Twenty-three installments of Ambidextrous and no one has demanded an end to this circus yet.
The road leading to my very own internet column has remained shrouded in convolution and apathy for too long, and in the spirit of the New Year quickly approaching…the veil shall now be lifted. Prepare to be enlightened as a sequence of seemingly random events ushers into existence the weekly deliverance of two-fisted justice, and brings me increasingly closer to my ultimate goal…breaking into the comic industry.
Welcome to the birth of Ambidextrous and learn just how much the game has changed.
This time last year, I was engaging in the common practice of adopting a set of New Year’s resolutions, aspects of life personal and professional that I’d like to devote greater attention to in the realm of 2001. Among the typical promises to exercise more and admit that credit cards should not be used to increase one’s income, I decided that in order to grow as a writer, I had to do more of it, and conversely, that my attempts at breaking into the highly guarded installation known as the comic industry should increase.
Now, living in the Midwest United States should serve to disconnect one from the comic hub that is New York City…shouldn’t it? Wrong. You know why? The advent of this beautiful invention known as the internet and its electronic mail companion evens the playing field . E-mail can connect a young writer to his reviews editor in England, and to his editor-in-chief in New Zealand. To any hopeful, the internet must become your secret weapon, your trusted companion, your ace in the hole, and the instrument through which your plans for world domination can be administered.
Any aspiring creator knows, especially from a writers’ standpoint, that the most difficult part of this complicated ordeal is actually getting an editor to take time out of his or her busy schedule, and they are quite busy, to devote to the review of material from someone who isn’t currently on their radar. Books are shipping and in various stages of production, time is money, and to be brutally honest…the next hopeful is literally in the way. I believed that name recognition would better my chances.
I began writing fan letters to the editors of my favorite titles, and this resulted in the name of Brandon Thomas appearing in the backs of titles such as Uncanny X-Men, Spider-Man, Spider-Girl, Bishop, Gambit, Action Comics, Batgirl, Robin, Savage Dragon, Black Panther and Batman among others. I had actually gotten into such a rhythm over several months that my weekly stash of books usually contained at least one fan letter I’d written, in an attempt at being insightful and exceptionally clever, sometimes both simultaneously.
The payoff for my diligence arrived in my e-mail address sometime in May, due to my decision to allow Marvel, DC, and the like to print my own personal Netscape address alongside my brief commentaries. Someone took my information from an unidentified letters column, and I received an invitation to join the Yahoo Super Hero News group, which is a complicated clipping service which relays to me press releases and various communiqués from around the world of comics.
I accidentally subscribed to the news group. Seriously.
At the conclusion of May, Silver Bullet Comics was orchestrating a blow-out feature for Memorial Day that included several interviews with a variety of comic creators who were also war veterans. Yahoo sent me the press release for the event, which included the e-mail address of SBC’s editor-in-chief Jason Brice. A couple years ago I did a series of online reviews for a website called Atomic Comics, but their infrequency at performing site updates, and the fact that my editor vanished off the face of the Earth precluded a lengthy stay. With my name appearing regularly in the rear of my monthly reads, I wanted to get back into the online reviewing game. Something that would keep my name in some manner of circulation, while allowing me to spread my writing wings in slightly different directions.
And here I was with the e-mail address for the EIC of one of my favorite comic sites at my disposal. I contacted him, making sure that my message contained zero typos and asked him if SBC needed any more staff reviewers, which led to my referral to reviews editor Craig Lemon. They responded favorably and had me prepare two sample reviews that went live June 1st. They were for Action Comics #775 and Uncanny X-Men #394 I believe. Craig thought I possessed some manner of talent, arranged for my subscription to the SBC staff mailing list and worked me into the rotation with fellow Bulleteers.
He gradually increased the number of books I reviewed on a weekly basis and I always maintained reliable deadlines, which led to the internal insistence that I take things to the next level. I developed a framework that would allow me to merge commentary, interviews, and abandoned submissions into a unified whole known as Ambidextrous and pitched the idea to my editors.
They said no.
But they did allow me to audition for a possible starring role within the Silver Soapbox, a spot reserved for rotating columnists, and challenged me to be both punctual and interesting. Sadly this left little time to becoming a professional letterhack, and writing to editors fell to the wayside. An occasional online correspondence was sparked with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada in its place however, and if I sent Joe a link to Ambi., he’d usually find a few minutes to take a look and drop a few comments back.
Then I went to San Diego Comic-Con International with every intention of winning Marvel’s Talent Search.
The character was Thor and the task involved a pitch for an eight-page story to be published in 2002. My dislike of the character shined through in a hollow pitch that involved an apocalyptic setting, fallen Avengers, and a God of Thunder the last line of defense against a power-mad Loki. But…it was all a dream that Loki was enjoying while incarcerated and trapped in human form. An embarrassing attempt that systematically ignored any relevant character traits in favor of an inappropriate superimposition of a scene from the Authority onto Thor’s world. Due to some kind of computer glitch, the story, Rapid Eye Movement, exists in a state of perpetual electronic corruption and I’m not losing much sleep over the lost pitch.
I did enjoy the San Diego experience however, though credit card usage was slightly excessive. But I learned a few things and returned home to write a moderately interesting column about the whole ordeal.
And it only took roughly three weeks before I made another embarrassing attempt at winning a Marvel Talent Search. WizardWorld Chicago called for a Wolverine pitch that I barely finished due to a series of printer mishaps, and told the story of Logan and Cyclops’ male bonding session that ended in a bar brawl. It was fun and much more attentive to character history than the Thor pitch, but still…not quite there. Probably stemmed from my fondness of Scott Summers if anything, which made it a poor Wolverine tale.
Joe Quesada did deliver an amazingly refreshing pep talk that caused me to believe that breaking into Marvel’s House of Ideas was a possibility, a very remote one…but a possibility nonetheless. The feeling of hope elicited became the focus of an article whose title is lifted from Gatorade’s ad campaign. It also prompted a mass submission mailing that touched nearly every editorial mailbox inside the Marvel office.
Then word was relayed that I was being promoted from a rotating slot on SBC to a full-time position. After doing some minor schedule juggling…Haters Be Hating arrived for public consumption. Now, perhaps in a show of constant neurosis, it’s quite common for me to loathe anything I’ve ever written. I see the holes. I know what I was thinking about when I wrote that last paragraph. I know when and where I became lazy.
But…there’s something about that article that I’ll always love. Perhaps it’s the catchy ungrammatical title that came from an apartment joke. Perhaps it’s the unapologetic stance I took against the “haters” and their tireless efforts to pollute the spirit of the industry. I seem to enjoy this forum the most when throwing my personal opinion out there for all to see, suggesting that those we don’t share my opinion are inherently wrong, only to be saved by an instant and abject reversal of favor. Perhaps I enjoy applying hip-hop references to aspects of the comic industry. Whatever the case, seeing Haters Be Hating in my index always brings a sly grin to my face.
Then again…maybe it was what happened when I sent Joe Quesada a copy of the piece…
Next time: What Joe said and how my foot edged ever so closely to the door…and a cliffhanger ending to get the New Year started properly…