by Beau Smith
Most of you have read the title to this week’s column and I know what you’re thinking. I’ve no doubt sparked some, what must be, pleasant memories for you. That or you’re wishing for a time machine and a chance for a re-do.
As I’ve mentioned here in Beauology 101 class before, I have a lot of stuff here at The Flying Fist Ranch. Some of you (and my wife) may call it by its true name, clutter. I call it treasure. Needless to say, when I can, I try and go through the containers, boxes and files and decide what really needs to be kept for the archives, and what needs to be given away or sold. The other evening I found a box with two very special items in it. One was Amazing Heroes #23. (May 15, 1983)
For those of you that weren’t even born then, Amazing Heroes was a magazine dedicated to mainstream comic books with articles, interviews, reviews and news. You call it the internet today. It was published by Fantagraphics and Gary Groth. The same folks that published The Comics Journal.
The Comics Journal has always been seen as the anti-mainstream comics publication. Some thought it odd when Gary began publishing a magazine devoted to all comics mainstream back in 1983. I wasn’t one of them. Love him or dislike him, Gary Groth has always been a smart guy. He knew then that to keep The Comics Journal going, covering the things in comics that he was truly interested in, he must produce a publication that would bring in profits to fund The Comics Journal, or at least help. To protect the poodle in the house , you’ve gotta feed the pit-bull in the yard.
I’ve always been a fan and reader of both of Gary’s magazines. The Comics Journal could not be beat for in-depth, smart question interviews. It was also a source of true investigative journalism on comics. We haven’t seen the same since.
Okay, there’s your background. The point of Amazing Heroes #23 is that in that issue you will find my first piece of paid, professional comic book writing. It was an article that I did called The Locsmiths. Again, for those of you younger than my left leg, a Locsmith was a person that wrote in Letters Of Comment (LOC) to the editor of comics or comic book related material. I myself was a rather prolific Locsmith or “letterhack” in my day. I’ve had over 200 letters of comment published in various comic books since 1978. So I thought that I would research and write an article on as many then comic book creators/professionals that had letters of comment published in comic books before they were stars.
The list was quite long with such writers and artists as: Jim Shooter, Frank Miller, Gerry Conway, Dave Cockrum, Tony Isabella, Kurt Busiek, Jerry Ordway, John Byrne and Roy Thomas just to name a few. The article was three pages long and it was illustrated by a long time friend of mine Don Rosa who later went on to be the artist known for drawing the modern Uncle Scrooge.
Okay, as usual, I have strayed off the path. That Amazing Heroes article was my first paid comic book related work. I was paid $14.00. I never cashed the check and still have it. I hope that didn’t screw up Fantagrpahics’ accounting system too badly. Sorry, Gary.
My first comic book writing work was a one page gag strip called Beau LaDuke’s Tips For Real Men. It was published by Eclipse Comics in the back of Tim Truman’s comic book Scout. It was penciled, inked and lettered by Tim Harkins. I was paid $35.00 for that.
Finding these lost treasures brought back tons of very fun memories for me. It got me thinking about my comic book buddies and wondering what their first comic book work was — so I figured I’d ask them.
As you read their own words I want you to think about the eclectic list of creators here. That’s the beauty of comics. It draws people from all walks of life and throws them together for one, big, four-color party. Here’s what they said:
My First Was……
“Espers #1, Eclipse Comics, 1986”
Political Cartoon Writer For http://bighollywood.breitbart.com
“My first published comic book work was a one page fumetti that ran inside the back cover of the Marvel Fumetti book. I was on staff in direct sales at the time, and editorial was openly soliciting ideas for the one-shot book. I came up with the notion that Denny O’Neill received a phone call consisting of escalatingly inane questions about Marvel characters. It was ultimately revealed to be Ralph Macchio prank calling him, but by that point Denny had jumped out a window. I submitted it in a suggestion box and for whatever reason, stuck my name on with a post it. Predictably, my name became separated from it and they had no idea who wrote it. They ran it anyway with a question mark next to the writing credit. I wound up getting paid, I dunno, twenty bucks for it or something. “
Writer Of Stuff
“First was a book called Ninja #1 from Eternity comics”
American Splendor Season 2 Issue #2, Vertigo Comics.
