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Jamie S. Rich visits Brian Michael Bendis’ writing course at PSU

If anyone ever needed further proof that Portland, Oregon, is the comics capital of the West Coast, then the fact that Brian Bendis is teaching a writing course at Portland State University should finally seal the deal for them. Brian isn’t just sharing his knowledge of the medium with his students, he’s also roping in his friends and colleagues to impart their wisdom. Writers Jeff Parker and Matt Fraction have both dropped in on the sessions, and just yesterday, Brian had myself and Diana Schutz from Dark Horse Comics stop by to talk about what it’s like to both edit and write our own material.

Diana was my first boss in comics. I started working as her assistant in 1994, though our history extends back to the mid-1980s when I was reading material she edited at Comico. So, it was pretty comfortable for us to show up and share stories about our time in the trenches, many of which crossed over with one another. Most of the talk was concerned with the dos and don’ts of breaking into the industry, but we also discussed practical things like script formatting and how to make sure that once you get a job, you hang onto it. We both stressed deadlines as the key to anyone’s success, but also being aware of the demands of any specific job and also of the market are integral to making sure your work makes it all the way to the stands without any hiccups along the way.

The relationship between the creative talent and the editor is a mysterious thing to a lot of people. We stressed that it really was a relationship, just like any other. Some pairings are a match made in heaven, some start out well and fizzle, and others are absolutely wrong from the get-go. Editors shouldn’t be scary people…well, unless you give them a reason to be.

Brian was a gracious host, and we all had a good time gossiping about horror stories from our collective history in the industry. It was all in good fun. People forget, I edited Brian on Fortune & Glory and even on Powers for a while, so I maybe could have dished some dirt if I had really wanted to–but the guy writes like eight comics a month, who’d have believed me? I did notice that when Diana was mentioning the atrocious spelling of another writer, Brian quickly busied himself with checking his iPhone. I briefly considered turning the topic into a plug for my forthcoming Oni Press graphic novel Spell Checkers, but I resisted the impulse. (Well, until now at least.)

All kidding aside, thanks to Brian for having me out, and thanks to Diana for taking the stage with me. Bendis is teaching the class again next fall, so the industrious among you might want to consider packing your bags and coming out to the rainy country. You never know, I may even get asked back to do it all again myself.

- Jamie S. Rich is former editor-in-chief at Oni Press, and writer of the upcoming graphic novel Spell Checkers, premiering at C2E2, April 16th-18th.

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