Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"So how the hell did YOU get into this?"

That's a question I get asked all the time. How did someone like me into this industry, writing about things like comic books and video games? Truthfully? Well, a lot of it had to do with luck. But you see, luck is a funny thing. Luck will have a habit of presenting you with opportunities in life. But what you DO with those opportunities? That's all on you.

As for me, to really get to the where I am now, you've gotta go way back to the beginning. I was still in high school, and I was as big a geek as I am now. I played video games all the time, and I was at the comic shop almost every day after school. It got to the point that everyone at the shop knew me by name and we all became friends. Eventually, the owner of the shop decided that since I was there enough, I may as well get paid for it. So, he brought me on staff there, where eventually I ended up managing the store. Eventually, the store got sold a couple of times, and I kept getting brought back on board ... three out of the four incarnations of the comic shop, I worked at. This not only kept me more informed as to what was happening in the industry, but it gave me a lot of opportunities to meet other people in comics while at shows and the like ... plus, I became friends with some of the people more behind the scenes, such as sales reps, PR folks, and the like.

From that point, I started to get more involved in the comic industry itself ... outside of the retail area. I began taking an active role in the comic community, making more friends and acquaintances. For a while I even was a moderator at the Top Cow message boards. I made a point of saying hey to everyone I'd met when I saw them at other shows, strike up conversations, and also just listen to the buzz going on in the periphery. After a while, the comic industry just sort of felt like home. So eventually, I decided "What the hell? If it works for comics, why not try it for games?"

It wasn't long before I started spending a little more time in the video game community, and found my way to the forums over at G4. For those of you with a short memory, once upon a time, G4 used to ACTUALLY be a channel focusing on video games. I ended up talking to Victor Lucas and Tommy Tallarico, the hosts of "Judgement Day" and "Electric Playground". Through the course of watching the show and talking to the guys, I learned they were (and still are) HUGE comic book fans. For the record, if you've never heard of Tommy's comic collection, you should look online for talk about it. I've been involved in the comic industry for more than 15 years, and I've never seen a more impressive Spider-Man collection. And Vic? Hell, just mention Batman to him and his ears will perk up. The thing is, as busy as they were, they didn't have the time to look for things as much as they used to. If only they knew someone who a) had a retail comic book connection and b) knew his way around both comics and games. Oh wait, they did ... me. I ended up filling some of the few holes in Tommy's Spider-Man collection, and made sure both of the guys were kept up to speed on the happenings in the comic world.

All of this comic stuff ended up inspiring Vic to add a "Comic of the Week" segment to Electric Playground. I helped out with that, initially point out some books for the spotlight, then eventually even moving to segment production for the show, using the contacts I had in the comic industry to set up filming for a season's worth of "Comic of the Week" segments at Comic-Con in San Diego. I'm guessing that both Vic and Tommy liked the work I was doing, as Tommy put in a good word for me over at Play Magazine with Dave Halverson, and Vic suggested me as a potential freelancer to then GameSpy editor Raymond Padilla while filming a special pre-show for G4's G-Phoria awards.

What followed was a whirlwind of writing everywhere I could. I covered Microsoft's Zero Hour launch for the 360 for Play, working as a contributing newswriter for a while, and over at GameSpy I pulled together as many reviews as I could muster, making sure that I busted my ass doing the best jobs I could, with a fast turn around (a must when working under the gun of a deadline). Keeping in constant contact with people led to me writing for other places, including TeamXbox, Game Almighty, Crispy Gamer, and more. And while luck had opened a few doors, it was hard work that kicked the damned things wide open.

Now, THAT should answer the direct question as to how I got my start as a "pop culture" journalist. Everyone is going to have their own story. That one is mine. As for the next most asked question, "Any tips to help ME break into the business?" Well, that one's going to have to wait until a little later. Don't worry, it won't be THAT long. I'm working on the answer now. But first, I've got a birthday to get through tomorrow. Still, I'm there for you. And while I'll never claim to be an "expert" on how things should be done, I'll be more than happy to pass along what's worked for me.

Until then, though, take it easy and remember to ALWAYS take advantage of the opportunities life presets to you, but NEVER take advantage of the people you meet.

End of line ...

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