40 Years of Freelancing

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I was pulling the old tear sheets (pages pulled from a publication) from my files for a possible project and realized they weren’t in much of an order. I sifted through them and realized that my first freelance assignment was forty years ago this summer.

As you may recall, I was briefly summer help at DC Comics in 1980, and there, I did a variety of things including compiling an index of all the features to appear in World’s Finest Comics for a WFC-themed digest comic. Thanks to editor Jack C. Harris, who never lets me forget it, my first comics credit was the inside back cover of that digest.

In 1980 I produced one of two Bleepers, a Mad Libs-inspired product that used old comic stories in lieu of pure prose. I handle the horror stories while Andy Helfer did the SF, neither of us received credit and the project went nowhere. Then, I joined Starlog Press was immediately began writing for most of the line in one form or another.

While I was at Starlog Press, Mike Gold and Paul Kupperberg were in Chicago, having joined a company which produced Video Action magazine. I had met Mike in 1977 when he was doing marketing for DC. Paul I had know since the early 1970s through conventions and fanzines. I can’t recall who contacted who, but I figured I could parlay my Starlog knowledge and write about SF TV. I took this very seriously and was so proud to have this, my first paid freelance assignment.

One of my many ill-considered reviews for Video Games.

When the magazine folded in 1982, Paul returned to New York and joined DC’s marketing department where we worked together arranging coverage for Comics Scene. Mike stayed in Chicago where he helped found First Comics before coming to New York and joining both of us at DC in 1986.

While at Starlog and later at DC, I went on to write numerous articles and interviews. One of he first was a piece for Rockbill, designed to be given away at rock concerts. I have no recollection how I got involved, but I was hired to interview Rick Moranis in 1984, as he promoted Ghostbusters. When editor Stuart Matranga left Starlog to run Headliner, a similar concept to Rockbill, I got to write for him, too.

Oddly, although I never played video games, because of my role as editor of Comics Scene, Video Review asked me to review the very first Spider-Man video game. I had no idea how to do this but somehow managed.

Later, Starlog’s art director Cheh Nam Low left to form a competing company, Pumpkin Press. Their main claim to short fame was Video Games magazine, edited by a great guy named Roger Sharpe. I think Cheh reached out to me on the sly to ask me to write for him, to which I agreed to but used the pseudonym, Richard Goodwin. Only after I left for DC in 1984 did I use my real name. There, I did some features and some reviews, including some book reviews which really required someone with the proper expertise.

Since then, I have never written about or played video games. Go figure.

The very first book assignment arrived in 1984, shortly after I joined DC. At the time, trivia was all the craze and Zebra Books had Trivia Mania, a series of books under the house name Xavier Einstein. I had been recommended to them, again I can’t recall by who. But, I was hired to write 1000 questions about comic books and comic strips. I had to turn in the manuscript during the summer. My in-laws had given us a grill as a housewarming gift and our friends Judy and Matthew came over one Sunday. I was in the upstairs office pounding away on the manual typewriter, a score of books scattered around for inspiration. They and Deb assembled the grill and went to buy lobsters to christen it. I was allowed to come down only when dinner was ready. At least I got to dedicate the book to me and Deb.

Here we are, four decades later, and I continue to freelance. This morning alone I edited three stories for the next installment of Thrilling Adventure Yarns and did some writing on the sequel to October’s Above the Ground. I love the variety that freelancing allows for and it certainly has brought me some income and some excellent memories. I’d love to say here’s to forty more but I think we all know how unrealistic that is. I do, though, plan on writing and editing for as long as is practical, even after I eventually retire from the classroom. It should keep me mentally sharp and help occupy the time when not doing things with Deb.

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