Each year, Marvel SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort gives a lecture on editing to younger Marvel staffers. At this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con, he presented the two-hour talk for the audience, as recounted by Alex Zalben. Although there’s definitely some “Marvel Way” in the talk, most of it was the kind of common sense that everyone needs drilled into them. However, it’s also a pretty interesting glimpse into the day-to-day thinking behind Marvel’s editorial decision making. The whole thing is worth a read, but a few selected excerpts to give the flava:
First, the main philosophy of Marvel is that, “Creators get the credit, Editors get the blame.” Brevoort added that isn’t opinion, it’s a fact, and that if you’re editing right, you’re not noticed by the public. “The creators are the stars, the actors, putting on the show for the audience,” continued Brevoort. “You as the Editor are support. You’re behind the stage, pulling curtains and whatnot. That is the division of labor. Trying to back-seat write the comic book only leads to crappy comic books.”
Next! “Be responsible as the Editor.” Meaning, basically, do your job, and get the stories out on time, and make sure that the stories are, “in the bounds of the Marvel Universe. And, ultimately, the job of an Editor is to sell comics; and good comics sell better than bad comics.” It’s also the responsibility of the Editor to make choices, and take responsibility for those choices. Particularly in a big company like Marvel, it’s easy to pass the buck; so don’t do that.
But good books don’t always sell, as we all know. Brevoort presented a three-tier scheme for what makes a comic that we haven’t heard put quite this cleanly before:
Still, said Brevoort, “You can do everything right, and still not have a successful book, because this is art, not science.” That doesn’t mean Brevoort doesn’t have a simple equation for a successful book: “A project is characters plus creators plus concept. You can get by with one or two, but you want all three if possible.”
As for individual stories, it didn’t sound like the caption was forbidden, just unpopular:
Then it was on to individual stories or scripts, Brevoort said that you need to make sure scenes work in the context of the book, not just as funny scenes that show off how witty a writer is. Similarly, you need to be clear on everything, including characters and scenes, noting that the recap page can be a crutch: he prefers the clarifications come in the book. Characters names and powers need to be said at some point, or it’s bad news. He noted that on TV, viewers will come in at any point to find that people will recap the plot, or the character’s names after pretty much every commercial break.
On the other hand, he called out the “Claremont” panels that describe exactly what’s going on as passé. You need to work it fluidly into the story, but, “Even if it is Dr. Doom, you have to tell them it’s Dr. Doom! If you’re relying on the history or the continuity to tell the story, you’re not telling your story.”
Tons more info in the link.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.