FYI, the Sublime Satisfaction of DIY
I remember when the first comic I ever wrote came out. It was an issue of "Silver Surfer," more than 20 years ago now. I remember going to my local comic shop; that shop is long gone, having moved locations a couple of times, eventually closing as the '90s boom turned to bust.
I went into the shop and plucked my comic off the rack, paging through it with a sense of wonder. What previously had existed only in my mind had been made real, given life by the particular alchemy of words and pictures that makes comics wholly unique.
I bought two copies, one for me and one for my parents, and drove to their house. I hadn't told them I'd started writing comics, so the issue came as a surprise. My mother and father were both happy for me, realizing that I was handing them the fulfillment of a dream. My mother, who also saved every newspaper article I'd ever written as a sports reporter and entertainment editor, dutifully tucked away the issue as a keepsake.
Then there was a next issue, and a next, and a next, until the release of a comic I'd written was much more of a regular occurrence. I eventually got out of the habit of going to the store to buy a new release with my name on it. I just waited for my comp copies to arrive, sometimes not even opening the box for a few days. What had been special became commonplace. Expected.
Technology has created even less impetus to look at a finished book, when a complete electronic copy has been proofed and approved weeks prior. It's not that I embrace my job any less, or forget how fortunate I am to be doing it. But it's almost inevitable to become a little jaded.
This past Monday, though, FedEx delivered a box to my door, and I couldn't wait to open it. I brought the box in from the porch and used a pocket knife from my lap drawer to slice the packing tape. Inside: copies of "The Protectors" #0, the first book from Athleta Comics. I took the top issue off the stack in the box and paged through it.
Atheta Comics is the brainchild of longtime Chicago Bear defensive lineman Israel Idonije, who has been a comics fan most of his life. A few years ago in training camp, "Izzy" had an idea for a comic, and created the concepts and characters that would become "The Protectors." Last year, he brought in me and Bart Sears to help execute his vision.
With work-for-hire jobs, as rewarding as they often are, you can be a cog in a machine. You know going in that you're being hired to play with somebody else's toys. But "The Protectors" has never felt that way for me or for Bart. We were made to feel like creative partners, and Izzy even cut us in for a piece of the pie.
There's an added level of satisfaction when you're doing it yourself, building something from scratch. "The Protectors" #0, which will be available at next week's C2E2, was built by only a handful of people: Izzy, who created the characters and concept; the art team of Bart Sears (pencils), Mark Pennington (inks) and Neeraj Menon (color); letterer Troy Peteri; Phil Smith, who handled production and design; and me. I wrote it, and was as much of an editor as the book had, while Bart was the de facto art director. My wife and Bart's wife chipped in with things like logistics and proofreading and "Hey, which logo color do you like best?"
We put together a 32-page book in essentially the same way somebody puts together mini-comics on a copy machine. We made all the decisions about what we wanted in it, and then made it happen. There's a prequel story that first appeared on the Athleta website, a sneak peak of "The Protectors" #1, bios for all the characters (because I remembered how much I loved Marvel Handbooks as a kid) and more, all wrapped in a cover with the heroes of "The Protectors," or a limited sketch cover featuring Izzy in his trademark #71 jersey. We wrote it, drew it, designed it, proofed it and then sent it off to the printer. The issue that I pulled out of the FedEx box was exactly what we wanted it to be, down to every last line, color and comma.
Izzy had talked a number of times about anticipating the moment when he could finally hold a finished comic in his hands. So when the cases of printed books arrived at the Athleta office in Chicago, I emailed Izzy to see what he thought. This was the reply: "LOVE would be an understatement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lightheaded with excitement... or the constant smelling of the pages flipping under my nose!"
Izzy's delight reminded me of my own, years ago. It reminded me of the inherent magic of creating something from nothing, and how that feeling needs to be rekindled every so often. Holding a copy of "The Protectors" #0, I loved the feel of the cardstock cover in my hand. The smell of the ink and paper was redolent. To me, that's what dreams smell like.
If you happen to be at C2E2 next week, stop by the Athleta Comics booth, #903. I'll be there, Bart will be there, Izzy will be there. Come see us. We'd like to show you what we dreamed up.
The Athleta Comics panel at C2E2 will be 2-3 p.m. Friday, April 26, in Room W474 at McCormick Place.
Israel Idonije, Bart Sears and myself will also be doing a signing for Hero Initiative 2-3 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at C2E2, featuring a Hero-exclusive litho of Idonije by Sears.
And lastly, Izzy has a couple of signings this coming weekend, at which "The Protectors" #0 will be available. From 1:30-3 p.m. Saturday, he'll be at Challengers Comics, 1845 N. Western Ave. in Chicago. And from 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday, he'll be at Third Coast Comics at 6234 B. Broadway in Chicago.
Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it's pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes "Artifacts" and "Ravine" for Top Cow, "The Protectors" for Athleta Comics and his creator-owned title, "Shinku," for Image. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, www.ronmarz.com.