by Glenn Matchett
After signing up for Jinxworld I soon found how addicting some threads known as ‘megathreads’ could be. Essentially megathreads are casual threads where a certain group regularly meet and talk, like you would with a group of friends at a bar or at a restaurant. One of these ‘megathreads’ was one centred around DC comics and at that time seemed to be the only place that company’s comics were discussed which did make sense since Jinxworld was a fan message board of a Marvel writer. In that thread I met so many nice people and got to reading so many comics I previously would not have dreamed of trying that I will always have fond memories of it. I was basically a new start to the ‘proper’ DCU and they welcomed me with open arms and providing fantastic conversation about comics and other matters. Most of the people who made the thread truly great are sadly no longer posting as like with many things life and other things get in the way. There are a select few who are a solid group but the heyday of the thread is well and truly gone and it may sound sad but it does get me down a bit. Once of the best people I met who does still remain was Andrew Goletz who I would learn after a few months was the same Mr. Goletz who wrote the ‘Life Of Reilly’ articles I mentioned last week, talk about a small world. Like me Andrew was a huge Spider-Man fan and we started a connection with that and soon discovered we got along very well.
It was like any other day in the DCU thread when Andrew suddenly asked who would be interested in a ‘fun, one time only’ comic anthology centred around the theme of hope. Perhaps he had a brief moment of insanity, was drunk or was being blackmailed but it was a crazy offer most of us seemed too good to pass up. Most of us bit his hands off and so the Gathering (name courtesy of future art director John Coker I believe) was born. The rules were simple; you write two pages on hope and just go for it. I was excited and waited to see who I would get as an artist for what would be my first ever printed comic story. By luck I would get a great artist in Brent Peeples who some of you may know from the Image series ‘Last of the Greats’. To my shame I didn’t know his name right away but after some quick research (Google) I found out this guy could draw the phone book and make it look great. I knew immediately what I wanted to go with my story and got to writing it. Like I said last week I never really had much ‘training’ or ‘learning’ when it came to creative writing but comic scripts are written in a specific way and I learnt how to write them simply by reading other examples. In the modern day of comics most collections come with special features like a movie would be and they may take the form of sketches or covers but another extra included is the script. Thanks to my sizable collection and the internet I read many different writers scripts to try and see what suited my own style best. I soon learned there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write a comic script as nearly every writer did theirs differently. Some went overkill on the detail and others took a very laid back approach. I chose to take elements from several writers like JMS and Neil Gaiman and incorporate them with my own style and that evolved into how I write my scripts today. I also got great tips from fellow editors and Gathering contributors James O’Callaghan and Erica Heflin. In fact there was an element in Erica’s script I liked so much I soon incorporated in to all my future scripts (with permission of course) so thanks Erica!
So I knew how to write a script it was just what to write about was the question. I had an idea several months previously of a novel about the survivors of a post-apocalyptic world that had survived an alien invasion and some already worked out the first few chapters and characters. I decided to adapt a portion of the prologue into the two page story and adjust it somewhat so that that despite their near extinction hope remained in the spirit of the human race. The final image was something I had in my mind when I first passed the idea by Brent and without telling him what it was he said ‘hey it would be cool if there was a baby born at the end’ and I was like ‘Yes! I thought that too’ It was a great experience. So the story was drawn and the volume was printed and the story looked amazing. Brent knocked it out of the park and then we all knew he was going places. On my part the story was perhaps too heavy on dialogue and images but Brent sold it and made me look much better than I was which the job of any artist is really.
Vol. 1 sold well and got a lot of critical acclaim and it was because a lot of the stories were bloody good. Most of us had only been published in this volume alone but the quality of the whole thing was so high it got the attention of creators like Gail Simone and magazines such as Wired. Then Andrew (after another night on the booze no doubt) said ‘hey let’s do another one.’ Success grew and more eyes were drawn to us and two volumes became three which became six and then we were doing one shots and then we were going to go monthly and it just kept growing and growing. The Gathering and GrayHaven gave something back to the industry I feel by giving those who perhaps did not have a chance to be published room to show off their work. It was a high risk to sell a comic with no big names involved but I feel it paid off as we got some of the best hidden talent in comics doing stories for us on both sides of the page. In the first volume alone we had two creative teams that just clicked to an amazing degree. In comics when a creative team clicks it shows and it goes all the way back to Stan and Jack but GrayHaven had their own great teams in their first try with the duos of Ray Goldfield and Kent Holle and Doug Hahner and Donal DeLay. These teams worked so well together I wanted more from them immediately and the latter team’s story was so popular it won a poll for best story in the first two volumes allowing them to work on a one shot entitled ‘My Geek Family’ comic this year.
