I often get asked how I managed to put the Postcards team together. I’m going to start doing a weekly feature that tells the story behind building Postcards, one creator at a time.
Harvey Pekar was on my “dream-list”. I needed someone who sold well in bookstores, had a recognizable name to people who don’t read many comics (or any comics, really), and who was capable of producing a story of Postcards' caliber.
That list consisted of Harvey Pekar, Neil Gaiman, and Alan Moore. I didn’t expect to get any of them in the book – three of my favorite creators who happened to also meet the criteria I laid out for dream-list creators. I decided that if anyone of them showed even the slightest bit of interest I’d a) pay them what they wanted and consider it a marketing expense (since it’ll have a greater impact than a full-page preview ad, after all) and b) let them do whatever the hell they wanted as long as it involved postcards.
Chris Stevens calls me on a Monday evening – I’m playing trivia at my local bar. I decide to take the phone call outside. Chris has a hard time getting to the point, sometimes. I’ve been in conversations with him where he’ll spend ten minutes setting up a point. It’s endearing but, when you’re friends are inside a warm bar drinking beers, you find yourself getting a bit…testy.
Chris spent ten minutes apologizing for going behind my back and talking to a creator about Postcards. When someone apologizes, you get worried. You think he pissed off the person in question and made my book look bad. Turns out he talked to Joyce Brabner, Harvey Pekar’s wife – told her about Postcards and she responds, “Harvey and I met over a postcard.”
They were interested in the project.
I called Harvey for the first time later that week. I refreshed my memory and researched every project he’s worked on – reread some of the stuff I had on hand. I had a bulleted list of points I wanted to go over. I even had a page rate in mind to offer him if he asked for money. I was prepared.
I called him up.
Harvey is a smart man. I started the conversation by saying, “I’m not sure how much Chris told you about the book,” to which he interrupted and said, “not much.”
He was going to make me work for it.
So I pitched him the book and he pitched me his idea – a biographical tale where he and Joyce retell the history of their marriage using postcards they’ve sent or received. Was it a story based on antique postcards? Not really. Did I care? Not at all. I instantly saw where the story would fit, it’s be at the end of the book, a true story about a postcards impact. I’d bookend it was a story that sets the tone, a modern day postcard story – a special project I gave to Chris Stevens.
He did ask what it pays and I told him the page rate I set just for him – a number I had on my “marketing” spreadsheet, the first value to go on it. He said that was more than generous and for a moment I dwelled on how I could have gone lower.
But only for a moment. Because reality sets in and I realized I had one of the three dream-list creators in the book. A guy my mom and dad knew despite never reading comics. My coworkers and friends knew him, most of which don’t read comics. The other creators in the book were more than excited. I was leaking the information to friends who run various comic sites and people were asking when they could do a feature.
“Soon,” I told them.
I started looking for artists. Harvey’s instructions were someone “good who doesn’t do ‘superhero style’. And he needs to be well known.” I had a dream list for this one, too. Becky Cloonan, Darwyn Cooke, Paul Pope – but it turns out the perfect match was someone James Powell (and Jacob Goddard) recommended to me.
Matt Kindt – author of 2 Sisters. The man nominated for an Eisner last year - Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition. I call Matt up and he tells me that when he was sixteen he sent a letter to Harvey telling him he’d love to illustrate one of his comics one day. One page of Harvey’s story has him reading a postcard from an artist who says he wants to work with Harvey some day.
It was fate, really.
I’d call Harvey every week or so to go over his ideas. One time I got Joyce on the phone and we chatted for a bit – she wanted to know more about me. Turns out she used email so I sent her a link to some of the artists I was considering for their story. She wrote me back and said Matt Kindt is their guy.
Sometimes things work perfectly. Getting Harvey, Joyce and Matt together were one of those things. Harvey mailed the script out and Matt got started. I don’t want to insult anyone who’s worked with Harvey in the past, but these two were meant to work together. I’ve yet to see someone capture the essence of Harvey and Joyce like Matt has. And Harvey’s worked with nothing but great creators. But these pages are the best I’ve ever seen from Harvey’s publishing career. And yeah, I’m biased, but knowing they’re the best is all I need to help me sell it.
Next up is Phil Hester…