Writer's Workshop #9: Rick Remender, DINGLEBERRY To X-FORCE

Rick Remender is one writer who doesn't hold back — in either his stories, or his interviews.

Chatting with the writer of Uncanny X-Force, Fear Agent and The Punisher about the course of his career, you realize that he's got just as much to say about marketing yourself as he does about the nuts and bolts of the writing craft. Spending a decade chipping away for a shot at writing for the Big Two, Remender has been unflinching in his successes and his struggles, talking candidly about the balance of risk versus reward, the value of tenacity and the pursuit of artistic independence.

For the ninth edition of Writer's Workshop, we sat down with Remender to discuss his process as a writer, discussing high concept, dialogue, and looking at books such as Uncanny X-Force and The Punisher as case studies, as well as looking at his dedicated, sometimes-harrowing journey of breaking into the big leagues.

 

Newsarama: Rick, just to start off with — how did you wind up deciding that comics was your dream gig? I know you have a background in animation — how did you end up making that shift into comics? What did the animation industry teach you that you brought to the industry? Can you just walk us through how you got from Point A to Point B?

Rick Remender: I'm a lifelong comic fan. My misspent youth collecting and reading lead me to a career in comic book retail, where I worked during college. While I worked at the comic shop I sat drawing and writing story ideas down, studying creators I respect. The owner of the shop, Blake Shira, taught me all about EC, Crumb and the Zap crew, Clowes, the greats of the Silver Age and Grant Morrison's Animal Man and Doom Patrol, just all the nonmainstream stuff I'd missed that informs my writing now. I wanted to be like Frank Miller, Mark Schultz, Grant Morrison, BWS, Wally Wood, Evan Dorkin or Jack Davis — I wanted to write and draw and really unique stuff, and dig into to the craft. So, yeah, my initial goal was to do both. The idea of solely writing seemed very unlikely to me starting off, and remember, this is before independent guys really moved to mainstream — it wasn't really the way it worked then. So I wanted to write and draw my own creations. My goal was to do something like Xenozoic Tales, Rocketeer, Sin City… high adventure with an art house slant.

 

I recall — when I was 21, after a couple of years focusing on writing and art, I decided I was going to focus on the art. So I went to the Joe Kubert School. Once I got there, I didn't love being away from home, I had a girlfriend and missed her, I'd worked my ass off to save the tuition and decided I didn't need to spend all this money, classic 21-year-old stuff. I'd already been through three years of college in Arizona and didn't really want to spend three more years in school. So I figured that I'd go back to Arizona and continue art classes there while I just made comics. The idea was to do so many comics I'd eventually get good. So, yeah, I moved back to Phoenix after just three weeks at the Kubert School.

Within a month of getting back news came out that 20th Century Fox and Don Bluth were going to open an animation studio in Phoenix. I was just a 21-year-old kid with a portfolio, I figured there was no hope, but folks insisted I try out. So I said, well, what's it going to hurt? I sent the portfolio in, and I got hired. I got hired as a special effects animation assistant. The door opened up pretty quickly for me in terms of the art world, and I dropped out of college, as one is wont to do when you have a job opportunity and you're 21.

 

I spent about three years at Fox animating, I found it to be — especially in the capacity that I was serving — I found it... it wasn't rewarding to me. I would sit there, animating, and character and story ideas would keep popping into my head. One idea after another, and I would have to sit there and jot them all down as I flipped paper, flipped paper, and flipped paper. I'd spend every lunch break and write stories, draw, come up with characters. I remember, at the time, that what I really wanted to do was more satirical humor stuff in comics like Dorkin, Barta, Bill Wray, Will Elder. I was working with a few other animators, Harper Jaten and Rory Hensley, and we would spend lunch doing comic books to clear our heads after spending all day animating Anastasia SFX, and her puppy dog, and her necklace, and all of these minute detail things, just slowly moving these lines closer and closer to the grave.

