New York City was never a place I honestly considered moving to. If it wasn’t for all of my friends from college transplanting to a borough that the Beastie Boys claimed they’d forgo sleep for, I would have settled for a simpler life in Texas where my parents decided to retire.
Having spent most of my life living overseas in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Scandinavia, I was ready for a new adventure. However, after a year of working seven days a week at four different jobs — only one of which pertaining to my B.F.A. in Sound Design — the glamour of the city life had officially worn off. In desperate need of more stable employment and with no previous training, I somehow managed to land a full-time computer tech position which made my life only marginally easier.
It was 2:27am on a Monday and I wasn’t getting paid until next Friday. Working three-to-midnight shifts as a Genius at the 14th Street Apple Store kept me up at odd hours. An ironic job title considering my foolish decision to work for such low pay in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I reluctantly signed into my online bank account to check the damage.
“Fuck,” I exhaled to no one.
I remember it being extremely difficult to swallow at that very moment as my account was in the red accompanied by a negative sign, and the only credit card I owned was maxed out the week before. My heart sank somewhere deep inside my gut.
As I looked around my tiny 10×10 square foot studio basement, which I shared with two girls in the West Village of Manhattan that I could barely afford, I imagined a toxic mixture of anxiety and despair coursing through my veins. A thirty-second inventory of food in my kitchenette/living room/dining room/bedroom yielded half a bag of cashews.
Think about something else…anything else.
Needing a distraction, I sat down and starting writing any thought that popped in my head in hopes of flushing out the negativity. Before long, I found myself thinking quite intensely about the Wall Street crash that occurred late the previous year, and how that backdrop was ripe for a modernized crossover into my love for the zombie folklore. I could feel a story emerging from beneath the rubble of my broken spirit, but my lack in experience as a wordsmith instinctually made me want to stop.
However, I didn’t…I couldn’t. What began as a basic idea started to evolve in my mind at an exponential, and the weight of it all compelled me to keep writing to relieve the pressure. After four hours and twenty pages later, I felt a wave of deep satisfaction wash over me as I finally drifted off to sleep — completely ignoring the hunger pangs that would typically keep me awake.
For the first time in my life, I felt as if I had finally tapped into a medium of art that solicited more of a reflex than a conscious decision. This is what I had spent four years in art school looking for — a notion I forfeited when I decided to pursue a career in tech support. Abandoning the life I was cultivating in New York, I quickly molded a routine out of that first night which extended into six weeks until the story was done, or at least what I thought was done.
Unsure of what to do one hundred and fifty pages later, I decided to send it off to my brother who was working as a texture painter at Industrial Light & Magic in San Francisco, and the only person that I trusted sharing it with at the time.
“This is good, man. Really good,” he said with surprising enthusiasm over the phone.
“Seriously? I mean, it definitely needs work,” I said.
“Dude, I couldn’t put it down, read the entire thing in one go,” he continued. “I sent this to my friend who’s an artist at Dark Horse. We both went to SCAD with her, but I don’t think you two ever met. Maybe she can give you some advice.”Continued below
After a few back and forth emails with my brother’s friend, it was clear to her that I had a very strong concept, but both the dialogue and character development needed work. She did however pass my name onto the Dean of the Sequential Art Department of our school, and advised me to have a one page synopsis along with five pages of my script ready for review.
This early encouragement convinced me that I was going to do whatever was necessary to get my name known, while also reiterating two very important ideas for me:
- I will have no ego, something I learned through years of studio critiques as any constructive criticism from a professional is invaluable.
- My SCAD education costing upwards of $100,000 was finally paying off…sort of.
Over the course of a few weeks of email exchanges with the Dean, we discussed the possibility of using my script for educational review purposes by his undergraduate class. Due to my complete lack of knowledge on intellectual property rights and copyright laws, and like a true novice, I was extremely hesitant on sharing my first big idea in this way. You’d be surprised how rare plageriarism occurs if at all, but I wouldn’t learn this lesson for another year. Little did I know, a great idea is only worth stealing if there’s a legitimate demand for it.
By the end of a very informative discussion, he invited me to attend the department’s annual Editor’s Day being held only a couple weeks away. “Let me know your top 3 choices and I’ll try and get you in to see 2,” he wrote.
Much to my surprise, I received the following lineup of guest editors that would be conducting portfolio reviews:
- Joan Hilty, editor for DC Comics’ Vertigo line
- Nate Cosby, editor for Marvel Comics
- Dan Vado editor for Slave Labor Graphics Comics
- Chris Warner, editor for Dark Horse Comics
- Mike Siglain, editor for DC Comics
- Chris Duffy, comics editor for Nickelodeon Magazine
- Eric Searleman, editor for VIZ Media
Without hesitation I immediately emailed him back with my selection:
- Joan Hilty
- Chris Warner
- Dan Vado
“Jeremy, I have you talking to Joan Hilty (Vertigo) at 12:15pm and then Dan Vado (SLG) at 12:45pm. About 15min each. You should arrive early because the schedule may move faster or slower depending…,” he replied.
I quickly made the arrangements to have co-workers cover my shifts for that weekend — an almost impossible task when working in retail. I then spent what little time I had left restructuring my script into 22-page issues, and also re-edited the format thanks to a sample script available on Dark Horses’ website. Before I could thoroughly process any other thoughts, I found myself bound for a flight to Savannah, GA.
It was a balmy Thursday afternoon. Defying my better judgement on what to wear in the stifling heat — a decision I sorely regretted as I sweated my way to where the reviews were being held — I dressed casual but smart: a plaid collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a nice pair of jeans, and my chucks.
“Dammit,” I muttered as I failed to dry off in the bathroom of Norris Hall.
Sitting in one of the studio classrooms used as a waiting room, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sequence of events that had brought me full circle back to my college. I also couldn’t help but feel substantially older in a room full of kids not of legal age to drink. Listening to them interact with each other as they showed off their portfolios, I suddenly felt like I was four years too late to the dance.
Grabbing my relatively thick packet of scripts, I decided to distance myself from them by sitting outside. As I rehearsed my pitch, I grew increasingly nervous about the realization that I was about to meet with an actual DC/Vertigo Editor, and present her with an unsolicited script.
What am I doing here?!
Before I could continue to psych myself out any further, I heard my name being called in the hallway, “Jeremy Holt? We’re ready for you.”
Walking through the door, my heartbeat inexplicably slowed to an almost rhythmic tick — the proverbial clock of my three year goal to getting published had just started running.Continued below
TO BE CONTINUED…