Comic Book Editing

It isn’t unusual that I get asked to read and offer critique or feedback on someone’s work. When I have the time, I very much enjoy it. I’m much more inclined to fill my time with friends’ work than with that of folks I don’t really know. And while I don’t really “advertise,” I also do editing work—y’know, that people pay me for—though I’m very particular on what I take on. Usually if someone just wants a quick “wha’cha’think,” the chances are more likely the lower the page count it. It isn’t that I don’t want to read their 600 page novel, but I just don’t have time.

Of course, that lack of time scares me sometimes. But that’s not what this post is about.

I enjoy comics/graphic novels most of all, and it’s in that format that I get called on most (prose being 2nd…well, only other).

But it’s also that format that tends to aggravate me the most because of the huge misunderstanding of the role of an editor in comics—even by people who have produced them. Please know that I’m mostly talking about those who really don’t what they’re doing even though they’re doing it.

It often happens like this: I get an email asking if I’d be interested in “editing my graphic novel.” I respond with 50 questions (content, audience, etc., etc.) It’s usually at this stage I find out the graphic novel—all 200 pages of it—is already finished. I generally respond, that “oh, you don’t need an ‘editor,’ you want a ‘proofreader.'” We then swap emails with them trying to convince me that no, what they really want is an editor, even though the entire book is already produced.

People, at that stage, the person who reads the book is no longer an “editor.” A “copy-editor,” maybe, a “proofreader,” for certain. And please don’t think I’m badmouthing copy-editors. They are a vital part of the production/assembly line, but that is not the role of the traditional comic editor.

A traditional comic/graphic novel editor is involved practically from the ground floor. Most often, the writer has submitted or finished a plot outline. At this stage, the editor can make broad story suggestions and it is fairly easy for the writer to make changes. From there, the writer breaks it down scene by scene, even page by page (meaning the printed comic page). This is done so the editor can get a sense of pacing; they can see what the writer intends to happen on each page and point out lulls in the story, or places that need more time/explanation. It’s then that the writer goes to script. At this point, the editor has read and commented at a minimum twice. Writing the script almost becomes an act of typing (yeah—not really, but you get the point).

Granted, once the art is done, the editor reads it again…but at that point, it’s almost an act of proofreading.

I enjoy editing…quite a bit. I enjoy helping a writer find that special thing that makes the story jump out.

Proofreading I do…but it isn’t at the top of my list of things I enjoy. It’s more mechanical that creative. There are many better proofreaders out there than me.

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2 Comments

Filed under Columns, writing

2 responses to “Comic Book Editing

  1. Great post, and it was also my understanding that the editor should be involved from the ground up and provide as a resource for any potential narrative or continuity issues.

    Now…how do you TELL these people that they may actually be a proofreader? I need you to do a post on that! 🙂

  2. An editor SHOULD be in from the ground up so that they can help you, or assist you, or shepherd you, and yes, CHEER you, in accomplishing the vision you have for the story. To bring an “editor” in mid-way through is to jolt that process…and it isn’t always pretty!

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