Forgive me for being a bit self-indulgent and reflective here. But what's a web forum if not for a little self-indulgent reflection.
Today is my last day as Publisher of Top Cow Productions. It marks the end of a very important period in my life, both personally and professionally. I've been at Top Cow since 2006 and in that time I bought a house, moved cross country, got married, turned thirty, had my first original comic published, had a series I'd been working on since I was a teen published, and had my daughter. And those are just the highlights.
Working at Top Cow has been a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. As with any job, there have been high points and low points. At times, it was incredibly stressful and draining, but I wouldn't change any of it for the world. To be a small part of the company founded by Marc Silvestri, part of the legacy that includes Witchblade, The Darkness, Cyber Force, Rising Stars, Midnight Nation, and Wanted was a dream come true. I played some minor role in creating more than one-third of the total number of Witchblade and The Darkness issues published. I helped launch and refine Pilot Season, an initiative that gets new ideas and creators out into the world of comics. I was a part of three event series (First Born, Broken Trinity, Artifacts) that I think stack up against anything Marvel or DC have published in terms of quality and scope. I had the opportunity to work with great partners and marketing teams from Universal, 2K Games, and Funimation. I helped bring back Minotaur Press and give Top Cow a home for more indy-spirited, nuanced work. I had the opportunity to help redefine that same Universe in a way that was story and character-driven with impact and long-lasting effects. And on a personal level, I had the chance to realize the dream of a teenage Filip when Top Cow agreed to publish Last Mortal. For fans of that particular series, stay tuned... more news to come. I participated in Pilot Season twice and am incredibly proud to have created and written Asset and Misdirection. I even had a chance to write an issue of The Darkness. I'm sure there are other things I'm forgetting, but that's already quite a list of highlights.
And the best is yet to come, I can promise you that. Top Cow will be announcing an amazing groundbreaking series around Comic-Con this year. The series itself is exciting enough, both the creative team and the concept are top-notch and forward-thinking. The part I'm proudest of is how Top Cow will roll the series out. It's an idea I had several years ago and something I truly believe will push comics forward. If there is a defining characteristic I love most about Top Cow, it's the fearlessness with which they push creativity and preexisting boundaries. Maybe it's the sentimentality of the moment, but I really see it as my legacy at the company.
I've had the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals and brand-new comic creators and staff. Both have taught me an immeasurable amount about my craft and myself as a person. On some level it still feels like a surreal dream that I can call brilliant creators like Ron Marz, Phil Hester, Whilce Portacio, and Dale Keown not only colleagues, but friends. These are creators whose work I've enjoyed for years as a fan. I've had the pleasure of working with my friends including Robert Kirkman, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Marc Bernardin, Jeremy Haun, Stjepan Sejic, Michael Broussard, Kenneth Rocafort, Mike Choi, John Mahoney, Rahsan Ekedal, Christos Gage, and many, many others. I've played a small role in shepherding the beginnings of the comic careers of smart, talented upstarts like Nelson Blake II, David Marquez, Thomas Nachlik, and Jerry Lando. If you never had the privilege, I can't tell you what an amazing thing it is to be surrounded by creative people who love what they do with every fiber of their being. Even at my most stressed out or frustrated, I loved my job. That is a rare thing in life.
I had the joy of working with the hardest working, most passionate group of co-workers. If you love comics these are names you know or should know - Rob Levin, Mel Caylo, Phil Smith, Josh Cozine, Chaz Riggs, Bryan Rountree, Elena Salcedo, Christine Dinh, Scott Newman, Atom Freeman, and Jessi Reid. Again, I learned so much from all of you and I'm eternally grateful for all of the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into the job to help make up for my shortcomings as a leader. Over the last couple of years, the amazing team at Image Comics including Eric Stephenson, Vince Kukua, Jana Cook, Tyler Shainline, Drew Gill, Jonathan Chan, Sarah deLaine, Todd Martinez, Jennifer de Guzman, and Branwyn Bigglestone have busted their butts to make my job easier and it is incredibly appreciated.
Often overlooked, but equally treasured are the conversations and moments I spent with great comic shop owners, managers, employees and of course, Top Cow fans. Thank you all for letting a kid from Roanoke, Virginia make comics for a living. I could not live the dream without you.
The biggest thanks has to go to Marc Silvestri and Matt Hawkins. The opportunity and the gift of knowledge these two guys have shared with me over the last six years is a debt I can never repay. You could spend ten minutes with Marc watching him critique a page of art and learn more in that ten minutes than a year of art school. I could go on at length, but suffice it to say that Marc is every bit the creative and teaching legend you imagine him to be. Some times your heroes don't live up to expectations. Marc does. I also have to thank his wonderful wife Bridget, who even though she isn't on the official payroll is an integral part of what makes Top Cow work. Her warmth and welcoming spirit is a big part of why my wife and I were able to make Los Angeles home. Ultimately, I owe the most to Matt Hawkins. Matt is the one who brought me into Top Cow when I was working at Diamond. Even though I didn't have a marketing or public relations degree, he saw in me the potential to be a great Marketing and Sales guy for Top Cow. A year and a half later, he gave me an even bigger opportunity as Publisher. I think I've given him some good ideas and definitely my best efforts. I've let him down a few times, but hopefully, in some measure I've lived up to the potential he saw in me six years ago. Matt can be bombastic and opinionated, but he's also great to talk to, intensely collaborative, and not afraid to admit he's wrong. As a boss, he gave me incredible autonomy and trust. He always treated me as an equal, even when I hadn't earned it yet. I'm proud to call him a mentor and a friend. As he said eloquently last night in a Facebook post, I'm going to miss our frequent lunches.
This has gone on far too long already, but let me end with this. If you are reading this because you like me or someone who knows me linked this post, do me a favor - buy a Top Cow comic or trade. Not because you like me, but because they are damn good comics. Don't know which one to try? Ask me, I'll happily give suggestions in the comments section. If you are a Top Cow fan, I hope I was a decent steward for the stories and characters you cherish. Your passion drove me to do better everyday. I'll be announcing where I'm headed in the very near future and I hope you'll consider giving some of those comics a shot as well. I promise to bring the same dedication to make the best comics I can.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pack up my office, have one last lunch with Matt Hawkins and then go get properly drunk with my co-workers and friends. Take care.