It is a question I am often asked–as I’m guessing every other professional comic book creator is asked–“How’d you break into comics?”
Mine was an unusual route. I am a lifelong comic book fan; started reading them around age 6 or 7. My father ran the meat department in the back of a PDQ store and they had a magazine rack where I spent a good deal of my youth parked in front of. By the second grade I realized that I could draw well. Other kids would often ask me to draw pictures for them, in fact. By the time I was in 7th grade, comic books become something of a full-blown obsession of mine. This was when I discovered John Byrne. He changed the chemical reactions in my brain somehow. Like the first time I heard a Queen song…something just “clicked” in my brain. I had read hundreds of comic by then, seen thousands of panels of amazing artwork by amazing artists, but something about John Byrne’s art changed me. I needed everything he’d ever drawn before and would ever draw again. This was my mission for the following 5-6 years as a collector. He was the one who made me realize that I wanted to become a comic book artist when I grew up!
A quick aside: In the 8th grade I obtained a copy of the “Art of John Byrne” book. This blew my mind! I actually rode my single speed dirt bike (bicycle) ten miles (one way) to a comic book store in Milwaukee to get a copy the day it came out. Years later my mother discovered these excursions and lost her mind! The store was not in the best area in town. Only weeks after purchasing the book a “friend” of mine stole it from my locker. After a month’s long investigation by myself and another friend (poor poor CJ) we accused the thief. He denied it. I then had no choice and brought the theft to the attention of the school principal. Within hours I had the beloved book back; the insidious thief exposed! A fistfight followed a few days later in the school’s Bomb Shelter (yes, we had a bomb shelter) with about one hundred other kids watching. The fight lasted 45 minutes. We were pretty evenly matched. Both exhausted, we called a draw. The thief mysteriously disappeared from our lives shortly after our Freshman year started. Rumors swirled of an attempted robbery where he brandished a fake handgun. No one was very surprised. Decades later I saw the thief on the evening news! He was being sentenced for the sexual assault of a young female. He has spent the last 20 years in prison.
But I digress…
8th grade thru High School I knew what I wanted to be and all other avenues of education seemed fruitless and meaningless to me. All I did was draw and doodle my way through High School. I did, however, also at this point, discover I had a way with words. My high school english teacher also recognized this and I flourished in her class. She often gave me “special assignments” or assigned me books that weren’t assigned to the other students (Lord of the Flies) as she knew they’d draw out the best in me. I had never considered Writing as a profession. And although I enjoyed it, at this point it wasn’t a consideration at all. I just wanted to draw!
MATC> Milwaukee Area Technical College. Downtown Milwaukee, right across the street from the infamous Ambrosia Chocolate Factory where Jeffrey Dahmer worked. Yep, he worked there while I went to school. I attended MATC, got passing grades, but saw this as just an “annoying necessity” I needed to get through on my way to fame and fortune in the comic book industry…!
What a naive little fool I was…
End Part 1.