Interview: How Daniel Way became a Marvel comics writer

Daniel Way has been the custodian of some of the biggest comic book heroes ever created. During a long career with Marvel, he’s written stories for Wolverine, Deadpool and The Incredible Hulk to name just a few. But how exactly did Daniel Way manage to land this dream job? I don’t know, let’s ask Daniel Way.

Give us an idea of the kind of things you’ve worked on over your career?

Almost all of my professional work since I began writing in 2001 has been in the comic book medium; specifically, for Marvel. In addition to several other titles and miniseries, I’ve written Wolverine, Astonishing X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Ghost Rider and Deadpool. I also wrote the recent Deadpool videogame from Activision.

What’s an average day like for you?

After coffee and a light breakfast, I check my email to see if there are any emergencies that need to be immediately dealt with (often, this has to do with scheduling issues with artists). Afterward, it’s on to things like this interview—something, anything with an easy “in”. The trick is to start writing as soon as possible and things like interviews are pretty easy. Once my brain is warmed up, I can roll into whatever’s on my schedule for that day. I like to bank at least five keep-able pages a day, Monday through Friday. I like to keep nights and weekends for myself.

What was your first paid-for comic book writing job and how did you get it?

No need to make a long story short, here: I self-published a comic with the aid of a grant from the Xeric Foundation, took it to the Small Press Expo and gave some copies of my book to Diana Schutz, an editor with Dark Horse. She, in turn, handed a copy to Axel Alonso, an editor who’d just left DC’s mature-readers line, Vertigo, to join Marvel. He liked my stuff and gave me a call. There was about 5 months between writing my first comic and writing my first Marvel comic.

At what point did you feel you were actually making a living from writing comic books?

I actually kept working as a chef for almost two years! Because I’d gotten in so quickly, I was pretty sure I’d be run out just as fast. It wasn’t until I realized that I was losing money by going to my ‘real’ job that I decided to finally quit. That was ten years ago. Haven’t done an honest day’s work since.

If you’re an aspiring comic book writer starting from scratch, what’s your first move?

Stop being a fan. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy comics; hell, I love ’em. But you have to divorce yourself from that fan perspective if you want to tell an engaging story. Otherwise, it’s just fan-fic.

Who do you need to get to notice you in the comic book industry to get a start and how do you make sure you stand out from the crowd?

If you’re good, you’ll get noticed…if you’re out there, producing work. If your goal is to work for companies like Marvel or DC, keep in mind that they’re in the business of getting books out the door. If they get the impression that you won’t deliver—or worse, you’ll slow things down—they’ll avoid you like the plague. And speaking of avoidance; steer clear of trends.

Should aspiring comic book writers give away their work for free to get noticed?

Yes!

Should aspiring comic book writers team up with artists to grab publishers’ attention or should the quality of their script be enough?

An editor can look at a single page of an artist’s work and get a pretty good idea as to whether they’re ready for the big leagues or not. It takes much more of an investment on the editor’s part to find out the same about a writer. So, to answer your question, it’s crucial that a writer team up with an artist. And the better the artist, the better your chances.

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