As your Emperor, I have declared a set of fights between the Editor’s in Chiefs of the comic industry, of course, for your amusement. Much like in Roman times – or today – games were used to distract the populace. I too use them as I don’t really have time to write up a new post (yes, I’ve had this one in the bag.)
An EC’s job is to run herd over all the projects and group editors of a company. They are, literally, the Head Editor. When I speak of comic problems, it is an editor’s job to catch this stuff before it hits the shelves. Most are running on serious deadlines and most are, like producers of TV, Film or News, the ones who are controlling talent and making sure sh!t gets done and done on time. With the bigger companies, this also results in making sure certain overarching plots and crossover events are worked into a story seamlessly. Also, a good editor is making sure the best quality is put into a series. They are the ones that challenge creators to give their all and send back story or pages that aren’t up to snuff. These are all things to consider when looking at a good editor. That and the ability to get along with others. Really, you look at Editors in Chief around the industry and most do a fantastic job.
Let’s start with Marvel.
The most improved EC over the last few years is Marvel. Their Editor in Chief is Axel Alonso, and most might think he is a somewhat newcomer to the comic game, but you would be wrong. Alonso was a long time editor at DC (edited many of the best books at Vertigo in the late 1990s) and moved to Marvel in the early 2000s. Alonso took over the position from Joe Quesada in January of 2011 and has turned the company into a steady rock where production is, for the most part, kept on schedule and the talent seems to be rather happy.
Alonso has changed how the books at Marvel are published too. Think about how many interconnected stories the main Marvel NON-Team books used to have and now think about it. Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, all the core heroes are now – primarily – left alone to create a story on their own. Not everything is perfect, yes, the Avenger team books and the X-books seem to be constantly in a perpetual crossover, but even those – because seriously, crossovers are pretty complicated juggling acts – have been pretty good, at least from a production stand point.
So, from even… what, four years ago?… can we even say two or three?... Marvel is on much better ground with Alonso’s leadership than they were and that is really saying a lot.
Next up, oh, yeah… DC Entertainment. I don’t believe anyone one can seriously defend Bob Harras. I won’t, can’t and am not about to try. His reign of terror at DC started in 2010. Before that he worked for Jim Lee and his ABC/Wildstorm imprint that was part of the pre-restructured DC. Before that, Harras was the EC at Marvel during one of the company’s worst financial times.
In recent memory, no one at DC has had as many struggles as Harras has had at DC. Massive, disgruntled departures of talent, not to mention questionable decisions on creative direction have caused many to asking why he has not been fired from his post. The latest of questionable decisions – which may or may not be laid at his feet – is the 3D covers of Villains Month. Though not all of the problems at the embattled publisher are Harras’s fault, like the wiping clean of continuity and the alienating of retailers, the buck on the creative side needs to stop somewhere.
Image is the fastest increasing – sales wise – of any comic company right now and doesn’t really count when it comes to a true Editor in Chief because of how they publish. This goes all the way back to when the company was formed. Much of the reasons for the original formation was to escape the pressures and editor’s of Marvel in the very early 90s.
There are editors and a corporate structure at the company, but it is designed and was set up as for creator ownership of properties, hence the overall lack of control. This also leads to lateness and sometimes other problems.
They are the unseen force right now in comics. Image, with its structure and creative freedom, is very attractive to established creators. They may very well be the future. I’m sure someone also said that in 1994 too.
IDW is so predominately focused on licensed properties that it is almost its own wing unto comic publishing, but think about the difficulty of this – most of the stuff, art and story, has to be put through an approval process – and with the quality of these comics that you get on the other side, Editor in Chief Chris Ryall deserves a lot of credit.
The company is only a little over a decade old and of the smaller publishers commands a great deal of respect. They are now starting to publish an increased number of original, non-licensed works – and though I don’t know the specifics of the deals with the company these creators work out – this only amounts to more creativity in the industry.
Boom! Studios is sort-of IDW lite. Not the same size and not the same number of titles, they too have started to grow their original, non-licensed works. Matt Gagnon is the Editor and Chief, and, since his taking over for Mark Waid in the position, the company has grown dramatically. The next few years could really be make or break for this company as they strive to find their place. Just recently, they purchased the struggling Archaia Studios, who have long been known for their very high quality production values.
Next in line is Dynamite. I am of a mixed mind with this company. On one hand, they sell some books that people want to read. I have some very dedicated readers of several titles they publish, but, on the other hand, I sometimes feel like they are more interested in publishing covers than comics. That said, Nick Barrucci (Publisher, as the company doesn’t have a true EC) is a great and personable guy. I think, much like with Boom, they will be struggling for identity in the coming years.
Oni is and has always been the small, quality publisher that can. They don’t publish a lot of books and probably never will, but it seems the stuff they do publish is of pretty high quality. They, like most of the much smaller publishers, are at a constant disadvantage from the two big buzzards flying over head. When they do find a hit with great art and writing, in swoops Marvel or DC to get them on one of their dull cookie cutter superhero books. These smaller publishers can’t compete with dollars and hence the book becomes late, or in the worst cases, never finished.
But a superhero publisher has arisen to fight back. Valiant restarted just a few years ago and is showing the big two how to publish these types of characters. Mostly with writers not given a true chance or big money at either DC or Marvel, Valiant saw the talent and provided the structure and characters and let the writers go to it.
Easily, these are the best superhero universe comics being published right now. If they don’t expand too fast, this is the company to watch in the coming years, and, if a movie comes out of one of these properties, the rest of the world will know of them too.
I seem to have forgotten a company. Oh, no, I left the best for last. Everyone knows my favorite company in comics is Dark Horse. They publish my favorite comics and have the highest in quality publishing standards in their finished product. However, in an editorial capacity, they can’t be touched. Officially named Editor in Chief about a year ago, Scott Allie has overseen the Hellboy and BPRD comics as well as the horror books for the company for the last decade. Always contributing to each of his comics with fantastically informative letter’s columns, he is the man!
I used to have a yearly meeting with him in Chicago and have been out to Portland as well. Allie treated me like a king in each of the visits; he represents what is the best comic company in this industry. If there was to be one company to lead all the rest and show them how it is supposed to be done, it is Dark Horse, and Allie is the top dog. He would cleave through the competition with his Conan-like two handed battle axe! He is the true winner of our Editor in Chief Battle Royale.
…but could there anyone else?
With the rise of independent publishing it is always wise to look for the guy with everything on his shoulders. The one who has the most to lose and also the most to gain too. The best of these is Terry Moore. He is his own Editor in Chief – of Abstract Studios – and his own writer, artist, inker, letterer, cover creator and publisher. You want to know how to do it without a company telling you how it should be done, Terry is the king. Of all of comics, the truly independent publisher should be put on a pedestal so high the buzzards can’t get to them. Now go get Rachel Rising and find out why I feel this way.