As a child in Tulsa, Sterling Gates loved to immerse himself in the fantasy worlds of The Flash, X-Men and his other comic book superheroes. As an adult comic writer in Los Angeles, Gates now gets to help create his own fantasy universes. Since October, his work has been published monthly in DC Comics’ Supergirl series, which he creates with artist Jamal Igle. Gates said he has some other projects in the works, but he’s not at liberty to talk about them yet. "It’s a tough business,” Gates, 28, told The Oklahoman. "It’s a lot of luck out here — knowing people and networking.” For Gates, it all started in Tulsa where he grew up. "My father actually owned a comic store in Tulsa: Sooner Books and Comics,” he said. Comics have been a big part of my life from age 7 to now, really.” "We always had a garage full of back issues, so I would just go and read comics in the garage for hours,” he said. "I was really big into X-Men, because what kid doesn’t feel like an outsider,” he said. "I was really big into Teen Titans. ... I was totally into The Flash. Unfortunately, I was that chubby, slow kid, so the idea you could be the fastest man alive was awesome to think about and dream about.”
His big breakAfter graduating from Tulsa’s Thomas A. Edison High School, now Thomas Edison Preparatory High School, Gates said he decided to go to the University of Oklahoma. "I graduated from OU in 2005 with a degree in art, with a specialization in film and television production,” he said. "I wanted to be a television writer.” "I made some terrible short films in college that I pray never see the light of day,” Gates laughed. "We watched them one night a few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I. I was so pretentious, like trying to make these artsy, intense deep films, and I had no idea what I was talking about.” After graduation, Gates said he and some friends packed up their things and moved to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams. Gates said the first job he got in Los Angeles was on a television show called "Blade: The Series,” which was a 2006 television show based on Marvel Comics’ superhero Blade. "I was a production assistant — like the lowest of low,” he recalled. "I got the coffee. I got the drinks. I went and got lunch.” But he also got to meet Blade script writer Geoff Johns, a well-known comic writer who was just starting to write for television at the time. The two men got to talking and Johns learned of Gates’ shared passion for television and comic writing. "We developed a friendship based on our love for comics,” Gates said. Johns sold a movie titled "Naughty or Nice,” and Gates got to serve as his assistant on that film. While working on that film, Gates said he got to know Johns’ editors and befriended one who suggested he pitch some stories to DC Comics. "So I very nervously started submitting pitches, and after four or five months, they bought a story from me and it sort of went from there,” he said.
CAREER SPOTLIGHT:COMIC BOOK WRITER →Education: No formal requirements, but many comic book writers have college degrees in fields such as filmmaking and English. →Annual salary: $50,000 to $150,000 or above. Salaries vary greatly depending on reputation, skill, past success and quantity of work. →Necessary traits: Vivid imagination, passion for comics and willingness to do extensive research to create comic scripts that are consistent with the fantasy universes in which the characters interact.