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Batman writer Chip Zdarsky shares his unlikely story of breaking into the comic book industry

It's one thing to be a good writer; it's another to be in the right place to take advantage of a hit movie

Batman Guardians of the Galaxy
Image credit: Jorge Jimenez/DC/Marvel Studios

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How do you become one of the leading lights of the comic book industry? Chip Zdarsky, who’s currently juggling both Avengers: Twilight at Marvel and the ongoing Batman series at DC, has an unlikely origin story that he shared at Emerald City Comic Con Saturday morning.

“Early 2000s, I went to school for illustration and when I was in school, they were very much ‘don’t do comics,’ but there were a bunch of us who still wanted to do comics,” Zdarsky told the crowd in the packed ECCC room Saturday morning. What that meant in practice is that, after graduating, he’d work on comics in his spare time while his day job was working as a writer and artist on his local newspaper.

“I learned so many things on that job, not just in terms of deadline, but writing short. It helped my writing,” he admitted, but it was as an artist he made his mark after befriending Matt Fraction and suggesting that they work together — a request that led to the creation of Sex Criminals.

“We thought it’d be cancelled after 3 issues,” Zdarsky joked. “There was a year when I worked at my job at the paper and did Sex Criminals, because I wasn’t going to quit my job. Who wants to quit one dying print industry for another?” (This line lead to groans and laughs from the assembled panel of fellow creators, prompting Zdarsky to apologize to moderator — and DC editor-in-chief Marie Javins — saying, “comics are doing great!” with some purposeful insecurity.)

Of course, that only explains the origin of Zdarsky as a comic book artist, not the award-winning writer that he’s now known as. That career path came from a Marvel editor picking up his creator-owned, self-published work — Monster Cops, his all-ages title about, unsurprisingly, cops who are classic monsters like vampires and werewolves — and liking it… and the surprise influence of a big Marvel movie of the time.

“I love James Gunn, because Guardians of the Galaxy was in it, and the editor called and said, ‘hey did you see that movie?’” Zdarsky explained. “‘Did you stay to the end? Howard the Duck was in it. I think we can get a comic out of that!’ And I didn’t know that was just how things work.”

Think of it as divine intervention — well, depending how you feel about James Gunn’s body of work, perhaps.


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