12 December 2006

Iron Editor: Brevoort vs. Alonso

Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort (who oversees New Avengers, Civil War, and Fantastic Four, among others) offers a peek into his editing process that the cynical observer might parse as an explanation of the delays behind Civil War, among other things:

Different editors work in different ways, in terms of how they approach the actual editing of the story in a given comic book. For example, as near as I can tell, Axel Alonso focuses the majority of his efforts on the initial full script--once he's got what he considers his "master document", the story is largely locked, and he'll only make minor tweaks to adjust for vaguarities in the artwork or issues of continuity in the final lettered book...

I do the bulk of my heavy lifting after the artwork is done, at the lettering stage. At this point, I've got something approximating the final comic book to look at, and I find it far easier to see what's going to play on the printed page and what isn't at this stage...

The thing you need to keep in mind if you're going to approach things this way is that it's just about impossible to fix a major story structural problem at the lettering stage--so you need to be certain you've got them all licked before you give the go-ahead for the artist to draw. And quite often you're borrowing against the future--leaving some problem of dialogue or plot substance to be repaired at the lettering stage because you don't have the time to deal with it properly at the script stage, because the artist is waiting for something to draw. This will often come back to bite you in the behind when the lettering shows up, just as under-the-gun as the script was, and the same problem is staring up at you from the lettered pages. (Dealing with that problem now is likely why you don't have time to properly police the script for the next book you're working on, and why you borrow against the future again!)
So, let's get this straight.

Alonso edits full scripts before sending them off to the artist, while Brevoort depends on the artist to illustrate an unedited script (or plot, when working "Marvel style") and then tries to make the story fit with what he's given.

And this seems like a reasonable way to work to him?

While there are certainly many different ways to do things, there's as many very wrong ways to do them, and Brevoort's method -- which he admits effectively robs Peter to pay Paul, leaving both broke -- strikes me as astoundingly wrongheaded. I don't usually pay much attention to who the editors are of the comics I read, especially the Big Two stuff, but I'll have to check and see if Brevoort is currently editing anything still on my pull list, or if like New Avengers and Civil War, he's responsible for other titles I've cut over the past year or two.

Considering the higher value I generally put on story over art, I'm guessing his books wouldn't appeal to me as much as Alonso's, and other editors who work like him, would.

[UPDATE: Much to my surprise, Brevoort "edits" Captain America, which suggests to me that Ed Brubaker is an even better writer than I thought!]

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