Every person that is a part of the comic book industry had to start somewhere. No one is walking down the street and just offered a job by Marvel or DC. Each creator has their own story to tell, and this new feature "Creator Firsts" will find out how these creators got to where they are.
Today, we take a look at writer Joshua Williamson. Currently, he's writing GHOSTED, CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, and working on the upcoming Image series NAILBITER. Williamson has worked at Dark Horse, Image, Marvel, and DC comics, but we wanted to find out where he came from, as a writer, and his first Diamond distributed book, NECESSARY EVIL. We talked to Williamson about his early works and what made him want to become a writer.
COMIC VINE: What are your earliest memories as a writer?
JOSHUA WILLIAMSON: Note cards.
When I was super young I used to do everything on note cards. Making what I felt were perfect X-men teams. Each team got their own card, and then I’d write story ideas in the backs. Then gradually my own creations. Of course I had a huge universe full of characters.
After a while I started using the note cards as issue outlines only. Each card was an issue. Just quick beats of what was happening in each issue. In a way I was just working on pacing and issue breaks.
That eventually lead to short stories and then scripts in college. But I still use note cards today to help me keep things straight with the different characters and books I work on.
CV: Where did you go to school/college and what did you originally go in for?
JW: Brooks College of Design in Long Beach, California. There I studied graphic design and art. It was originally my goal to become an art director for a comic publisher. Deep down I knew I wanted to write but that just didn’t seem like the path I was on. I knew a lot of artists and writers and always feel into a management or editor position. Looking back I see that was because I was the only one that had the drive to get things done.
Later on I went to Portland State University and attended Brian Michael Bendis’ Graphic Novel Writing course.
CV: Was there a specific moment, like Bendis' class, that made you want to break into comics?
JW: By the time I was in Bendis’ class I had already published Necessary Evil and had a few short gigs here and there. BUT I took his class to learn and get better.
Breaking into comics came when I used to go to really small shows when I was a kid and started talking to editors. By the time I was in college I knew the challenges involved as I started to meet creators and hearing stories. Honestly, I don’t remember any one moment because it feel like I wanted to work in comics my whole life.
CV: Your first "big time" book, meaning a series offered through Diamond, was Necessary Evil from Desperado Publishing. How did you get that gig?
JW: That was a book that I created with a friend named Marcus Harris. We met at SDCC 2005, I think. Started talking comics and I showed him the script for issue one of Necessary Evil, and within the first page he knew it was a book he wanted to draw. We started to work on our own and pitch it to publishers. BUT while we did that we decided to self publish the first issue. Just do it all ourselves. Have it for sale at our small press table at SDCC 2006. Desperado saw the first issue, and agreed to publish it. Fast forward to the fall of 2007 and it was on the shelves. It was a long process but worth it.
Necessary Evil was what lead me to getting work at DC and Marvel.
CV: What was the series about?
JW: It was about a school for super villains. Two twin brothers whose super villain mom was killed by a Superman archtype hero, and they vowed revenge. The two twin brothers wanted to learn how to be villains and were enrolled in the Necessary Evil Academy. It was pretty much Harry Potter for bad guys. It lasted about 9 issues, and I have a 10th that is nearly finished. Low sales killed us, but we were still able to get the series optioned by Cartoon Network, which was a lot of fun.
CV: How did it feel knowing you were a published comic book writer?
JW: Crazy. But also fleeting. I’ve always been a guy who has to keep moving and I same to never take the time to enjoy accomplishment. I leave them in my dust, while I work forward to the next thing. So when that first issue came out, it was sort of… not a big deal? It was, but it’s hard to explain. By the time that came out I already had another book accepted at Image, and was heading in that direction. It was just a baby step. Even though I have a comic published multiple times a month now, it’s all baby steps. I’m never satisfied.
CV: What was the first thing you did when you got that first copy of your book in your hands?
JW: Stared at it. Smelled it. Looked at the ink. Checked for mistakes or typos. That was a weird day. I was just happy to have it done. But also nervous. Because I knew that I had to do that every month. When I was doing mini-comics I would do one a year, maybe two. But the idea of making one comic a month seemed impossible. Again… Now I do multiple comics a month. Thankfully I have a lot of help from co-creators, editors, publishers, production and marketing.
CV: What were a few of the challenges you had to overcome in order to write your first book?
JW: Mostly just my own bullshit fears and laziness. I can be really hard on myself to the point where I get in my own way.
I bought script books and got my hands on a few. I had seen movie scripts and started writing like that but eventually learned the differences and started to get the format together.
BUT when I was done with school my computer died on me and I was so broke I couldn’t even afford a new one. So for a bit I was writing everything out of note books, and funny enough… not cards.
CV: Looking back, is there anything you wish you could change or do differently?
Not really. Did I make mistakes? Maybe. But I’d like to believe I learned from them.
And I’m happy with where I’m at now, going back and changing things would mess that all up.
Like I said earlier… I try not to dwell on the past too much. I like to just keep moving forward. There is way too much I want to do in comics, too many stories to tell to get caught up in old shit.
CV: What advice would you give to those who want to become comic book writers?
JW: To learn how to write comics. Be patient and keep working hard. It seems to me that lately a lot of people are trying to become experts in breaking into comics, but have forgotten that they need to learn how to actually make them.
Getting your foot in the door is fine, but if you have no knowledge of how comics are actually made, the business or even a competent level of technique or understand comics as a medium, you’re shooting yourself in that very same foot.
Thanks a lot to Joshua Williamson for answering our questions! Make sure to check out his current series CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT from Dark Horse and GHOSTED from Image Comics, and keep your eye out for NAILBITER which debuts in May! You can even follow him on Twitter and check out his website.