Portrait of author Zoe Zolbrod

A version of this post originally appeared in the May 2013 mailing of the Capa-Alpha APA.

During the early '90s when I took a stab at becoming a comic book writer, I requested submission guidelines from several dozen publishers. One of the people I heard from was First Comics submissions editor Zoe Zolbrod. Her letter of Feb. 5, 1991, shared a new plan the company was undertaking. "First is going to begin to publish black-and-white, limited-series, creator-owned comic books," she wrote. "These would be sent to us by the creator all ready to be shot and printed (scripted, penciled, inked and possibly lettered). ... There would be no page rate for these books; instead the artist(s) would get a predetermined percentage of the profits."

The letter and First's submission guidelines are linked.

After being one of the most successful comics companies to spring up in the '80s, First was fading fast by the time of my letter. After it shut down in 1992, Zolbrod stayed in publishing and has become a book editor, essayist and novelist.

In the late '90s she published the zine Maxine, billed as a "literate companion for churlish girls and rakish women."

Her 2010 debut novel Currency is about a female American backpacker in Thailand who has a romance with a local street hustler that brings her into the world of exotic animal smuggling.

On an impulse, I looked up Zolbrod on the web and she agreed to answer some questions in email about her days at the company.

Divider

Question: It looks like you got the First Comics job right after graduating from Oberlin, based on your LinkedIn profile. How long did you work at First and what was it like to comb through the submission pile? Do you recall any of the writers and artists you discovered whose books went on to be published?

Zolbrod: I got the job as editorial assistant for First Publishing in 1990, a few months after graduating from Oberlin, thanks to a tip passed through the Oberlin grapevine that started with Anina Bennett, who was an editor there. One of the things I did as part of my interview process was to review a couple of unsolicited submissions, because dealing with the slush pile was a big part of the job. I was far from a comics geek. I liked a few alternative things like Hate and Love & Rockets, but I had virtually no familiarity with the world of super heroes, which was a lot of what First published and received as submissions. I remember deciding to just give my honest opinion of the comics I was given to review, including my feminist analysis, because I didn't even know enough to fake something else. I guess the other candidate they were considering had more comics knowledge, but First was mostly looking for someone who could write and think critically, and so they took me on.

I looked at probably hundreds of submissions and dutifully wrote a personal note back to most everyone, which encouraged a couple people to respond a little too enthusiastically. I only found a few things that I thought were worth passing up the chain based on the criteria I was given, and of those, only one did everyone get excited about. I can't remember the name or the artist now, but there was some discussion with the guy about signing him. Little did I know, though, that I had arrived at the beginning of the end of First.

Within a year of having taken the job, the company decided to move from a monthly publishing schedule to a quarterly one, and the ceased signing anyone new. Soon after that, they suspended publication entirely -- actually, Lone Wolf & Cub might have limped on for awhile -- and laid a bunch of people off.

I kept my job -- probably because I was working for peanuts -- but things eventually ground down to a stop. I was there for less than two years, but that job really changed my life. I had gotten a little editorial experience, and I also got a bonus for sticking around until the bitter end. The bonus provided me with a nut of money that allowed me to backpack around Southeast Asia for the better part of the year.

Q: The letter I received was from February 1991 in response to a request for submission guidelines. You described how First was planning to start publishing black-and-white, creator-owned comic books that were submitted in completed form to the company. First would only do the cover and possibly redo the lettering. Was this a last-ditch effort to keep the company in business, and do you recall if anything came of it before it closed?

Zolbrod: Oh, I forgot about that. Now that you mention it, I think that was the criteria I was given for what to pass up the chain. The one submission everyone liked was to be part of it. But no, nothing ever came of it. Things started going downhill fast very soon after I sent that letter.

Q: It looks like the final things First published were Eric Shanower's Blue Witch of Oz, the final issues of Dreadstar, Grimjack, Lone Wolf & Cub, and a Classics Illustrated adaptation of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle by Peter Kuper (I need to find a copy of that). What do you think caused the demise of the company, one of the most successful comic book publishers of the '80s?

