SECRET ORIGINS OF ARCHENEMIES - 2
  By Drew Melbourne

TWO WEEKS AGO
Part I of this column is up, and it's my best column yet. You've read it, and it was fascinating. You know that I've written a comic called ArchEnemies and that Dark Horse has agreed to publish it. But will potential copyright problems sink the book before it ever hits the stands? You're eager to find out. But first...

24 HOURS AGO I walk up to the counter at Midtown Comics with a pile of new comics in hand. I set them down and flip open my copy of Previews to page 26 and 27. The two page ArchEnemies spread.

"Oh, by the way," I explain casually. "This is my comic."

The guy running the counter glances down, checks the name, and nods subtly.

"Yeah, I'll probably buy that," he mutters.

"No," I correct him. And I repeat, more forcefully:

"This is my comic."

For a moment he just stares at me, confused. And then it sinks in. He mumbles an apology and reaches under the counter to sound the "New Comic Alarm."

The overhead lights flash blue then red then green. Streamers fall down from the rafters. A crowd forms around me, applauding. They chant my name as they lift me up onto their shoulders.

My favorite band pops up from behind the back issue bins and begins to play. The owner of Midtown Comics appears on the scene, and he pledges to order one million copies of each issue. He asks me to do daily signings aboard his comic-themed satellite which hovers hundreds of miles above our heads in geo-synchronous orbit.

I humbly accept.

The sculptors are midway through carving out my head next to Lincoln and Washington's on Mount Rushmore, when the guy behind the counter wakes me from my reverie.

"Cash or charge?"

Crappity crap crap.

FEBRUARY 28, 2004
An "artist wanted" ad goes up at a number of websites, including Digital Webbing and the Millarworld creative forums. It reads:

    WANTED: (NYC?) Artist for Image Submission / $600 Upfront

    I'm a writer putting together a submission to Image Comics. I need a professional-caliber artist (pencils and inks) who can (1) draw the first 5 pages (plus cover) for the submission, and (2) commit to drawing at least the first three issues, IF the series gets picked up.

    (The series is intended as an ongoing. I would love to find a long term collaborator, but a three issue commitment is fine at this stage.)

    In exchange, you'll get $600 upfront for those 6 pages of work, plus an approximate 50% share of any profit off the title (after production costs are taken out) assuming it goes to series. You'll also retain rights to the original art.

    So that's the deal. But what's the project?

    The main characters are costumed super-types, but the series mostly focuses on their secret identities. Tone wise, think a slightly funnier Astro City, with a high-concept twist.

    I'm looking for an artist with a realistic style who can handle subtle emotions and detailed, real world environments, but who can also cut loose for the occasional super-heroics.

    A word of warning: There is some (non-explicit) sexual content of the sort you might see on network television. (Mostly just dialogue.)

    If you live in New York City, that's a definite plus. (The book is set in NYC, and I live here). But ultimately, I'm just looking for the best artist.

    If you're interested, please send 3+ pages of SEQUENTIAL art samples to [Drew's Email Address]. I can also provide additional details about the project, including the a script sample, on request.

    A few words about me: My name's Drew Melbourne. I'm a freelance writer and stand-up comedian. And while I don't have any published comics work yet, I AM insanely smart, talented, professional, good-natured, and humble. Very, very humble.

Hmm. "Tone wise, think a slightly funnier Astro City, with..."

Oh, right. Before I forget...

TWO WEEKS AGO
Kurt Busiek didn't sue me. In fact, he read the last column, and he thought it was pretty funny.

Which is, like, the opposite of suing me.

Now where was I?

FEBRUARY 28, 2004 (AGAIN)
I've been out of work for two months, and now I'm putting up money I don't have to pitch for a comic that may very well never see print. And $600 isn't a lot of money for a professional artist, though it's good money for anyone who's struggling to break in.

A few hours after I post the first notice, the samples start flooding in. Over a hundred of them. Mostly terrible. A few, kind of pornographic.

Why am I putting up "not quite enough money" in the first place? Because the money means I'm committed to the project. Add one killer concept. Add one well executed script. Add a professional demeanor. Stir.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd...

You might hook a serious artist or two.

NOW
I would just like to apologize to my readers and, indeed, to the very concept of metaphors for suggesting that I might "hook" an artist by stirring together a set of ingredients. p>But if anyone asks, the artists are all at the bottom of a cliff, and I'm up top on the edge, slowly lowering a big pot of "writer stew" bait down to them using one extra heavy duty fishing rod.

