Erica Schultz is a renowned writer whose career in comics spans nearly every part of the comics industry, from writing for the Big Two to creating her own successful series, and now she’s also an Oneshi Press alum! The first 8 pages of her story “Heartbreaker” appeared in our 4th anthology, and the first 8 pages of her new story, “Gabrielle,” are slated to appear in anthology #06! We spoke to Erica about her own story, other successful women in comics, her favorite characters and series, and much more!
Tell us about when, how, and why you started writing comics!
I started writing comics in 2009. I had been working at an art studio in New York City, and the artist there was working on comics and other work. I began researching the formats used in comic script writing and how scenes should be described and came up with M3.
At the time, M3 was a character that I had written about a year earlier when I was recuperating from a car accident. She was little more than scenes written down in a short story format that I adapted to the comic format. I took the random scenes and created a narrative thread to bring out the first story arc.
Vicente Alcázar and I were working at the same studio, and he was doing a story for DC Comics’ Jonah Hex. I was blown away by his talents and approached him about collaborating on M3. He accepted, and that’s how it started. The first issue of M3 debuted in 2010.
How did you get to where you are now, as a writer for DC, Marvel, and other major comics companies, as well as indie comics phenom. What’s the learning process like?
The process for working with publishers is very different for each person. My particular process isn’t a “roadmap” for anyone to follow, as it’s an individual journey.
When Vicente and I self-published M3 and were fortunate to have the book accepted into Diamond’s Previews catalog. Vicente had a long career in comics and networked with editors he had worked with in the past. I introduced myself to editors at conventions and discussed possible opportunities. Through those connections, I was asked to write Revenge: The Secret Origin of Emily Thorne for Marvel/ABC as a companion graphic novel to the television series.
Having a Marvel book under my belt opened up more doors, and, from there, I got the attention of Gail Simone (Wonder Woman, Batgirl) who approached me for a crossover project with Dynamite Entertainment. I was very fortunate to have been picked as one of the writers on the Swords of Sorrow crossover series.
By then, Vicente and I had finished our second arc of M3, and we were both working on individual projects. I had a story in Vertigo’s SFX anthology, “Pop” with artist, Sara Richard, and was self-publishing quirky books like Cheese and The Unauthorized Biography of Winston Churchill with artist, Claire Connelly.
In December 2015, DC Comics approached me be part of their pilot program for the DC Writer’s Talent Workshop. I was very lucky to be in class with Emma Beeby (another Swords of Sorrow alum that Gail chose, and writer of Mata Hari), Vita Ayala (The Wilds, Supergirl), Jöelle Jones (Batman, Lady Killer) and others. Again, being part of that class opened up doors and got me “on the radar” of other editors.
Dynamite approached me again to write Charmed with art by Maria Laura Sanapo, and I was involved in several anthology series like RISE: Comics Against Bullying from Northwest Press, the Harvey nominated The 27 Club from Red Stylo Media, This Nightmare Kills Fascists from A Wave Blue World, and Destiny NY volume 2 from Space Between Entertainment.
Throughout all of this, however, I kept editing, lettering, and supporting other indie creators. A good deal of getting books is about being at the right place at the right time, but even that’s not always it. The #1 thing I can say is to do the work, and don’t measure success by how many books you’ve done for this publisher or that publisher. Measure success by how many books you’ve done that you’re proud of .
Women in the creation of comics are still far more rare than they could be. What kind of advice can you give to others who want to get started in the industry?
Women have been in comics since the beginning, but they’ve been in more behind the scene roles. Only until recently has it become “a thing” to see a woman’s name at the front of the book. Ramona Fraydon, Louise Simonson, Hilary Staton, Jenette Kahn, Flo Steinberg, Cory Adams, Lynn Varley, and so many others. My advice is always to do this work for you. Yes, fame and fortune and getting your name on the cover of a book is terrific, but comics is a hard business, and if you’re not in it for the love of the medium, then you’re in it for the wrong reason.
Who are your personal comics heroes? Writers, artists, or others who inspire you?
Creators like the ladies that I’ve mentioned above inspire me, as well as the crew at Oneship Press, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Gail Simone, Janice Chang, Ginger Karalexis, Vita Ayala, Emma Beeby, Emily Pearson, Liana Kangas, Meredith Finch…But there are also male creators that inspire me. Bill Sienkiewicz, Ray-Anthony Height, Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Fabian Nicieza, Paul Jenkins, Bryan Edward Hill, Pat Shand, Eric Palicki…People who are making stories they want to make.
Look, we all want to do this “for a living,” and make money at it, but, like I said before, you have to love this enough to put that as a secondary or tertiary goal. Your number one goal in comics is to create something you’re proud of.
What is your favorite comic series? Your favorite comic-based TV show or movies?
I haven’t read a lot of comics lately because I’m busy writing and editing comics. I try to keep up with Black Bolt, Moon Knight, Batman Beyond, Ms. Marvel, and Rose. I don’t watch a lot of comics related TV shows simply because I don’t have the time to. But, when I can, I’ll catch The Flash and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Several years ago, I was hooked on Justice League the animated series and X-Men: Evolution.
What comic book character do you most identify with?
Probably Hulk, because I tend to have a temper. Though I try to be more Bruce Banner than Mean Green.
What’s important to you in a comic book as a reader? As a writer?
As a comic book reader, it’s important to have a coherent story. A lot of people come up with good ideas, but then those ideas are poorly executed. As a writer, I’d rather have five or six really strong issues with a strong story than 30 or 40 issues of a story that’s not really going anywhere.
What do comics offer the world that other media can’t?
Comics can help convey messages to children that novels can’t always do. Comics have a way of melding visual and aural story telling into a vehicle for knowledge and impactful information.
Can you tell us a bit about where Reese Jones came from, and how you teamed up with Jan Velazquez to bring him to life in “Heartbreaker”?
Jan and I have known each other for several years, and we’ve always looked to work together on something. I really liked his work on Zomboy with Inkbot, so I knew we should pair up for something.
Reese was a character that I had toyed with in several stories. I wanted someone with little to no conscience that the reader wouldn’t like, but then find his way, like Han Solo.
Also, the Cold War of the 70s and 80s always interested me, so putting him in that situation added an element of realism to the fantastical idea of these characters with powers. We know that MK Ultra and other programs like it were being experimented with all around the world, so that also helped to ground this story and not stretch the suspension of disbelief.
Likewise, you have an upcoming short comic about a character named “Gabrielle,” who’s not what she appears to be. How did she come to be?
Gabrielle isn’t human. That’s the first bit of information you should know about her. She came about, as a character, when I was contemplating my relationship with a higher power. When thinking of angels, demons, and what made one “bad” and one “good?” That’s what I explore in Gabrielle, with different artists working on the stories. So far, Emily Swan and Jan Velazquez have done two of the eight planned stories.
What are some other projects you’re working on currently?
Currently, I’m finishing up Twelve Devils Dancing for Action Lab Danger Zone, and another book will soon be announced from Dynamite Entertainment. I’ve also contributed to Where We Live, an anthology published by Image Comics to benefit the victims of the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017.
Where can readers find you online?
I’m on Twitter: @ericaschultz42
I’m online at EricaSchultzWrites.com
I’m on Instagram: @ericaschultzwrites