"If you don't need me for anything else," the blond young man said as he picked up the small pile of folders off his boss's desk. "I'll put these away and take off."
"Of course Tim," Jacqueline Kirby smiled. "Enjoy the weekend."
As the 22-year-old assistant closed the door behind him, Jacqueline leaned back in her chair and pulled a magazine out from the top drawer of her desk. It was the latest issue of "The Adventures of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl", a book she'd looked forward all day to kicking back and reading.
At 26, Jacqueline had been reading comics for over 20 years. Not surprising since her Uncle, Michael Kirby, had founded Creative Comics in the mid 1960's. Since then, the company had enjoyed moderate success, but never came close to challenging the industry leaders. Not until four years ago that was.
Fresh out of college, Jacqueline or Jackie as her family called her, had gone to work for Creative. It seemed the natural thing to do at the time. After all, she'd been working there part time since she was 16 and had learned the business from the ground up.
Then, four months after she'd started, Mike Kirby had a major heart attack and decided to retire. As the majority stockholder, it was his decision that Jackie replace him. He'd worked too long and hard to hand 'his' company over to someone outside the family.
For the first year, Jackie made few real changes. After all, some of the people now working for her had been in the business when she was in kindergarten and didn't readily appreciate interference from a 21-year-old who inherited the job.
All that changed, however, the day Joanna Simon showed up in the outer office. Jackie remembered that day well.
In her ten years as the receptionist for Creative, Karen Wilson had seen too many young men and women like Joanna to take her too seriously. A portfolio under her arm, the 17-year-old had patiently waited all day for a chance to "show her stuff". Dozens of hopefuls showed up every year, especially towards the end of school. They made the rounds of the major comic companies, and then tried the smaller ones. Each was convinced that they held in their case the next Superman or X-Men.
One of the few changes Jackie had made when she took over was that these aspiring artists and writers not be given the bums rush that too many companies gave them. Even if their ideas were worthless, what could it hurt to take a few minutes to look them over and offer some advice. After all, these were the people who bought your product. Also, one day you might actually strike paydirt. You never know, she always reminded them.
The problem was that Joanna, or Jo as she liked to sign her work, had come by on the worst possible of days. A good part of the office had come down with some sort of virus and everyone who was left was scrambling to take up the slack against a rapidly approaching deadline.
Karen had suggested that she come back another day, but Jo insisted she would wait. She had used almost all of her savings for the bus trip to New York City and was sleeping on her cousin's couch. She couldn't afford to come back next week.
So she'd sat quietly in her chair, watching people rush in and out of the Editor In Chief's office. Mid-morning soon gave way to afternoon and then it wasn't long before the clock on the wall neared six. Karen began to pack up her things for the railroad ride home and then remembered the young girl.
"I'm afraid you're not going to be able to wait any longer," Karen said with as much sympathy as possible. "Maybe you could come back Monday when it's not so hectic?"
The look of disaster on the young girl's face touched a soft spot in the older woman's heart. She looked again at the wall clock and thought she could always catch the 07:10 train home. "Wait one more minute," she said. "I'm not promising anything, but I'll try."
Instantly, Jo's face lit up with a thankful smile.
Stepping into the inner office, Karen explained the situation to Jackie. How everyone was so busy today that she hadn't even been able to get the young girl ten minutes with any of the editors. She hated bringing the matter to Jackie but hated even more telling the girl to come back Monday. Especially if she did, only to be told that her work really wasn't as good as she thought it was.
"Well we can't have that, can we?" Jackie said as she signed her name to the last of the pile of papers on her desk. "Give me five minutes to clean up and I'll see her myself."
"Thank you, Ms. Kirby." The 46-year-old said. Karen had never been able to get used to calling her boss by her first name. Even though she had two daughters older than Jackie was.
Truth be told, Jackie was dead tired. Getting everything out before the 5 o'clock deadline had been a real struggle. Still, she agreed with Karen, they couldn't simply send the girl away. The thought that if her last name hadn't been Kirby, she wouldn't get past the front door was never far from Jackie's mind.
