Come In Alone: Issue #39

Fri, August 25th, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Warren Ellis, Columnist

Two late entries to last week's "Why comics?" that were too good not to print. Consider this to be edition #38a.

Next week will either be a major interview or the reaction to REINVENTING COMICS that I've been pacing around for weeks.

Greg Horn

[Judge]

Why comics? This is a question I have asked myself many times. I've been working in the comics industry for 12 years now and it has been pretty rough on me. It was 1988 when I first started working in the funny books. At AC comics, I earned a paltry sum of $25 a page illustrating Femforce. Then, I started climbing the ladder, working at Dagger for $50 a page. Then I finally got a "real" comics job at Malibu Comics. I thought I was going places until they were bought up and I had nowhere to go at all. Fairly depressing... But, After a few years of searching I finally joined Jim Hudnall at his own company called Halloween. It felt like I was starting all over again as we did the black and white ESPERS on spec. The book was well received and a few years after that we were picked up by Image, but still in black and white. The book really did well at Image, but forces beyond my control caused the cancellation of this series. So then, I had to start all over again--I was looking for work--showing my art to editors and such, but nobody was paying attention to a black and white book, so I usually got turned down in the end. All throughout this time I had job offers from "respectable" employers. I had chances to join ad agencies and an offer to paint private jets, but I had turned them down always to pursue my dream. And some sleepless regretful nights I would ask myself the question you have posed...."Why Comics?"

The state of my comics career really bugged the shit out of me. And when I get annoyed like this I tend to get focused and obsessive-- I decided to go ALL OUT!! FUCK YEAH!! I would create a brand new style of art!!!! I would make it as complicated to create as humanly possible! Something unique and compelling that no editor could flip through and say, "Sorry, you suck moist balls." So, I came up with the idea of JUDGE (http://www.greghornjudge.com) and pitched it to Image. They said, "do it." so, I got started and I was determined to make it a success. I had been in the comics industry 10 years already and I felt like I was going in circles and this time I was going to fly. I spent an entire year painting the three issue mini series with no income, just so the books would be finished at solicitation time and not be late. I called anyone who would listen and got them hyped up about the project and finally it came out in January 2000.

The good: Sales were decent. The bad: These books were difficult to create all by myself and I could only produce 3 a year. The ugly: Consequently, I made enough money to put food on the table and that's about it. Not quite the result I was hoping for. And even though my peers seemed to really appreciate what I had done, It felt like a dreadful failure.....I was having a hard time getting the next chapter approved and by the time my wife and I got to the San Diego convention last month, I was actually looking for work.......again.

While sitting at comicon in my booth, a man representing a prestigious Beverly Hills ad agency came up to my table. He didn't radiate pure evil like every other Beverly Hills/ Hollywood guy I've ever met, so he immediately had my attention. He told me he had come to this convention to find me in particular! They had copies of J.U.D.G.E. back at the agency and the art director (who used to be a comics artist by the way) liked my realistic style saying it had "the unique look" that they wanted and was wondering if I'd be interested in moving out to California and joining their team designing movie posters and their upcoming ads in Maxim magazine. WOW! Well, like I said--nothing was happening in comics for me at the time so I said, "sure". The very next Monday, they called me back and I knew they were serious. The money they were offering was good--twice as much as I've ever made in comics. And I started thinking about the wonderful security of a 9 to 5 job-- not having to worry constantly about where the next paycheck was going to come from if at all. I started thinking about the future and how great this was going to be for experience on my resume. This place was the BIG TIME--right smack dab in the middle of Wilshire Blvd!! We talked about what my job would entail and how they would help me find a place to live and then I started thinking about how I had toiled in the comic business all these 12 years and how that ladder I was climbing seemed to lead to nowhere.

Are you getting this, Warren? I was right there at the edge of that springboard you mentioned--finally ready to jump!! The agency guys said they would call me in a few days and arrange for me to fly out there for a week and see how I liked everything. This was great! I felt valuble and I was ready to go....

But, then IT happened........

The very next day I received a call-- a call that I had been waiting for twelve years to get-- a call I had spent twelve years dreaming of and wishing for. It was MARVEL COMICS on the other end!! This was the company whose books I grew up on and learned to create from--the books I absolutely adored as a child. The editor said she had seen my artwork and was wondering if I'd be interested in painting some covers for Spiderman and the X-men. "Oh, you mean the same Spiderman that Romita Sr. and Gil Kane illustrated?!!! You mean the same X-men that Byrne and Austin illustrated?!!!" They didn't have to ask twice!!

I called up the Beverly Hills agency and told them to pay me twice as much or forget it! They said, "Fuck you." So, I started working on those covers. And then--right in the middle of it all I stopped and said, " HOLY FUCKIN JESUS CHRIST ON THE CROSS!!!! What in the HELL DID I JUST DO!!!?" I just turned down a perfectly good secure job in Beverly Hills for two comic book covers that could lead nowhere... ."GnaaaAAAGH!!!! WHY COMICS?!!!!"

After calming down and pondering this a while I realised I'd rather be in a state of constant doubt and worry doing something I love, than working at a very secure job doing something I really don't care about. These new job offers gave me a renewed hope of a better future in comics, so I screamed at the heavens "MakeMineMarvel!!" and got back to work. I can't put into words how great it was to do those covers, Warren. They were the ones I sent for you to look at.

So, the answer to your question... Why Comics?

Because....... I love them....or maybe I'm just completely insane.

Greg Horn is the writer/artist/creator of the recent miniseries J.U.D.G.E.

Dave Gibbons

[Watchmen]"Why comics?"

They're a childhood infatuation that became a romance and finally a lifelong commitment. I'm nothing if not loyal.

They're so easy to do. A few pennies worth of paper and ink are all you need to get working. Oh, and a good idea. That's the only not-so-easy part. And some talent (optional).

They're direct. From my head to the page to your head. No fancy projection or sound systems needed, or standing in line and putting up with popcorn munchers. You can read them at your own pace, go back to things you've missed or want to look at again, at the flip of a page.

They've made me just famous enough.

They're low rent. No executive producers breathing down your neck. No rewrite because the director wants his girlfriend's role expanded. No backers to convince before you can put the show on. Of course, not much rent money either, but you can't have everything.

They've always had the possibility of being REALLY FUCKING GREAT. And, once in a while, they are.

They're widely despised and ridiculed. Ever since I saw a proto-fascist prefect at my school bear away a pile of comic books to the bonfire, I knew they were the thing for me.

Comics people are my kind of people. Well, by and large. I was that fanboy; I was that guy trying to break in, grateful to draw anything; I was that reliable journeyman, cranking the sausage machine; I won those awards; I closed that convention bar down; I'm becoming that elder statesman and, one day, I may just get that grudging obituary in the COMICS JOURNAL.

Dave Gibbons, comics royalty and on the shortlist for Greatest Living Englishman, is working on something very important and secret. Yes.

I can be contacted by email about this column at warren@comicbookresources.com. My terribly beautiful website, updated last week with a new front-page essay and now containing an online store (carrying most things listed in INSTRUCTIONS) and a 24-hour rolling news service, is http://www.warrenellis.com.

My other column, BAD WORLD, has been moved to OPI8, and can be found at http://www.opi8.com/badworld.shtml

Come In Alone Home | Come In Alone Archives

 
Come In Alone

Send This Article to a Friend

Separate multiple email address with commas.

You must state your name.

You must enter your email address.