While I was attending Stonecoast, I needed to come up with a third-semester project. I knew I wanted to involve comic books somehow, but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. What I was sure of was that I wanted to take advantage of any connections I had made with people I met at comic book conventions and people I was going to school with. So I came up with eight simple questions and had multiple comic book writers and sometimes artists answer them and collected the interviews into one small book.
So, in the same vein as my new blog feature “Friend Files” – I present to you the interview I had with Jeff Mariotte. Mr. Mariotte is someone I don’t know personally, but my former mentor Nancy Holder knows him and she managed to get him to answer some of my questions. Mr. Mariotte was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions, and so I present them to you now.
Note: These are “beginner” questions for folks who are either interested in Jeff’s work, interested in possibly getting into writing comics, curious about the methods comic book writers use, or if you’re just curious in general. These are very simple questions, meant to just get a snapshot of what the comic business is like for these particular writers. Tune in to later editions of this blog feature for more interviews with other comic book creators. Also, this interview is now a year old or more, so some of the publication data might be old as well.
On to the interview!
- For those people who may be unfamiliar with your work, which comic book company are you working for at the moment (or in the past), and what are your current projects?
As a comic book writer, I’m probably best known for my long-running horror/western series Desperadoes, published by Image Comics, DC Comics, and IDW Publishing. I’ve written dozens of other comics, some of which gained national attention, like Barack Obama: The Comic Book Biography. More recent miniseries have included Garrison (WildStorm Productions/DC Comics) and Fade to Black (Image Comics).
I’ve also worked in the business as a VP of marketing (WildStorm Productions/Image Comics), a senior editor (WildStorm Productions/DC Comics), and editor-in-chief (IDW Publishing. Currently I’m working as a freelance editor on America’s Got Powers (Image) and Vandroid (Dark Horse).
- What got you into writing/drawing comic books or graphic novels?
I was a lifelong comic book fan, and happened to make a connection with Jim Lee (then head of WildStorm Productions, his Image Comics studio, currently co-publisher of DC Comics). He’d read some of my work and asked me to do some writing projects for the studio. One thing led to another, and before too long I was employed full-time and writing comics.
- What was the most difficult thing about breaking into the comic book industry?
In my case, it wasn’t especially difficult (see above). I recognize that’s a pretty unique circumstance, though. In general, the hardest part is probably that editors want to know you’re good and reliable, which means having a track record, but it’s hard to get a track record before editors are giving you work.
- What do you think about indie publishing?
I really don’t think about it much at all. Works for some people, not for others. I would always rather be paid for my work than pay to get it out there, and have to also be trying to sell it.
- Who was your biggest influence?
As a comics writer, probably Dennis O’Neil.
- What is the hardest thing about working for a well-known publisher? If you don’t work for one, what’s the hardest thing about doing things yourself?
Hardest thing about working for a big publisher is probably that they control the characters you’re working on, and the decisions about the direction of those characters are made at editorial/publisher meetings that you’re not part of. Sometimes you’re allowed some say in where things are going, but there’s always the knowledge that any say you have can be taken away in a heartbeat (and you can be fired off a book, or told to take it in a direction you don’t agree with, etc.).
- How do you make your own work stand out?
I try to be literate, try not to underestimate the intelligence of my audience, try to provide smart entertainment that’s also fast-paced and fun.
- What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone trying to create their first comic book or graphic novel?
Remember the limitations of the form. You can really only get one action into any given panel, and you only get a few panels per page. A lot of newbies try to cram too much into a panel, overloading it and muddying the message.
If you enjoyed this interview and are curious or want to know more about Jeff Mariotte’s work, check out his WEBSITE where you can find information on all the books and comic books and other things he’s written.