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Special Guest Star!
4.5.2002 by Scott, every Thursday.

This week, I was lucky enough to get a chance to speak with Chris Giarrusso, staffer in Marvel’s production department and as well the mind and pencil behind behind two comic strips, “Bullpen Bits” published at Marvel, and “Comic Bits” now appearing in Erik Larsen’s “Savage Dragon” comic.

Scott - Tell me a bit about yourself. The whole abridged autobiography, if you will.

Chris Giarrusso - Well, as a little kid I was really into the newspaper comic strips, especially Peanuts, mostly because I was doing whatever my older brother, Dave, was doing. We'd sign out the Peanuts and other comic strip collections from the library all the time, and even take a crack at drawing some of the characters occasionally. My brother was also really into MAD Magazine, and I'd follow him around on his journeys to the flea market and used books stores to find back issues of MAD. The MAD quest frequently brought us to a local comic shop, where I eventually got hooked on all the MARVEL stuff. Years later, I landed an internship with MARVEL COMICS.

How did you land that sweet job? What was it like to go for an interview at the Marvel Building?

CG - I was a college student, and I'd heard about Marvel's internship program, so I applied for it. When I stepped into the Marvel offices for my interview, it was unreal. I couldn't believe I was actually in the hallowed halls of Mighty Marvel Comics! This was the place where they put together the comics I'd been buying since I'd been following my brother to the comic store as a little kid! The interview seemed to last about five seconds. I wanted to stay and look around, but I was back out on the street before I knew it. Fortunately, they gave me the internship, and I was able to learn how things worked there.

You started at Marvel doing little "What If?" cartoons, if I'm not mistaken. What led up to that assignment? What was it like for you?

CG - At Marvel, I interned for Kelly Corvese, who edited, among other books, WHAT IF...? He said he'd print a strip in the letters page if I could come up with something good enough. It was a fanboy's dream come true for me. After doing a handful of strips for the WHAT IF...? comic, I got the opportunity for a spot in the BULLPEN BULLETINS page, and the BULLPEN BITS began.

Did you have any strips refused, or were they all well received?

CG - My first editor refused some of my strips and wanted me to change others. Pretty soon after that, a new editor was assigned to me and he was happy with everything I turned in.

So you get the regular gig doing "Bullpen Bits", millions are entertained. Where do you go from there?

CG - Well, there was the GIANT SIZE MINI MARVELS one shot, which reprinted most of the strips and featured my first crack at a feature length story. I'd like to do more of the longer stories. I'm also working on my own strip, COMIC BITS, which appears in the back pages of Erik Larsen's SAVAGE DRAGON comic book. So far, COMIC BITS has appeared in SAVAGE DRAGON #93 and on.

How cool is it to have your own one shot?

CG - I've always wanted to do comics. Having a one shot is a dream come true for me.

How did you end up getting published in the Savage Dragon?

CG - Erik Larsen's SAVAGE DRAGON has been my favorite comic book since I was in college. For years, Erik has been running great comic strips in the back pages of SAVAGE DRAGON , such as DESPERATE TIMES by Chris Eliopoulos, SAVAGE DRAGONBERT AND HITLER'S BRAINBERT by Karl H., and SAVAGE TALES by Nick Derington and Brian Blake. Larsen heard I was interested in appearing there as well, and he gave me the opportunity.

You also had some family put together a trio of animated "bits", what's the story behind that?

CG - A few years ago, my brother, Dave, was messing around with some animation computer programs, and he just put them together. I didn't even know he was doing anything with them until I saw the first one. After he did a couple more, I tried to get Marvel's website people to put them online, but nobody would do it. That was a couple of years back. After the GIANT SIZE MINI MARVELS project was approved (associate editor) Brian Smith showed the animation to Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas. Bill and Joe decided it would be a great idea to put them on Marvel's website to help promote the MINI MARVELS book.

Are there more of them on the way?

CG - Probably not. Marvel isn't paying for them, and my brother can't afford to spend the time it takes to do them for free.

What else do you do, besides the comic strip?

CG - I also work on staff at Marvel in the production department, known as the Mighty Marvel Bullpen.

Which means you ....?

CG - In the Marvel Bullpen, we assemble the comics digitally on computer. We scan the artwork, which is sent in by the freelance illustrators, and then send out the scans to freelance colorists and letterers. Then we merge the finished color files with the lettering files to create our final files which are sent off to the printer, but not before dealing with rounds of corrections and fixing any other number of problems that come up along the way.

WHat's coming up in the future?

CG - More BULLPEN BITS for Marvel, more COMIC BITS in the SAVAGE DRAGON, and hopefully some longer stories, too.

Any final thoughts, gems of wisdom, or wise cracks you'd like to share?

CG - Working in comics is a sure-fire way to get rich and impress women.

Many thanks to you Chris. This was fun.

The rest of you can see more of Chris' "Bullpen Bits", as well as the animated Hawkeye trilogy here. See you all next week.

Scott MacIver

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