Why today? Well, way back in 1982, Heidi published her first piece of comics journalism (at least, the earliest I could find) in the July 1982 issue of the Comics Journal, titled “Archetype Meets Angst” (p. 35). Since most of the comics industry will be at Comic-Con this July weekend, I figured I’d surprise her with this post, and allow everyone to congratulate her, and maybe buy her a burrito.
Heidi would go on to write many more articles for the Journal and its sister publication “Amazing Heroes” in the heady days of the Black and White Boom/Bust, mini-comics, and self-publishing. She worked at the Hollywood Reporter, and eventually became the comics editor at Disney Adventures, introducing talented cartoonists to a huge readership of children. (It was at DA that the first color version of Jeff Smith’s Bone was published, possibly convincing Scholastic to print the entire series in color years later.) She was a founding member of The Friends of Lulu, which advocated for more female involvement in the comics industry, either as fans or professionals. Heidi had a brief stint as an editor at DC Comics, working on both the Johnny DC line as well as Vertigo. While at Vertigo, her editorial acumen midwifed Brian K. Vaughan’s “Y the Last Man”, which would win five Eisner Awards. She’s even been published herself! (And appeared in comics, as well, courtesy of Alex Ross!)
Not afraid of new technology, she has been active online since the early 1990s (and maybe sooner… Compuserve had an active comics forum long before AOL became a household name). She tweets, facebooks, blogs… in a variety of guises and formats.
So I noticed the thirty-year anniversary. Heidi had gobsmacked me last October with an appreciation, so I thought I’d return the favor! Heidi is widely known, generally (and sometimes grudgingly) respected, and one of the Tzadikim of the greater comics community. So I secretly contacted the Future Mr. Beat, Ben McCool, and explained my plan. I needed his support, not only as a sounding board, but also because my Rolodex is rather weak. I set up an email address (MessagesForHeidi at Gmail) and asked him to spread the word. Below you’ll find various testimonials, presented in the order they were received. If you just now heard about it, apologies, but I wanted this to be a surprise, and no slight was meant. Please feel free to add your own thoughts below in the comments, and/or send messages and graphics to the Gmail address mentioned above. Or congratulate her if you see her wandering around Comic-Con!
I first met Heidi MacDonald at the second Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, back in 1995. I made a big social faux pas, and Heidi explicitly explained what I had done, why it was wrong, and not to do it again. I slowly regained some self esteem (quite low back then), and eventually overcame my fear of Heidi MacDonald. I eventually gained her respect, and while I wouldn’t call her a mentor, she is an example to follow, and as a “comics oracle” someone to ask for an opinion or fact. She has gently encouraged me in my own comics pursuits, and somehow helped me find my unique voice and worldview of the comics industry.
Here’s a new title for Heidi: exemplar.
#1, definitely. #2, sometime soon, I hope, others will follow in her wake. #3, very original!
I’ve studied the comics industry since becoming a collector in 1984, which means I’ve studied comics professionals as well. Many have set examples, both good and bad. I hope that I can be a good example to others, following the template forged by Heidi.
I hate to say it, but I’m glad I made that big mistake so long ago. It’s probably the only big mistake I don’t regret, and that’s entirely because of Heidi MacDonald.
Heidi was my first real contact with the comics industry. My first editor, the first person to tell me what was wrong with my work and how to improve it. In many ways in that first project that will never even see the light of day, she helped shape the career of this poor idiot. And I am eternally grateful. She knows virtually everyone & is a virtual institution unto herself…so the fact she even remembers *my* name continues to humble me.
Yes, I’d lend her bail money if it came to it.
Heidi helped break me into comics. 1998 my first San Diego Comic Con, I’ve been preparing my whole life for the right editor with a certain taste for something new would pick me from a crowd of super hero perfectionists for a special project that would begin my pro career. I spent a year working on my portfolio in anticipation of SDCC while working day shifts at Pizza Hut & IHop. Needless to say I was very nervous, but totally confident that I had the right stuff to stand out in a crowd. That year was the best SDCC I’ve ever had.I met Heidi while I was completley overwhelmed by SDCC. While most editors couldn’t be bothered with looking at another portfolio, Heidi noticed me, and asked to check out my work. She promised me that moment she would find the right project for me. I met a dozen editors at that show, but Heidi is one of the only editors I still keep in touch with. While most editors I’ve worked with have moved on to other things, Heidi loves comics, and supports them. Thank you Heidi for being an amazing friend, taking me to lunch, giving me an entire run of Alan Moore’s swamp thing in DC to study, and stopping by my table to say hello. I can’t wait to see you again!
