Michael Buckley was raised in New England, giving him his lifelong preference for living in cold climates with lots of snow. He prepared for his career as a Writer extensively, by writing stories at every opportunity as far back as grade school.
He had just graduated High School when he hand delivered his first professional submission to Jim Shooter at Marvel Comics in 1982. A few weeks later, Shooter sent a personal reply, which read in part, “…good, better than most by far, but not good enough. Keep trying!”
He did exactly that, refining his abilities and learning more about the business of writing. He took a job managing a comic book store in Providence, Rhode Island in the mid 1980’s to help learn about the business of comic books. There, he met longtime friend David Campiti, who would go on to start Innovation Comics a few years later (and Glass House Graphics some years after that). Mike sold his first published work there in Hero Alliance Quarterly #1 in 1991, leading to more work from Innovation.
Since then, Mike has also written for a variety of publishers, including Image, Avatar, Maximum Press, Amazing Comics, POP Comics, and more, with several new projects in progress at this time. He and David Campiti remain close friends, collaborating on several projects, including Jade Warriors.
He’s been married for over 30 years to Jessica (like the rabbit, but cuter), and is owned by his cat, Parker, named for the character in “Leverage”, since she is a lot like that character.
By the way, he’s NOT the Mike Buckley who wrote the “Sisters Grim”. Then again, that other Mike Buckley is not the guy who wrote Jade Warriors, so we’re even.
We caught up to MICHAEL BUCKLEY in his Central Florida home in 2002. He and his wife Jess are both writers; she writes occasional fanfic, while Mike has focused on a comics career amidst a busy, busy job with the telephone company.
SPOTLIGHT: Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
MIKE BUCKLEY: I was born in a place that no longer exists: West Germany. My Dad was in the Army back then, serving in Frankfurt, and my Mom was with him. That was where I was born, in a U.S. military hospital. Shortly afterward, my Dad resigned from the service and we went home to the USA.
SPOTLIGHT: Schooling? Writing training?
MIKE: I went as far as two years at university, but a combination of finances and grades put an end to my formal education. I was working two jobs to afford the courses, and my grades went down the tubes since I had no time to sleep — never mind study. When I quit the jobs to bring my grades up, I ran out of money within a semester. Fortunately, I went to an excellent High School, and I love to research and learn things on my own. My writing training mostly consisted of various English composition and Journalism courses, formally. The rest was a matter of simply writing until I was writing at “contemporary professional standards,” to quote Harry Chapin.
SPOTLIGHT: How long have you been working professionally in comics?
MIKE: Eep. About ten years, part time.
SPOTLIGHT: What things have you worked on, besides comics?
MIKE: I started out writing articles and fanfic for fanzines way back when, and even have a few things floating about online. I don’t write full-time because editors have been more interested in artists than writers. So I have another full time job. In fact, it often has a lot of overtime. There’s been any number of times I’ve ended up working on a plot or script at 2 a.m. But that sort of thing is easing up a bit.
SPOTLIGHT: Talk about how you broke into the business….
MIKE: In a way, I’ve always been in the business. When I was a kid, I wanted to write comics. I knew, even then, I could not draw well, and wasn’t getting any better, so a writer I would be. Back in the mid-to-late ’80s, I was managing a comic book store in Rhode Island, and Dave Campiti walked in, who was himself working part time in comics. We became friends, and we often talked about comics and many other things. He was working on starting what eventually became Innovation Comics, and he’d said, “Send a submission. If it’s good, we’ll publish it.” Well, a few years later, he had the company, and I sent a submission. A couple of rewrites later, I had my first story published, in Hero Alliance Quarterly #1. It was only my second “real” submission, the first had been as a teenager, when I sent in a plot to Jim Shooter, who was then Editor-In-Chief at Marvel. He sent back a nice letter, praising my effort, but making it clear I still needed polish. So I took heed, and here I am. I was thrilled when I got the copy of Hero Alliance. This was what I’d always wanted to do. It still is. If I got regular writing work, I’d happily do it full time. I get to do the same thing that I’d read about when I was a kid. I write comic books. Now THAT’S magic.
MIKE: I do get frustrated when some editors are so focused on artists that they seem to forget about writers, or just write the book themselves. I’m greedy, I want to write, because I’m damn good at it. (He said, modestly).
