This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on June 22, 2017.
Every week in a new installment of “Leading Questions”, the young, lantern jawed Publisher of Comics Bulletin Mark Stack will ask Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett a question he must answer. However, Mark doesn’t plan on taking it easy on Chase. He’ll be setting him up with questions that are anything but fair and balanced to see how this once overconfident comics critic can make a cogent case for what another one obviously wants to hear.
So without any further ado…
They say don’t meet your heroes, but who has grown in your estimation after encountering them?
I’m going to keep this one short. That’s because it would be too easy to go on about all of the great people I’ve met in comics, and because I think this column will be a bit more meaningful if it just points to one person.
Before I get to that one person though, I do want to point out that comics is filled with great people. No matter how much we may complain, and lordy we do, the vast majority of folks I’ve met are genuinely enjoyable personalities who are kind and generous. More than four years ago I conducted my first interview with Greg Rucka and he treated me, a complete novice writing for a nothing site, to an hour of his day and far more knowledge and stories than I had any right to expect. He set a high bar that most creators I’ve encountered have continued to meet.
I do think it’s a bit easier to act with kindness and generosity when you’re in a position of power though. That isn’t meant to take Rucka or any of the other greats for granted. Their humility is a fantastic quality, but when people know who you are and you’re making enough money to actually have a saving account… well, that removes some stress. It’s easier to be good when you’re doing well and everybody wants your time and attention. That makes me appreciate some of the creators I’ve been able to watch from an earlier point in their career that much more.
One guy in particular I would point out in response to your question is writer Christopher Sebela.
I met Chris at my very first San Diego Comic Con at the Hilton bar. We were both maxed out on people, and I know I was maxed out on a few other things. The patio was jam packed and I was looking to hunker down. A mutual friend had introduced us, and he was kind enough to let me bum a cigarette. We bullshitted for a while and had a good time from what I recall.
That’s it. There’s no big reveal to the story or stunning act of kindness. Chris was a good guy to hang out with and talk with even when he was absolutely exhausted. What sets him apart that weekend was that it was a time that could have gone to a lot of people’s heads. He had just been nominated for an Eisner Award and we’ve both seen how that grows some egos three times overnight. That didn’t appear to be the case with Chris. He wasn’t too busy for someone looking to catch some fresh air besides him on the patio that night. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chris be too busy for anyone.
We’ve continued to run into one another over the past few years. It’s a pretty even split between late night bars at conventions and less comics-related gatherings in various other cities. Across that time Chris has built a larger and larger library, worked with an increasing array of great artists, and done plenty of things worth more pride than an Eisner nomination (e.g. surviving a month in a clown motel). Across all of that what I’ve noticed is that Chris has not changed, and I mean that in the best way possible.
He’s still level-headed. He still has a wicked sharp sense of humor. He still cares a lot about his work and, more importantly, his people. And you’d never know he’s approaching the realm of a hotshot because he genuinely does not believe he’s better than you just because he’s writing for DC Comics.
So when I think about my heroes in comics, I’ll always have a big list of people who have already made their mark – folks like Stan Sakai or Brian K. Vaughan – and persist in being great people. However, the people I think I’ll recall most fondly are those I got to watch grow and remain true to themselves and the great people they are.
That’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s why I think comics is lucky to have someone like Chris Sebela.