Since his comic book debut back in June 2009 with the Image miniseries Existence 2.0, writer Nick Spencer has steadily risen in the comics charts and on readers’ radars. The success of Existence 2.0 spawned a sequel and two new series, Forgetless and Shuddertown . Last month saw the debut of his first ongoing series Morning Glories, and news that DC has lined up Spencer to write a co-feature (which will be finishing in a one-shot) in Action Comics and launch a new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series.Not bad for someone who has only been in comics for fifteen months.
With Spencer’s first couple issues of Action Comics released and news that Morning Glories’ first issue had gone through four printings in the six weeks its been out, Newsarama sat down with this New York-based star on the rise to talk about his career, his origin and what’s next.
Newsarama Note: This interview was conducted prior to the news of the ending of co-features.
Newsarama: Let’s start with an easy one, Nick – what are you working on today?
Nick Spencer: A little bit of everything it seems-- wrapping up the third Jimmy Olsen installment, finally putting Morning Glories #4 to bed, and outlining something I can’t talk about just yet.
Nrama: Creator-Owned and Work-For-Hire -- After doing back-to-back hits at Image with Existence 2.0, 3.0, Forgetless and Shuddertown you started to get noticed by DC and have two things going with them now. Was that the plan all along?
Spencer: Well, you can’t really plan when DC or Marvel decides to call. One thing I was pretty adamant about, I never bugged those folks for work or sent in cold submissions-- I knew my Image stuff was out there in the shops, and that if it was good enough, I’d hear from them. Which kind of goes back to something I say to anyone asking me the whole “how do I break in?” question-- not that I’m really qualified to answer-- but it’s always like they’re wondering how to talk up an editor at a convention or what kind of envelope will get their submission packet opened... and it just doesn’t work that way. You need to do work elsewhere, and it needs to be good enough to catch their eye. Simple as that, really. Focus on doing the best work you can, the rest will take care of itself.
But what I will say is that, once you’re making work, it’s never a bad thing to have a plan. I knew that once I had my first book out, it was important to follow it up as quickly as I could, and really work overtime to get some other stories out there. One, it shows that you’re committed. Two, it shows you can handle a heavier workload, and three, if the stories are varied, it shows you can write different things-- which also means you’ve got more shots at getting an editor’s attention because no one book is for everyone. Doing that, as well as showing that you understand the need to market and promote the books online, at shows, and with retailers, probably goes a long way.
Nrama: You’ve been aiming at a career in comics for awhile – you pitched some things to Joe Quesada in 1998 just as he got hired by Marvel to head up the Marvel Knights line. In the most non-pejorative way possible, what took so long?
Spencer: Well, it’s a little misleading. I pitched some stuff back in ‘98 or so, then didn’t pitch again until 2007, I think. I remember going to Wizard World Chicago the year Oni announced the first Kevin Smith comics. And I brought in my own absolutely awful submission, which was just this hackneyed Smith wannabe stuff, stuff about being out of high school with no job and no future and no girlfriend, and I showed it to Bob Schreck. And he was just the nicest guy-- he took me aside and gave me the best advice I ever got. He told me that the good news was that I was writing about what I knew-- the bad news was that I didn’t know anything! He talked about the ways that Matt Wagner’s life experiences ended up shaping Mage, which is one of my all-time favorite books. He encouraged to go to pursue other things for a while, have some adventures of my own, and then come back to the writing table. So that’s exactly what I did.
I do think a lot about those early experiences trying to break in as a kid, though. One of the biggest thrills of my career so far was meeting Joe Quesada in person at Big Apple Con last year, and telling him much it meant to me that he’d looked at those pitches all those years ago, and giving him a copy of my first Image book. That was a big deal for me, because I do think that response from him gave me the confidence, even years later, to take a shot at this.
What do you like most from Spencer so far?