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First Second
Prudence Shen
Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks

Page 109

Posted by Faith Erin Hicks | November 30, 2012

Heh. I’m really looking forward to next week’s comic updates, when shizz gets reeeall. :D Oh, I’ve mentioned this on twitter already, but I don’t think I mentioned it here, but I based Principal Getty on one of my very favourite TV characters:

Not a spot-on likeness by any stretch of the imagination, but … well, she’s in there. OMG I LOVE YOU AMY POEHLER call meeeeee. I can’t wait for her companion book to Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which surely must someday be a thing that exists. *_*

Anyway! Let’s head on to tonight’s blog post and see if I can wrap this thing up in under 10,000 words and before midnight. Oy, I am tired. I’m slogging through some deadlines for my prequel comic for the upcoming videogame The Last of Us (go here for all that info, it’ll be out in the spring from Dark Horse Comics), and … well, I’m so very tired. XD

Tonight I want to talk a bit about working with an editor, my own experiences and what I’ve observed to be some misconceptions about editors. Again, as always, let me preface this ramble by saying this is all based on my own experiences, so yours may vary.

I’ve been making published comics regularly since 2007, and all of my published books so far have been made with the help of an editor, although the level of help has varied. For example, my SLG comics (Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere) were not nearly given the rigorous editorial going-over that my First Second comics (Brain Camp, Friends With Boys and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong) were. But in all cases, I was very glad for the help I received and I am happy to say that I am someone who believes in the importance of editors, and I very much prefer to work with them when making a graphic novel. I have yet to meet an editor who is power mad or forces me to make artistic decisions I am not happy with.

This is an opinion that … well, I didn’t always have. Back when I first started making comics that would be packaged and published by a publisher and sold for money at comic book stores, I was very very nervous at the thought of working with an editor. I didn’t know what it was like. I had done online comics for years and years, and was very comfortable meandering my way through my stories, working the way I liked to work. Throwing an editor into the mix seemed like adding an ingredient to a stew that could turn things disastrously wrong. What if my editor had some different vision for my comic and we ended up in some kind of giant fight and then I was cast out of comics FOREVER???!!!

I worry about these things.

Fortunately that did not happen, and here’s why: good editors (and at this point, I have been very fortunate to only work with good ones) are not your boss, your director, the person who hangs over you with a ruler and a cookie, punishing and rewarding. Good editors are your partners in making good comics. They are on your side. They are the trained second pair of eyes who look at your stories without the baggage you bring to them (sometimes, sadly, artists can get too close to the comic they’ve been working on for years, and not see the occasional story snarl or character breakdown), and challenge you to make your comic the best it can be. They point out when a comic panel doesn’t read properly, when a character looks off-model, and sometimes they’ll even give you notes like “this looks awesome!!!” with little hearts drawn in the margins. Good editors are worth their weight in gold.

Personally, I do not believe creators are at their best unedited. I see some declaring very proudly that they are published unedited, that it is their job to get their stories right the first time, and in their eyes, I guess they do. If this is the truth for you, and your work is perfect the minute your pencil (or pen) hits paper, God bless, but I am not that perfect. I believe my work is best when I work hand in hand with a good editor.

I’ve often had people ask about who ultimately gets the final say in arguments with your editor. Again, I understand this question, as I was totally afraid the first time I worked with an editor (and even now I get nervous every time I work with a new editor, asking myself “will my style and their style work well together? will they understand what I’m trying to do? will I be able to understand their point of view and honour their years of experience? will we get along???”), so I get the place it comes from. If I had a fight with my editor over a story point that I truly believed in and he or she truly believed should be removed, who would have the final say? That probably depends on the editor, but I’ve actually never had a fight that went that far. Oh, I’ve had disagreements with editors, but we’ve always managed to talk it out, and sometimes I was convinced my editor’s point was valid and other times she (I’ve only ever worked with women editors, oddly enough) was convinced mine was. And other times … well, I just waited her out. ;)

The only “major” (it wasn’t that major) disagreement my editor Calista and I had during the making of Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong was over the way I drew Nate’s face on the final panel of page 93. She thought the way it was drawn was too broadly comedic, while I disagreed, feeling his response to Holly’s cool threat (and the giant SNAP sfx) should be massively over the top. Nate is, after all, a bit of a drama queen. ;) I also meant it in homage to manga like Fullmetal Alchemist (Hiromu Arakawa draws great over the top comedy expressions) and anime like FLCL. Plus, for some reason, the drawing just cracked me up, and it’s not very often I feel like I achieve a good level of comedy in my drawing. I really wanted the expression to stay.

So we talked a bit about it, and couldn’t quite agree, so the panel was left for the moment. And eventually Calista saw the panel in the context of the rest of the book, while we were doing copyedits, and finally agreed that it was very funny and should stay as is. Hurrah!

A good editor works with you. But you must be willing to work with them, too. I never feel like I’m compromising any kind of artistic vision because I work with an editor. I feel like I’m making my comics better. The best they can possibly be (at the time that I am drawing them, haha. My drawing skills can always improve! oh well).

There are some areas where I usually defer to my editor, because I feel that she knows more than I do, and I … well, I kind of don’t care that much. Those areas are book title, cover and marketing. Marketing I won’t get into as I just do my best to do what my editor recommends (go here, blog that, talk to this person, etc), but book titles and covers are things I feel like my editor (and the other people at whatever publisher I’m working with) know more about than I do, and I straight up defer to them. They know what sells, they know what will attract the eye of buyers and browsers. I’m happy to hand the responsibility of those things over to her. I mean, if my editor came back and wanted this kind of cover for Friends With Boys, there would be problems, but 99 times out of 100 … I don’t really care about covers and titles. I’m bad at them, and happy to have other people who know their shizz tell me what to do. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong was not my first choice of title for this book, but everyone involved talked me into it, and now I see they’re right: it is the best title for this comic.

So, this has been my ramble about working with editors! And look at that, not even 10pm. Time to curl up in bed with a good, and well-edited book.