Behind the Curtain: Haven & Comic Related

It was 2008, and I had just lost a potential job and a dream. Not the first for either occurrences, but to have it all happen at once, and in the way it did, really took its toll on me. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I had some lettering work, but not enough to sustain myself. And, at the time, I was helping support my mom and brother. Mom had had knee surgery recently, and my brother was still in school.

I began contacting other comic news sites, submitting to them, trying to get a job. You name a popular comic or popular culture news site around at the time, I sent them an inquiry. I got exactly ZERO responses.
At the time, I had been doing some work for Haven Distributors, which used to be Cold Cut Distribution. I have to back up to tell that tale…

In February of 2008, before the Tales of Wonder job, I had contacted a friend of mine, Lance Stahlberg, about work. I had done lettering and editing for him in the past and we had a good working relationship. He had recently purchased Cold Cut and renamed it Haven. It was a distribution alternative from Diamond for independent and small press publishers.

When I contacted Lance, he had no full-time jobs available, but hired me to design the logo. A while later, we talked about me doing Haven’s monthly newsletter, which, again, was a very small income to live on.
I don’t remember the exact timeline of how everything happened, but at some point later in the year, I became heavily involved with Haven and my responsibilities and pay rate increased. Eventually, I became the designer for the Haven catalog, which was a nice chunk of change, and then became the Submissions Editor. Lance was very good to me, and like I said, we had a great working relationship. Ultimately, when added to my lettering income, Haven kept me afloat every month. It basically paid my rent, and I was able to pay everything else with the lettering work I had.

In the meantime, I had been talking with Chuck Moore for over a year, and occasionally contributing articles to Comic Related prior to its redesign as you all know it. When I had first left Silver Bullet, I asked Chuck if he had any work. This was my first interaction with the man. I had been looking online for comic news sites, and was shocked to find one based right down the road from me! Chuck had no paying work, but was happy to talk comics and let me send in articles. So like I said, I did, and we chatted back and forth.

In the summer of 2008, I was doing some work with Haven, and Chuck was kind enough to get me into my first ever comic convention, Wizard World Chicago. It was there that I first met Chuck Moore in person, even though we had chatted for a year and literally lived five minutes from each other. I also met Gordon Dymowski, one of my current co-hosts on Zone 4 for the first time there, and Chuck Kennedy, co-founder of Zone 4. In fact, that may have been my first in-person meeting with Scott DM Simmons, my Wannabez artist, as well. I stayed at his place and we drove to Chicago together.

I would later discover that John Wilson, Bob Hickey, Ringtail Cafe and others were also there, but I didn’t meet any of them until months later.

Me and Scott DM Simmons

Wizard World Chicago was a HUGE convention for me. Meeting all these friends of mine, hanging out, and experiencing my first ever convention. I also landed my first lettering job with Image Comics while there, within the first 10 minutes! It was definitely a memory-making trip.

I met Lance Stahlberg, who lives in Chicago, there for the first time as well, and we talked Haven and its future a bit. I would continue to work with Haven until they closed in 2011, and Lance and I remain friends. He helped me out in a few pinches, and was and is a great friend to me. I was set up at the Haven Indy Island set up at the first ever C2E2 in 2010 with my book, Wannabez along with some other Haven-carried creators. It was a blast.

I also saw the Tales of Wonder crew there, and they acted like they didn’t even know me. They also looked exhausted, frustrated and not happy at all. I count not getting that job as a blessing after seeing them in action. I would have been miserable! And all these experiences I had at WW Chicago I wouldn’t have had, because I would have been too busy and tired!

I had gotten into the con with a press pass through CR, and so I did do a couple of CR-type things. I got some books for review (which I did review), and I got to sit in on an interview session with the creators behind the animated feature Batman: Gotham Knight! Following that, I got to see the screening.
Let me tell you, for a first-time con-goer, getting in with a press pass and being able to talk to the likes of Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Greg Rucka and yes, even Brian Azzarello, as well as others involved was an amazing experience.

After the con, I did a write-up for CR from the perspective of a first-time con-goer. I can’t find that story now, but I did recap the experience in my column, Journey of a Wannabe later. And it was from that point on that things with CR and I just grew. Chuck and I had really hit it off online, and then in person, and we became fast friends.

Just a few short months later, CR got a redesign that kicked it to the next level.  And that’s when things really kicked off.

Next time: How Comic Related grew seemingly overnight, and I found myself in the midst of an entire community of comic fans like myself.


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2 Thoughts to “Behind the Curtain: Haven & Comic Related”

  1. Starting with next week's column, we do start diving into the behind the scenes stuff involved in running a comic news site. Watch for it next Sunday!

  2. I guess it was C2E2 in 2010 that we met but I thought it was longer ago. I didn't have a table at that one but was mainly just hanging out with Franchesco! in artist alley. Got accepted by Haven but as you say, they ultimately folded. Didn't realize they were formerly Cold Cut though.

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