The Norman Transcript


January 26, 2014

Comic book writer inspires art students with life story

Fruit Loops — cereal box after cereal box lined the kitchen cabinets. And box after box he ate. Lacking confidence and depressed, Sterling Gates sat on his couch with spoon in hand, thinking moving to Los Angeles was the worst mistake of his life.

Now a well-known comic book writer for DC Comics, the path to Gates’ success was full of challenging writing critiques and self doubt.

“I felt like I failed the memory of my father, failed my mother’s expectations and failed as an artist,” Gates said about the depression that encapsulated him after he moved to Los Angeles and couldn’t find a job.

But Gates said that sometimes luck changes at a moment’s notice and encouraged University of Oklahoma art students to do what makes them happy during his presentation Thursday night at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

“Good things can happen to you at your lowest — even when you’re sitting around eating Fruit Loops.”

From an early age, Gates’ life was about superhero comic books because running a comic book store was his dad’s business. Gates said his father would keep the back stock in their garage and boxes of 20,000 comic books would line the wall floor to ceiling.

“Comic books were the outlet for the trials and tribulations I had as a young man,” he said. “Bullies are mean ... I sought solace in my comics.”

After Gates’ father died in June 1998, his family got rid of the comic book store, but Gates’ love of comics never left him. Later, when Gates attended the University of Oklahoma School of Art and Art History, he began to think intellectually about comics and ask “What makes a good story?” and “How can I make it the most impactful?”

After graduating in 2005, Gates took a chance that he could start a career with gumption and his art degree and moved to Los Angeles.

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