Cover of Peter Kuper's comic book adaptation of Upton Sinclair's The JungleZolbrod: I believe I recall the Peter Kuper art coming in. I had been aware of him before I started the job and was really impressed. It made working there seem glamorous. There was often quite a buzz when the Classics Illustrated art came in, and we would all gather round, but I didn't work with any of those artists. They had their own team, and I was an underling.

Although I hadn't heard of Grimjack before I started, that was the First series that I genuinely got into. I was sad when it went to a quarterly and then ceased. I wasn't in the know enough to have a really clear picture of what happened, but I recall hearing that the licensing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had been a huge cash cow for First, and that had ceased by the time I got there in '90. I think the licensing with Classics Illustrated and Lone Wolf might have been expensive, and their own series weren't doing as well as they had been.

Q: You published the novel Currency inspired by your experiences traveling Southeast Asia alone, and now you're working on a memoir about suffering sexual abuse as a child. How did you decide to write about a subject so difficult, and how is it going?

Zolbrod: I'm looking at the memoir as being more about how I interpreted what happened to me as a child at different stages of my life, and less about the actual abuse. It's a situation with a lot of gray area, or at least a lot of psychological gray area to me. I guess I came to writing about it in the hopes of gaining a better understanding, which has eluded me all these years.

Also, I became aware that this issue affects a lot of people in nuanced ways that aren't well represented, and I want to add to the dialogue. I have a strong vision for the book and it's going well, if not quickly.

Divider

To find out more about Zoe Zolbrod's books and read her blog The Next Youth Hostel, visit her website ZoeZolbrod.com. She also is a frequent essayist for the literary site The Nervous Breakdown.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

Comments

Thanks for this: as a Nexus/ Badger/ American Flagg! fan now I'm interested in hearing about stuff I mainly missed as a Marvel kid back then. Having just finished the history of Marvel Comics, I think the story of every comic company veers to tragedy over time.


 

I loved American Flagg!. I have a Howard Chaykin story from those days I will tell when I find the enraged letter he wrote about me to Comics Buyer's Guide.


 

This is utterly surprising; why aren't we paying more attention to this thing? brain games tv show


 

unterschied nike magista orden onda 2017 ,nike roshe run one flight weight and weight
washington nationals beanie hat zip zip http://www.carvingsaegen.com/washington-nationals-beanie-hat-zip-zip-hat_it


 

I want to voice my gratitude for your generosity supporting visitors who must have assistance with in this area. Your special dedication to passing the message up and down has been amazingly valuable and has constantly allowed men and women like me to realize their pursuits. Your important recommendations can mean this much a person like me and even further to my fellow workers. With thanks; from each one of us.


 

nike pg 1 light aqua ,nike magista orden sizing meaning
chad henne jersey jacksonville jaguars 7 mens green game jersey nike nfl jersey sale http://www.bettsgallery.com/chad-henne-jersey-jacksonville-jaguars-7-mens-green-game-jersey-nike- nfl-jersey-sale-jersey_uk


 

I intended to draft you this little word in order to thank you very much over again on the splendid knowledge you have shown in this article. This has been simply surprisingly open-handed with people like you to allow unhampered all that most people could have supplied as an e-book in making some money on their own, specifically given that you might well have done it if you ever decided. The pointers also worked to be the easy way to recognize that someone else have similar desire the same as my own to figure out a great deal more with regard to this problem. I'm sure there are numerous more fun times ahead for people who find out your blog.


 

nike air max 90 jacquard womens all black ,perbedaan nike hypervenom phelon dan phantom definition
nero oro adidas messi 16.3 tf per uk http://www.chaddhuffman.com/nero-oro-adidas-messi-16.3-tf-per-uk-sports_it


 

jordan slippers philippines price list gif ,nike magista opus eastbay quote
nike air max skyline http://www.leadwirral.com/nike-air-max-skyline-fusion_en


 

I simply had to say thanks once more. I do not know the things I could possibly have undertaken in the absence of the ways contributed by you over my field. It has been a very scary difficulty in my opinion, however , observing your specialised way you managed that took me to cry over happiness. I am just happier for your information and in addition trust you know what a great job that you are putting in instructing men and women by way of a web site. I know that you haven't met any of us.
michael kors handbags www.outletonline-michaelkors.us.org<>


