My first real job in publishing was as Assistant Editor on the British horror comic, House of Hammer. Fresh out of college, I was hired by Dez Skinn, later publisher of the highly-successful Comics International, as an art assistant.
However, after slicing the top of my finger off with a scalpel, I decided that my future probably didn't lie in graphic design, so with Dez's help, I switched careers and became his editorial assistant.
Under Dez's watchful eye I began to learn the craft of an editor, which included basic copy-writing skills, including helping with cover lines and, in those days, marking up copy for the hot-metal typesetters.
But, most importantly, I got my first, hands-on experience of how a comic strip is created, from the first phone call to the writer to last minute corrections to the speech balloons. I also met many creators who I would work with in later years and who would also become personal friends, including Steve and Annie Parkhouse, John Bolton and the late Brian Lewis.
A big part of my job was copy-editing the mammoth "History of Hammer" feature for the magazine, which had started life as an unpublished book project. This included compiling a massive Hammer Films cast and credit listing for every movie they released.
The other part of my job was to help compile and anglicise Mad
magazine. Dez would tell me what he wanted to go in that issue, and I would gather together the films that had been sent from Bill Gaines office in New York. I'd photcopy all the pages then go through looking for jokes that the UK readers wouldn't get then change them to jokes they would get.
Pretty soon, Dez was only giving me a rough guide and I'd complete most of the work myself. For a newcomer to the comics industry, it seemed a very responsible and exciting job. But more importantly, I learned to write copy to the exact length and
have it both make sense and be funny. A little trickier than I've made it sound here.