Wake Village, TEXAS -- Renee Witterstaetter has had a bountiful career in the comic book world and beyond. She's made a point to not fear the doors life has opened, and she always comes back to her roots.
She's a trailblazer, similar to some of the characters she has created, and her interest in comic book culture has been with her for most of her life.
Renee's interest in comic books began when she would sneak into her older brothers' (Ray and Robbie) rooms when they were out and she would read old western novels and "Doc Savage" comics.
"I was very much into storytelling and I was also a movie buff," she said. "I was watching every single movie I could find."
Her older brother, Robert Witterstaetter, introduced her to one of her favorite teachers from Texas High School, a journalism instructor named Connie Penny.
"She was a great influence and marvelous mentor for the newspaper staff and yearbook staff," Renee said, noting that Penny was who inspired her to initially become a journalist.
She was also inspired by her French teacher, Sue Kimbro, and her junior high school history teacher, Jewell Gwyn, who both taught her to think outside of the box.
Renee stayed in her journalist and editor role for awhile, working at Texarkana Community College's newspaper and then East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce). During this time, a door opened in front of her, in the form of a comic convention.
"My friends Teresa and Steve Fleming had been running a show in Texarkana called 'Texar-Kon' and they invited me to go to a convention in Dallas called the 'Dallas Fantasy Fair,' Witterstaetter said. "It was put on by this gentleman named Larry Lankford and he had the foresight to be inviting people like Adam West to shows, and people like Stan Lee and people from "Lost in Space." I mean, all of the people that you saw at shows over the following decades, he was one of the first ones to do it."
Renee said she enjoyed the environment at the convention so much that she began working with Lankford and eventually worked her way to becoming an assistant editor at DC Comics.
"I loaded up my U-haul truck and drove to New York," she said, with a laugh. "People I met, mainly an artist named Mike Zeck -- who is known for creating the black Spiderman Costume, which later became Venom -- recommended me for the job at DC Comics."
Renee said she worked at DC for a few years and eventually shifted over to Marvel Comics, which was one of her favorite places to work. She then went to Topps comics and transitioned into film production work.
"A friend of mine took me to see a movie in New York called 'Operation Condor' and it was a Jackie Chan movie that was produced in Hong Kong," Witterstaetter said. "I saw that movie and I thought it was very much a comic book character come to life."
Later on in that evening, Renee pondered making a comic series based on Chan and decided to reach out to a friend who knew the actor's agent, which swiftly had her headed on a plane to Hong Kong.
"I hung out on the movie sets with Jackie and his crew and I told him what my plans were and he thought it sounded like a lot of fun, and he ended up being a consultant on my comic book series that I co-created with Michael Golden," she said.
Renee became so immersed in Chan's filmography that she wrote a book called "Dying for Action: The Life and Films of Jackie Chan, which was produced by Warner Bros.' publishing company. She also later worked with Chan on "Rush Hour II" in film production, which led her to Los Angeles and working on commercials and music videos with the likes of Usher, Madonna and Seal. She still counts Chan as a close and longtime friend.
Now, life for Renee looks similar, but different. She wrote a book 10 years ago honoring her friend, Nick Cardy, who was a veteran and a comic book artist ("Nick Cardy: The Artist at War") as well as working as an agent to the stars.
She also plans to release a new book called "Cloaked Crusader: George Washington in Comics and Pop Culture while also coordinating a paired exhibit of the same name at the Fraunces Tavern Museum in New York.
The renaissance woman said the book and exhibit combine her love of history and comic books.
Renee attributes her groundbreaking nature to her family, through her grandmother, Eva Inez Hicks, who was a groundbreaking business woman in Texarkana; and her mother, Erma, who was a personnel manager at Sears and her father, Raymond, who was a beloved postman and Sunday school teacher.
"I remember so much the excitement around the Bicentennial when I was a child in Texarkana and riding in the parade with my mom, and the pride we all had for the country and the military service of our family," Renee said.
"My Grandfather, Lester Hicks, was in World War I; my Dad in World War II; my uncles Arthur Murphy and Kenneth Steger both served during Vietnam and my brother, Robert, served in the National Guard and my nephew Robert served in the Gulf War."
The main difference now is she opens her own doors, follows through and she never forgets where the first one opened.
"There's always going to be that history of me, that Texas is part of me, always," she said. "I come back to Texas to recharge ... touch the ground where I grew up, because it gives me energy. It revitalizes me."
For more information about Renee, her books and her clients, visit: www.evainkartists.com and www.prosandconsbooking.com. n