We had a bit of a dark horse on our hands and more opportunities to do stories came my way. I pride myself on being able to beat any deadline to bits and although I may not be the best Gathering writer I wanted to be the most dependable. My next story came in Vol. 3 of the anthology simply titled heroes. Although we were doing well people assumed we were going to the familiar comic genre of superheroes too soon so the comic took a little while to get going in comparison to Vol. 1 and 2. In truth Vol. 3 looked at heroes in many different forms be they policemen or firemen or even family members. Only two stories off the top of my head actually featured super heroes and one of them was mine. Sadly I’ve interacted with one of my former comic writing idols in the past and got personally insulted by that person. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and I won’t dwell on it but I wondered how someone who idolized a superhero would feel if their hero wasn’t all that great? The story ‘My Day With Commander Cosmo’ was born and I attempted to make it funny. Comedy is hard to write and deliver as people’s sense of humour is so subjective but I knew if I could make at least SOME of the audience laugh I could stand proud. I got another lucky draw with artist Nathan Lee James who was brilliant at doing close up expressions similar to legendary artist Kevin Maguire and again he made the story that much better. One of my favourite things he did was when I had made the joke in the story that Commander Cosmo met the boy in the story by mistakenly flying smack dab into a lamppost. Something Nathan did was set up that joke several pages earlier by showing the bent lamppost in the background and it worked brilliantly and I thought ‘damn I should have thought of that!’ Nathan had added to the story and made it better which is an invitation I regularly make to artists but most of them don’t follow and here it was done very well. I worked with Nathan on another Commander Cosmo story parodying the time where Superman renounced his citizenship and again he knocked it out of the park. I hope to work with him again one day and hope he finds the success he deserves.
The next volume I worked on was Vol. 6 which was the second instalment of Horror the Gathering had offered. The first volume had been so popular critically and financially Andrew not only decided to do two sequels but also do a Horror on-going entitled ‘Tales Of The Abyss’ which would feature fewer but longer stories than the Gathering and basically would be Grayhaven’s flagship book. Again I turned to several novels I had generated ideas from and one was a horror themed story entitled ‘The Station’ about a crew who go to investigate the status of a missing crew following weeks without contact. As opposed to Vol. 1 where I merely took the prologue of one story I basically crammed a whole novel into 5 pages. There is a long history to the production of this story I won’t go into here but it eventually was drawn by David Aspmo who delivered it quickly and brilliantly. When the book came out some websites had picked mine as one of the highlights (along with pro Sterling Gates unbelievably in one case) which knocked my socks off. Speaking impartially Vol. 6 is a brilliant comic from start to finish so for my story to be held in that regard was a highlight to me.
Just before we went to print on Vol. 6 another change was happening to GrayHaven. Things were getting so big that Andrew could no longer do it alone. I had volunteered for some minor help here and there but never really thought much of it. A few weeks before Vol. 6 went to print Andrew e-mailed me and asked if I liked to be an editor on the Gathering. Although I had wanted to write comics for a long time editing them was something that had never crossed my mind. Would I be any good? Would I let Andrew down? He had done so much for me and I feared that I would let him down; in all honesty I still fear that on a daily basis. Despite this I found myself saying yes. Now I had scripts to edit, rules to enforce, art to approve, artists to recruit and basically do anything Andrew wanted me to which ranged from making the tea and settling problems. The first Volume I edited was Vol. 8 the sci-fi volume. This was like a crash course in editing as some of this book had already been approved so I was just to come along and keep the plates spinning. Well the plates kept spinning and some crashed to the ground as daily I worked on the great beast which was the Sci-fi volume to make sure it didn’t all go horribly wrong. I have more than a few funny stories about this one which I’ll save for now but it was a memorable time. I then immediately had to edit the following Volume ‘Fairy Tales’ which I came in at square one so thankfully had more control over. Less smashing plates on this one but still lots to learn and I like to think I did an okay job. Sci-fi is on sale now (buy it on this very site!) with Fairy Tales to follow next month (buy on this very site!) so I must have done something right. I am now currently editing the third (and final) Gathering Horror volume before the Tales anthology launches. Glad I’m not editing that one (wait….I am?) in all seriousness it’s another experience beyond anything I’d ever dared dream and I hope I do more good than harm. In my brief career as an editor I like to claim all the good things and blame all the bad things on someone else (joking of course….except not really).