 

So by lunchtime, we would all be very excited to come together and come up with these asinine, ridiculous stories. During the course of this, one of the characters that we came up with was Captain Dingleberry. For the uninformed, he had a dimensional gateway in his asshole that led to a Turdworld, which is where he stored villains — a-doy. After a few months we just decided to make the comic. We created Captain Dingleberry and about 15 or 20 characters for his world — there was a guy called "Nipples the Size of Pancakes," there was "Sir Richard Pumpaloaf," a dude based on a Frank Zappa song who has a penchant for fucking French loaf and, as fate would have it, he had a machine that could turn folks into gingerbread man. So he would basically capture you and turn you into a gingerbread man, and then molest you. (Somehow Hollywood did not knock down our door when Captain Dingleberry saw print.)

Lunch after lunch, we would sit there and come up with these stupid, over-the-top things that made us laugh. I'd come up with an idea, and everybody would end up drawing the character in different ways. There was Sack Warrior of Choad, who had an elastic scrotum and balls made of iron that he would swing around like Thor's hammer. We were all fans of the original Tick series, and I think we were trying to invoke that a little bit, but go more juvenile and blue with it. We had this creative itch to do something weird, it was like a Frank Zappa tribute comic.

We wanted to do something that had great production value and was drawn to the best of our abilities. At that point, we were professional animators in the industry for two years, three years, and so we had decent chops. We made up our minds to self-publish Captain Dingleberry. I would pencil up the covers, and we got Eric Simmons, who was a background painter at Fox, to paint them to look like high-quality feature film animation-quality background paintings, but focused on a guy with flying poop critters coming out of his keister. It was an exercise in, other than futility, how much love and care we could give to an idea that was just completely and utterly ridiculous. It deserved none of the love we gave it, which is why we thought it was beautiful. Wrong in all the right ways. I fell in love with making comics.

We did seven issues of Captain Dingleberry, and it actually sold pretty damn well. We moved over to Slave Labor Graphics with it before wrapping it at Issue 7. The series also included work from Kieron Dwyer, and Johnny Ryan did some stuff in there — it was just a smorgasboard. For me, it fulfilled the creative need in a way that animation didn't — and it did pretty well. It really skewed my perception - I thought, if I did a comic that was a bit more accessible, and maybe didn't involve scat humor on the cover, who knows what I could do? Because it was so fulfilling to do the book, I made my mind up that I was going to make a go of it. So I quit my job at Fox — and spiraled into desperate poverty. (Laughs)

It was tough. It went against what my family wanted, it went against what everybody I knew at time wanted me to do, everybody thought it was stupid — nobody understood how I had gotten it into my head that because I had made a couple of issues of this fecal superhero book that I should go out and quit my dream job and make comics. But that's what I did. Yeah. So that was how one transitioned into the other. And at that point, to make the books, I was writing them, co-writing them, drawing them — I would draw some pages, my buddies would ink them; my buddies would draw some pages, I would ink them — so doing Captain Dingleberry, I wrote my first seven comics, I penciled my first seven comics, I inked my first seven comics, and I self-published my first seven comics. Which taught me all of the very basics I would need to sort of move forward — and it got me quite addicted to doing all those things, which I would later benefit from, and would help me survive.

 

Nrama: You know, I know Captain Dingleberry isn't the only crazy high-concept you've come up with. You made a lot of press recently, too, with another character you put your spin on: Franken-Castle. I wanted to ask, when you are approaching these sorts of so-crazy-it-might-just-work concepts, what are your goals? And once you figure out what you want the effect to be, how do you settle on execution?

Remender: Once I have the high concept, I beat out story foundation. What I try to do is work it out well in advance, build on a three-act structure, something that has big emotional beats, gripping character arc, make sure the characters are growing and learning something or progressing.

