Ask A Comic-Book Editor

After a summer world tour that included a stop at Comic Con, Heroes is as big a water-cooler sensation as ever (even if some of the discussion centers on wondering why the show can't get its act together in Season Two). A Heroes comic is imminent, and the "mainstream" media has noted a comics influence not just in Heroes but in other shows like Lost. TWoP figured it's high time we...Ask A Comic-Book Editor.

Scott Nybakken is an editor in the collected editions department at DC Comics; last week he spoke with Sars and TWoP's site director Dan Manu.

Bunting: Based on how it's portrayed in TV and in the movies -- a la "Comic Book Guy" -- what is the biggest misconception you think is out there about your job?

Nybakken: Hmm. That's a good question, actually. I actually think it isn't that there's a misconception about the job; it's that people have no conception about the job. Like, a lot of people seem to think that, if you work at a comic-book company, you write and draw and print the comics yourself. I can't tell you how many times people have said to me, hearing that I work at DC Comics, "Oh, so you draw comics." They think that basically there's a big bullpen of people in the office, writing and drawing the comics, which hasn't been true since...the late nineteen-forties, pretty much.

Bunting: Disappointing!

Nybakken: There actually was a time when that was true, but it hasn't been true for a very long time. There was one exception recently, a company called CrossGen that actually set up a campus and invited people, the freelancers who write and draw the comics, to actually come in and have offices in the space, and do their work there, but that was very much the exception.

I'm an editor in the collected editions department, which means that I put together the trade-paperback and hardcover collections of comics that have already been published in the 32-page pamphlet form. Comics nowadays generally aren't a single story in a single issue; it's usually a larger story that runs over six to eight issues, or around there. So then we would take all those pages, reassemble them into a trade-paperback edition, and that involves basically proofing the original pages, writing the copy for the back cover, the front cover, whatever pages inside have text, like introductions, biographies of the creators, things like that -- pulling all that material together, delivering it to design, working with design on the look of the book and anything like that, sending it off to the printer, then proofing it when the proofs come back from the printer. That's basically it, in a nutshell.

Now, various different types of comics will have different aspects of work -- for instance, I work on a series called the Archive Series, which is high-end hardcover reproductions of a lot of our much older material -- material from the nineteen-forties up through the nineteen-sixties, so that involves in many cases going back and reconstructing the artwork, because we don't have film or photostats of the original pages anymore for a lot of that material. So that involves, like, having third-party freelancers scan the material, and clean up the black line, and patch it, make sure it looks like the original comic, and then do the re-coloring at current dot screens -- for instance, the dot screens of the color comics used to be very very coarse back in the day, and now, printers can't even print that kind of dot screen anymore. So we have to redo the coloring on them.

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