There was something magical about reading comics as a kid that, when I think about it now, really paved the way for my lifelong love of literature. Reading X-Men comics in the early ’90s, collecting trading cards, and watching cartoons opened my life up to a grand universe of fantasy and drama. Though I don’t necessarily remember ceasing to read comics, I definitely didn’t begin buying them regularly until my early 20s. I credit my friend Brian, a veritable compendium of knowledge on comic writers, creators, lore, and continuity. His passion rekindled mine.

Fast forward five or so years and I’m in Portland, attending graduate school at Portland State. I knew that in addition to Ooligan Press and my courses, I wanted to intern during my time here, but I struggled with where to go. Then at Wordstock in 2012, I came across the Oni Press booth. Oni Press is a comic book publisher in Portland, most famous for their titles Scott Pilgrim and Whiteout. I began talking to one of the editors at the booth and inquired about internships. She told me that they do their hiring at the end of the year and I should wait until then. I held on to her business card and propped it up on my desk until I could reach out and apply.

In December, I submitted my applications and waited for several weeks. I then received an email offering me a summer internship. Imagine my surprise at that: I didn’t even have to interview. I thought it was a sort of strange way to handle the hiring process, but I wasn’t about to complain. I started in June, scheduled to go in two days a week during the summer as an editorial intern.

Going into the office for the first time was a bit scary. When you start a new job, you are never sure what to expect. Will people be friendly? Rude? Pretentious? Luckily, the staff I met initially were friendly and communicative about what I would be doing. I was tasked with basic editorial support for the department, the duties of which included proofing pages for typos, updating databases with tombstone data as needed, and creating work orders for book reprints, to name a few. My assignments came in small chunks for the first few weeks, mainly because the rest of the staff was preparing for an upcoming show.

San Diego Comic-Con.

Luckily, I had planned to be in San Diego that weekend to visit friends and family, and I offered to volunteer at Oni Press’ booth (provided they shell out a pass!). I have gone to San Diego Comic-Con since I was a little kid, but working at an exhibitor booth for the first time was a truly awesome experience. I felt like I was a part of both the comic book community and the team at Oni. By this point in the summer, I had built up a good deal of familiarity with the backlist and frontlist as a member of the editorial team, so I was able to recommend titles to customers and share insights about some of my favorites.

The rest of the summer, Oni had me doing maintenance for the forthcoming website—uploading digital comics from their backlist and blog posts—which really put my organizational skills to the test. I also got to create book maps for some upcoming trade paperbacks and sat in on a pitch meeting where the editors discussed recent submissions to the press.

Overall, I felt that my childhood love of comics got an adult outlet in the form of my internship. I learned that working in comics really demands that you constantly keep up with new creators and works from all over the industry. Oni provided a great first look at a side of publishing that I never would have seen otherwise. The most important and rewarding aspect of my time there was having work in front of me before publication and being asked to contribute, in my own small way, to the process of making it the best version it could be.

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