“Great, outstanding, fantastic, 5 stars! Amazing body of work!”
-David Baron, DC Comics color artist
DAVID MACHO GÓMEZ
I first met Heidi… more than 10 years ago. At that time, she was an editor in Vertigo, and she gave Jesus Saiz his first big assignment for DC Comics, the Midnight, Mass. Working with her was an amazing experience, one that I still remember to this day. It had its ups and downs, of course, but it ended up with a more important thing than a working relationship, a very good and deep friendship that continued after she was let go from Vertigo and during all these years in different places, and finally on The Beat. During those years we had time to talk more and more when she came to Barcelona with Trish and Ben… The cemetery on the mountain! The breakfasts coffees! The creepy bar with the dolls! And of course… the stolen laptops! There’s only a few things that are a must for me every time I go to NYC, and one is to find the time to sit down, even for 5 minutes, and just talk with Heidi, It doesn’t matter about what. Just talk.
Love you, Ace!
What can I say about Heidi that won’t get me punched out next time I see her? Well, when I was looking for someone to fill the position of my assistant/associate editor at Disney Adventures, I put together a sample story which I had filled with spelling and logic mistakes to see who would do the best job finding them as they proofread the story. I also made sure they were given a pretty poor story which I had actually killed rather than use.
Most did a pretty good job but Heidi was not only the best, but when I casually asked what they thought of the story, Heidi was the only one who bravely spoke up and said it was bad. I wanted someone who had the courage to challenge their “boss” and say what they actually thought. Heidi never disappointed.
Heidi is someone I thought could replace me if necessary and years later when Disney moved publishing to NY and I didn’t want to go she did take over the job and did it really well.
Heidi’s downside? Well, she never met a desk or floor or existing surface she couldn’t cover over with magazines and papers. I think the Collyer Brothers were more organized (look them up!). Neatness is not a lifestyle choice for Heidi. But somehow she still got the job done.
Happy anniversary, H. Oh, keep this and, assuming you can find it again, use it for your next few birthdays as well as your memorial. I only do this once per customer.
I can’t seem to remember exactly when I became aware of Heidi and The Beat, but it was certainly a major reason that I’m able to call myself a comics trade journalist. When I started writing news about comics, The Beat was my everyday tutorial in all things comics. Each day I would check out the Beat to figure out what I would write about for PW. One Stop shopping!!! Heidi and the Beat offered it all; bombastic superhero comics, wildly eccentric indies, experimental comics, retailing, prognostications, flame wars–you name it, the entire comics industry laid bare, explained, celebrated—everything a comics journalist wannabee could ask for.
When Douglas Wolk, who was writing reviews and news for PW at the time, had to take time off for a writing fellowship, he recommended Heidi to take over for him and the rest is comic book journalism history. Heidi has transformed my understanding of the comics medium and the comics industry, and transformed comics journalism at Publishers Weekly.
Heidi is the coeditor of PW Comics World and graphic novel reviews editor of Publishers Weekly. When she joined PW, Heidi brought instant credibility to our news coverage and took PW’s comics reviews department to new levels of professionalism and comprehensiveness. From starting the annual PW Comics World critics poll to renaming PW Comics World when the weekly newsletter became a monthly, Heidi’s fingerprints are all over everything we do at PW.
I could go on and on, and I intend too. While I started almost everything about comics that goes on at PW, Heidi, in turn, has made all of those things a lot better and more efficient and more focused on the important stuff in comics!!
Besides teaming with me on PW’s comics news coverage and taking over the reviews, we’ve managed to keep comics coverage on PW’s agenda despite the ups and downs in the marketplace (and advertising revenues) that have threatened it. I was a lunatic comics fan who, thanks in part to Heidi, ended up with the keys to the comic book asylum!
When we started PW Comics Week (now Comics World) I told her I can’t really do this without you. I wasn’t kidding and fortunately she decided to jump in. I hope she hasn’t regretted it, because she’s made an indelible mark on the history of Publishers Weekly.
