The Colleen Doran incident

I spent last weekend getting folded, spindled and mutilated along with 64,000 others at the 2008 New York Comic Con.  Had a great time!  Handed out over a thousand flyers for Skullduggery (see; ran into several college classmates and even got to play autograph-whore with the likes of Neal Adams, Tom Yeates, Joe Staton etc.  Oh, and before I forget, you MUST pick up a copy of UVC Magazine — the magazine for urban black comics readers.  Great articles, especially the ones written by my wife, Traci.  Ain’t nepotism grand?

The most important meeting I had, though, was with comics legend Colleen Doran.  This wasn’t fanboy-gushing or another notch in the autograph collection; this was personal.   Let me explain:

Sometime @1994-5, I had decided on my great career arc.  I would seek fame and glory by being an independent comic book artist.  Back then, the indy movement was in full swing, with series like Cerebus, Bone, Tyrant, Thieves & Kings, Brat Pack, Strangers In Paradise… and A Distant Soil, by Colleen Doran.  There was a real feeling that you could be a self-made millionaire if you could publish your own epic in 22 page issues every month.  Naturally, this was not the case, as many self-publishers discovered themselves with huge printing bills and no readers.  But for a cocky kid fresh out of college, with a 12 week stippling course to teach him nothing about comics, this was the path to glory.  I had just printed up my own regrettable series (note: this was before Twenty-Three Skidoo!) and had sent promo copies to several self-publishers in the hopes of scoring some buzz and maybe a quote or two to use in pushing the book.  I personalized each letter, and the more I drank that night the more colorful my letters became.  By the time I got to Colleen’s letter, I was well into my cups.  Now, I had never read A Distant Soil at that time, but Ms. Doran was recognized as one of the top creators in the indie movement and I thought it would be worth my while to send her a copy of my own humble scribblings. 

“Humble” had nothing to do with my letter.  In it, I told Ms. Doran that she was lucky to be favored with an advance copy of a comic so good “it’s better than The Beatles”.  I remember going on about how she could return the favor by gushing about me to her friends, to the comics press, in the throes of passion, etc. 

An invading army couldn’t have massacred my ego better than her reply.  She screamed her disdain for my “poorly written, poorly drawn” comic; ripping me apart for “trying to get by on ego as opposed to talent” and chided me that I knew nothing about her or the comics industry at all, and how I’d be doing the world a favor by never setting pen to paper again.  Ouch.

But damn it, she was right.  The letter, while devastating at the time, was the cold water in the face I needed to grow up in a hurry and learn about this business I’d committed myself to.  I knew that her words would be true only if I didn’t learn from them and improve myself. 

So, 2008.  I nervously approach Colleen Doran, who is gracious enough to talk to me about A Distant Soil for a few minutes before I drop my bomb:  “Ms. Doran, I’ve owed you an apology for nearly fifteen years…”  I relayed my story to her, telling her how her letter really helped me to grow up, and all the while her eyes got bigger and bigger until she pointed at me and said “YOU!  I REMEMBER YOU!  I still have your letter!”  Oh great, I think, I’m a famous ass. 

She went on to tell me how she usually threw away letters like mine, but something about that one really got to her, prompting her to write back and tell me how I did everything wrong that there was to do.  She felt really bad afterwards, she said, thinking she was way too hard on someone who’s obviously just starting out.  We had a good laugh about it and parted on very good terms.

Colleen, if you’re reading this, thanks for everything.  Here’s hoping my latest project, Skullduggery (, is an improvement.

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