A comic writer from New York and a cartoonist from Texas teamed up to create a comic book. They have a chance at a contract from DC Comics, but they need help.
John Zakour was just out of college and about to start a job as a database programmer at Cornell University. He had long been a fan of comic books and newspaper funny pages and fancied himself a bit of a talent as a gag writer.
He had no idea that about a decade later, in 1989, he would lose his job at Cornell and start churning out pulp full-time. He didn’t yet know that he would be the writer of “Working Daze,” a syndicated newspaper comic strip read across the country.
“My theory is the more nasty the world gets, the more we can use pulp,” Zakour said.
Back before all that, Zakour was just sitting home one afternoon. The telephone rang, but he didn’t feel like talking. He asked his sister to take a message. But when he heard her spelling out the name of the caller — C-H-A-R-L-E-S, S-C-H-U-L-Z — he leapt to his feet and picked up the phone.
“Charles Schulz called me to talk cartooning,” said Zakour, still amazed. “He wanted to talk about the future of my cartooning career. I asked if I could take over 'Peanuts' when he passed. He said, ‘You’re really good, but 'Peanuts' is going to die with me.’ And it did.”
Meanwhile, Amy Watson was just a girl in Texas, scribbling out copies of Disney characters. But she grew up, tried out a career of her own that didn’t fit and gave it all up to pursue her art full time.
Well, almost full time. Watson edits mystery shopper surveys to pay for the produce and bills.
But now she has a crack at the big time. Zakour, too, thanks to a Web site called Zuda Comics, run by DC Comics, publisher of Batman. Every month, Zuda holds a competition for 10 original comics to debut on the site and compete for a chance to win a year-long contract from DC.
Zakour had long imagined putting together a comic book of his own, so he hammered out some copy and posted an ad online for an artist. He narrowed down his choice to more than a dozen applicants.
“I offered payment in advance,” he said “And when you offer an artist pay in advance, they really come flocking.”
Watson just seemed the best fit. So he hired her.
“Her work is really lively, really fresh, and she has experience drawing manga,” Zakour said.
“It’s sort of friendly and anything goes,” Zakour said of the Japanese cartoon style. “Like my novel writing. I write bubble gum for the brain.”
So the two collaborated via e-mail to create “Demons in the Closet,” a quirky tale about a boy, his sister, the demons in their closet and a crew of conspiratorial ninjas. Zakour wrote the story and text. Watson inked the pages.
“It’s just a campy, fun story, pretty much like all the other stuff he writes,” Watson said. “He draws from life, I think.”
And now their waggish world of violet-skinned dames and bull-headed demons has a shot at winning.
“If I win, I’m going to produce the comic for the next year,” Zakour said. “And it would really work, because I have a three-year arc for the story.”
Viewers of the Web site pick the winner by registering with the site, then voting for their favorite.
For a while now, Zakour and Watson have battled for first place. But in the anonymous world of Web forums, that opens them up to the sometimes nasty critiques leveled by fans of competing comics.
“The people who are still within striking distance, their readers are coming over and telling people how bad we are,” Zakour said.
The monthlong contest ended Thursday.
Contact Daily Messenger writer Philip Anselmo at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 322, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.