That's one of the big problems that I had with Franken-Castle to begin with — a lot of people are fine with Frank just being a force of nature, going through the world murdering people. But if there's no character arc, if the character isn't building or being denigrated or learning something, then I tend to lose interest very quickly — the character, at that point, is naked, totally visible with no surprises to offer and frozen in place. And if there's no character development, no change, it's just an exercise... it's almost like torture porn, watching Frank Castle go out and murder gangsters. How much of that can I possibly want to see?

 

So in terms of execution of a crazy idea, it's imporant to make sure that you've got a strong story that has exciting moments, a beginning, middle and most importantly a strong ending with a point, one that maybe even has a philosophical point of view. I try to show a side of the character that hasn't been seen — which I think we've accomplished with the Punisher work we've done, with Franken-Castle being a big part of that.

As far as big, wild high concepts and deciding if they'll work — comic books are the last place where we can do these types of things. As movies become more and more homogenized and predictable — as the people in charge of greenlighting these movies are more and more motivated to making sure that their movie is accessible to the largest amount of people — the cost is a unique personal story. Movies... I'm just disinterested. There's maybe one movie every six months that even motivates me to get out of my house and go see it anymore. Whereas television is starting to take off now, and you're seeing smart, unexpected, serialized shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, actually breaking down, and building off of the Twin Peaks/Sopranos model, serialized stories that are smart, captivating and unexpected.

 

So when I'm coming up with these ideas, it's more than just dipping chocolate into peanut butter and simply going "that's crazy, we'll figure it out!" It's a matter of finding a big AND naturally occurring idea. Then you vet it. Then you spend weeks/months working it out with editors, and talking it through, and everyone stays excited, like we did with Franken-Castle, you just hope the readers will be excited as well. I was talking a lot with Tony Moore and with Axel [Alonso] and Sebastian [Girner], my editors on that book, the more we talked and the more we tore it open, everybody... you know it's either a good thing or a bad thing when everybody's interrupting each other, and in this case it was good, and over the course of the conversation a lot of ideas were being thrown around. Everybody was enthusiastic about the process, and that's normally the kind of sign you're looking for when you're developing.

 

Nrama: You were talking about rules and the like, and I wanted to ask about how you go about setting up the rules for your particular story. Is it a matter of looking at past continuity, or sort of making up your own rules — how do you balance the two impulses out, if at all?

Remender: I think that it's important... as a comic nerd, I appreciate continuity, but I also appreciate that there's been a trillion Marvel comic books. If I had to read every single one of those, and adhere to every single thing every other writer has ever cooked up, I would be basically writing stories in a closet. There would be no room to do anything. "Well, in Spider-Man #214 they established that he doesn't like green beans!" It would just be insanity. I think that you have to adhere to who the character is and what they've been through but not be slavish. I like to use the big beats of a characters back story as I would a brand new character's back story, I pepper it throughout and allude to it to develop them further or remind the reader who they are.

 

Like a character like Fantomex — I made sure I re-read all of his appearances, and got a good idea of what he's been through and what's been examined with him, and then made notes about what hasn't been examined, and what holes in this character have been left open, as well as what the major beats in his life that defined him that we've seen so far. And once I have those beats written down, I make sure to reincorporate them into X-Force. In the first five issues — because Fantomex is a new character, so there are many people reading the book who might be unfamiliar with him — it's my job to make sure that all of the major beats and all of the relevant points in his life and all of the interesting things that have happened to him are conveyed to the reader, so they don't have to go back and reread all those old issues. I don't want to build my story on top of the expectation they've read every comic the character showed up in — that seems lazy.

But it's also important to discount certain things that were unimportant, or are maybe side notes that derail the character and don't work towards what I feel is for the betterment of the character's development. Once I have that foundation built, I literally am writing an issue right now where I have a list of things that were unexplored with Fantomex, and I'm exploring them and refining the character and getting optics on what makes the character. After I define who he is based on what other people have done, I start adding my own touch, and moving the character forward in a natural, and hopefully exciting, way.

 

Nrama: Talking about the characterization — for you, what do you think are the important things you need to know, or what is the most helpful for calibrating yourself as far as getting into a character's head?

