My friend Nancy Rogers has left this earth, and I am paying tribute to her on this site. The reasons are many. First of all, it was Nancy who put together the sketchbook that got me some of my first jobs in comics, including the resume enhancer that really got the ball rolling, Tales of the Jedi for Dark Horse. Secondly, Nancy Rogers was Team Red Star’s first graphic designer. Her touch made our graphic novels the masterworks they are. Five Eisner Nominations don’t lie.
The Year was 1991
Back then, I didn’t even know how to use a copy machine; but Nancy was there. Smiling, laughing and patient.
Nancy was the first person to ask me if I knew what “Photoshop” was. She was the first person to scan my art into a computer.
When I saw it happen, that was it. I was convinced she was an astronaut. She took those scans into her Apple computer and told a story with them. A story about me, and my art, and my hopes of being a professional artist. And she did it with so much love and genius and design-sense that the story held.
This despite the fact that it was carried around San Diego Comic Con by my spastic twenty-one year old self who spoke too fast and had a nervous laugh that could shatter glass.
Those pages Nancy made spoke of a potential beneath my poor kid’s clothes and wild, unkept hair.
It was the same at every booth. They’d see me, cock their head in doubt, and reluctantly take my slick little brochure into their hands.
On its cover, a knight in full plate armor readied his sword, and on the next three pages that same knight fought off a horde of demons.
After that came a not too shabby shot of Batman; the Joker graced the back cover, and on the back were my contact details.
The editor in question would finish their perusal, and look up at me. Different. I wasn’t who they thought I was.
Nancy had gotten them to see what she saw in me.
Seriously it put me so far ahead of so much of the competition that year. It wasn’t just my drawings. It was Nancy, making me look so much more capable than I was. She was good at that. From that brochure, Dark Horse gave me my shot. They hired me to draw the first two issues of the first Tales of the Jedi. I would be the first artist to draw stories in the Old Republic.
It was on.
When I was putting together the first issue of The Red Star in the spring of 2000, it was my first actual self-published work. I didn’t even know what the hell pre-press was. When I mentioned it to Nancy, she knew I was in trouble. “Whose designing the book?” she said. Ignorance manifested itself on my face as a shaky, nervous smile. It must have reminded her of what I looked like when she first told me about scanning my artwork.
“Bring me the files when they’re done, ok? I want this to look great! We’ll do the pre-press here.”
I nodded my head, bewildered, and for the next few weeks as we finished the issue assured the team that I had to “Bring the files to Nancy as soon as they’re done!” “For what?!” They’d say. “Pre-Press!” I’d answer. “What’s Pre-Press?!” They replied. “The hell if I know, but I’m listening to Nancy!”
When Richard Starkings’ crew was finishing up the beautiful lettering Comicraft did, he asked me “who was handling Pre-Press”. I cleared my throat like an old pro and, failing to hide my pride that I had any clue what he was talking about, told him “My good friend Nancy. She runs a graphic design studio in Van Nuys.”
I knew that much, thank goodness. I knew Nancy, and Steve and Creative Visions. And I hate to think where I’d be if I hadn’t met them.
Steve and Nancy Rogers
I had no idea how much work went into a book between its completion and its printing, but I knew that Nancy would save me. As she always did.
My goodness there was so much work to do, and Nancy was tireless.
When I had already tweaked and revised and revised again and then tweaked again, and repeated this process a few more times after that, to the point where even I wanted to punch myself in the jaw, Nancy wouldn’t give up. She’d spot half degrees of imperfection after the rest of us were blind. She’d then rally us with her enthusiasm, taking on each mistake on each page as if it was a monstrous evil that could not be suffered to live.
She designed every page of every Red Star graphic novel, and that smile of hers never dimmed. Not once.
It is with great happiness that I remember her, and great sorrow that I will only ever hear her voice again in my memory.
To all of you, our readers, who have enjoyed The Red Star since its first issue, thank you for taking the time to read about my dear friend Nancy, to whom I owe so much.