Yes. Writer stew bait. Don't dwell.

EARLY MARCH 2004
Of the hundred or so artists that I hear from, a small handful show real promise, and within a few days, I've narrowed the list of hopefuls down to two. Then I hear from Yvel Guichet. Yvel's done work on JLA and, most recently, the new AQUAMAN series. He admits that the amount of money I'm offering is well below his usual asking price, but he really likes my writer stew. He might not have used those exact words.

Yvel's got the skills, and he's got the experience, so...

MARCH 11, 2004
I email Yvel to tell him that he's got the job!

FIVE MINUTES LATER
Yvel emails me back to tell me he'll need an inker!

FIVE MINUTES LATER
Crap.

FIVE MINUTES LATER
Yvel explains that he's willing to give up a certain percentage of his pay if it helps us to secure a talented inker. I type up the following ad and post it across the net:

    PROFESSIONAL INKER needed for an Image Comics submission. 5 pages + cover, plus a commitment to do 3 issues minimum IF the book is picked up. Some cash upfront, plus a percentage of profits. The penciler's previous credits include JLA and other DC comics. The series features supers, but focuses on their secret identities. Some humor. Some angst. If you're interested, send links or JPEGs of SEQUENTIAL ART ONLY (3+ pages) to the writer, Drew Melbourne. Please include any page rate requirements with your initial email.

FORTY EMAILS LATER
I receive a brief email from someone claiming to be veteran inker Joe Rubinstein. He says he might be interested in the project, but he wants to know who the artist is.

I email him back and tell him that Yvel is the artist. He responds that he's been wanting to work with Yvel, and he's interested in doing the project.

Holy crap! This really IS Joe Rubinstein.

For those who don't know, here's a complete list of every major comic book series that Joe has ever worked on:

COMPLETE LIST:

  1. all of them
  2. except Cerebus
My apologies to Joe if I've left something off the list.

LATER THAT YEAR
I recruit Jim "Kep!" Keplinger and Rick Hiltbrunner to letter and color the pitch. Jim and Rick both have experience working on Image books. Jim letters Small Gods. Rick's coloring Armor X.

I am, by far, the least experienced creator on the team, even if you divide Joe up into twenty different inkers. And that suits me just fine.

(The "being the least experienced creator" part. I'm less cool with dividing Joe up into twenty different inkers.)

When it comes time to write a cover letter for the pitch, I use my Top Cow contest win as my credit. As I'm writing the letter, I genuinely believe that Heroes of Tomorrow will come out in 2005.

Ah, youth!

The pitch goes out to Image in early September. I figure that if it gets knocked down I can check out smaller publishers like Alias and Speakeasy. Meanwhile, having exhausted my unemployment and my savings and my roommates' goodwill, I take a job teaching in the New York public school system.

For the next several months, I have very little time to think about ArchEnemies.

CHRISTMAS BREAK 2004
Haven't heard back from Image, so I resubmit the pitch.

MARCH 2005
Since I haven't heard back from Image yet, I decide to put the pitch online and contact them directly through email. I know that I'm breaking protocol, so I set my prose style to "extra polite."

The folks at Image respond that they're considering the book, but that they haven't made a firm decision yet. When I ask for a few more details, I know I'm verging on pushy, so I set my prose style to "extra extra polite."

A few weeks go by, and I don't hear back.

MARCH 31, 2005
Joe Rubinstein contacts me. He has a friend who has a friend who works on the HBO show Entourage, and THEY NEED MY HELP!!!

Joe doesn't know it yet, and I don't know it, and the folks at HBO sure don't know it, but because of the TV show Entourage, I'm about to sign a contract with Dark Horse Comics.

TWO WEEKS FROM NOW
What vital roll did Entourage play in bringing ArchEnemies to Dark Horse? What's it like to take a comic from pitch to publication? And will I ever trigger that dang-blasted "New Comic Alarm"???

Two weeks from now, you will know all.

 

Drew Melbourne is a freelance writer living in NYC. When ArchEnemies #1 comes out on April 5th, it will be his first published comic book story. Maybe THAT's when his favorite band will jump out from behind the long boxes. Yeah. That'll be cool. For more on Drew, read DrewMelbourne.com.

 
 
[ TOP | STORY | LATEST | CREATORS | BUY AE | DH | EMAIL ]
 
The DARK HORSE name and logo are © and ™ Dark Horse Comics. ARCHENEMIES, the ARCHENEMIES logo, and all other site contents are © and ™ Drew Melbourne. All rights reserved.