Holy smokes, Batman — he snagged an epic internship!
Working diligently, creative writing major David Wielgosz formats his comics like screenplays. Instead of writing scenes though, the graphic novelist breaks down each page into panels, a common comic book writing style. (Photo by Dan Landau)
This story is the second in a series about Fairleigh Dickinson University students and the summer opportunities they're taking advantage of.
By Kenna Caprio
Rising junior David Wielgosz, a 19-year-old Holyoke, Massachusetts native, spends his time working at The Daily Planet. Or, more accurately, the DC Comics offices in New York City, modeled to look like Superman’s Metropolis and Batman’s Gotham City.
While waiting for his interview to begin, Wielgosz sat next to a wax figurine of Clark Kent. And so, even before securing the internship, just being in the building felt momentous for the College at Florham student.
“When I was a kid, I loved the Superman and Batman cartoons,” recounts Wielgosz. “One day, I went to Toys“R”Us with my dad and saw comics with the same characters. I thought, ‘These must be cool too.’ I was four years old.”
The creative writing major has been publishing his own comics for years now.
“I realized almost immediately, that somebody has to make these words and pictures for a living,” says Wielgosz. “From the time I was four years old, I thought, ‘I want to do that.’”
Besides featuring those familiar characters, comic books also appealed to him from a young age because even before he could read the words, Wielgosz could understand the stories.
“Even when you can’t read the words, you can ingest the story through the juxtaposition of the images and panels as long as you look at them in the sequence in which they’re meant to be seen,” explains Wielgosz.
In high school, he and three friends collaborated on a 40-page story. It took years, he says.
Now, in between his hours at DC Comics, Wielgosz writes stories for the three 16-page graphic novels he’s working on. Friends will illustrate that copy. He composes by first breaking down the pages and panel numbers.
The trick, he says, comes in writing scenes that only have one movement. “You can’t have more than one action for a character in the panel,” he explains. It’s about distilling “what you want your reader to see into one static image. In using the right images, you convince your reader that the story is in motion and being told right in front of them,” Wielgosz says.
Though clearly a huge fan of DC Comics — “they have the best superheroes around,” he says — Wielgosz knew that alone wouldn’t be enough to secure the internship.
To refine his resume and streamline his cover letter, he sought advice from Ryan Stalgaitis, career counselor and Becton College internship coordinator at the Career Development Center at the College at Florham.
“David was told by others, ‘Don’t waste your time,’” says Stalgaitis of applying to the competitive company. “I told him, ‘Let DC Comics tell you no,’” he says. “It’s not my job to tell people I can’t help them.”
The two put together a proactive letter to send out while Wielgosz staked out the DC website. He jokes that he might have been the first person to actually apply once an internship did post, admitting that he “sat on the website like a hawk.”
Not long after applying, Wielgosz got a call on a Friday afternoon while at home in Massachusetts working on his own comic books. DC wanted him to come in for an interview.
“I was really worried that I was going to come off as a little too ‘fan-ish,’” confides Wielgosz. “I love Batman, everybody loves Batman, but I also care about comic books and making them.”
So he and Stalgaitis worked on interview prep, going over likely questions and engaging in mock interviews.
“I do like to sit one-on-one (with a student) — it’s scary and they get nervous I’d rather you be scared in here than when you go into the actual interview,” says Stalgaitis. The Career Development Center also provides students with access to an online program called “Perfect Interviews,” for prep help.
The mock interview with Stalgaitis provided the last bit of push that Wielgosz needed.
“He gave me that confidence and I transitioned it over to the people that needed to hear it,” says Wielgosz. He told DC Comics, “You’re not going to find anyone else who works harder than I am and respects what you do here more,” during the interview and success!
“I knew that I had the ambition, heart and energy but what I needed was structure and discipline and that’s what I got from Ryan,” he says. “He was my editor and statistician and best friend. Even after I got the internship, I asked him about how I should conduct myself and what to do about a living situation.”
“When people ask me who to talk to (about coaching),” Wielgosz continues, “he’s the first person I'm going to point them to.”