 

adidas eqt adv mid super shenron ,mens nike free hyperfeel trail running shoes
buy cheap air jordan olympia red black australia http://www.leadwirral.com/buy-cheap-air-jordan-olympia-red-black-australia-fusion_en


 

My husband and i felt so more than happy Jordan managed to round up his web research by way of the precious recommendations he made from your very own web page. It is now and again perplexing just to possibly be making a gift of thoughts that some people might have been making money from. So we fully grasp we need the website owner to be grateful to because of that. The illustrations you have made, the simple web site menu, the friendships you help create - it's everything great, and it's really aiding our son in addition to our family reason why that subject matter is enjoyable, which is certainly extraordinarily pressing. Thanks for all!
golden goose www.goldengoose-sneakers.us<>


 

air jordan 4 bred size 9 ,air force 1 mid size 9
under armour curry ii todas negro http://www.gerdhotline.com/under-armour-curry-ii-todas-negro-femme_it


 

Thanks for all your efforts on this website. My niece delights in going through internet research and it is easy to understand why. Many of us learn all concerning the lively manner you deliver both useful and interesting tips through your web site and in addition welcome participation from some others about this situation while our child is really learning a lot. Take advantage of the remaining portion of the new year. You have been performing a splendid job.
foamposites www.nikefoamposite.us.com<>


 

adidas ultra boost 3.0 oreo tv ,nike magista obra black uk
men nike san diego chargers 58 demorrio williams elite navy blue team color nfl jersey sale http://www.bnbpilipinas.com/men-nike-san-diego-chargers-58-demorrio-williams-elite-navy-blue-team- color-nfl-jersey-sale-jersey_uk


 

Thank you for each of your work on this web page. My mother loves setting aside time for investigation and it's really easy to understand why. A lot of people notice all concerning the lively way you create priceless tips through the blog and in addition boost participation from visitors on this idea and our princess has been becoming educated a whole lot. Take advantage of the rest of the new year. You're the one carrying out a fabulous job.
michael kors handbags www.handbagsmichaelkors.com<>


 

nike mercurialx proximo silver ,flip flop all black
nike darwin rebel http://www.mcdebougie.com/nike-darwin-rebel-films_uk


 

nike air max 90 essential nz ,nike air foamposite one 2018
47 brand san francisco giants hat liner 2017 http://www.carvingsaw.com/47-brand-san-francisco-giants-hat-liner-2017-hat_fr


 

The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface.
onlinecasinos24-eu


 

This is really a nice and informative. containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Thanks for sharing it.
http://cityonlinecasino.com/


 

air jordan extra fly all black ,nike dunk sb low pink
chicago white sox 11 luis aparicio white pinstripe throwback jersey http://www.carvingsaegen.com/chicago-white-sox-11-luis-aparicio-white-pinstripe-throwback-jersey- jersey_ca


 

Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.
the-online-casinos-net


 

nike flyknit racer yupoo tk ,air jordan iso 2 quai 54
cincinnati reds baseball hat uk reviews http://www.bettsgallery.com/cincinnati-reds-baseball-hat-uk-reviews-hat_it


 

nike jordan true flight black jack ,1 but nike tanjun
nike air max 90 prm tape qs infrared http://www.nyrupplast.com/nike-air-max-90-prm-tape-qs-infrared-superstar_en


 

nike flyknit racer yupoo tk ,air jordan iso 2 quai 54
adidas stan smith glue store http://www.mentomedia.org/adidas-stan-smith-glue-store-crocs_en


 

niketalk kobe 9 elite qnx ,adidas nmd 6.5
new york yankees trucker hat xlt http://www.chaddhuffman.com/new-york-yankees-trucker-hat-xlt-hat_es


 

nike hypervenomx proximo allegro ,adidas nmd human race uk report
all svart air jordan 9 kvinner til uk http://www.beanumber.com/all-svart-air-jordan-9-kvinner-til-uk-cheap_no


 

womens air max thea running shoes yahoo ,adidas crazy boost christmas full movie
kansas city royals batting practice hat knitting pattern http://www.beanumber.com/kansas-city-royals-batting-practice-hat-knitting-pattern-hat_fr


 

Add a Comment

These HTML tags are permitted: p, b, i, a, and blockquote. A comment may not include more than three links. Participants in this discussion should note the site's moderation policy.