Monday, June 11, 2012


Sometimes a job comes along that is so easy. So perfect. That you wonder why all assignments can't be that way. But you count your blessings that you experienced it at all. And maybe, aim to achieve the results with all your work in the same way. That's how I feel about working on Zatanna.

Inking had been steady work by this point with long runs on Detective Comics and Streets Of Gotham. But I'm never satisfied and always looking for the next thing. So usually every few months or more, I tend to have a ritual of checking around with editors and companies, to see if there's anything available that I can work on. I might already have work on my plate, but that doesn't mean I can't take on more. It probably comes from my first year of working in comics, where work dried up quickly, and I had nothing for about a year's stretch of time. It's a scary prospect working freelance, never knowing if there will be a "next time". If your current work might be your last work. So even when work is steady and busy, I never feel comfortable. I always want more. I never want to turn down a job, even if it means finding a way to juggle a few things at the same time.

The success rate when it comes to landing something by asking around, has to be in the low percentile. Like single digits. It usually never works, for a number of reasons. Most editors only work with their small group of talent they manage on their books. There's not a lot of openings for someone new or even someone proven, as projects get tied up months (or years) in advance. Not to mention, just cold call emailing editors you haven't even worked for is just frustration waiting to happen. Most won't answer your emails (take note aspiring creators…it's as tough for the "pros" as it is for those trying to break in). And those that do, might give the perfunctory "sorry, I got nothing but will keep you in mind". And who can blame 'em. Their email boxes are full every day with multiple requests just like mine, in addition to the real work they're trying to get done. You've won half the battle if you even get any response back at all.

So I was surprised when after I sent an email to Joey Cavallieri, editor on Zatanna, that he responded back quickly. Never underestimate perfect timing. It just happened that when I wrote, he was in the market to do a lot of one issue stories. Little did I know at the time, that the title was nearing the end of its run, so they needed a few of these to wrap things up. I think in my initial email, I even sent in a quick springboard idea for what a story might be. So when he came back and said to send him a few more to pick from, that was all I needed to hear. I had a few other ideas for stories ready to go, and fired them off. And I'd say within a day or two's time, Joey had selected the one he was interested in, and then I was off to write a beat sheet breakdown for what happens on each page of the 20 page story.

initial hunter designs by Jamal Igle
My initial pitch to the story went like this:

After performing multiple shows and benefits over a weekend, Zatanna is worn down to the point of exhaustion. But instead of being allowed to rest to restore her powers; she's on the run, placed in a life or death situation. An ancient order that has hunted the makers of witchcraft throughout time (as well as killing other species of warlocks, werecreatures, vampir, and sasquatch), has set its sights on the mistress of magic. It is up to a child stagehand to help guide and protect Zee in her weakened condition, as she uses her last vestiges of power to use the child as a vessel to channel her remaining power against the order. By the end of the story, they'll have transported the current members of the order back through time to the famous witch trials, where they'll ironically be mistaken for users of witchcraft, to be contained and punished.

Upon writing up the outline and scripting it, I decided it might work better to have Zatanna alone on the run as she was being hunted. I'm sure there would be added tension if she was trying to protect a child at the same time. But I felt the hunters that were after her, wouldn't want to put any innocent people in danger, and only saw Zatanna as their target. It would just be more focused, and get into the head of her character, if she were alone in this and having to scramble.

I basically wanted Zee in the roll of John McClane in "Die Hard"…struggling against all odds to survive and take down the attackers that outnumbered her. Yippee Kai Yay!!

Shortly thereafter, I turned in a script, and aside from a couple of great suggestions from Joey, it was done. Maybe the easiest job I'd ever had in comics. In a whirlwind of a week's time, I was hired and turned in a finished script that everyone was happy with. The artist was off and running, and then I just sat back and waited for the results.

And it almost didn't happen.

Zee speaks the truth!
You see, DC's new52 has just been announced and things were gearing up for a company wide relaunch. Some titles would survive, but most would not. And I had no idea at this point if the issue I had worked on for Zatanna would ever see print. Months and months and months went by as I grew more cagey. DC isn't in the business to pay for something they wouldn't use, but it has happened before where projects get left in the drawer during times of upheaval or restructuring. I had gotten paid. But I think any professional would agree that it's just as important that your work make it to print and get seen as well. I think they go hand in hand.

Half a year after I initially wrote the script, my issue of Zatanna came out. Everything worked out and my issue was the next to last before the title got cancelled. I just made it in under the wire. They even collected it into a trade paperback later, which I was equally amazed by, as I didn't think there would be enough issues to collect near the end (much less any need to collect the rest with the relaunch happening).

Special thanks go out to my editor on the issue, Joey Cavalieri, for giving me the shot to write the issue just on a whim. And the combined work of Jamal Igle and John Dell on art, and John Kalisz on colors. And I have to admit being spoiled by having, in my humble opinion, the best cover he did on Zatanna that Adam Hughes drew. So simple and so iconic.


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