I happened to catch two stories on Twitter this weekend from comic book professionals about other comic book professionals that seemed to echo one another.
Cullen Bunn is a writer who’s currently working on multiple X-Men titles for Marvel. He recently uncovered a 1985 letter he received from Cynicalman creator Matt Feazell about meeting him at a convention. To Bunn’s recollection, Feazell was the only person to buy anything from him on the day they met, and they letter he wrote offered some practical advice and general encouragement. Bunn wrote, “Buying copies meant something, but the letter really made my day. It amazed me that he took the time. My importantly, it encouraged me. I’ve thought about that letter a lot over the years.”
Ed Piskor is also working for Marvel these days, both writing and drawing X-Men: Grand Design. He’s been in the business several years already, even winning an Eisner Award back in 2013. But he got a note recently from veteran comics letterer Janice Chiang, whose work he had studied years earlier. She had less practical advice to offer, but she was also very encouraging, and Piskor reminisced about buying his first Ames lettering guide and adjusting the settings to match hers.
In both cases, the younger creators received strong words of encouragement from noted professionals. More than that, these professionals saw enough in the work to become fans. Fans enough to to drop hand-written notes in the mail.
Think about the implications of that for a moment. Receiving positive feedback from fans is always encouraging, but if it’s from someone you yourself admire, it can be even more impactful. Words from someone who’s consideration you really value. From someone who you’re, in some fashion, trying to aspire to emulate. And when they’re written down, they carry even more weight—there was clearly more time and consideration given to those words than just off-handedly remarking, “Yeah, your stuff looks good too.”
I’ve remarked before about how I think it’s important to say thanks to folks whose work appreciate, but if you find yourself in a position of power or authority, it carries even more weight, making it that much more worthwhile. And if you get notes from people like Feazell or Chiang, remember them when you get into their positions and return the favor to the new kid who’s tabling for the first time at a local convention. Showing them you’re a fan means as much to them as those older folks’ praise of your work meant to you.