Was just thinking of that project lately since Mr. Pekar died. “
“I lettered Hero Alliance Quarterly #3 for Innovation Press. I actually lettered all three stories.”
“Beau, technically, it would be DC’s Challengers of the Unknown #1 with Tim Sale – but before that saw publishing, we did a single page (and was paid for) in Who’s Who In The DCU for that year that set up who the Challs were. Thanks!”
“New Talent Showcase #14. A two page story I wrote and illustrated called The Fan. It was actually a class assignment for the Kubert School and was bought by my teacher, Sal Amendola, who was also the talent coordinator at DC Comics.”
Co-Creator Of Bane in Batman.
“… lucky you caught me at work procrastinating….
Lettering: a 2 pg Sgt. Rock Battle album… probably back in ’71 or ’72…
Drawing: a 2 pg story called Crabs for Heavy Metal magazine… 1984 or 85… it was originally done as a school project for my Dad’s class…”
“Although I’d already sold a handful of stories at that point, all to Marvel, the first to actually see print was a Damage Control preview called Overture. It appeared in Marvel Comics Presents, probably in 1988, but I don’t know the issue number.’ (It was #19 – ed.)
“Well, the first comic I had published was my creator-owned book Children Of The Grave with artist Casey Maloney (which also featured a kick butt Beau Smith-penned intro) for IDW. But the first comic I wrote that I was paid to write was Gene Simmons’ Zipper (also with artist Casey Maloney and also for IDW). Despite the odd (and a bit misleading) title of the book, I still consider Zipper to be my most under-rated book — given a chance, I know readers will find it to be a fun, urban/sci-fi romp. Critics seemed to dig it and both Casey and I were very proud of it.”
Writer/Editor IDW Publsihing
“First book I was paid for was Hawaiian Dick #1. Released in December of 2002. Image Comics.
First page rate (first time being paid ahead of publication) was Vampi Vicious Circle #1 (I think). June 2004 cover date. Anarchy Studios/Harris Publications”
Yikes. In the late 90′s I had a pin-up published in a Double Impact pin-up book, which included Quesada and a few other big names. My first sequential stuff was a few pages (8?) in an issue of Soulsearchers and Co. for Claypool Comics, written by Peter David. A few months later I did an entire issue of Soulsearchers for them.”
“Castle of Frankenstein #12
I co-wrote and co-drew the story, and it starred an original character called The Conjuror and the title was The Man Called Armageddon.”
“Mr. Monster #9, published by Eclipse Comics.
Best Known Project: Supernatural Law.”
“Stuff….. Hey first of all you gotta promise me you won’t tell anybody I know you.. secondly I’m getting’ so damn old I don’t know or remember what I did last week.. anyway seems like I did something called “The Flyman” done before I entered the U.S.NAVY. Sometime like 1939, 1940, 1941….. sorry buddy… but like I sez “I’m an old fart an can’t remember ..”
“My first paid comic book work–I wrote the script for Union #2, published by Image Comics/WildStorm, over a weekend when it had to go to the printer on Monday. Before that I wrote the StormWatch Sourcebook for WildStorm, but that wasn’t really a comic script.”
“For Brazil, it was a book about the story of the state I was born, Paraíba: “A História da Paraíba em Quadrinhos”, written by my dad, 1985. For the State’s government.
For USA, it was Santa Claws for Malibu Comics. 1992, I guess.
My current project is Secret Avengers for Marvel Comics.
“Sentinels Of Justice 2 for Americomics and Bill Black–I drew layouts for Greg Guler!
(You discovered me shortly after that!)
