Fishing for Compliments

Late one Friday afternoon, Roger Stern, the editor of X-Men walked down the hall from his office to my drawing table in The Bullpen. He was holding a batch of pages.

It was The Uncanny X-Men #115 by Chris Claremont with pencils by the latest rising super-star, John Byrne.

It was another freelance job. I put the pages into my portfolio and zipped it up. One of the other letterers rolled over on his chair to talk to me.

“Rick–this is the X-Men–Marvel’s top book—you’ve gotta do a really good job on this….”

By this point in time, I had already lettered a whole bunch of  Marvel’s titles. I wondered what kind of job he thought I had been doing on all those books. I took the job home that evening and decided I would show him!

Rather than just grab the script and “boards” and start lettering in the word balloons, I decided to pencil in all the lettering and the corresponding  balloon shapes FIRST–before inking them. That would take TWICE  as long to do, but I could get the spacing of the words exactly right in order to draw perfectly symmetrical balloon shapes around them and there would be no divided words. The end result would be worth it. I worked all weekend on it, got up early on Monday morning and finished the last two pages before heading off to work.

I left the job on Big John’s desk and went back to my seat at my drawing table just as Big John and a couple of others were arriving at work.

All day, I expected to be called into Big John’s office– or at least into Roger’s– to receive some kind of praise–but no one said a word!

A month or so later the comic book came out– and still, no one had complimented me. Then a few days later I saw the X-Men’s writer, Chris Claremont standing out in the hallway outside my door talking to another freelancer. I got up from behind my drawing table and sauntered out into the hallway. I walked right up to Chris who had just finished his conversation and was standing there alone.

“So, Chris—-(I had never met or even spoken to Chris before)—how’d you like that LETTERING  on the X-Men….?”

Chris looked confused by the question–as if at a loss for words.

Then said, “It was all right…..”

I walked back to my seat and picked up a page of Spectacular Spider-Man # 316 and added an extra “P” to the sound effect, “THWIPP” and vowed to never again ask anyone what they thought of my lettering. And no one ever said a word about it.

They just kept giving me more and more work.

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