Remender: You know, I let myself — the only way I can do that is to let myself write a bunch of pages that I know I'm probably going to delete. I'll sometimes write two characters in a room, talking. You start to better know the core of the characters, and what makes them distinct, like colloquialisms, cadence, patterns. You let yourself freely write; knowing you'll likely erase it and it liberates you. It's similar in art — I taught at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for a number of years — I would always tell people to draw with a dry-erase board and a marker, because it's not permanent, and you'll get more fluid with your form, you'll move freer.

It's the same with a Wacom tablet for your computer. There's something about paper, when you know that it is the paper you'll be working on, that freezes you up. I find that when I'm writing and I have a document open, and that document is X-Force #5, or X-Force #1... it's like, "write X-Force #1 — go." It'll freeze me up. So in order to inhabit the characters, I'll just open up a file in Final Draft and just write a fake document screenplay that I'll usually erase, or take a few gems out of. I'll write seven, eight, nine pages of the characters talking back and forth, and after doing that, in my head, I can hear how they interact, I can hear the voices — I'm like, "no, Deadpool would be a little bit more dry, a little more vulnerable here," or "Fantomex would be a little bit more arrogant here, masking vulnerability" — whatever the things that come out of it, based on what I know about the character, I find the process of doing it that way helps liberate me from "YOU'RE WRITING X-FORCE #1, IT HAS TO BE GOOD."

 

Nrama: Since you've been doing these sorts of prelimary conversations between your characters, what do you think has been the most enlightening thing you've learned putting two characters in a room together, even if it might not have seen the light of day?

Remender: I think that for me, I learned how I was going to handle Deadpool. I like the idea that Fantomex is putting on airs of his own, but Deadpool's constant joking, that's always sort of a need for acceptance, you know? There's something about that. So I think I discovered something about that character — in my mind, Deadpool, in his constant goofing around, gets on some people's nerves, some people ignore it, and then there are people like Fantomex who might have a similar situation in his own mind, he'll kind of attack that a little bit. For me, it was fun writing a vulnerable Deadpool, where he gets psychoanalyzed a little bit by Fantomex and maybe torn down. It's all about in how you handle his reactions to see whether it got through to him.

But for me, it was a nice breakthrough where I said, "you know what, in some ways it seems like Deadpool is seeking acceptance," and he's genuinely schizophrenic and insane — that's the fun of the character, he's a really, really broken crazy person — but it helped me make him more human and three-dimensional, to help me get my head behind the curtain a little bit and it came from a conversation I wrote between him and Fantomex. He uses his humor for a number of different reasons, all of which go back to the fact that he's a cast out — he's a failure of the Weapon-Plus program, this is his first time ever being invited to a team, so he wants very badly to fit in and be accepted, and I really like pointing it out, because it humanizes him in a good way. It's a motivation that every single one of us can understand. So that was something that came out of the first batch that I did.

 

Nrama: When you're doing these dialogues, how do you make sure that it sounds real, that it doesn't come off as stilted as far as dialogue perspective?

Remender: I just hear dialogue — you can either write dialogue, or you can't. I think you can definitely refine whatever skills you have — at this point I've written 30 graphic novels or something, and two video games and a couple of screenplays, and in the last five years, I've been doing nothing but writing. They say that if you want to be good at something, you do it every day. I write everyday, and I've written everyday since about 2001.

Nrama: Wow.

Remender: And before that, I used to write a journal. When I was working full-time in animation and making my own comics, that still wasn't enough for me to get all the ideas out, so I would write these journals. Some of the ideas that I cooked up in those journals became comics, like The End League or other things. ...I just spaced out. What the fuck was I even talking about?

 

Nrama: I was just talking about how do you make your dialogue sound right?

