Why the Comics Industry Needs to Champion Good Editors Now

Embracing the red pen.


For most of my eight year career as a comic book editor, I worked in online, producing digital stories for Marvel and DC Comics. As my projects were not print, they were outside the purview of the traditional editorial structure. That made my relationship with freelance artists and writers much different than my counterparts.

What I learned from many creators is that they don’t like working with editors.

This feeling is still prevalent and clear in Image Comics’ “I is for Image” video from Image Expo 2014. Except, when those creators talk about editors, who do they mean? I think they only mean those they’ve worked with at Marvel and DC, but that isn’t clear in the context of the video.

The gripe that is often repeated by creators is not having the creative freedom to tell a story the way they’d like to tell it. Editors, from their point of view, try to control their work. Creators fail to clarify that usually this situation happens when they are working on brands owned by someone else.

Yet the entire profession gets portrayed as toxic to any creative project to which it is a part.

Editors are vital to comics and most independent creators work with them every day, even if they don’t think so. Their editors are creative partners, spouses, children, peers, and friends. It would surprise me to find comic creators who haven’t solicited opinions on their work among trusted circles. Those individuals provide them with a sounding board for their ideas. They tell creators if the pacing is off, the plot has holes, or if character behavior is inconsistent.

Having editors benefits comics–they are the first reader.

Editors encourage and support creators as a partner, working to bring out the best in a story. That is why it would be great for comic creators to stop talking about the profession like it is a bad word. All editors can’t get lumped together as industry bogeymen that prey on and stifle creatives. It definitely happens, but the actual editorial process isn’t like that–or at least it doesn’t have to be. The point is, a good editor will help you refine your work. I’m sure they even help creators with spelling and grammar.

Working with some publishers can be frustrating. The generalization that editors are an obstruction to the creative process has become tired, and is false. It’s hypocritical of Image Comics to champion this attitude while employing editors. (Sina Grace, Sean Mackiewicz, Branwyn Bigglestone to name a few.)

There is nothing wrong with calling out specific micromanagers. Making comics doesn’t need to be at the expense of the good editors. Their red pens are not the devil’s markings, but notes that keep you from confusing “they’re” and “there.”

This article went through several revisions and edits by my friend and former editor, Sarah Litt.

ADDENDUM:
This article was originally titled
“Why Image Comics and Creators Need to Stop Demonizing Editors Now”. After some discussion on Twitter with a few Image editors and creators followed by a chat with my editor I have revised so as not to single Image out. The editorial stigma happens across the industry.