A Life Lived in Comics Day 11: How We Do it

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Boilerplate

Still haven’t really gotten in the habit of noting for the blog what I do and when. Mostly I reconstruct my days from the email I sent and received. It’s a very e-mail-based job.

A few things: sent out some lettering for Eerie #1, approved the revised lettering for Conan the Barbarian #5, received a few blurbs for the back cover of Bucko, gave direction for the cover designs of Brothers of the Spear vol. 2 and Tarzan: The Russ Manning Years vol. 1, sent a script for Creepy #10 on to the licensor with notes, reviewed the iPhone version of 300, and did onscreens for Usagi Yojimbo Book 26: Fox Hunt. Jeff Parker stopped into the office for a meeting with another editor about an upcoming project, and we chatted a bit about his intro for Archie Archives vol. 7, Steve Lieber’s hilarious Bucko foreword, and other comics goings on.

I also wrote the letter column for Conan the Barbarian #5, a task I still haven’t entirely gotten used to, just because for all the years I read comics with letter columns they seemed like one of those things that happen by themselves. I’m ready to accept that I am a naive simpleton, but it often doesn’t occur to me until I am actually called upon to perform a task that it’s not something that happens automatically. The blurbs on the front flap of a book? Just happens. The incidental text on legal pages and backlists? Magic. The letter column is a particularly odd one because they often identify who exactly is responding to the letters, so in theory I knew that people wrote them and that there was a method to them, and yet faced with my first one I didn’t have a clue where to start.

I’m hardly an old hand at it now, but I’ve been writing the Conan letter columns for most of a year now, since Dave and I took over in July 2011. I’ve put together columns for other editors and creators who answer the letters, but Conan’s been my first book responding to letters myself every month. As of this month, assistant editor Shantel assembles the letters for me and does a preliminary pass on cleaning them up for spelling and grammar, so I get to focus on answering questions, making with the hype, and coming up with bad jokes. It’s fun to think about the books I work on from the reader point of view, and I’ve enjoyed having a discourse on subjects like how different art styles fit with certain characters and how the needs of different media shape the way adaptations are written. I’m still not entirely comfortable with my signature appearing at the end, as though I’m claiming the comic for myself, but it’s Dark Horse’s standard practice, and I’ve gotten used to it.

MIND MGMT Becomes Real

Today’s greatest sense of accomplishment came from the email list of which books had gone to the printer, which included Matt Kindt’s MIND MGMT #1. Finding a home at Dark Horse in part because of the success of Matt’s 3 Story, MIND MGMT was originally to be edited by Diana Schutz, but I ended up taking it over to ease her workload, which is currently dominated by the massive undertaking that is the Manara Library and some other prestige projects.

Matt and I find ourselves kindred spirits in this project, as it’s for both of us our first go at making a monthly ongoing series. Matt is of course well established as a graphic novelist, between 2 Sisters, Super Spy, 3 Story, and Revolver, but he’s never had a series of stapled comics before. It’s my first series as well, though that’s more to do with inexperience than success elsewhere.

At the stage where I came in, MIND MGMT existed as a series outline, detailing the overarching storyline of the entire cycle. Shortly after I familiarized myself with it, thumbnails came in for the first six issues, along with a breakdown of all the dialogue. Like many writer/artists, Matt develops the visual and verbal parts of the story side by side, so rather than just a script with descriptions of the action, we have the even better guide of seeing how everything fits. I’ve redacted the script ever so slightly for spoilers.

Before long, Matt had turned in the pencils for all six issues. Since he does everything himself—he’s even doing most of the design work on the book itself, including creating the logo, establishing the look of the copyright page and letter column, and building fake ads for the back of each issue, which contain a secret code when the first six are lined up—he’s able to develop the words and pictures together all the way through, so the pencils arrive with lettering created in InDesign. This page worked great the way he wrote it, so there aren’t many changes, and they’re Matt’s. The way the story evolved requires the Amnesia Flight to take place two years ago rather than in the present, and Matt’s spread out the passengers’ dialogue from panel 4 onto three other panels, but looking over the script again, maybe that was always his intent.