The five foot seven brunette took three of those five minutes to use the small private bathroom. It was one of the few luxuries that her Uncle had allowed himself. Running her hand through her long shoulder length hair and then across her neck, Jackie thought that running this place was a lot harder than Uncle Mike had made it look. Competition was fierce and some of their major titles were beginning to lose some of their popularity – with the resulting drop in sales.
At times it seemed like the job required a 20-hour workday. She was an attractive woman she reminded herself as she looked into the mirror. When was the last time she'd gone out on a date? Probably just a month less than the last time she'd been laid she answered herself.
"Hi, I'm Jacqueline Kirby," Jackie said with a smile as she reached out and shook Joanna's hand. "Why don't you have a seat and we'll take a look at what you've got." she added as she guided the younger girl to the conference table.
Joanna was a half-foot shorter than Jackie with short strawberry blond hair. She still carried some of the baby fat of her early teens as well as braces that showed when she smiled. She was dressed in what Jackie guessed was her very best dress.
"Joanna Simon," the young girl said. "My friends call me Jo."
Her nervousness evident, Jo sat down and emptied her portfolio out onto the table. Jackie had to hide a smile at the girl's awkwardness. In many ways in was like looking at a reflection of herself only a few years ago.
"Can I get you something to drink?" Jackie asked, trying to put her at ease. "Some tea, or maybe a Coke?"
"A Coke would be nice," Jo stammered, remembering that she hadn't eaten since breakfast.
Jackie produced two cans of Coke from the small refrigerator behind her desk and placed one in front of Jo. She also laid out some of the leftovers from lunch. Taking a sip of her own soda, she told Jo to help herself as she sat down and began to spread out the storyboards on the table. She really hoped the girl had enough talent that she could let her leave with some words of encouragement.
"Hmm," Jackie murmured as she looked at a few of the drawings. "Most of these are pretty good."
"You really think so?" Jo asked, her eyes lighting up.
"Yes I do," Jackie answered, surprised at the level of professionalism in Jo's work. The girl had definite talent — that was sure. If it wasn't for the fact that she might be faced with laying off staff in a few months if sales didn't improve, she might consider hiring Jo as a staff artist. She was certainly better than some of those she inherited from her Uncle.
"You are talented," Jackie repeated. "Didn't they tell you that when you went to any of the other comic companies?"
"Oh I haven't gone to any other companies," Jo replied with a new confidence in her voice. "I wanted to come here first."
"Why here?" Jackie asked out of curiosity. Usually the kids hit the big companies first.
"I grew up reading Creative Comics," Jo grinned. "I used to dream about writing and drawing my own and having them appear under the CC Logo."
"I guess we should be honored." Jackie smiled back. In her mind she was trying to think of the best way to let this talented girl down. "We're pretty well staffed here right now," Jackie lied as she looked at a few more drawings. "You might want to try some of the other companies and..."
Jackie paused in mid-sentence as she opened a thick sketchbook. Laid out throughout it was the equivalent of at least a half dozen completed issues of a comic. The title on the front page was "The Adventures of Ultra Woman and Mega Girl."
"What's this?" Jackie asked.
"That's just a strip that I created for fun." Jo said. "I forgot it was in there." She added a little embarrassed.
"I think this is very good." Jackie said as she flipped through the pages. "Very good indeed."
"It is?" Jo asked in surprise.
Jackie was indeed impressed. Every aspect of creation was there. Pencils, inks, coloring, lettering — all of it done professionally.
"How long does it take you to do a page?" Jackie asked.
"You mean doing everything?" Jo asked, to be answered by a nod of Jackie's head.
Her answer made up Jackie's mind. Even if it meant firing some of the useless jerks her Uncle had kept on staff, she was going to hire Jo Simon.
"Well I couldn't offer you a lot, at least at first." Jackie smiled. "But what would you think of this as a starting salary." She asked as she wrote down a figure on a blank piece of paper.
"Oh yes!" Jo gushed as she looked at the figure on the paper. It was more money that she was earning in Taylor's Dry Goods back home.
.... There is more of this story ...