On a rainy autumn day in 1963, my dad brought home a comic book for me. It was the first issue of Marvel’s Avengers. On the cover were the words “Earth’s Mightiest Super Heroes!” and “Can The Combined Power Of The Avengers Defeat The Sinister Spells Of Loki, God Of Evil?” There was a drawing of a knight in golden armor, a green behemoth, a man riding a flying ant and a blonde surfer dude with a hammer. I was in love!
Fifty-five years later — almost to the day — I found out that Marvel Comics wanted my sons Griffin, Justin and Travis, and me to write a five-issue mini-series for them called War Of Realms: Journey Into Mystery!
I know, right??? It was a dream come true, but not an overnight one. There were a lot of rejection letters in those five and a half decades. Here are a few of them:
Thank you for your submission of “Jonny Speed and the Sargasso Mystery.” Unfortunately, we will not be able to publish this story because it is almost a word-for-word copy of an episode of the ABC animated TV series Jonny Quest, with only the last name changed. Since you are in the fourth grade we will not pursue plagiarism charges against you. If you would like to submit other ideas, preferably after you have completed elementary school, feel free to do so.
That was unfortunate, I know. I had even written the whole thing in cursive! But I continued to refine my craft and submitted more stories. A few years later, another rejection letter was delivered to my mailbox.
We read with interest your short story entitled “The Terror of Demi Glace Castle.” Horror is a very difficult genre to master, so please don’t take this rejection as criticism. You should also know that demi glace has nothing to do with demons. It is a rich brown sauce used in French cuisine. The previous sentence you CAN take as criticism.
I chose to take it as constructive criticism and used it to fire my passion. I poured my heart and soul into my next subission.
Your epic novel Burgundy Moon was one of the most impressive works of fiction ever seen in our office! Your vivid characters, your innovative use of language and your unique plot points had us gasping! It was without a doubt, one of the most powerful pieces of writing any of us has ever experienced, and we sincerely thank you for sending it our way. Unfortunately, we publish crossword puzzle books and are not sure we can use it.
Puzzle Monkey Publishing
I realized it was time to try something avant-garde. Something wild. Something so out there, they just had to take notice.
Dear Archivayous Sneegobbler,
We have no idea what it is you submitted to us since it is written backwards, with no punctuation, no consonants and in crayon. This “thing” has absolutely no commercial appeal. Perhaps you should submit it to a psychology journal for use in testing situations. Also, a publishing tip — Listing your return address as “Cheers” is really not something done by a professional writer, or sane person.
Don’t Write Again,
Nevertheless, I persevered. Year after year I submitted my writing to publishers across this great land of ours. Was I too dumb to take a hint? Maybe dumb like a fox! Today, my sons and I have a deal with Marvel Comics and we recently co-authored a graphic novel, The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins, that was a New York Times #1 Best Seller. So, stay tuned. The adventure has just begun.
CLINT McELROY was a major radio personality in the Tri-State for more than 30 years. He was named the “Funniest Man in Huntington” by the Huntington Quarterly in 2011. Most recently he co-authored The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins, a graphic novel that reached No. 1 on The New York Times’ list of Paperback Trade Fiction.