Road to San Diego: Talking to Neil Kleid
I thought it might be fun to check in with a few people who are heading to the San Diego Comic-Con next week to see what they have planned for the big show, then follow up with them afterward to see how everything went — provided they make it out unscathed.
Up first is comic writer Neil Kleid, who used to blog with us in a previous life. Kleid writes Action, Ohio, a webcomic hosted at the Shadowline website. He’s also written Brownsville, Ursa Minors and Ninety Candles, and has contributed to Tales from the Crypt, Comic Book Tattoo, X-Men Unlimited and the Postcards anthology. His new book, The Big Kahn, will be published by NBM later this month.
JK: So before we get into the con, you have a book coming out this month, correct? Tell us a little bit about it.
Neil Kleid: I have two, in fact — the first drops next Wednesday and it’s an eight page horror story in Dark Horse’s new Creepy Comics #1, the resurrection of the old Warren anthology. My story, “All the Help You Need,” is illustrated by Brian Churilla and takes a unique look at weight loss camps — mirroring my growing concern about my growing midsection, perhaps.The book is 48 pages and $4.99. Considering most comics these days, at 22 pages or so, are pricing in around $3.99, it’s a great value for quality horror/suspense by quality creators. It’s my first work for Dark Horse, so I’m fairly excited about it, and hopefully not my last.
Then, my latest original graphic novel hits shelves at July’s end and also debuts at the San Diego Comic Con. It’s my second book for the fine people at NBM Publishing and is titled The Big Kahn. Rabbi David Kahn has lived a 40-year lie: he is not, nor has he ever been, Jewish. When at his funeral, the “rabbi’s” grifter brother reveals the truth, it forces the Kahn family to struggle with grief and betrayal as their congregation examines their every move and they question their very faith. Illustrated by newcomer Nicolas Cinquegrani, the book explores a family secret so well-hidden, even the family didn’t know about it until it was too late. It’s currently available to preorder via Diamond Comics Distributors (Order Code; MAY090988) and through Amazon (ISBN 978-1-56163-561-0) at the low price of $13.95.
There’s a ten page preview here.
JK: How did you get involved with the Creepy project?
Neil: I’d been looking tor work with Dark Horse for awhile, sending pitches and trying to get a foot in the door when a pal of mine started working on a mini with Shawna Gore, the Creepy editor. Using him as a reference, I emailed Shawna and asked if she would mind sitting down with me at last year’s SDCC to talk about perhaps developing some projects. She mentioned Creepy and asked if I had any horror ideas I wanted to run by her. From there, it was the usual — pitch until something got accepted, which it did, and here we are.
It’s honestly one of the classic examples of how to get work in comics — find a connection to an editor, politely query and set up a formal meeting, undergo the publisher’s pitch process and be professional. It also helps that Shawna is a great editor and great to work with. Plus, you know, she’s got an eye for talented writers…!
JK: Is this your first Comic Con, or have you been before?
Neil: Number the deuce. Last year was the virgin experience, filled with many drinks, signings, meetings, opportunities and star-studded excitement. I had Masi Oka call my pregnant wife at 2 a.m. ET, discovered that Richard Dreyfuss bought a copy of my first book, Brownsville, along with most of the, ah, adult books at the show, and got to shake hands and share words with Tori Amos at the Comic Book Tattoo creator signing. Looking forward to the return trip in two weeks.
JK: Is there anyone in particular you’re hoping to meet this time around?
You, John. YOU.
And Sam Jackson. Or Ed Brubaker. I’m not picky.
JK: Ah, shucks.
What are your plans for San Diego — where will you be and what will you be doing?
Neil: Mainly, I’m attending to promote and sign The Big Kahn at the NBM Publishing table. I’ll also be attending a Creepy Comics signing at the Dark Horse pavilion on Friday afternoon and taking a few meetings with comics and it’s indulgent, negligent uncle, the film industry. Every convention I promise myself I won’t overdo it and over-commit myself, but I always fail. There is business to be had, and from what I understand, business is good.
My signing schedule for this year is now posted here.
JK: So is San Diego a good place to have business meetings?
Neil: Well, I try to get some face time in at these shows because I’m kind of a homebody these days and don’t attend many cons. I usually narrow in one two or three folks I really want to pitch or develop projects with and see what’s what. These meetings are usually rescheduled five times due to individual commitments, and tend to last no more than ten minutes because no one’s mind is right at a con — you’re too unfocused, trying to make signing times, panels and shepherd booth traffic/creators. I try not to take too much of people’s time, you know?
This year, I only have one firm editorial sit down, two tentative meets and am waiting to hear about several non-comics meetings. Usually it all goes nowhere, but it’s fun to pretend I’m sort of important and not just browsing the aisles for classic G.I. Joe toys and cool T-shirts.
JK: Do you have any advice for aspiring creators on how to approach editors for the first time at the con?
Neil: Politely and professionally. Remember: editors don’t HAVE to meet with you. They already have people they can tap for projects. YOU need THEM, and not the other way around so if you can’t take solid criticism, don’t have your shit together, aren’t ready to bring your A-game or are simply planning on being a dick, skip it and go find a panel or something.
Oh, also? If an editor is eating, talking to someone, peeing, shopping or generally in a situation where he or she is clearly not on duty, for Jack Kirby’s sake, leave them the hell alone. If you must, and are dying to grab them because you are afraid to miss your chance, politely ask when they might be available back at their booth and commit to a time to meet them there. That, or simply ask if they’d be agreeable to having you send samples to their office — get a business card, follow up, BE COURTEOUS AND PROFESSIONAL.
Finally, if you’re attending the con for the sole purpose of approaching people for work, might I suggest you leave the Sinestro Corps t-shirt at the hotel and don something you might wear to a job interview?