Since leaving Marvel in early 2018, editor Heather Antos has been more than a little busy. She dove headfirst into her passion for video games and esports as Editor-in-Chief at Unikrn; curated the successful #SignalBoostSunday on Twitter; kept in touch with her comics editorial roots as the freelance editor on several major Image comics, including Redlands, Bitter Root, and Injection; and took on a variety of other projects over the last year.
Now, the Beat can exclusively reveal that Antos has started a new chapter in her rapidly growing career as editor at Valiant Entertainment. According to the publisher, Antos’ first project will be to work with The Wilds writer and DC Talent Development Workshop alum Vita Ayala on Valiant’s new Livewire series. Per the publisher, Antos will “also develop a stable of her own titles.”
Senior editorial director Robert Meyers commented on Antos’ hiring, stating that her “sterling reputation” built at Marvel and beyond makes her “the kind of voice we want at Valiant.” Beyond Meyers, Antos joins senior editor Karl Bollers, editor Lysa Hawkins, associate editor David Menchel, and assistant editor Drew Baumgartner to form a team within which Meyers says “each member brings unique story viewpoints that will broaden and deepen the Valiant line.”
Of her own hiring, Antos said:
“There is no better time than right now to join Valiant. The creative teams, characters, and stories have never looked stronger and I’m excited to collaborate with editorial on even greater stories as we build toward the release of BLOODSHOT in theaters February 2020. From X-O Manowar to Livewire, Quantum & Woody to Faith, there is a Valiant character for everyone, and I’m excited to bring these characters to new readers.”
Recently, the Beat sat down with Antos to discuss her editorial career up until now and learn about her hopes for the future as she embarks on a new journey at Valiant.
Alex Lu: Since leaving Marvel, you’ve certainly kept busy as Editor-in-Chief at Unikrn. What was it that first piqued your interest in esports and how have you found the experience of working in the field?
Heather Antos: I’m an extremely competitive person by nature and have always had a love for video games, so when the opportunity came about to learn more about and explore this rapidly growing industry, I couldn’t say no! Ultimately, though, my true passion has always been about the human connection we get through storytelling – especially through comics – which is why I’m here today, I suppose!
Lu: Indeed. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your two interests don’t intertwine! Was there anything unique to your experience working with esports content at Unikrn that you feel has made you a better comics editor?
Antos: I’m not really sure if I had any particular experience in esports that made me a better comics editor, specifically. But working in comics, video games, and esports news simultaneously in 2018 definitely confirmed that my one true love is storytelling and not news. There’s just something about crafting a story and building drama around real people’s lives, when they are just trying to do their jobs and enjoy life that feels rather exploitative to me. And I’m just not interested in that. But getting to work on writing and editing games alongside esports, as well as continuing my work in comics, certainly solidified that creative storytelling is where I want my career to be.
Lu: In addition to your work at Unikrn, you’ve also worked as a freelance editor on a number of notable comics projects including Redlands, Bitter Root, and Injection. What were some biggest lessons you learned about comics editing during your time at Marvel that you took with you into the next step of your career?
Antos: I always sum up comics editing as “helping creative people to do the creative things they say they’re going to do, to the very best of their ability within the parameters given, when they say they’re going to do it, and want to work with you afterwards.”
As an editor it’s so important to remember that at the end of the day…it’s just comics. If you’re not supporting and caring about the people making them, the books will suffer for it. Life happens, creators need breaks, realistic schedules, and vacations. As an editor, I truly believe it’s my job to handle all of the other bullshit that goes on behind the scenes of making comics so the creators sole worry is telling the best story possible – and nothing else.
Lu: Absolutely—but it’s important to take care of yourself too, I think! What are some of the best practices you’ve learned to help balance the needs of your creators against the needs of the publishers? And how do you make sure that you keep your own sanity in the process?
Antos: Uh…a lot of coffee and therapy? [laughs] As someone who has a bad habit of answering work emails at 3 a.m., I might not be the BEST person to answer this question. But as any creative person knows, it’s super hard to turn off “work brain” – for us, stories are everywhere, the inspiration is out there waiting for us. That’s why I think it’s super important to have boundaries. I’m a big advocate for turning off all social media notifications so that you’re not always bombarded by online comments, only seeing them when you choose to log on. I think it’s also important to remember that, at the end of the day, it’s just comics – not brain surgery. This is not a job that means “life or death” for anyone, so when things get stressful I find it super helpful to take a step back, breathe deeply, and remember that comics are supposed to be fun. Don’t panic, it’s just comics.
Lu: I loved your PanelxPanel feature about the role of an Editor in comics. One part I found particularly insightful was the section about who holds “the keys” in creator-owned work as opposed to in for-hire comics—the idea that, at Marvel, you and the other editors have final say over what happens to a character whereas in creator-owned work, you play more of an advisory role. The creators have final say.
Now, even though you, as an editor, do have the final say on a for-hire book when working at a company like Marvel, I imagine that there are challenges associated with that. “With great power…” and whatnot. Could you speak to what some of those challenges are?
Antos: First and foremost, I would say one of the biggest challenges would be having to say “No” to good ideas that for a number of reasons just are not feasible within a current status quo. Sometimes a writer will send in a fantastic pitch, but because of other things going on in-universe, that story just isn’t able to be told. And those are the hardest ones to walk away from.
Lu: Conversely, what has been your favorite part about being an editor on creator-owned books?
Antos: The freedom to tell whatever story we want; however we want! There’s no power that be that can tell a creator-owned project what they can and can’t do. So being able to work in whatever genre, with whatever co-collaborators you want, can be extremely freeing and rewarding…but also intimidating!
Lu: I know that asking you to pick a favorite book you’ve worked on would be like asking a parent to pick between their kids. So more generally, what has your favorite experience as an editor been thus far in your career?
Antos: Definitely building a relationship with the fans through the stories I’ve worked on and characters I’ve helped create – specifically with Gwenpool and Doctor Aphra. If you told me before we introduced either character that they would nearly overnight cultivate as hardcore and dedicated a fanbase as they did, I would have never believed you. Getting to interact directly with fans as Gwenpool herself, answering their fanmail as well as speaking with them when she “took over” my Twitter account, was some of the most fun I’ve had. Helping to create a bond between character and fan is one of the best parts of the job!
Lu: With the new year, of course, comes new changes. Congratulations on your new position at Valiant! Could you tell our readers about your new role and what drew you to the publisher?
Antos: Valiant boasts a gallery of some truly fascinating characters and concepts, and leading up to the release of 2020’s BLOODSHOT film, the comics have never been better.
I can’t talk about too much just yet, but what I can say is I’m very excited about the freedom Valiant is giving me to work with some of the best creators in the business on some very exciting dream projects.
Lu: Secrets, secrets! I know you can’t tip your hat too much as to what’s coming, but can you give us even the vaguest hint about something you’re excited to start working on in 2019?
Antos: Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows of my deep love for horror and using genre to explore the darker reflections of humanity. However, that genre wasn’t something I was able to dabble on as deep as I wanted to during my time at Marvel. This is all changing at Valiant, though. And I CANNOT wait to explore their universe through this lens!
Alex is the New Media Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at First Second, Top Cow, and Papercutz. He primarily covers DC Comics and Magic: the Gathering.