by Abbie Willans
Among Harvard business school graduates are Mitt Romney, Tyra Banks…and now a comic book writer for DC and Vertigo. While many people choose their careers in high school or college, Amy Chu feels she has “done everything”.
Since graduating with a Harvard business degree in 1999, she has been involved in publishing, bio technologies, interior design, and events management.
When a friend approached her about starting a comics company, she had planned to handle the business side of it while her friend would do the writing. But when her friend was offered the chance to direct a movie, Chu decided to learn more about the creative process of comic and started writing her own.
She took several classes and taught herself almost every aspect that goes into producing a comic. Her friends and family were initialy confused by her career switch, saying they had no idea she was interested in comics.
“I didn’t know I was into comics either!” she said.
Chu began her comic career by self publishing. Her first book was called Saving Abby, a short story about a taxi driver. Some of her other original work includes The VIP Room and Girls Night Out.
“Self publishing is essentially being an entrepreneur, so everything I learned up until now suddenly becomes very helpful,” she said. “Networking and pitching in any industry is remarkably the same, whether it’s comics or biotech. Seriously.”
She is relatively new to writing comics professionally, but she recently wrote a Wonder Woman story in Sensation Comics by DC.
She has been hired to write a short story about Lady Pink, one of the first female graffiti artists. Chu has been asked to pitch ideas for Poison Ivy and the main Wonder Woman title. She was nervous about these because one big mistake in the comic industry can ruin a writer’s career.
She would very much like to write a story for Deadpool after some of her classmates laughed at the idea.
“I didn’t want to write for My Little Pony because once I do that, I’m going to be writing My Little Pony forever,” she said.
Chu prefers to write about darker, gorier subjects. She mentions she has a harder time writing female characters than males, but isn’t opposed to it.
“If you tell me I can’t do something, I will do it,” she said.
Regarding breaking into the industry, Chu had a few pointers for new writers. She emphasized the importance of being nice to everyone. She has made connections with big names in comics because she paid attention to everyone instead of just the people who were already famous.
Not having been an avid comic fan her entire life, she had no idea who some of the people were when she met them at conventions. Without realizing it at the time, Chu had a conversation with Mike Marts, Batman editor and the person responsible for 70% of all revenue at DC.
She says it really helps for writers and artists to put themselves out there, make their work available online, and be strategic when it comes to appearing at events. It can be expensive, so
she only goes to conventions that editors will be attending. Some of her favorites include Emerald City and Baltimore Comic Con.
Chu also advises that new writers not expect to be published in a year, but five or even ten years. She recommends writing short stories, three to eight pages, and starting with those instead of long, complicated stories. She printed hers out to sell and hand to editors because the shorter something is the more likely people are to read it.
With so many things out there already, people have limited attention spans. She stressed having exciting “page turners” – that is, making the last panel of the page intriguing enough for the reader to turn the page to find out what happens next.
“You’re tricking the reader into continuing your story,” she said.
She explained that comics have rhythm similar to music, and that varied panels and page design can make a comic interesting. Chu writes for her artists whenever she can, to play to their strengths and enable them to draw what they enjoy.
She frequently starts with the ending of a story first, then follows with the beginning and the middle, because people have a tendency to start at the beginning and then lose their passion and focus. This allows her work to be more concise, which she regularly stresses the importance of. Chu believes her background helped her in the industry because she was used to pitching ideas and networking.
“It’s a lot better than writing Powerpoints!,” she said.
Chu will be at several upcoming conventions where fans can buy her books and meet her, including C2E2 and Indianapolis Comic Con.