Back to writing! The next volume I was involved with writing wise was Vol. 7 the ‘Myth’ volume. By now the Gathering was running a lot of stuff and we couldn’t wait around for stories any longer. People now expected us to act like a real company and produce comics when we said we would produce them (its insanity!) so rules regarding deadlines were made stricter. One rule made was that if the art on the story was late the whole story would get cut without exception. One of the early causalities to this rule was my Myth story. I had started to write my scripts well in advance (just completed my first two 2013 scripts the other day, huzzah!) so I often don’t know who I’m going to be working with art wise considering I like to keep a year ahead writing wise. My artist on the Myth story failed to meet deadline or the one after that or the one following that. My story was scrapped which is a shame because I was quite fond of it. Still the security of the company and the future of GrayHaven is more important than my story so I didn’t cry or protest. It’s one of those things and while I hope that one day the story sees print I 100% support Andrew’s decision and wouldn’t ask him to change it for anything.
Still I haven’t ended up too badly as I have stories coming up in Fairy Tales, Horror 3, Adventure, Mystery, Dark, Young Reader’s among others. I’m beginning to think the one spiking Andrew’s drink is myself but I will neither confirm or deny it. On one day where I made the dose especially high (oops) he also told me something that would change possibly everything. I was getting my own one shot and I could tell whatever story I wanted. The opportunity blew me away and I was puzzled as to why I deserved it. I hadn’t won a poll like Doug and Donal and to me there are probably more deserving people. Still I wasn’t going to turn him down (I have done on other things for the record like the idiot I am) and so the opportunity to publish Sparks, an idea I came up with close to ten years ago becomes more of a reality with each passing day. Then Andrew said he wanted Cassandra James who had only previously worked on Gathering stories with Gail Simone and Sterling Gates to draw it and she said yes. After breathing in a brown paper bag for a few minutes I just found myself being amazed by how things had developed in such a short space of time. Sparks in scheduled to be published in September, a mere 6 months from my typing this and that day will be both one of the strangest and the best in my life. I don’t care if one person reads or one million this idea has been with me longer than most and I can’t wait to see it all come to life. A year ago I would not have believed you if you told me any of these things were possible and it all results from a series of wonderful coincidences.
I do find it strange that there are so many little things that have brought me to where I am. A cartoon on a black and white TV, trying out a new Spider-man title by a new writer on a whim, reading the right articles, signing up to a message board and posting in one specific thread, saying yes. One little thing, one different choice and I may not be here typing these words. I am a big believer in fate and if you read the stories of many successful people their success often derives from a series of chance decisions that could have easily led them down a different path. I do not think I am successful but I’m very proud of what I’ve done so far and I’m very proud to be a part of GrayHaven and what it stands for. I may not be the best writer but I like to think that with a mix of dependability and good stories I’m a valuable contributor. All I can do is write the stories and hope that someone enjoys them when they are printed. I’ve learnt some lessons, made some friends and had a dream come true. No matter what happens I doubt I will ever forget that feeling of receiving Vol. 1 in the mail and seeing my name on the back and inside that comic. That moment to me was priceless and for that I am forever grateful. I’ve lived the life of an Irish fanboy but I have a long while to go yet. This time last year I would not have believed my position now only 52 weeks later. What will next year or next month or even tomorrow hold? Time will tell.
I just hope you’re all along for the ride. See you at the finish line.
* Thanks to Andrew Goletz for inviting me to write something for the site and for doing more and putting up with me more than anyone ever should. Thanks to those of you who read these very lengthy articles. Thanks to my friends at Jinxworld, the real ones and you guys know who you are. Thanks to everyone who supports Grayhaven, please continue to do so I know some of the stuff coming up and you won’t regret doing so.
Ed Note: It’s been particularly interesting to me watching people who worked on our earliest volumes just two years ago hone their craft and get better and better. Glenn is not just a talented writer. He’s a work horse. Driven by a desire to be perfect he is always open to suggestions on how to improve and as an editor has gone above and beyond in enforcing deadlines and sometimes stepping outside the lines for the betterment of the books. Above all though, he’s a great guy. There are a lot of talented people in the industry and I think we’re finding quite a few ourselves here in the pages of The Gathering. But Glenn is also just a nice person. One who wears his passion on his sleeve and always steps up to help someone else. Anyone else. It’s been a pleasure to see him recap his personal journey here the past year and I can’t wait to get back to creating more comics with him.