By Filip Sablik, Publisher of Top Cow Publications, Inc.
So what’d you do this weekend?
One night this past weekend, the wife and I invited some friends over for some Chinese takeout and to watch “Can’t Hardly Wait”. The crew included fellow comic pros Archaia Studio Press’ Mel Caylo, freelance writer and editor Rob Levin, and artist Nelson Blake II. “Can’t Hardly Wait” is a seminal high school flick from the 1990s. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, I highly recommend it.
Other than my illustrious guests, what does this have to do with comics?
Well, because in truth, Rob challenged me to tie in our evening to a blog post after I lamented I had nothing to write about this week. Always up for a good challenge, I decided I could tie this into comics. Specifically to breaking into comics, although you could probably extrapolate these ideas into most industries (certainly most entertainment industries).
“Can’t Hardly Wait”, in addition to having this phenomenal scene featuring Guns N’ Roses “Paradise City”, also featured numerous young, up and coming actors.
Perhaps you recognize a few of them:
Lauren Ambrose, who went on to star in Six Feet Under (and voice Jenny Romano in The Darkness video game)
Peter Facinelli, who went on to roles in Six Feet Under, Fastlane, and Twilight
Sean Patrick Thomas, who went on to star in Save the Last Dance, The District and Barbershop
Freddy Rodriguez, another Six Feet Under alum and Grindhouse: Planet Terror
Donald Faison, who went on to star in Clueless & Scrubs
Selma Blair, from Hellboy and Legally Blond fame
Jaime Pressely of My Name is Earl and Joe Dirt fame
Erik Palladino, who went on to ER and play every detective on TV
And if you look really closely you’ll see the first credited role for Jason Segal, who wrote and starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and stars in How I Met Your Mother and I Love You, Man
Why do I bring all of this up (other than to show off my knowledge obscure movie trivia)? To make a point, which is this: you never know who the next star or successful working professional is going to be. Today’s intern or bit player could be tomorrow’s “next big thing”. The guy grabbing you coffee today could be the guy deciding if you get a job in 10 years. And so, it pays to be nice to everyone. I’ll take it one step further and say that it really pays to help everyone you can, whether they can help you or not.
I have a couple of examples from my time at Diamond, but here’s the best one. One afternoon I received a phone call from a prospective creator, who wanted advice and information about self-publishing. I took a few minutes to speak with him and one of the things I suggested was that the best way to figure out indy publishing was to go and work or volunteer at an indy publisher. The guy thanked me for my time and I thought nothing more of the phone call. At some point later, I got a call from the same guy, who told me that based on my advice he volunteered to help Top Shelf in the wake of their book distributor collapsing. He helped Chris Staros box up orders for the emergency sale they ran to keep the company afloat. Shortly afterwards, Chris offered the young guy a job. He then had an opportunity to pitch Chris his comic project, which Chris decided to take a chance on publishing. The guy’s name is Robert Venditti and he wrote a graphic novel called “The Surrogates”. It’s been made into a major motion picture starring Bruce Willis.
Robert was thoughtful enough to give me a call and thank me for my advice. I wouldn’t presume to take credit for his success, that is all his to own; but I do take some pride in having been open enough to give him some sincere and helpful advice. Who knows maybe I’ll get a pass to the screening out of it…
Which leads me to my second “Can’t Hardly Wait” point. Towards the end of the movie, our main guy Preston has a conversation with a stripper dressed up as an angel (Jenna Elfman!) and the stripper tells him, “Fate! There is such a thing as fate, but it only takes you so far. Then it’s up to you to make it happen.”
That’s the other thing Robert’s story illustrates for me. Opportunities do come knocking, but the question is – will you have the courage to step through the open door and seize the opportunity? It may not be the opportunity you envisioned for yourself, chances are you won’t get the opportunity to strut your stuff on a Brian Michael Bendis scripted Spider-Man story as a first time penciler. But are you missing opportunities by not volunteering for a publisher at a convention or interning as an assistant in the office?
My advice, which has been echoed by far smarter people than I, is to take any opportunity to do what you love, no matter how tangentially it seems to be related to the thing you ultimately want to do. Bear in mind that nothing is owed to you, but that with enough hard work, talent, and tenacity you can earn your dreams. You never know where you might end up.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a weird desire to listen to Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” and eat a strawberry Pop-Tart…
Filip Sablik is the Publisher of Top Cow Productions, Inc. He’s been in the business for eight years and just officially entered his thirties. Occasionally, he does a bit of writing and drawing. He loves comics.
Top Cow Productions, Inc. was founded by Marc Silvestri, co-founder of Image Comics. Top Cow currently publishes its line of comic books in 21 languages in over 55 different countries. The company has launched 20 franchises (18 original and two licensed) in the industry’s Top 10, seven at #1, a feat accomplished by no other publisher in the last two decades.