How Comic Books Turned a Fan into a Professional, and Educated Him Along the Way

One of those letters led me to TitanTalk, an amateur press association. It was a labor of love by and for fans, who would make copies of their commentary, stories or original artwork and send them to a central mailer, who would collate everything and mail the submissions to each member. I joined that group around 1987, made friends I still have and got to meet Mr. Pérez, one of the nicest creators in comics, when I was still a teenager.

All of this, I should add, was fairly secret.

Growing up as a fan of comics equaled being a nerd. This was long before today’s renaissance when comic book characters, particularly superheroes, dominate television and the box office. My family was poor, so my mother was horrified that I wasted money on comics. I would like to make the argument that this was my way of assimilating — my parents are from Ecuador and moved here in 1966 — but I suspect they would’ve been happier at the time if I had any interest in sports (or girls).

I arrived at The Times in 1990 as a copy person and saw it as an after-school job. I had no thoughts about any byline, let alone writing about comics. I wish I had, because I could have reported on things like the birth of Image Comics or the death of Superman in 1992.

In 1995, my first article appeared in The Times, but my first comic-related piece did not come until 2002. It was a lucky break. My editors were desperate to fill a shopping column. I pitched the tactic of my partner (now husband), who wanted me to like traveling more, and thought if I could find local comic stores to visit, I would. It worked, and that idea became “Twisted Tales of a Comic Book Connoisseur.”

A DC Comics publicist, Peggy Burns, noticed that column, and when it came time to publish a story about a hate crime in an issue of Green Lantern, she called to see if I could write about it for the paper. I put together my first formal pitch to an editor, Steve Erlanger, and much to my shock, he said yes. I wrote about the comic, and then was surprised and delighted when the author, Judd Winick, ended up on “Phil Donahue” discussing the issue. It drove home the power of The Times to stir discussion and how these comic book characters resonate with so many people.

How a Comics Reporter Decides What to Cover

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