In 2009, DC Comics hit me with a surprise. Wednesday Comics was a serialized newsprint comics broadsheet that hit stands once a week for 12 weeks. I blogged giddily about the joy I took consuming it, and even had my son take a picture of me reading it, just to demonstrate its scope:
Wednesday Comics was a real gamble on the part of DC. It resurrected serialized storytelling from the era when newspapers had comics of substance, and it did it with an investment in A-list talent. The whole project is so daring, I decide I want in. And I want to do it daring style. I learn that the whole shebang is the brainchild of DC art director Mark Chiarello, and I know just what I want to pitch him. In my mind, Wednesday Comics is so awesome, it will surely spawn a sequel, and I think that sequel should star Detective Chimp.
Um, that would be D-list comics celebrity Detective Chimp. He’s, you know, a chimp. And he solves mysteries. Because he’s, like, a detective. It’s all very comics-logic, and if you’re not on board with that description, then, brother, I’m not sure you’re at the right blog.
You’ll notice that the original Wednesday Comics unfurls into a broadsheet equivalent to eight pages of content. I reason that I can win Chiarello over if I combine my story pitch with a mock-up of an actual issue of Wednesday Comics. Do I know that there will be a sequel to this project? No. Am I choosing a marketable character? No. Am I approaching the right guy to launch my future career as a comics writer? Considering he’s an art director, probably not.
But if you can’t believe in something stupid, ill-conceived, star-crossed and wholly unlikely, what can you believe in?
So I did it. Exactly what I said up there above, I did that. I made the mock-up. I filled it with chimp jokes. I fashioned a mock comic strip using stick figures … including a stick figure chimp … wearing a deer stalker. I consulted with the staff at Blick’s for the ideal paper and pens to execute my vision. I practiced the ideal fold, and brainstormed ways to fill it with the right content.
And this is what came out:
Once you build a mock broadsheet comic of those proportions, you can’t just mail it. You’ve got to keep the sizzle sizzlin’ on your comix fajita. After repeat visits to my local Paper Source, where the staff soon began to think I was just nuts, I pieced together the knowledge I needed to fashion a crude portfolio to house my creation:
Yes, they had just the right brand of monkey-themed bookcloth.
The mock-up tucked neatly into the custom protective corners (cut from banana-colored envelopes. On the right I pasted a quick salutation and an offer to meet with Mr. Chiarello at the upcoming Chicago Comic-Con.
Well, once I had gone this far, it seemed cruel just to shove this into a UPS sleeve and sling it into a busy editor’s in-box. No, I knew I wanted my submission to be seen on his desk — not just on his desk, but from the very minute it entered the DC offices in NYC. All hail the Internet, which connected me to a Manhattan gift shop that specialized in custom baskets. The proprietress seemed amused by my tale and I could tell I got her invested in my quixotic quest; she had become a Sancho Panza of simian seduction, as she and began to envision a basket loaded with bananas and monkey-themed nonsense. Here’s the photo she sent me just before delivering the payload to the DC headquarters:
Nuts, right? I mean, totally bonkers that I took this stupid little idea this far, and turned it into a Carmen Miranda halftime show. You can feel the scrappy, I’m-gonna-make-it-after-all, against-the-odds vibe here, right?
But as you know, it’s Rejection Week, and I haven’t retired early to the Caymans with my fat wages garnered as a hot comix provocateur. This story must get the Old Yeller treatment.
I did hear from Chiarello, at least, and he was very gracious. He thanked me for the basket, swearing that I didn’t have to try so hard next time. (Read: Please stop scaring us with your crazy.) He assured me that if there were going to be a Wednesday Comics 2, it would probably still be using A-list talent (and that he even had some names in mind for a Detective Chimp concept he had already been noodling). He did agreed to meet me at the Comic-Con, which is probably the best outcome I should have hoped for. We have stayed in touch from time to time, so who can say: Perhaps this rejection is the very long, drawn-out, needlessly fruit-infused beginning of an acceptance one day.
And when that day comes, we’ll all have plenty of Vitamin A and potassium.