Currently drawing and inking Farscape: Scorpius 4 +, best known for Star Trek, X-Files, Silver Sable and a bunch of super hero stuff.”
“While I was still attending college in the early 70′s, I somehow convinced a local weekly newspaper in Syracuse, New York to hire me to write a weekly column that reviewed comic books. I seem to remember that one of the comics I reviewed was House of Secrets #92 which contained the 8-page story that introduced the Swamp Thing by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.”
Writer/Editor/All-Round Big Shot
A real man who is probably best known for writing Spider-Girl.
“Astonishing Tales #25, published by Marvel Comics.
Two page gag strip.”
“A pin-up in an issue of Zendra, published by Penny Farthing Press.”
“Space Beaver #1 published by Ten Buck Comics”
“Of course, mine can’t be easy. I was paid for a GUEST MEANWHILE column that ran in the DC comics sometime in the early 1980′s.
In 1985, a couple weeks after starting an office job at Marvel, I sold two Marvel Age interviews – a New Talent Spotlight on penciler Steve Geiger then I got to interview Stan Lee. I have NO idea what issues those ran in.
Then in 1986 I sold a Spider-Man inventory story to editor Jim Owsley, but before it could be assigned a penciler, there was an editorial change and new editor Jim Salicrup killed the story. It was never drawn, but I was paid a kill fee for it.
Finally, my first published work actually writing a comic book was Psi-Force #9, which printed sometime in 1987.
Sigh… that was more complicated than it should have been…”
“When I was first breaking in, I got an e-mail out of the blue from London Night Studios. Everette Hartsoe had stumbled across my sample pages on a web site and he really liked what I was doing. He offered me a chance to write and draw my own creator owned mini-series. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! As little as he was offering, it was enough to quit my full time position selling booze at a liquor store. I would still have to work part time but this was the first real step towards my dream of drawing comics. I threw myself into the work, ignoring sleep, food and friends. I wrote, penciled, inked and lettered that first issue and was really proud. Then came the heart breaking news, for whatever reason, Everette didn’t want to do the mini-series anymore. It was depressing but it was the first time I had finished an entire issue of anything and I still owned it all so it wasn’t a total write off. I filed those pages away, thinking that I could always find another place to publish them some day, and headed back to selling beer at the liquor store.
Looking back, that may have been a turning point for me. Soon after, I moved back home and lived in my Mom’s laundry room so I could draw full time and not have to worry about paying rent. I soon found work drawing for a start-up publisher named Oktomica and I actually started making a living drawing comics. Then I got a call from a friend who owned a comic store saying how much he liked my recently drawn comic. I was confused because my Oktomica book hadn’t been released yet. I told him he was mistaken. But then he started describing the story… it was the issue I had drawn for Everette! Everette had went ahead and published it without telling or paying me. And to keep it really classy, it was released in an anthology with a full-on pornographic photo cover. They couldn’t even sell the issues legally in Canada because of our pornography laws. When I called Everette, he told me he had done me a favor and was willing to pay me a hundred bucks. I hung up the phone, called a lawyer and sued him for $20,000.00. Of course, by this point I was one of many lawsuits against him and he quietly closed up shop, declared bankruptcy and I never saw a nickel for my work.
But I did get quiet a good story out of it.
Oh, BTW, the first comic that was published and I was paid for was The Wonderlanders, by Oktomica.”
Hi. Editor Roger Ash here. I hope you’re enjoying Beau’s new column as much as I am. But this is a big column, and a big topic. It’s so big Beau & I aren’t sure you can handle anymore. (Okay, this is starting to sound like a 1970′s porn movie…not that we’d know what that sounds like….) So come back in two weeks for more comic firsts.
The Flying Fist Ranch
Most of the classic covers for this article came from the Grand Comics Database.
Castle of Frankenstein came from Comic Vine.
Wonderlanders came from ComicBookDB.
Santa Claws came from Funny Book Fanatic.