I began sending submissions to Marvel Comics in 1986. Back then I was so confident of my “talent” that I worried that I would have to stop going to school so I can begin work at Marvel right away. I mean, I thought I was that good. But then this rejection letter came and my immediate reaction was that of relief. Relief that I wouldn’t have to quit school. Later, I realized hey, it looks like I’m not good enough yet. Later, I got the sinking feeling that I might not be good at all.
Nevertheless it was thrilling to receive a letter from Marvel, signed by Eliot Brown no less. At the very least, someone at Marvel knew I existed, and for it to be Eliot Brown, I thought it was great. I was familiar with Eliot’s work. He drew technical drawings of various gadgets, ships, and structures for Marvel’s Official Handbook. Since I was taking up Architecture and was heavily steeped in technical drawings, I understood Eliot’s work and I connected to it.
It was to be the first of many rejection letters from Marvel that I would receive over the next 7 years.
I was never discouraged by the letters. In fact, I took them as a challenge, improving and developing my work with every submission. While I was sending samples to Marvel, I was also sending samples to DC Comics.
I had read about the late Neal Pozner from various letter columns, and how he was much admired as an editor. I had heard he was very helpful towards aspiring artists in improving their work. And to receive a letter from him was just fantastic. In fact, before he sent this rejection letter, he had sent me another letter saying he had wanted to see more and sent me a Green Lantern script to work on. It was my understanding that if I did a good job on it, it may well have been my first published work.
Unfortunately, as I was doing the submission, my girlfriend broke up with me. I had been trying to break into comics partly because I wanted to follow her to the US, and have a good job when I got there. With her gone, my will to do comics went with her. Needless to say, I bombed that submission. And that is the letter I got in response. I stopped drawing for an entire year.
And I think that was the last submission I had sent via the mail to either Marvel or DC. I would later meet Whilce Portacio who would help me develop my art further, leading to jobs not only for Image Comics, but eventually Marvel and DC.
My first work for Marvel was inking Wolverine over Leinil Francis Yu on a few pages of Warren Ellis’ “Not Dead Yet” around 1997-1998.
My first work for DC was Superman: Birthright with Mark waid and Leinil around 2003.
I post these rejection letters in the hopes of inspiring other aspiring comic book artists to keep the spirit alive in the face of great challenges. All of us working in comics today underwent years of rejections like this, years of disappointment and heartbreak and in my case, even tears. Nobody got it easy. Plenty of times I just wanted to give up. And one time I actually did. From 1993 to 1994 I never drew anything. I went back to Architecture and worked as a draftsman and construction supervisor. I thought comics and I were done.
But if comics is in your blood there’s no discouragement strong enough to keep you from drawing. And I eventually went back.
That said, you can no longer send submissions to Marvel and DC through the mail. For a detailed account of how to show them your samples, click here.
If you wish to show your work to Marvel, you’re in luck because Marvel’s talent guy is coming here to the Philippines this March. Click here for info. Hurry, you don’t have much time.