It was 1984, and I had graduated high school. We had just got our diplomas, and I was looking for my graduation cap since I had rented the gown and cap. I heard my name, turned around, and saw my crush. She introduced me to her parents, and we exchanged pleasantries. At that moment, my sister arrived, and we left as she had plans for us a nice dinner and then a movie-Star Trek: The Search for Spock. After the movie, we chatted, and I discussed my dreams to become a comic book artist. I would go to a community college since I couldn't afford other schools and work simultaneously.
Before going to college, I decided to visit Marvel in New York. I got their information from the phone book and used the old rotary phone to dial the phone number. I was so nervous. The line picked up, and it was a lovely lady. I asked to speak to someone about interviewing for pencilers at Marvel. I can't recall the exact information exchanged, but I remember that I got a date and time for an interview in NY. I agreed and said that I would be there.
No planning whatsoever, and it was the night before my interview, in the middle of winter. Oh, God, Maryland winters were so cold. I got my illustrations and put them in the back of my gray Chevy Chevette. At the time, I was living with my brother. We also had a roommate, a girl that was living with us. She was lovely and kind. When she found out that I was going to New York, she asked if she could come along. I said yes, no problem. We calculated how much gas we would need, and I had just enough to get us back.
At 2 AM, we hit the road. I stopped after a couple of hours and filled up with gas. My travel companion fell asleep after we got gas, and I woke her up after another two hours. Daylight was breaking, and we were close to New York. I decided to stop at another gas station and get a street map of New York. We hadn't figured on the tolls we had to pay. We came to a bridge, paid the fee, and I asked the attendant if this was taking me to New York. He just nodded. I think he just wanted us to keep moving. We drove for another 10 to 15 minutes, and I got lost. Somehow we got on the same bridge, but now we were going back. We turned around and paid another toll, but this time we were headed in the right direction, at least-or that's what we thought. We got lost again. We asked for directions, and everyone said it would be easier if we took the subway. So we parked the car and headed for the subway. I got some tokens, and off we went. The interview was at 10 AM, and now it was 9:45. We had four stops to go. We were cutting it close.
Finally, we got out of the subway, and then we couldn't find the building. After a few more times asking for directions, we found the building. We went up, and I approached the receptionist and introduced myself. "I am here for my appointment." The lady looked perplexed. "We don't have you on our calendar. Who did you make the appointment with?" Good question-l had never asked who I was speaking to when I called. Immediately I explained that I was here from Maryland and that I'd left there at 2 AM for this interview. Again this lady was also an angel. She calmed me down and said, "Sit here for a second. I will be back." After five to ten minutes, she came back and said, "We have an artist that can take a look at your work. Follow me."
I was introduced to a very tall young man, around mid-twenties, and he told me that he would look at my art and interview me.
He was sitting in an open area and had an art table that would either sit at an angle or stay flat. He moved his desk flat, and he asked for my portfolio. I grabbed my art from under my arm-a a bunch of papers and Bristol boards. It was my artwork from school and some of my comics, seven or eight pages of sequential art. He looked at me with disgust and raised his voice: "WHERE IS YOUR PORTFOLIO?" I responded with a sheepish voice, "Umm, this is my portfolio..." "NO, THIS IS NOT YOUR P0RTE0LI0 THIS IS A BUNCH 0E SCATTERED PAPERS WITH DRAWINGS ON THEM." "THIS IS SO UNPROFESSIONAL! FINE, LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE." "WHAT ARE THESE? THEY ARE NOT COMICS! WHERE IS YOUR SEQUENTIAL ART? I DON'T LOOK AT ILLUSTRATION!" "THESE ARE CRAP! THEY LOOK LIKE SHIT. YOU CAN'T DRAW. WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU CAME HERE WITH SUCH SHITTY ARTWORK?"
At this point, the office had gone quiet. Not a sound was made-or if it was, I didn't hear it as my head was in my chest and the agony of defeat on my soul. An older gentleman approached. I picked up my head, and he smiled and looked at my drill sergeant, handed him some pages, and asked that they be corrected. The interview was a disaster, and I grabbed my artwork under my arm and headed out. I was ready to cry. As I reached the reception area, my friend noticed that it hadn't gone well. She consoled me and said, Come on, let's get out of here. We almost made it to the door when the same older gentleman came up behind me and asked me to go to his office. I sat down in front of him and handed him my artwork.
He looked at them. He didn't say anything about the artwork, whether It was good or bad. After he was done looking, he said, "We can offer you a job, but not as an artist. You can work around the office, and we will work with you on your artwork. The pay is 6 dollars an hour." I said no and thanked him for his offer and generosity. I explained that I couldn't be this far away from my family, or maybe that was an excuse to get out of there.
As we left Marvel's office, I didn't speak a word. We got back on the train towards where we had parked. After getting out of the subway, we couldn't find the car. We must have gone over every street and couldn't find It. I found a phone booth and called the local police, who told me that my car had been towed for illegally parking near a fire hydrant. They gave me a number to call. I hung up and dialed the towing company with no answer. This went on for over an hour. I called the operator and asked if they could Interrupt the line to tell them I need help. The operator said she couldn't do that, so I told her my story. After patiently listening, she said to wait in line and that she would get back to me. After a while, she came back online and said that the phone must be disconnected from the jack as no one Is on the line. I hung up and dialed 411 operators to help me get an address for the towing company. The man on the line patiently waited until I was done and said, "That's not how 411 works," but that he would help me.
I got the address, and a twenty-dollar cab ride later, we were at the towing company. I waited in line and finally got to tell them, "I am here for my car. I need to pay forty dollars for the ticket and storage." I had no cash as I had spent my last dollar on the cab driver. Well, they didn't accept checks, and once again, I told the story of how my day was going—and they made an exception. I promised everyone that the check wouldn't bounce. We got the car back and headed towards home.
We stopped as we hadn't eaten anything. My companion had a few dollars that got us some coffee and cake. We must have sat there for hours and talked about how It would be OK not to lose faith. Well, it was getting pretty dark and cold, so we had to get going. As we got in the car, I realized we were almost out of gas. Of course, we had no money either. I found an ATM and wrote a check to myself as cash for a hundred dollars. This was a few minutes before midnight. Back then, only a hundred dollars of any amount that was deposited In an ATM would be available the next day. I took advantage of this loophole and got us a hundred dollars. We went back for some real food and then got gas and went home.For the love of Comics IV