Remender: Oh, right. I was saying, basically know your characters and practice. And I hear dialogue well when I know the character front and back. I can hear it in my head; when I really know the character. I attribute certain characteristics of people that I know to them to help — and I realize I did that subconsciously before I started doing that consciously — I would take someone I know and sort of take their personality and attribute it and tie into a fictional character that I was writing. And it really helped me get behind how they behaved, because I think we all sort of analyze one another subconsciously, or consciously.

We all have thoughts and opinions on why people do certain things, or their behavior, and so by taking people I had already analyzed and already knew, and associating them with characters I was writing, it took me a few steps ahead on knowing those characters.

I also have a character worksheet, which is like four pages long, with 1,000 questions. I'll go through, before writing a character, and fill that out, and by the end of that, I know them entirely. That helps write their dialogue, once you know who the person is and what their motives are.

 

Nrama: What are the sorts of questions you have on this sheet?

Remender: Oh, it's intense. It's like "responses to authority," "time in the military," "siblings," "response to siblings," "most traumatic childhood event," "most traumatic adult event," "political attitude," "attitude towards socialism" — and by the time you answer all those questions, one leads to the other, one feeds the other, you're not going to write a big right-wing guy who's a proponent of socialism. One answer will determine the other, but it all helps form a human being inside your mind.

Nrama: Regarding structure — when you are putting together a story, is it the metaphor that comes first, the character arc that comes first, the external conflict? I know some people say they have an image, and work off that — when you are putting a character through their paces, what typically comes first for you?

Remender: Well, I'll write out an arc — a lot of the time I know I want a character to go from one point to the other, what I want them to learn and what I want them to discover or overcome about themselves. A lot of the time that'll speak to a metaphor, I'll write out a line — well, I had been working on a lot of monster stuff in the Marvel Universe, and had a lot ideas for them, and I had written: "Frank Castle is a monster. Frank Castle is a monster who just killed his own family." That sort of helped me build Franken-Castle, the physical manifestation of Frank's soul.

Franken-Castle was an external representation of Frank. It only takes someone who smoked a little weed and took Philosophy in high school to be able to find the foibles in Frank's character and build a metaphor. It's not a frighteningly difficult thing to do. (Laughs) Finding a villain that was a parable of Frank was the thing that added the weight I think. Our villain, Hellsgaard, his family was killed by monsters, killed by werewolves, and so he had to kill his family, and now he hunts all things that resemble the killers, all things that look like monsters. Putting Frank face-to-face with somebody who's made similar decisions, putting that mirror to his face was a way to explore Frank for me.

Fortunately, Hellsgaard villainizes himself a little bit, because he's an extremist, and like all extremists, he's much easier to characterize as a villain. But I think a lot of what that was an examination of the hypocrisy that's inherent in Frank's mission and who he is. The difference is Frank is normally pretty good about killing just the people who deserve it — and that's not much of a redeeming factor, but that's the reason why Frank can have his own comic (laughs) and be a hero on some level. It's like, yeah, he's a bloodthirsty psychopath nutjob, but mostly he's killing people we're better off without.

 

Nrama: I feel like everybody has big successes and big lows in their careers. What do you think the smartest thing you've ever done in your career, and what do you think the biggest mistake you've ever made has been — and what did you learn from it?

Remender: I tell you the smartest thing I've done is to be tenacious — I've been doing comic books for 12 years now, and over those 12 years, a lot of that time I've spent with day jobs, storyboarding and writing over at Electronic Arts, or animating commercials, or teaching, and then doing my comic books at night. While the rest of my friends and everyone else were out having fun, I was tied down to an art table teaching myself how to draw and how to ink and how to write and how to storyboard.

I know that it's difficult, and no one wants to hear somebody gripe about the climb, but when I started, I came up with guys like Jim Mahfood. In '97, '98, I did a signing with Jim Mahfood and Judd Winick — I think he had just come off the Real World and started doing books. Within a year's time, I had watched both of those guys skyrocket. And I was like, "oh, cool, I'll be next!" And it wasn't necessarily going to go that way for me. When you enter into something at the same time as people your own age, your “class” and you watch them go off to be hugely successful while you don't, it can have a disparaging effect on you. I watched that happen over and over, year after year and just had to believe in myself and keep working harder and harder to make sure I was constantly improving.