SPOTLIGHT: How did you settle on the writing approach you’re currently using?
MIKE: I think I started out as a Chris Claremont wannabe. Even though I know the style has grammatical problems, as a fan, I like it. Dave Campiti did a lot to show me how to write concisely, and avoid some pitfalls. These days, I can write anything from super-heroes to science fiction, and a lot more besides. I started out co-writing with Dave back at Innovation. In fact, we like working together, so we still do a number of stories together. I like the notion of bouncing ideas around, and using our different approaches to keep either of us (me, mostly) from going to extremes.
SPOTLIGHT: How did your parents take to the idea of working in comics?
MIKE: When I told my parents that I was going to write comics, they said, “That’s nice. Now do your homework so you can support yourself as an adult.” They were cautiously supportive. They did make sure that if I didn’t make it as a writer, that I wouldn’t starve, though they honestly felt it was a longshot. Fortunately, both Mom and Dad read comics as kids, so they weren’t prejudiced against them.
SPOTLIGHT: How would you describe your work space? Is it part of your home, or do you go “to the studio”?
MIKE: I set up an “office” in my home, where all the work is done. It has my computer, file cabinet, two bookcases full of reference volumes, phones; oh yes, and digital cable TV, and a fridge to store Pepsi and chocolate in. I’ve worked hard to make it a comfortable place to work, apart from the rest of my home, which is controlled by my two cats, Rowan and Tribble.
SPOTLIGHT: What job are you the proudest of? What’s your most embarrassing?
MIKE: My proudest job so far is my first one. I really worked hard on it, and it was a thrill to see it in print. My most embarrassing job would be the O.J. Simpson biography comic I did for POP Comics. Not because it was bad, but because I had no interest whatsoever in O.J., Football, or the trial. I felt there were much more interesting people to write about, personally.
SPOTLIGHT: What are your currently writing? Comments on that project?
MIKE: Well, I was co-writing JADE WARRIORS with Dave Campiti for Avatar. That’s been a long haul, having switched publishers. One issue came out, and there are two more to go. One has been finished for ages, and we’re ready to finish the last one. Icing on the cake. Creatively, I’m really hitting my stride with the book. I’m then available for whatever new projects come open (Note for DC Editors: I’m really partial to the Batman). In fact, I’m doing a new Batman sequence to be featured on my page on the Glass House website, to prove I can do it.
SPOTLIGHT: Talk about your family….
MIKE: My parents both live in New England, both retired after many years of hard work. They also had jobs besides raising kids. My sister lives in Rhode Island, after a stint in the Navy, and she’s gone back to school; in fact, she made the Dean’s list a few times, not bad for someone who also holds down a full time job. I’m married to a wonderful chocolate chomping bride who loves comics too, though she’s a Silver Age fan, and doesn’t really follow the new stuff. She and I don’t have kids, but we do have two cats, Rowan and Tribble. We’ve been married for around a dozen years, but with our schedules, she’s only seen me for two. That’s why she hasn’t divorced me. I haven’t been quite THAT aggravating yet.
SPOTLIGHT: What projects do you hope to work on in the future?
MIKE: I’m open to pretty well anything, though I’d LOVE to work on a Batman story. Any chance to work on him will be so cool, I’d be walking on air for weeks afterward. Really, I’ve been reading comics from so many companies, I’d love to write for nearly any of them. Editors, feel free to ask!!
SPOTLIGHT: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten?
MIKE: I’d like to have one or two monthly series going, and just keep writing and having fun. Also, I’d like to have won the lottery so I can write full time no matter how much it pays. I just love to write.
SPOTLIGHT: What is the interest in comics where you live? Do friends and neighbors know you write comics?
MIKE: With my schedule, I don’t see a lot of my neighbors, but a few of them do know I write comics, and they have a passing interest in that.
SPOTLIGHT: What’s one thing you’ll always find in your refrigerator?
MIKE: The coleslaw that time forgot. Also Pepsi. Lots and lots of Pepsi.
SPOTLIGHT: What’s your favorite food?
SPOTLIGHT: What are your favorite interests — movies? Music? TV? Any hobbies? Sports?
