Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wild Wild Days Pt 2: November's a Bad Month

In October 1994, I was getting used to being in San Diego and working at WildStorm.

In mid-November, I was almost fired.

It happened like this. One of my jobs was writing letter pages for a bunch of WS titles. About the only ones I *didn't* write in this time were WildCATS and GEN13. That means I wrote the letter page for StormWatch. Issue #17, to be specific, there was a letter professing great affection for a character. It didn't strike me at the time that the nature of this affection might be considered inappropriate for a comic book nominally sold to kids. (Given the content of the book generally, I really wonder what "kids" were reading SW, but I digress.)

The fellow in charge (not my boss Bill or Jim Lee, btw) blew up. He nearly fired me on the spot. Insisting that the film would be late and that it would have to be rushed to LAX after the production guys stripped out the offending letter and ran new film... he decided he didn't trust me enough to take the film to the airport. Needless to say, it left me somewhat terror-stricken of this superior. (Note: we've spoken since and all is great!)

Another incident shows how a rookie editor can screw up with the best of intentions. A couple of weeks earlier, I was given my first script to edit: WetWorks #4. Reading it over, I thought the lines as written were OVER-written... and I proceeded to "edit" them down.

Lest this be lost on any of you, this was a mistake. I should have sent it back to the writer with suggested changes rather than doing it myself. The way I did things antagonized the writer-- but frankly, I don't think I would ever have liked the guy no matter what I did.

The writer (whom I will not name here, largely because I still think the guy's a jerk) got the assignment as writer after Brandon Choi left the book. Brandon supported Whilce by giving him a writing assist-- Whilce had never written a book on his own before, though he'd co-plotted X-Men-- but he left after issue #3. Whilce suggested this other guy, who was hired before I came on board. If I'd had any pull whatsoever, he wouldn't have lasted two issues, but that's neither here nor there.

My rather extreme edits were passed on to Comicraft, who did the lettering. The letterer called and asked who wrote the issue. Feeling pleased with myself, I said the writer had done the dialogue and I'd pruned it into shape. He said it was the best written issue of the book he'd seen. (Sorry, Brandon.)

But it was indeed a mistake. The writer was furious. He came to my office, highly confrontational, and things didn't go very well. He didn't accept my apology and held a grudge the remainder of the time I was editing the book. But my position was relatively secure; Bill had no interest in reassigning WetWorks or Backlash. Perhaps you can figure out why.

WetWorks ran into a snag maybe two issues later when Whilce went back to the Philippines before he finished pencils for the book. To say this caused some distress in the office is a severe understatement. There were four pages to go and Whilce got them in-- but the book shipped very late.

As for Backlash, I had a good working relationship with Brett Booth and Sean Ruffner for quite awhile. Brett was a hard working artist, penciling two pages a day on average (which was miraculous speed for WS). Nowadays Brett is doing the adaptation of Laurell K. Hamilton's Guilty Pleasures.

It was definitely a learning process being a rookie editor at WildStorm. I like to think I was an okay editor, good at some things, not so good at others. Things were okay, once I got past the fear I'd be fired any minute. I was getting freelance work on trading cards-- Ted was now the official "card guy" in the office and assigned a bunch of us the task of writing the copy on the backs of the cards. My first real project was writing about half of the first SPAWN set-- I was a very fast writer and not too bad at condensing Todd McFarlane's work into 50-word chunks.

(Side story: after the first set was in process, I had a call from the switchboard. "Drew, Todd McFarlane's on the phone for you." So I took the call. It was my one and only real interaction with Todd but I found him a nice enough guy. And then... "So Drew, would you read the card backs to me?" "Um... what?" But I did-- for about three hours. I figure he was drawing the book and using my words as atmosphere, but it was far and away the most interesting phone call I ever had at WildStorm... except one.)

In my next post, I'll describe what happened when Jim wanted WildStorm to publish a card game... with me as designer. (Remember I said my game design experience would come into play?) Come back soon for the tale of "WILDSTORMS! The Collectible Trading Card Game!"

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