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Parkersburg resident writes for D.C. comics

By Staff | Aug 25, 2010

You don’t turn down D.C. comics.

If an editor from the flagship company asks you to do story on Harley Quinn, who you’re only vaguely familiar with, you take it. Especially if you’ve been writing comics for more than a decade and this is your first big break.

Sure you’ve put out well-received work in the past. You’ve done a Star Trek story, you have an anthology in an Image book, and your creator-owned series, “Death Comes to Dillinger,” was even hailed by Ain’t It Cool News.

So if you’re Parkersburg resident James Patrick and you’re contacted by D.C., you jump at the chance to “try-out” the Joker’s main squeeze.

“It was pretty cool,” Patrick said. “I wish it was like a call, like the phone just rang, but I got an instant message from a friend who said he was contacted (by D.C.). They gave them some good feedback on me and called and wanted to meet me, so I went out and met them.”

“The editor asked me if I wanted to do Harley Quinn and I wasn’t going to say no. … I know of her … but I wasn’t familiar with all of her appearances in the D.C. Universe. I had to do all my homework and do the best I could.”

The resulting effort will be released in October.

To get to publication, Patrick’s try-out consisted of teaming up with an artist to do about five pages of a comic along with an outline. If the editor likes what you did, it’ll get picked up and published.

But none of it would have happened if it weren’t for Patrick’s original comic “Death Comes to Dillinger,” which was released about four years ago.

“(It) really was a springboard for a lot of things in my career,” Patrick said. “If you put together a solid comic or a comic that people like, then it can really help things take off and ‘Death Comes to Dillinger’ really was that for me.”

The comic is set in the Old West and features Death, a drifter who’s appearance in a town means someone’s going to die. When the local banker spots the figure at the local saloon in the first issue, he assumes Death is there to claim his ill daughter and sets out to confront him.

The book was one of the best-reviewed of the year, with comics legend Warren Ellis saying it was “absolutely marvelous.” Newsarama, CHUD and Broken Frontier also raved.

Eventually, someone at D.C. picked up the book from his local comics shop and the invite to try-out for D.C. was extended.

A comics fan since the age of 12, Patrick didn’t begin writing comics till about 10 years ago. Once he realized he enjoyed it and could actually make a living at it, he went about creating his own work.

“I knew that you get recognized through creator-owned work,” he said. “That’s a route a lot of people are taking is to publish independent stuff. Nobody just sends the thing to Marvel and Marvel says, ‘Oh, we want to hire you.’”

From the launch of “Death Comes to Dillinger,” has come not only the D.C. try-out, which also has led to another Batman property for Patrick, but also the opportunity to write a feature horror film.

It’s a lot of work and that’s the way Patrick likes it. After all, his next book could be his last.

“Every book is a job interview, so you try to do your best,” he said. “I do feel a lot of pressure. It’s not very easy.”

Contact Justin at jmcintosh@graffitiwv.com