Part 3 - Cthulhu Tales

Third in a short series
© 2018 Glen Cadigan
Originally posted on on October 08, 2018

The alternate cover art for Cthulhu Tales # 6 by Marco Rudy.

If you're like me, you grew up reading comics. And like almost everyone who read comics growing up, I dreamed of working in the industry someday. When I was younger, I even had aspirations of being an artist, but age and lack of talent put that particular dream to bed. Still, there were other ways to break in, and writing was one of them. It was something I could do, and I had enough confidence in my abilities back then to think that it was all just a matter of time. Inevitable, really.

Again, if you're like me, this should sound familiar. But not everyone who wants to work in comics gets to work in comics, and even those who do often find it difficult to stay. Things don't go the way you'd expect, or not everything goes according to plan.

There are a lot of stories about breaking into comics, and it's called "breaking in" for a reason. It's hard. Nothing is promised, and nothing is guaranteed. Every breaking in story is different, and this one is mine.


I didn't start out in comics, exactly. I started out writing/editing books about comics, and how I found myself on that career path is a story unto itself. The short version is I'd interviewed dozens of comic book pros for several books about comics and near the end of my run, I started to feel like things were winding down. It was getting harder to get the books approved by DC, each one took more work, and each one was selling fewer copies. So with the writing on the wall, I started to look elsewhere.

Some of the things I did before my big break. Legion of Super-Heroes & Teen Titans TM & © DC Comics.

I didn't get into writing about comics as a stepping stone to writing comics themselves -- I wasn't that cold-blooded -- but they still gave me credentials that came in handy later on. Specifically, when I read an online interview with one of my former interview subjects about how he was an editor now and was looking to pass on all that he had learned as a writer to the next generation of creators. Not only did I have ambition, but I also had something to validate my ambition. If you want to write professionally, an opportunity like that is something you just can't pass up. So I emailed the editor and asked him if it was a private party or if I could pitch, too. And he said yes! So thanks to his open mindedness, I was off and running.

I sent him -- Mark Waid, during the period in which he was employed by BOOM! Studios -- springboards for two stories for their horror anthology, Cthulhu Tales. Why Cthulhu Tales? Because it was there, that's why. Because you have to start at the bottom and work your way up in this business, and anthologies are traditionally how that's done. So I read the first issue (and only issue, at that point) of the monthly series, saw that it was all oogy-boogy stuff, and decided I could write oogy-boogy stuff if I had to. If you're a writer, especially if you don't hold all the cards, you have to be ready, willing, and able to write anything and everything.

The irony is I wasn't particularly a horror fan, nor had I ever read any of H.P. Lovecraft's work. Those who have know that's where Cthulhu comes from. But like I said, you've gotta be willing to roll with the punches in this business, especially when you're just getting your start.

One of these men is Mark Waid, then-editor of Cthulhu Tales. The other is horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, originator of Cthulhu. Can you tell which is which? Waid photo by Luigi Novi, via Wikipedia.

What Mark didn't know was that I'd gone ahead and written full scripts for both pitches before I'd even pitched them. I had to know if I could actually do it first, otherwise I'd be painting myself into an extremely embarrassing corner. And the only reason why there were two was because I'd gotten another idea after I'd finished the first, and there was still gas in the tank. So I went ahead and wrote that one, too.

As luck would have it, he liked the idea for the second story, but not so much the first. (Good thing I kept going, huh?) So I sent in the script and it was approved. Two weeks later, I got a PDF in my email and everything was done except for the colors. I hadn't even signed a contract yet.

The first page of my debut! Art by Chee. © 2008 BOOM! Studios.

This is the moment that every aspiring creator lives for, the moment when you've crossed the line from fan into pro. Throughout the course of that summer I would open the PDF up and look at it to make certain it was real. Yup, there was my name on a comic book page, right next to the word "Writer." I was on the other side of the fence, and the grass really was greener over there!

According to Diamond's Previews catalog, the story was slated to appear in Cthulhu Tales # 8 in December. Not only that, but I'd sold a second story to Mark, and it was scheduled for Cthulhu Tales # 9. So not only had I broken in, but I'd broken in in back-to-back issues.

If you've never made it in comics, you can only imagine how I felt. And if you've had it happen to you, you know how it feels. All that was left was to wait for the issues themselves to come out!

Here's where the story gets interesting. On the day before Cthulhu Tales # 6 was to be published, I happened to be at and clicked on a link that showed previews of upcoming comics. As in, that week's comics. As in, tomorrow's.

What I saw at Comic Book Resources. Cover art by Scott Keating.

"One Of Those Days" was not supposed to appear until # 8. It had been solicited for # 8, I expected it to appear in # 8, but on the Tuesday before the Wednesday when # 6 was released, there was a preview of the issue at that didn't contain my name, but there it was on the cover anyway, along with previews of interior pages that also showed it on the inside front cover.

So instead of having another two months to wait, I had less than twenty-four hours before it became official. Just like when I'd received the PDF months earlier, things were happening fast. And then a similar thing happened again. My second story, "The Awakening," appeared in Cthulhu Tales # 7, not # 9 as was originally planned (and solicited). And what's more, because # 6 was late, they both appeared in the same month.

Both covers of Cthulhu Tales #8, featuring my second story, "The Awakening." Art by Chee(A) and Fiffe(B).

That's right, I broke into comics with two stories in the same month, in back-to-back issues of the same title. Everything was happening at the speed of being thrown out of an airplane.

So onwards and upwards, right? Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. I'd hoped to leverage my first two assignments into something more, but that was as far as I got. Other editors weren't as enthusiastic about giving me opportunities, and I knocked on enough doors to let them know I was up to the task. I felt like someone who'd been called up to the big leagues, homered in his first at bat, then was sent back down to the minors again, never to be heard from after that.

There is an epilogue to this story: years later, director Ivan Radovic read "One Of Those Days" and got permission to turn it into a live action film. It played at over thirty film festivals worldwide, and it's up on Vimeo for anyone who hasn't seen it. So there's that. And I got to share one of those issues with William Messner-Loebs and the other with Brian Augustyn, and that's pretty good company to keep!

Eldritch Code - Short film on Vimeo.


"One Of Those Days" was reprinted twice: first in Chaos Of The Mind, then a second time in Cthulhu Tales Omnibus: Madness. The latter is where director Ivan Radovic discovered it, and then decided to adapt it into Eldritch Code.

The cover on the left is by Mateus Santolouco, as is the one on the right. Maybe they're related?