A LIfe Lived in Comics Day 5: The Wednesday Crowd

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Today was mostly a head down, in the weeds day, so not a lot of specific stuff to report. One very exciting thing from early in the day was the arrival of advance copies of Andi Watson’s Skeleton Key Color Special, a one-shot reprinting the SK stories I edited for Dark Horse Presents.

In three and a half years at Dark Horse, I’ve edited several archival books and a bunch of short stories (one’s an Eisner nominee this year—more later!), as well as gotten some graphic novels off the ground, but this is actually the first stapled comic ever printed that says “Editor: Brendan Wright.” I’ve graduated on a few of the series I’ve assisted on to coeditor, and in fact Matt Kindt’s 3 Story: Secret Files of the Giant Man was released today with me and Diana Schutz sharing billing as editors, but there is a different feeling to holding a comic that I personally shepherded from beginning to end.

Don’t get me wrong. Andi is an enormous talent, and once we got started there was very little I needed to contribute. I gave pretty minor notes on the three stories, and when the one-shot came around I gave a small amount of direction on the cover and put together the sketch section, but this was Andi’s show. An editor is basically a helper monkey, but monkeys with the great fortune in many cases to get to choose who we help. My greatest contribution to Skeleton Key was my very first one, when I advocated for a favorite cartoonist to get a slot in DHP (Andi and I had previously worked together when he wrote and drew a two-page story for MySpace DHP featuring his character Hen). After that I contracted Andi and trafficked the art and gave the barest guidance on stories, but the beauty of the job is that at the end I get to claim undeserved credit for a comic with my name in it.

At 10 Sierra and I had our weekly Creepy/Eerie catchup meeting. We’re in pretty good shape on the schedule right now, though an anthology obviously has a lot of balls to juggle at any given moment. Our next issue of Creepy is coming together great, so the focus was mostly on figuring out Eerie #1, which has changed format a few times, while we and the licensor nail down exactly how to reintroduce Creepy’s sci-fi/horror companion title to the market. Headlining issue #1 is a pretty messed up story written and drawn by David Lapham, and the meeting today nailed down how the book will be configured and what kind of classic reprint material will be included.

Sierra and I started on the book with issue #7, and with each issue we’ve had a slightly more confident hold on the process and a more unified vision of what our version of Creepy is like. Issue #7 shows some of our growing pains, but all of the artists and writers who worked on it did admirable work. By now we have a pretty good division of labor going and as we work on issues #9 and #10 and on Eerie #1 the book is feeling increasingly comfortable. It’s been tough for me in particular, as horror’s not a big thing for me, and I was very self-conscious about it when we began. When I was told I’d be working on Creepy, I put myself on a program of reading about horror and watching lots of horror movies. Dark Horse publishes a lot of horror comics, so I looked through a lot of them to see what worked. I’m still fairly green, but I’ve managed to put together some theories about what works in the medium and a few ideas about how horror is paced and suspense is unfolded. I still find myself looking at stories in a somewhat detached way, but hopefully that helps to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. It’s the best I can offer as an immigrant to horror country.

As soon as the meeting’s over I’m upstairs to the digital art department for onscreens. That’s the last check on art corrections before a book is laid out in InDesign and goes through Prepress. Generally it’s called for when there are some tricky corrections editors want to check on without ordering a new set of proofs or where a correction calls for a judgement call and an editor and digital artist want to look it over together. Today I’m looking at a chunk of the upcoming Grendel Omnibus with Director of Print and Development Cary Grazzini. It’s a complicated book because of the several different ages of the material reprinted in it. The stories are presented in in-story chronological order, but because Matt Wagner has revisited the original Grendel at different points in the larger Grendel cycle, the materials come from very different periods in the transition from film-based publishing to digital publishing. Devil by the Deed is the original Grendel story (not counting Wagner’s early, aborted take on the story reprinted in Grendel Archives) but has been reprinted in several different formats over the years and is pretty up to date, retypeset the last time it was packaged. Behold the Devil is the most recent Grendel series, from just a few years ago, and is in the latest digital format. But the two short story collections, Black, White, & Red and Red, White, & Black are older, and many corrections have to be redone, since the digital files we have are actually from an intermediary stage and the final corrections in previous editions were made directly to the film.

