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Jason "Brother Magneto" Mical was the Communications Manager at Wizkids until 2006. I sat down with him and got to the bottom of some of things, like "what's up with Galactus?" Read on...
The Le: What exactly did you do at Wizkids?
Jason Mical: My job title was 'Communications Manager,' which meant that I was primarily responsible for public relations, copywriting (that is, creating the text you saw on boxes and ads) and what we're calling 'community management' today, which is probably how most of the community knows me. I started at WizKids in April 2003 as the HeroClix Coordinator, but when the first round of layoffs happened a couple of months later I was moved over to the marketing department, which in turn kick-started my career in PR.
My job went through several evolutions; at first, it was just PR and writing and the online stuff. When WizKids restructured and added brand managers for their product lines, a lot of the copywriting responsibilities went over to those guys and I took on a lot of the website work - not really web dev, but more of the day to day work of adding figures to the galleries, putting up articles, and so forth. Basically I was doing two jobs at once, although they often overlapped, and they required me to work some insane hours. Eventually a lot of the website responsibility went to Matt Simpson, and I was able to turn my focus to community management and PR, which is what I like anyway.
In terms of what exactly that all entailed: I read the forums a lot and talked to people, which is kind of like a dream job to me because it's something I've done since about 1990 or so (seriously, on Prodigy - look that one up n00bs.) The PR side is a lot more what people would call 'traditional communications'. I made schedules of key events that would happen for each product release, make sure everything was done on time, talk to reporters who I knew would be interested in a particular product (or all of them), tried to convince them to write about the games, and sat in a lot of planning meetings. Towards the end I was doing more of the last thing, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing because I could turn what people were saying in the community into actual insights that the more bean-counter-y kinds of people could use to help the business. At least, that was the theory.
And, of course, conventions. For a while I gave the presentations at Envoy Appreciation Nights, which were always one of my favorite things to do, hands-down. That and just talking to people in the booth about our games are some of the best things I did at WizKids.
The Le: How did you get into the industry?
Jason Mical: I've been playing games ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Game night was always a big part of my family interaction. I have distinct memories of playing Candy Land in the first house I lived in, which meant I was about three or four years old when I started, maybe even younger. We also had a TI-99/4A computer, so I had a dose of video games and BASIC programming early as well. A lot of my formative years were spent with Sierra and Lucasarts adventure games, and with Lone Wolf and AD&D books. I wasn't exactly your typical nerd, I was active in marching band (which in Oklahoma is a full-time sport and as highly-regarded as football), but if you gave me the choice between binge drinking at someone's house while their parents were away or playing in our D&D game, I'd go for the second every time.
After college I was working as a social worker and a freelance writer, trying to build a writing portfolio in my free time and make the writing thing work full-time. I got back into comic books around then and was familiar with Mage Knight because some of the guys in my D&D group played it (I admit my first experience with it was very negative!) One day I went into the comic shop and Doug, my comic guy, showed me HeroClix the day it came out. I bought an Infinity Challenge starter and ended up playing in the Marquee event a couple of weeks later, and I started playing regularly at a couple of venues in Tulsa after that. There was one that was very competitive, and another that was much more focused on fun - and the crowds were different too. The competitive group was more teenagers and 'gamers,' the fun group was more comic book fans. I much preferred the second group.
Eventually I became a Judge and started running events, and one day I noticed that there was a job posting for a HeroClix community coordinator at WizKids on the Envoy board. My wife and I were looking to get out of Tulsa, so I applied. I don't know how many applications they received but I was floored when I got a call a few days later; I ended up flying to Seattle, interviewing, and getting the job. The day they offered it to me, my wife was offered a job with the Foreign Service. We opted for the WizKids job. In a couple of months we packed our stuff into a U-Haul and moved 2100 miles to Seattle.
I suppose another way to answer the question was that I was active in the community and I had a writing portfolio already created from my freelance work. One of the reasons I was hired was because of my familiarity with the community and my writing ability, so both of those things were factors in my getting into the industry as well.
I should note that I still do freelance game writing and PR from time to time, even though my profession isn't in the games industry at the moment.
The Le: Do you have two comic book characters (or teams) from Marvel?
Jason Mical: Magneto of course! The House of M Magneto is by far my favorite 'Clix version of him, and my favorite sculpt. I have a paintmaster of him done before the misunderstanding about using King Carlos' portrait came to light, where his chest is covered in medals, and I have the original Infinity Challenge paintmaster as well. They're the only two 'rare' collector 'Clix I still have.
That's only one, isn't it? The Fantastic Four is my second, because I love the comic so much. I realize my reasons for loving it are a little trite, but the family dynamic of FF is amazing.
Oh hell, have another: Captain America. He's a far deeper character than anyone gives him credit for. I have a half-completed script for a Captain America graphic novel in my writing drawer and someday when they pay me big money to write books and things, I'm going to finish it off.
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