I think that the upshot was that, on some level, seeing other people become more successful made me believe that it was possible.

Second smartest thing was to focus my attention on building relationships with astute and challenging editors like Axel Alonso and Stephen Wacker. I'm not just saying that because they keep me in baby food and electricity. You want people who push you until you want to strangle them. You want to learn to be great at this and having people who know the craft and take an interest in helping teach is the only way you'll ever consistently improve.

 

As for my biggest mistake, it's oddly also one of the high points of my career — inking Kieron Dwyer on The Avengers. I'd done finishes over some of Dwyer's roughs in our book Black Heart Billy, so when Avengers came to him, he brought me on. Naturally, I was like, "sure." I'll ink this book I grew up loving while I continue to pitch for writing work and draw/write my creator-owned books.

Such a mistake.

The first big project I did — and by "big" I mean "seen by 60,000 people" — was inking The Avengers. So I pretty much kicked my hopes of being a writer in mainstream comics right in the dick. Now, I love inking, and I think the industry should be ashamed by the lack of respect that it gives to the craft, and I'm in no way diminishing inking, but it wasn't really what I was setting out to do. So I had written and/or drawn three creator-owned graphic novels at that point — I had really worked myself to death to make these books happen, to build my name as a writer — and now all of the sudden I was an inker. Period. I went to pitch various editors projects, and I was not taken seriously. I was like, "well, fuck you then, world, I'll just keep writing my own books, no one can stop me… but I'm probably not going to be able to make an adult living."

So I dug up some work penciling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to counteract the inker label. At the time I was still in-house at Electronic Arts as a storyboard artist, so I was busy. Those TMNT samples, and good friend and mentor, Hilary Barta, helped me land a pencilling gig for him on Man with the Screaming Brain, a Bruce Campbell thing at Dark Horse. And I was inking stuff — I was inking Mike Hawthorne on Beckett books like The Terminator, all this stuff to pay the bills while I wrote my own stories at night. I just got my mind made up that this is where I was at in the industry, and no matter what I did at that point, no matter what kind of stories I pitched, it wouldn't matter, because the perception was going to be impossible to shed.

I had to, at that point, make my mind up, after dedicating all these years to this, that I was either going to give up — I had an amazing job offer from Electronic Arts in-house, where I could make a good living, again, and I could be a storyboard artist — or I could not do that, I could turn down another big job, another good, safe in-house position, and I could give this ridiculously painful comic book thing one last crack. At that point I had developed a slew of creator-owned books that were ready to go — Fear Agent, Night Mary, Strange Girl, Last Days of American Crime, Sorrow and Sea of Red — so I made my mind up that I was going to give being a writer one last shot. And that last burst of what I had was what it took — and it took a lot.

It took a lot to undo the perception of the people who have the power to give you work — I had to do about 22 creator-owned graphic novels on my own to establish myself, and it's a testament to how much I want to make comic books.

 

Nrama: Jeez, wow. What do you think was the thing that made that shift for you? Do you feel like there was anything about those later works that you think was really enough to change those perceptions?

Remender: Well, I think the books — well, I can't speak to the quality, I think I've made good comic books. But it wasn't just going to be some good comic books. I've always tried to maintain my own sensibility, I never wanted to pander or change who I am and what I like — I didn't fight this battle so I could get to a position where I was making a living doing what other people wanted, to pander to people whose opinions I don't respect, or pandering to ideas I don't want to embrace, or types of stories I don't want to tell. I feel good in that the kinds of things that I've done, sure there are a few books I wish I could erase, but the road got me to the point where I can write what I want to write and work with the artists I want to work with and the editors I want to work with. I'm very lucky.

