Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Editorial Jibing: Who Edits the Watchmen?

Among the creators that we can term as "very influential", I doubt that anyone would argue with me about having Dave Gibbons and Frank Quitely on that list. I was perusing their conversation over at the Comics Journal when I was struck by their comments regarding editors among the comic book set.

Specifically, as I've noted before, just within my time in the industry, I've watched interns who became interns simply because they really, really, REALLY loved comics, become assistant editors and then editors because, well, they stuck around. Not because they may have learned anything aobut what makes good storytelling, but because they survived the fall out along the way.

Quitely: ...Only 10 years later, by the time I got there, there was no real editorial input at all and there have been very, very few editors that I have worked for who really have much more of an idea about how to go about telling a story, visually, than your average artist who’s only been working for a few years. I think in the past — before royalties and the rest of it — artists and writers who became very good at their craft then went on to become editors. I think one of the things that’s changed is that there isn’t actually this mentoring or this apprenticeship any more; it really is just learning by your own mistakes.

Yeah, it’s true, I was lucky enough to come in at a stage — which you were there at the end of — when the editorial staff was much older and much more experienced than the contributors. But now it’s kind of funny to be working for DC or Marvel and somebody maybe a third of my age, certainly half my age, is telling me how to do it. I must say, though, that if you’ve got a really good editor — no matter what their age — it’s a really, really valuable thing.
Now, part of this, I can understand. If I'm at DC, I probably have a Watchmen Absolute on my shelf in my office. How easy is it to then tell Dave that his page isn't working?

But, how much of this (for the rest of us ordinary mortals) is the reason that we have the schlock that we have now? I feel like i'm wading through it as I work my way past pamphlet after pamphlet trying to find something to read. Is this because no one is editing anything anymore? Its not that these people don't have a love of comics, but who out there has the training or the ability to get the best out of people, to push them past their mistakes into doing better work?

I recall the level of the critiques that i used to get from the submissions editors of the comic companies, where the same thing that one would praise you would be slammed for unmercilessly by the other. As long as your ego could take it, you'd move into the next phase: realizing that you learned very little along the way. It is rare to receive solid, constructive criticism and have it take you to the next level. That is the sad part.

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