On top all that, she’s an awesome friend and I love her like a sister. Hooray for Heidi and the Beat!!! So congratulations to Heidi and The Beat on a great run and here’s to many more years of spreading the word about this great medium that we love.
Heidi’s like an all-star comics point guard—she makes everyone around her better!!
Senior news editor Publishers Weekly
Coeditor, PW Comics World
It’s kind of frightening to think I’ve known Heidi for over a decade, but it’s true. And man, time does fly. Heidi’s been around for every iteration of my comic book “career” – from wide-eyed Newsarama freelancer to Wizard editor to DC and Archie publicity guy. And she’s always been a constant – doing her thing, writing The Beat (or, The Pulse, if we want to really strap into the way-back machine) and letting the industry into her world, brain and life. The Beat succeeds because it’s not your typical blog – it’s Heidi on the web. It’s not a corporate arm, or the news blog of a bigger site. It is its own, weird, quirky and living thing. The Beat has evolved with Heidi and with comics and really reflects her personality and that of her readers – sometimes we’re happy, sometimes we’re sick, sometimes we like comics, sometimes we’re mad at the industry around us. I read The Beat not to learn what comics are coming out from a given company on a given week – there are plenty of places for that – but to put my finger on the pulse of what’s going on around me, and to get a glimpse into the wider world of comics and this thing we all love and do.
Alex Segura, Vice President – Publicity and Marketing, Archie Comics
Gargantuan thanks to the friendliest (I checked and I can’t come up with any comic pro who is friendlier), coolest (same check as before
but different criteria of course), hippest (also checked) and impressively comics-knowledgeable (I am not qualified to check
superlatives on this one I just know Heidi was always smarter than me about comics) pro on planet Earth. Thanks for all you did and do!
Not everyone knows who I am or how I’m related to comic books, but you know everyone so – for what it’s worth – Thank you, Heidi!
speak of quality, commitment and determination! Here’s to a lady who really knows the meaning of these words. Thank you so much, Heidi!
I have this vivid memory from early on in my friendship with Heidi, walking the floor of the Javits Center during New York Comic Con one year. We were walking through the DC booth, I believe, and were stopped by a kid, maybe mid or late teens — I’m awful with ages — who stopped her and said, “I just wanted to tell you how much I love your site.”
The phenomenon was baffling for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don’t know that the Beat has ever prominently featured a picture of Heidi, except maybe of her disembodied eye, so perhaps he just spotted a familiar retina across a packed convention center. And really, giant eyeballs or no, how many people in this industry can most people recognize immediately? Pretty much it’s Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Robert Crumb, assuming his riding on some large-thighed woman.
Point being, Heidi is super famous — for writing about comics of all things. It’s a crazy thing to be famous for, right? But when Heidi writes, people listen. But don’t let her mind-boggling levels of super stardom fool you — there’s not a single person I can think of who’d I rather share a care ride with after getting low-level food poisoning from a roadside Waffle House in Maryland. She’ll probably regale you with a story about playing softball with Jaime Hernandez in the 90s. Which brings me to the second story I think of when I think about Heidi. Honestly, if that’s not someone you want on your team, friend, you’ve got some serious soul-searching to do.
Congrats, Heidi! Here’s to another thirty years of insightful and amusing published work from a still needed and very welcome voice!
— Rick Alexander
People sometimes think that I hate Heidi MacDonald, but I actually like her very much. At worst we have a Sam The Sheepdog/Ralph The Wolf professional relationship; at best she’s like a sister with whom I’m constantly fighting in public. I’d show up at her house to help her move if she needed me to and could tolerate my teasing about all of her crap, and I suspect she’d do the same were I in such a situation. I consider her my most direct peer.
Heidi wrote for me when I was at The Comics Journal in the mid- to late-1990s. This was more rare than you might think. The magazine during that era was light on both female writers and on writers that enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the publication. Having Heidi on board was a relief. Her essay “You Guys Need To Get Laid” in our 200th issue was in many ways the prototype for those longish essays she does on her site now. Even then she was staking out the comics culture neighborhood in which she’s done a lot of her best writing in recent years. As I was inserting typos into the piece – this was my job at TCJ, as readers and contributors can attest – I remember thinking I was reading what the future of writing about comics would be like. I think I was right about that.