 

Nrama: I wanted to ask, as someone who's taken pretty much every angle you can in this industry, everybody talks about visual storytelling, thinking visual, writing for comics rather than a screenplay. What's your thoughts on thinking visually, and what kind of advice would you give for people who are trying to think visually?

Remender: It's tremendously important — as an artist, I'm a visual thinker, which translates into my scripts. That has definitely helped me build relationships with quality artists. Because I know not overcomplicate panels, to have people doing stuff when you need a few pages of talking, to show not tell, and spend a lot of time cooking up visually interesting scenarios, things that are exciting to draw. I try to anyway.

Story is a better place to start than a visual in most cases. I think that if you start from a solid logline, if you start from "while investigating something, a detective finds out that there's a big plot to do something, and the man at the top of it all is his brother." I'm not saying that that's a good idea, but starting with a logline, starting with something that's a clean, interesting mission statement for a story, it tends to get better results. That's why a good high concept and a good logline is worth a million dollars, you know. "Vampires move into a city in Alaska where it's nighttime for 30 days." The title is 30 Days of Night. SHAZAM! A million dollars. It's done. A million dollar idea! And at that point, you can build the visuals out of a good high concept.

I think Night Mary is one of the better high concepts Kieron Dwyer and I cooked up, about a lucid dreamer who works at a sleep disorder clinic, helping her father's troubled patients. We did this before Inception and everything else — obviously we wanted to explore the psychological potential of a character walking through somebody else's dreams, but the potential for visuals was an equally huge draw. Night Mary is something that has that visual component built into the high concept.

But yeah, I think it's important to do both — if you fall in love with a visual, or you get too married to something, I feel that at that point you're going to be trying to build story off of something you've fallen in love with visually, and that's dangerous. You can build a lot of bullshit to prop that up. I did it once and learned.

ONE MONTH TO LIVE Gets Digital Release
ONE MONTH TO LIVE Gets Digital Release
 

Nrama: Just looking back at everything you've done, what do you feel the big "a-ha" moments have been for you over your career? What are some of the big lessons you've picked up that you think people should know? Or maybe, to try another tack: What should people know about this industry that they don't?

Remender: It's going to take a lot more work than you think it's going to — and by "a lot more," I mean years and years and years more than you think. From my experience anyway, and mileage may vary. For me, I don't think I had any idea how much work it was going to take for me to make a living having a career in doing this. And I grew up making comics, beginning with Captain Dingleberry, which is out there, which is like… it's like having your student project floating out in the public. When you grow up in an industry, which I've done, and everybody has watched you grow up, you also have to deal with the fact that it takes people a long time to recognize that you're not a kid anymore, and that you've put in your hours and learned your craft, and "oh my God, this shit's good." Because your perception of value might be, "well, that was that guy from 10 years ago who was doing that indie book about poop."

 

Basically, the biggest lesson is... I don't know what the biggest lesson is. To make sure that this is what you want to do. You could put in a lot less time and make a lot more money doing a lot of other things. And that's not to say that there's not rewards for this — now I'm able to make money off of this and support my family — but the road it took to get here was a sacrifice of a decade of my life, learning to do all of these things, and to kill myself just to be good at it. And the lesson, I guess, is to do it because you want to do it, because the world might not give you back what you're hoping for.

But that all said, it's not just my "boo-hoo, look at me, look how long it took for me to break into comics." I think that what's more important is that people realize is that tenacity and follow-through is the most important thing in life. There's people who start things and finish them, and there's people who don't. As cliched as it is, the difference is that I didn't give up when nobody believed in me. You can do it. It'll seem like nobody gives a shit about you for a long, long time, but you work hard enough and you follow-through and focus on your voice and your craft, and do what you want to do… you'll accomplish it.

And then the NBC star flies overhead and says "The More You Know..." And I'm riding the star, naked, waving a cowboy hat over my head like Slim Pickens in Doctor Strangelove.

What's your favorite work from Rick Remender? What's your favorite work from Rick Remender?

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