At this past weekend’s Baltimore Comic Con, Marvel’s Tom Brevoort gave what may have been the most interesting convention panel talk of the year – His traditional “How to Edit Comics” presentation normally presented to Marvel Comics editors:
Getting right into it, Brevoort said that the lecture is given about once a year because, “It became apparent that at Marvel we’ve come up with a philosophy about how we do what we do, and what goes into the process of being an Editor.” He added that for the higher-ups, they have a short-hand when talking about how to edit, while younger Editors may not have the same language. So Brevoort gives the lecture, usually when the Senior Editors are away at San Diego.He also noted that not only would the lecture be – mostly – common sense, but it’s also applicable to Marvel Editors, specifically.
MTV’s Alex Zalben went to the Baltimore panel, and reported very clearly what Brevoort said; it is a lot of common sense stuff, as promised, but there’s a lot to chew on in there as well, specifically the need for visual and emotional clarity in the finished product, the lack of importance of continuity (Sorry, hardcore continuity fans) and the editor’s need to take the blame for when things go wrong:
The main philosophy of Marvel is that, “Creators get the credit, Editors get the blame.” Brevoort added that isn’t opinion, it’s a fact, and that if you’re editing right, you’re not noticed by the public. “The creators are the stars, the actors, putting on the show for the audience,” continued Brevoort. “You as the Editor are support. You’re behind the stage, pulling curtains and whatnot. That is the division of labor. Trying to back-seat write the comic book only leads to crappy comic books.”Next! “Be responsible as the Editor.” Meaning, basically, do your job, and get the stories out on time, and make sure that the stories are, “in the bounds of the Marvel Universe. And, ultimately, the job of an Editor is to sell comics; and good comics sell better than bad comics.” It’s also the responsibility of the Editor to make choices, and take responsibility for those choices. Particularly in a big company like Marvel, it’s easy to pass the buck; so don’t do that.
I’d genuinely be curious to hear if there’s any similar presentation given to editors at DC, and if so, whether the advice given differs in any significant way, if only because – despite the “if you’re editing right, you’re not noticed by the public” and “editors are behind the scenes” commentary above, I feel as if Marvel’s editors (Brevoort and Steve Wacker especially) are public figures far more than their DC counterparts. Maybe DC has a “keep your head down, even when Rob Liefeld is naming and shaming you” lesson somewhere in there…