MIKE: I love movies in various genres, though SF is big in my home. I’m a big music fan, and my album, er, CD collection spans everything from Beethoven to the Beatles. About the only genres I don’t listen to are country and rap/heavy metal. I like some old TV shows, though by the time I get to see them, they’re usually in reruns. I’m a big fan of Star Trek, Babylon 5, Hill Street Blues, and Match Game. I guess my hobby is Snoopy, I have a huge collection of Peanuts-related stuff, mostly stuffed Snoopys, and reprint books of the strip. I’m a sports fan, and the Boston Celtics are the best basketball team in the universe. I played a lot of sports as a kid, and did ok, though no one ever mistook me for a professional prospect. And somehow, I still collect comics!!
SPOTLIGHT: What’s an average day in your life like? Walk us through a typical day.
MIKE: Normally, I’m up at about 8a.m., and drive TWO hours to work. Then I get home about 10:30 p.m., and eat supper, watch anything I have taped, like a Celtics game. Then I spend time writing whatever I’m working on that day. I usually get to bed about 1 or 2a.m., then start all over again the next day. I try to work during the week, so I can free up my weekends a bit.
SPOTLIGHT: Any anecdotes to tell about the comics business?
MIKE: Let me see, what won’t get me killed for mentioning it? There was one time, years ago, when I lived in Boston, and Jim Starlin and his wife came to town for a convention. The night before, they did a signing at the store I went to, and people were having a great time. I got a few books signed. Anyway, the next morning, I’m in line to go into the convention hall, and this middle-aged, slightly balding guy cuts through the line carrying an art portfolio, causing many people in line to grumble nasty things to him. I smiled, because it was Starlin, and he was running late to get to his booth. I knew that these grumbling people would, in about 15 minutes, be fawning all over him, begging for sketches, and asking him to critique their artwork.
MIKE: I heard of one story, where someone I know was at a con, and heard a bunch of people yakking about Marvel, and this one guy was holding court, and doing most of the talking like he was there. My friend, a Marvel fan, was irked and came up behind the guy, asking, “Who do you think you are, Stan Lee?” The man turned around, extending his hand, and my friend met Stan Lee.
SPOTLIGHT: (Laughter) He’s The Man!
MIKE: There’s one story that has a moral. I was at Big Easy Con in New Orleans, and one fellow was getting books signed with a silver pen. I have rotten handwriting to start with, and I’d never used one of those. I strongly suggested I ought to use a regular pen, or marker. No, he wanted the silver pen. So I signed. The guy now has what looks like one of Charlie Brown’s pen pal notes, blotched where my signature ostensibly is. I still feel bad, so if I ever get the hang of silver pens, I’ll have to sign him a better copy. Until then, fans be warned. And if you see a neatly rendered silver pen signature by me, it’s either an accident, a forgery, or divine intervention.
SPOTLIGHT: Do you have any great, unsold projects in your files that nobody’s gotten to see published?
MIKE: Yes. I have a Batman story featuring Alfred that I really like. There’s also a short story originally written as a backup for the abortive Hero Alliance revival a few years back. I’m intermittently working on an SF story. There’s a few other plot ideas and notes I work on between other projects.
SPOTLIGHT: If you weren’t a comic-book writer today, what would you be?
MIKE: I’d probably be working whatever job paid the bills and writing a lot more fanfic.
SPOTLIGHT: The single thing you’d most like to be remembered for in your life is…?
MIKE: That even though, like most people, I have sometimes screwed up monumentally, I was basically a good person who tried like hell to do things right.
HERO ALLIANCE QUARTERLY #1 -Past Perfect — Innovation
HERO ALLIANCE ANNUAL #1 -Kelly Girl -Innovation
O.J. SIMPSON Biography – POP Comics
TEKTREK: THE WILLIAM SHATNER STORY, biography �POP Comics
DEATHKISS (serialized in backups for Amazing Comics) — appeared in Dangerous Secrets #1, Angel Heat #1, and Experimentals #1
ASYLUM #2 (“Deathkiss” first appearance)-Asylum/Image
JADE WARRIORS #1, #2, #3- Image Comics
JADE WARRIORS: SLAVE OF THE DRAGON #1- Avatar Press (#2 and #3 still unpublished)