Merry Christmas! While many are settling down for their long winter’s nap and the go-go news cycle downshifts, Newsarama will keep you fires burning with fascinating anecdotes never before revealed. Enjoy!
In 1980, artist Bill Willingham was working at TSR, doing illustrations for the legendary Dungeons & Dragons game franchise. But to Willingham, it was just the day job. He really wanted to get into comics, and the door was opened in an unusual way…
Take it away, Bill!
“It’s John Romita Sr.’s fault. While I was working at TSR, I’d go home and do comic book sample pages. I sent them into Marvel, knowing nothing about how the comic books were done. John Romita Sr. was the art director for Marvel at the time, so I simply sent them to him.
“He did an amazing thing. He called me, and gave me this wonderful, detailed review. I did not expect that at all. And I mean it was page-by-page, panel-by-panel, here’s what works and doesn’t and so on. He said, ‘Don’t rotate the camera 180 degrees here, it makes no sense,’ both all the really, really in-depth and basic stuff that I needed at the time. He spent over an hour on the phone with me! And I was a nobody! He didn’t know me from Adam.
“So in a week, I re-did all my samples based on his notes and corrections, and sent them in. He called me back and said, ‘No one’s ever done that. No one’s ever re-done sample pages that quickly, and having obviously paid attention to what I said.’
“The he dropped a bomb on me. He said, ‘You know, I can’t get you work on the books here. You’ll have to go talk to the editors. But now with these samples, I think you’re ready to see them.’ What I didn’t know at the time was that as art director, John was in charge of the bullpen, the art corrections, drawings for Spider-Man Underoos, Hostess snack cake ads, and so on. I didn’t know you had to send samples direct to the editors to get a job doing the comics. So I sent them to John Romita Sr.
“So I flew out there and did that.”