There seems to be a lot of information out in the world today with regards to what writers and artists do and how to break into the comics publishing industry. What doesn't seem to get a lot of coverage is what it is like being an editor – apart from some of the negative headlines that grab fans' attention. In mainstream comics, there has been a lot of buzz lately about the negative influence editors have on creators. The "Editors on Editing" panel held at the New York Comic Con on Friday was a great place to get some information on that subject, but even then, much of it veered onto the topic of how creators could break into the business. I was really interested in getting some feedback from some editors on what ot is they do, so I sat down with one of the panelists from that discussion, Dark Horse Comics' Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie, to further discuss the role of an editor in the production of the comics we all love reading.
Newsarama: Scott, what would you say are your primary responsibilities as an editor?
Scott Allie: Getting the book out on time, maintaining a budget, and making sure everyone is getting their work in and doing their best at it.
Nrama: So what would you say is the best part of the job?
Allie: Working with the creative people that inspire me and whom I learn from. Working with guys like Mignola and Joss in particular are who I learn so much from and stay inspired by and who help me stay excited. Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon are two guys where I get anything from them and my batteries get recharged.
Nrama: Now the flipside to that question is what would you say is the most challenging aspect to the job?
Allie: You know there are deadlines. Just keeping the deadlines going is maybe the hardest part. The constant struggle with artists, you know, most artists struggle with deadlines, and it's really tricky to keep things moving.
The other thing is getting the best work out of them. You want everyone to turn in their best work all of the time, and sometimes you don't get what you're looking for. Finding ways to inspire people to give you their best stuff, what you're looking for without stepping on their necks is a challenge - and I think it's a part of the challenge some people are losing.
Nrama: I'd actually like to touch upon something you were just mentioning about how a part of your job is to help inspire creators so that you can get that amazing work that we, as readers, love so much. Could you think of one example of where you worked with a particular creator to do just that?
Allie: You know, Mignola pointed out a long time ago that what my job mostly consisted of is asking questions. I don't want to get in there in be like "Oh no, Mike, you should do Hellboy…" You listen to the story he wants to tell and you ask him questions that will lead him to a deeper and deeper understanding of the story. Asking someone questions that will lead them to that place without making them write the story that you imagine…well, that's a part of the challenge.
Nrama: Now, you've been in the business for a while now. What would you say is your greatest accomplishment in comics?
Allie: Um, I don't know…
Nrama: [Laugh] Please don't think I'm asking you to pick a favorite child! Maybe just something you're especially proud of.
Allie: I guess part of the issue I have with the question is that none of it is mine. If the editor is doing his job, he should be invisible. And so, for example, to take credit for and say Umbrella Academy is one of my greatest achievements, well it's one of Gabriel and Gerard's greatest achievements. I'm just happy to have been a part of it. And there are many, many great books that I am happy to have been a part of. To take a little bit of editorial credit, I think Season Nine wouldn't have turned out the way it did without some contributions from my end. I think I've helped keep Mignola engaged and really motivated. I think a big part of my accomplishments for Dark Horse is making Mike Mignola, Joss Whedon, and some really important creators feel this is their home and this is where they're going to be.
Nrama: So if I understand you correctly, it sounds like much of the role of an editor as you see it is along the lines of facilitating the creative process and not directing it?
Allie: There are projects where I direct more and there are others where you have absolutely no input on. It worked that why when I worked with Sergio Aragones. I get him on the phone and ask him to turn something in, he turns it in, and it's good, you know? He doesn't ask me what I think, and it's good.
And some people will think because it's "creator-owned" that the editor doesn't have anything to do with it while on work for hire books, the editor is in charge. But you know what? It's all over the place. On Buffy, am I more in charge than Joss? No. But on Hellboy, do I give Mike notes? Yeah, I give Mike notes. I give Mike feedback. Mike owns it, and Dark Horse licenses it from him. But Mike wants to make the best book, I want to make the best book, Joss wants to make the best book, and we work together to make that happen whether one guy owns it or doesn't own it.
Nrama: It's really about seeing what that specific creator or creative team's needs are and then adjusting to meet them on the fly.
Nrama: Now, last question: Dark Horse is now spearheading a second superhero movement with both old and new characters at the forefront. What role do you envision yourself as the EIC and the other title editors playing in its development?
Allie: With that, it's a real juggling act because a great deal of the vision behind this whole thing comes from Mike Richardson, but then it's also open to the editors to kick in ideas. Then it's the writers who have to do the work of telling the stories and the artists who have to time stuff. So in a perfect world, there's a certain balancing act that goes on that allows the creators to do their best work while they individually create books that are a part of a greater whole. All the while, they are trying to match Mike's vision at the same time that many people have a creative voice in the process. The editor's role is to be somewhere between the writer and Mike and to make sure it's one big team.