I met Heidi for the first time at the “Yell At Larry Marder” panel at San Diego in 1995. This was the weekend Image announced it was throwing its weight behind Diamond in the Distributor Wars, basically writing a fatal prescription for a multiple-distributor, first-order Direct Market; seemingly letting DC Comics off the hook for its noxious secret negotiations and potentially dooming any small publisher whose fate was wrapped up with Capital City. It was quite the move, and there was little solace in the fact that it might be a bad choice for Image, too. Heidi was as worried as anyone else about what was going to happen in the months ahead, although I recall she remained explicitly faithful that in some way the art form would thrive. I had a lot of fun that day, and I’m partial to anyone that was there.
I envy Heidi her natural writing voice, the depth of her relationships across the comics landscape and her ability to say certain things without making everyone mad at her. I wouldn’t occasionally get in a spat with Heidi if I didn’t think highly of what she can do. I think she’s a nice person, and I wish her every happiness.
“Congratulations, Heidi! I think it is safe to say that a lot of us regard you as a kind of Mother figure. I’m sure other people have already said this. My words probably fail me, but I just want to say that if it was not for your kind friendship and stewardship in my comics career, I probably would not be where I am today. Your first piece of advice was recommending that I write to Frederick Hautain, which led to getting work with Broken Frontier. That led to me becoming friends with Andy Khouri while he was at Comic Book Resources, which led to becoming friends with Rick Marshall, and doing some work at MTV Splash Page, before I went on to graduate school and began thinking about comic books from an academic perspective. In graduate school, I met Chris Irving, someone to whom I was familiar with because of the very tight knit group of comics people in New York, and without meeting Chris, I don’t think we could have collaborated on what will be my first comic book. I’m sorry for my rambling, but what I want to say is: I don’t think I could have developed the skills to succeed in what I chose to pursue in graduate school, or the friends in the industry, without first becoming friends with you. So, congratulations! I don’t care to imagine what my life would be like if I did not have you as a friend and colleague.”
I have worked with Heidi as an informal freelance photographer for PW Comics Week/World since 2005 or so (full disclosure- I am Calvin Reid’s wife).
Heidi’s knowledge, passion, energy and sheer brain power have made her a delight to work with. She is generous and kind. I have often wondered how she is able to generate so much copy, I assume she does not sleep. I am frequently impressed with the breadth of Heidi’s knowledge- yes, she doesn’t only know stuff about comics.
Heidi’s work on the Beat has made it an encyclopedic record of comics in our era. Thank you Heidi!
“Nobody does it like Heidi. She legitimized comics by treating it like a business. Nobody covers comics the way she does and nobody does it better.”
I remember seeing Heidi’s byline on her early COMICS JOURNAL pieces, and assuming she was one of those hippie underground cartoonists ten or twenty years older than me who’d made the transition to journalism. Turns out she was a child prodigy! Years later, when she was an editor at Disney, I stole her assistant away — but amazingly, she still talks to me. Here’s to thirty more years, by which time I guess she’ll be fifteen years old or something (we call that “comics math”).
“The most notable thing about Heidi is that despite the fact that she is a titan in the comics community, she is always willing to give a fair shake to those of us who are a bit more green. When I first met her I was an awkward comics fan. As I started getting more into the scene in a professional way Heidi was an supportive font of wisdom. Not only that but whenever she gave out advice it was not in a harsh pedagogical manner. Rather it was doled out with respect and concern. Knowing Heidi has bettered me, and her participation in comics has helped the medium as a whole.
Heidi MacDonald once saved my life! I’ll get to that later…
I first met Heidi years ago through some mutual pals. I had just started doing my podcast, Comic News Insider, and I was finding my way into the comic book world via conventions and the like. A world Heidi had traversed for many years. Podcasters and bloggers were being given media credentials and some legitimate journalists took great umbrage to that. Rightfully so. But I gotta say, Heidi never did with me. Well, if she did curse my name to the gods, I never heard it as she was always kind to me. As I started figuring out the podcast format, I knew we wanted to cover comic news (it’s in the name, after all). Discovering The Beat was an eye opener. Sure there were other sites around, and no disrespect to them, but Heidi’s really stuck out to me. She clearly knew her stuff and was a true insider in the business. While I am no journalist and never claim to be, I have tried to adopt some journalistic ethics. Ethics that I learned from Heidi. Her professionalism knows no bounds and she is genuinely one of the smartest and nicest people in comics in a sea of smart/nice folks! Not only have we recently partnered up our sites, but we’ve also become quite good friends over the years. Here’s to Heidi! The Queen of Comics Journalism!
