I'm writing this on April 2, 2013, which means that tomorrow, my first issue written for one of the "Big 2" publishers of American comics - Marvel or DC - will appear on shelves. That issue is Swamp Thing #19. It opens a new storyline following the completion of the long and wonderful "Rotworld" story written by Scott Snyder, with primary art from Yanick Paquette. The penciller for 19 is Kano - he also inked his own work. Colors were by Matt Wilson, letters by Travis Lanham, and the book was ably edited by Matt Idelson and Chris Conroy. The cover was drawn by Andy Brase. Every single one of them did amazing work.
Tomorrow marks a significant milestone in my comics writing career. Writing for the Big 2 isn't the only reason I got into comics. Creating my own characters and stories will always be something that means more than almost anything else. That said, I would be lying if I said that doing Big 2 work doesn't matter to me. It does. A lot. Swamp Thing and other characters in DC's stable are folks I've seen interacting in a thousand different ways since I was very young. There probably hasn't been a single day since I was about six that I haven't seen a DC character. My Mego Superman was one of my most prized possessions for several years starting with my seventh birthday. The impact of the DC characters on the world over the past 70+ years is immense. Same's true of Marvel (although for a bit less time, of course).
Are they "just" superheroes? Sure. Do these comics tell deep stories that touch people's lives? Sometimes, but more often they're just disposable entertainment. Still, for me, getting to be part of that shared tradition of writers and artists - craftspeople, really - stretching back over the decades... it's meaningful to me on a level that surprised me. I had a conversation with a friend recently at a con (it was probably Jim Zub, since he's the guy I tend to chat with about stuff like this): Detective Comics 27 came out in 1939, so a little over 70 years ago. There have been a ton of Batman comics since then, especially if you bring in the ancillary titles like Batman & Robin, Legends of the Dark Knight and so on, but still, we figured that less than five hundred writers have ever written a Batman comic in all that time. Swamp Thing's even crazier - the comic debuted in 1971, forty years back. In that time, there have been seventeen people who have written this character in his flagship title. I'm the eighteenth, starting tomorrow. And the names on that list of seventeen - literally some of the most brilliant comics writers to ever touch the medium. Look it up for yourself if you don't believe me. It's humbling and intimidating and wonderful, all at once.
I know some of those folks (awesome people one and all), and they might think it's ridiculous that I'm saying this, but it feels almost like a bit of a fellowship. Swamp Thing is just a silly comic character owned by a huge corporation - and not even someone big like Superman. He's a walking plant dude, for god's sake. I could be kicked off the book ignominiously in two issues, or it could be cancelled if it doesn't sell. But you know what? I'm still going to do my very best work. Anything less wouldn't be true to the other writers who came before me, and those who will inevitably come after me. I don't want to let any of those people down (even the guys who will make fun of me for writing this the next time I see them at a con), and I don't want to let myself down. Whether you like superhero books or not, there's a legacy of shared creation in that part of the medium that's like nothing else in comics. Everything I do on Swamp Thing can be traced back through the years in a winding trail leading back to the very first issue. All those ideas, all those images, all that brilliance - and now it's my turn. I best not fuck it up.
It's just Swamp Thing. But it's not "just" anything, really.
The issue is done, the work is complete. It's hitting stands tomorrow, unless the world ends. We're hard at work wrapping up the next one, and making solid progress on the next after that. That's Big 2 monthly comics, though - you only get a moment to take a breath and appreciate what you've made before it's time to look ahead. That's why I wanted to write this, to crystallize for a moment in my own mind what it's meant to have worked so long and so hard, and to finally be at the point where I'll go to the shop tomorrow and see a Big 2 book with my name on the cover.
It doesn't mean everything, and if it hadn't ever happened I'd still be thrilled to be making comics - I've already been incredibly fortunate with my comics work up to this point - but it means a lot.
If you pick up Swamp Thing 19 at the store tomorrow, or download it (one way or another), I hope you enjoy it. I loved making it, and I hope there will be many, many more to come.