Here’s something I found in a stack of old mail!
I printed (“published” would be too strong a word) my first collection of Wondermark comics in the fall of 2004. I made about 100 copies and solicited them door-to-door in the ad agency where I worked at the time. Almost everyone good-naturedly bought a copy (with the exception of the unpleasant producer who asked if this was “more of that Trader Joe’s stuff”).
Around the same time, I decided it would be a good idea to send copies of the book to anyone slightly famous that I could find any remote connection to. As I can recall, I gave copies to:
- The actor and director Garry Marshall, whose movie Chicken Little (and whose son’s movie Princess Diaries 2) I was working on trailers for at the time
- The radio host Garrison Keillor; I was a listener to Prairie Home Companion and my art teacher had played taped episodes of The Writer’s Almanac for us weekly for many years
- The director Alexander Payne, because I happened to attend a Q&A screening of his movie Sideways
- The voice actor Rino Romano, whom I’d worked with many times before, engineering his voiceover sessions
- Comics professionals I was a fan of, such as Frank Cho, Robert Kirkman, Larry Young, and Gary Groth
- Dave Sim, whom I didn’t know much about besides the fact that he drew Cerebus (which I didn’t read) and that he had a strange bet with Neil Gaiman about whether or not people would send him mail
As well as Brad Bird (as seen above), and I’m sure other people I don’t remember.
I heard back from Garrison Keillor’s people, who sent a card saying “your submission for The Writer’s Almanac will be duly considered”;
Dave Sim, who was actually quite complimentary, and provided a blurb for a later edition of the same book, which I felt very strange about once I learned more about his politics;
And Pixar, above, on behalf of Brad Bird. I felt very sheepish that they thought I was trying to send in unsolicited material as a submission, rather than a gift of a book I hoped would be entertaining, but of course I understand now. (In fact, when I gave Alexander Payne a copy of the book, someone with him said “You can’t read that, you can’t accept it!” to which he said “It’s just comic strips, it’s okay!” Mr. Payne, if you read this, I don’t care if you threw the book in the trash, it was very heartening to hear you say you wanted to keep it.)
I look back on that, ten years ago now, and it feels very naïve of me. But why? I didn’t hurt anyone, I didn’t get into trouble.That same year, I sent a completely unsolicited press kit to the office of the AV Club, and it landed on Tasha Robinson’s desk, and a year later she wrote me out of the blue and asked if they could print Wondermark in the newspaper edition of the Onion, where it ran for several years, and then it had an afterlife in the online AV Club for several years after that. That worked out okay.
Sending out those books without any real purpose or plan didn’t benefit me, really, so these days it seems like a silly thing to do. But I am reminded by finding this letter to do more things that are likely to fail but have very low stakes — maybe not ill-considered things like send unsolicited manuscripts to movie studios, but write letters, be bold, be unafraid. Chalk up more and more failures, so that failure is not a scary thing.
Mr. Bird, if you read this, your people also enclosed a signed 8x10 of Mr. Incredible, which I gave to a good friend and lifelong Disney fanatic, and he enjoyed it very much.