Cary and I go through the current chunk and catch up on the projects we have upcoming, then it’s time for lunch at a nearby Thai place with assistant editors Shantel LaRocque and Everett Patterson, associate editor Patrick Thorpe, and receptionist Teresa Gresham. Dark Horse is a lot more than the editorial department and takes up several buildings along Milwaukie’s Main Street, but editorial is in the building with the public entrance, so Teresa works nearest to us. She is, after a fashion, the department’s mom, though a mom who recognizes, correctly, that most of us could use a good smack. Conversation at lunch too often just revolves around work, but today we pretty much get away from it, and that’s a relief.

The rest of the work day is consumed by the lock-in-and-focus kind of work I mentioned up top. Nothing particularly of note, largely just continuation of the projects I’ve detailed the last two days. It’s Wednesday, so at 3 several members of editorial head across the street to Things From Another World to buy comics and bullshit about the new releases. The visit serves two purposes. First and obviously, we buy comics, and because TFAW is Dark Horse’s sister company, we do so at a nice 33% discount. Secondly, we pull things off the shelves, show them to each other and discuss. On one level we’re just fans, cooing over one series and deriding another (I confess we make fun of some and score points off each other, but it helps to keep in mind that we can be idiots), but there’s also an element of research, as we’re expected to keep up with which writers and artists are making waves and which might be a good fit for a DH assignment.

Today I get two new stapled comics, Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising #7, and Brandon Graham’s Prophet #24, this month with artist Farel Dalrymple. I didn’t pick up this week’s 20th Century Boys, one of my favorite things in comics, as it hadn’t come in yet, so I await getting it in a week or two. However, I did get the final volume of Twin Spica by Kou Yaginuma, following a group of high school students through an intensive astronaut training program in a near-future Japan where the space program is being restarted two decades after a major disaster ended it. It’s a wonderful series, which I’ve previously credited in this space with reminding me of how I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, and has become one of my favorite manga, about how space travel is practical on neither an individual or societal lever, but is ennobling on both. An ideology like that can lead to the least admirable places of the human experience, but in the context of space travel it speaks to humanity’s thirst for knowledge and achievement that makes this life worth living, that makes us want to be great. The context of a society that has been held back by tragedy and is finally ready to look to the skies again brings incredible poignancy to a dream that so many of us had when we were young and forgot as the problems we face on the ground captured more and more of our attention.

Reading a previous volume on the bus, I began imagining what a movie might be like, and my initial thinking was that it was have to be a series of films, perhaps breaking down by school year, much like the Harry Potter books and films, but I soon hit a dead end after realizing that the popular American dream life doesn’t seem to include science anymore. Fantasy and magic have taken its place, and while I fondly remember the film SpaceCamp, it’s tough to imagine a studio releasing a film with scenes of underwater solar panel repair or painstaking manipulation of robotic arms as a major source of tension.

TFAW is my Wednesday store thanks to proximity, discount, and friendliness of staff, but I also regularly visit Floating World Comics, which is near where I live and carries all of the weirder stuff that I also love, and Excalibur and Cosmic Monkey are farther away stores that I make it to now and again for back issues and sales.

Point being, I do this all day, but the bug really doesn’t go away. I read a lot of Dark Horse books, both from my comps and in the digital store, but I still find myself spending money on this stuff week in and week out. If anything, the addiction is worse.

Tomorrow: Dunno. It hasn’t happened yet.

Why’m I doing this, again?


Images of Twin Spica © Kou Yaginuma.

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2 Responses to “A LIfe Lived in Comics Day 5: The Wednesday Crowd”

  1. Damon Gentry Says:

    Oh man, gotta get me some new Skeleton Key. I’m a Watson fan and a Wright fan! These new day-in-the-life blogs you’re doing are great.

    Regarding your last post, I also just read the first volume of Locke & Key after Aaron made me. It was solid!

    • Brendan Wright Says:

      Hey Damon,

      Thanks! I don’t really like to write about myself all that much, but I’m getting into the spirit. I’ve been happy with about half of them so far, basically whenever I can get into something a little broader than just that day’s goings on (or when I can call out the me from six years ago for being a douche, because screw that guy). If you like Andi, you’ll definitely dig the new Skeleton Key. I’m really happy with how the stories came out, and my barely having to do anything was a great bonus. The issue’s a nice package too, with a sketch section and a bunch of bonus covers.

      Just about done with the second Locke & Key, and now that the setup’s out of the way, it’s getting even more bizarre. I love how the theme of volume 2 is basically taking a classic piece of Terry Gilliam imagery and going, “how can we make this even more fucked up?” And they do!

      -B

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