Oh, about that saving my life thing. Yeah, I just made that up to get your attention. Ain’t I a stinker? All Hail Heidi!
Comic News Insider
Heidi MacDonald is my favourite comics industry gossip columnist, and has been for a decade. She does it in a way that I have spectacularly failed, by hiding it, keeping it out of the headlines, so that people who don’t like gossip columnists don’t realise she’s doing it. But that’s her skill, to not just write the work, but be fully aware of how people perceive her work, and take that into account. She’s a gatekeeper of talent throughout her career, championing the unlikely from Y The Last Man to, well, Ben McCool. I am happy to walk twenty feet behind in her long, long shadow… while stealing as much of her traffic as I can.
I remember meeting Heidi in 1989 at the San Diego Comic-Con. Heartbreakers had just been released, a series I created with Anina Bennett. The publisher was trying to impress Heidi with the fact that it featured female leads penned by a female writer, an extremely rare thing back then. As a female journalist in comics, Heidi herself was a pioneer, and all before the internet! Like Chuck Yeager going from stick and rudder planes to supersonic jets, Heidi soars ever higher–the Comix Ace!
It was 1990 or 1991 when I first met Heidi, during the San Diego Comic-Con of yore. We were at a Fantagraphics party in a big, empty loft space on Broadway. It was hot and loud, and I had butterflies about meeting Heidi because she was a famous writer already! I was just a newbie editor/writer. There still weren’t many women in the comics industry back then, so Heidi was a role model and a trailblazer to me.
A few years later, we got together with some other trailblazers–Deni Loubert, Trina Robbins, and Jackie Estrada–to form Friends of Lulu, a nonprofit that aimed to get more women into reading and making comics. Today, many conventions and several careers down the road, I look around at comic-cons and am proud to see more women than ever. Also more librarians, teachers, and families. We’re making progress. And beacons like Heidi are still there, lighting the way. Thanks for everything, Ace!
Photo: Heidi MacDonald, Trish Mulvihill, and Anina Bennett spooning around at a post-SDCC dinner in 2004. More at www.bigredhair.com/conventions/con04.html .
Heidi’s a longtime true friend; a woman I respect and admire. I’ve always found her opinions interesting and insightful– even when I didn’t agree with them.
I’ve spent many a late night waxing industry gossip, raves, and woes with Heidi MacDonald, the first woman I could really talk to about the pros and cons of comic books. When I can’t sate my passion for the form, Heidi is my go-to-gal; the great equalizer. And, when Heidi weighs in on comix and gives it her all, there’s no one I’d rather high-five and/or debate because I know she’s got our back. Thanks, Heidi, for all those times you extended your hand and helped me off the ledge, and for keeping comics pulsating on The Beat.
Heidi and I started at DC around the same time and, very quickly, I pegged her as one of the good guys. That is, one of those people who’s cooler than the other side of the pillow and knows more about comics and storytelling and life than 99.9% of mouth-breathing humanity. She always kept on the fringe there, both with the kiddie comics and in her Vertigo digs…which I always construed as a good thing. She was the ultimate outsider-insider—which I think is what makes her work on The Beat so compelling. She knows everyone and everything in the biz, but is just withdrawn enough to be able to address any topic objectively. Heidi is one of my favorite people on this planet and I find it cooler than cool that we are celebrating her career. Here’s to you, Macca!
–Michael Wright, writer and former DC Comics editor
Heidi is one of the coolest people I know. And she’s my self-proclaimed mentor whether she likes it or not. Back in 2008, when I was looking around the net to see what kind of female voices there were blogging about comics, Heidi was one of the brightest and most vocal. I couldn’t help but look up to her, she was doing exactly what I wanted to do. I was lucky enough to eventually become not just a professional peer of hers but a friend, and I will always cherish that role. Her journalistic skills, integrity, and instincts are up there with the big names. No joke. Now if she would only stop hanging out with us comic weirdos, she could work on that Pulitzer. (Ok, THAT was a joke. Except the Pulitzer part. I know she has it in her.)
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