I gave Matt a set of notes on the penciled pages, but apparently I didn’t have many for this page. Still, Matt continues refining, as you’ll notice if you look at panels 4 through 8, where he’s reversed the positions of the couple in the seats, the woman now on the left and the man on the right. He’s also added the aged-paper texture and MIND MGMT Field Guide text that are two of the book’s visual motifs. The caption in panel 1 has changed color because of my concern that the time/date captions looked the same as Meru’s narration captions, but otherwise you are looking purely at Matt’s process. The work that Matt and I have done together has largely concerned the pacing of the first arc as a whole and how he’ll set up for the second arc, but for the most part MIND MGMT is Matt Kindt getting to be Matt Kindt.

Launching an ongoing series in the current market is no sure thing, and whether we go the distance will be determined pretty quickly by sales. Early numbers are encouraging. It’s a $3.99 book, but it’s content from cover to cover, and while it’s difficult for me to be unbiased, I think it’s a very good book, one which has only gotten better as Matt has refined his story. The extras are a lot of fun, and really add to the feeling of value, but in the end it comes down to the writing and the artwork, and Matt’s hit new levels with both. At least once an issue a great detail in the story makes me smile and a finished page makes me stare. Whenever I share a cover around the office, people are blown away. MIND MGMT is Matt’s accomplishment, not mine, but I can’t think of another series I’d be more honored to have be my first as editor.

If you want more MIND MGMT right now, pick up Matt’s excellent 3 Story: Secret Files of the Giant Man one-shot, which features a preview, or head over the Dark Horse Digital store for the free Dark Horse Originals 2012 sampler. Yes, that was hype. Whatever. I love this book.

And with honor, we lead directly into . . .

Shame Department

Somehow I have never really googled myself before. You’d think a self-obsessed guy like me would have by now, but somehow it’s never occurred to me. Sure, I’ve checked up on specific things I was involved with, and I’ve had a morbid fascination with the exploits of Irish gangster Brian Brendan “The Milkman” Wright, but I’ve honestly never made a serious search into “what does the Internet say about nascent comics professional Brendan Wright?” A surprising amount, as it turns out. Which maybe just speaks to my ignorance of how many comics sites there are and how thorough they are in cataloguing every scrap of trivia.

This came about because I searched for reviews of Archie Archives vol. 5, which came out last week. I’m always on on the lookout for reviews, because they yield blurbs that can be used in future Previews copy or back covers (see, it doesn’t happen automatically). The very first result that came up when I searched “archie archives 5 review” was a very favorable advance review on fanboycomics.net that happened to quote my introduction, which I confess piqued my curiosity. Where else did I come up out there?

Because of the aforementioned Brian Brendan Wright and a player for the Dallas Mavericks I searched for “brendan wright comics.” Most of the first results were either entries from the Wright Opinion or else links to it. Many were reviews or profiles of comics I’ve worked on, so weirdly detailed in their listings that they include the assistant editor. God bless comics people, but they are an obsessively detail-oriented bunch. I am on the list of editors for Creepy’s wikipedia page after only two issues, in a publishing history that goes back to 1964. I can only imagine what a footprint actually accomplished people must have left.

One nice thing was to see interviews with creators I’ve worked with who mention the editorial staff on their books. I’m still at a point where my contributions to most of the books I’ve worked on were pretty impersonal; replace me with someone else and the results would have been pretty much the same. Most fittingly, Patrick Reynolds (super nice guy the two times I’ve met him and a very, very good artist) jokes to ComicsAlliance about how many people he had to include on e-mails for Serenity: Float Out, an issue in which I was the fourth member of the editorial staff. But in keeping with the last subject, there’s also a good interview with Matt about MIND MGMT. Get excited!

Also, it’s possible I’ve married a woman named Julie Law?

In a bit: I should be over Before Watchmen by now. I’m sure they published it more to get people talking this much than to really add more evergreens to their backlist. And yet . . .

Why’m I doing this, again?

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