask Rosemann why he's often referred to as 'The Richard Simmons of Comics?'"
While a good deal of time may have transpired between his last published work, "Violent Lifestyle," and this week's "Tangled Web," Way is intent on making sure his name is prominent on the stands again with a new creator-owned title called "Gun Theory."
"'Gun Theory' is about guns. It's about how they change people, and how people change when they hold one. And since it's about guns, it's about killing...since that's the only thing they're good for (cue Lynrd Skynrd).
"The story is told through the eyes of a hired killer named Harvey who has reached the end of his career -- the hard way. The bulk of the story is a flashback chronicling the last few days of his life, his thoughts about his life, and his ambivalence toward what he's chosen to do for a living. It's not a pretty picture. Basically, Harvey is a murderous, callous bastard and he gets what he fucking deserves.
"The reason I wanted to do this story is because I cannot stand fake-ass tough guys. Having a gun does not make you hard. Knowing how to shoot one sure as shit doesn't make you special. And if all you've managed to accomplish in your life is to kill a few people, then you haven't accomplished a fucking thing. Also, I felt obligated to do a story like this, since I work in a medium (and excel at writing the type of story) that glorifies violence without showing the horrible results. I've got a lot of dead friends, so I owed it to them (and myself) to balance the scales.
"I love this book. Both myself and Jon Proctor, the artist on the book, have really poured a lot into this thing. I think it shows. Jon's artwork, especially, has really shaped this book. [Dark Horse Editor] Diana Schutz hooked me up with this guy (I owe that chick a hell of a lot, it seems). Jon is a startling talent -- he bleeds onto the fucking page. As soon as I saw his artwork, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I dug around and found a prose story that I had started writing about six years ago, after a friend of mine had been killed during a robbery. I broke it down into a plot, handed it to Jon, and said go wild. And he did. What came out was 'Gun Theory.' Since I had always done full-script, doing a plot-to-art project was really cool -- makes for a very synergistic working experience. It also gave me a chance to write a different kind of story, one very unlike what I'm doing for Marvel. The only way I could be happier with this book is if we actually got paid for doing it."
The future's still a bit uncertain when this book will see print, but visitors to Comic-Con International: San Diego in just over a week can get their hands on a preview of "Gun Theory."
"I don't know what we're going to do with this book, yet, as far as publishing. We've had some offers from some of the smaller publishers, but we want to look around a bit. If nothing appeals, fuck it, I can always just do it myself. In the meantime, we'll be selling a special preview edition of the book (twelve pages, one dollar) at our booth in the small press area of SDCC this year. The full version (forty-eight pages, don't know how much it'll cost) will be out, one way or another, in a few months."
In "real life" Way makes his home and living in the South Eastern United States as a Chef. When we asked Way to share a little bit about his background, we erroneously charged him with being a Cook. Way was quick to point out the differences between being a Cook and a Chef.
"I'm a chef, dumbass -- not a cook. Here's the 'real menu' for tonight:
"Grilled Filet Mignon stuffed w/ Sundried Tomatoes, Smoked Bacon, Feta Cheese, Fresh Basil and Roasted Garlic, topped with Sweet Roasted Pepper Cream Sauce over Grilled Asparagus Ratatouille...$27
"Soy-Ginger Grilled Yellowfin with Fresh Mango Salsa and Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce over Honey-chipotle Risotto...$24
"Sauteed Black Tiger Shrimp with Shiitake Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs tossed with Penne Pasta in Homemade Sundried Chile Pesto with grated Fontina...$23"
Then of course, there's the age old question you must ask anyone who's worked in the food service industry: Have you ever spit in another man's food?
"Dude, I've done way worse than that."
"Tangeled Web #16," written by Daniel Way with art by Leo ("Queen & Country") Fernandez, hits stands this Wednesday.