Monday, June 7, 2010

Everyone needs an editor

Within the last couple of days, I've seen three glaring errors in my comics. Stick with me, this isn't a fanboy rant, I've got some advice for all of us aspiring creators to keep in mind. But first, exhibits A, B, and C.

First, Secret Avengers #1 (which is IMO, the best of the Avengers family [re]launches) has a major mistake on story page 20, panel 4. Check out Rhodey saying Cap's line and vice versa. In an obvious balloon placement error, Rhodes says, "Rhodey should have no trouble with the controls," to which Cap says, "I never met a ship I didn't at least wanna try and fly." Oops.

Then, while finally reading The Mighty (vol. 1 trade), I get hit in the face again. At a key point in the story, Cole's superiors say he's been Captain Shaw's second-in-command for five years. But just a few pages later, at the press conference, Cole himself says he was the second-in-command for three years. Wh-What? Okay, maybe you miss this kind of thing when you are working in a monthly, but you don't fix it for the trade?

Finally, I'm reading some Batman issues I picked up in the quarter bin, and I get to Batman #446, where somebody clearly wasn't paying attention. Batman is skulking around at a sporting event, which is clearly spelled out by the narration and dialogue as a soccer game. However, the art is of a hockey game. And worse, Batman soon begins fighting the goalie (who shoots explosive pucks at everybody, btw) and it's clearly a hockey goalie that he fights across several pages. Was nobody paying attention?

So where am I going with this? Remember, none of these guys, writer or editor, were rookies: Brubaker/Brevoort, Tomasi/Cavalieri, and Wolfman/O'Neil. These are all creators in their prime and still a mistake got past them and into print, which only goes to reinforce the old maxim that Everyone Needs an Editor (or at least someone to read behind them).

If you're working on a story, share it with some people you know and trust to give you real feedback. If you know a Word Nerd (somebody who really knows their grammar), even better. But most people can catch a lot of things you miss in your passion to get the words on the page. A lot of people might not be able to tell you why, but they can instinctively tell you when a sentence isn't correct. (Maybe they catch a misplaced modifier or simply tell you you're spelling the contraction for "you are" wrong (you're not your).

More importantly, your readers/editors might ask questions like, How did the sword get there? After which you realize you hadn't laid the groundwork for a twist in your story. Even though you thought you had. Besides catching oversights, the feedback of friends or other writers can help you craft a better story, too, by suggesting ideas or revisions in dialogue or pacing.

And, remember, mistakes don't just make you look dumb. Mistakes can do something even worse: they take the reader out of the moment. They're a distraction that take away from the enjoyment of your story. The errant bubbles in Secret Avengers took away from what was an otherwise massive triumph. The Mighty errors made me stop and turn back and reread, ruining the flow of the story. And the Batman soccer/hockey flub: it just totally wrecked the issue for me. Can you imagine if that was somebody's first Batman comic--or worse, someone's first comic? Think about it. It probably was. And I bet that person never came back.

Marv Wolfman and the others are legends. Their books can/did/will survive these mistakes. Do you think yours will?

(And yes, I'm quite sure this post has some typos in it).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Comics taking our money

You ever feel like some publishers are just putting out comics to take your money?

Yes, I know, companies are in business to make money. I don't have a problem with that. Obviously. But as I look at the previews from the Big Two for the next couple of months, there seem to be a lot of one-shots or mini mini-series that, to me anyway, seem like a cash grab; like there's no real organic reason for the story beyond the marketing tie-in to a big event. In other words, I don't think they heard an awesome pitch for character X and then decided to do it, boot-strapping it to Heroic Age and Brightest Day. No, from the looks of a lot of these books, I think they said, "We need an additional 15 books for the third quarter's balance sheet, what can we print?"

As someone who wants to make money writing for these guys, maybe I shouldn't complain. These "extra" books are usually where new writers and artists get their break. But then at the same time, I want to make great comics, not throwaways. And when you're chasing the sale over the storytelling, you aren't likely to get either. Can you name one one-shot tie-in comic that you read--ever--that made you think, "That was awesome." I can't think of any in a long, long time.

I sure some of the one-shots and minis over the next few months will be good, but there's another reason I'm not likely to try them. At a buck-fifty, buck-ninety-nine, I might pick up a random one-shot or an extraneous mini--but at four hundred pennies minus one. No, not gonna happen, folks.

On the upside, it does appear that the Big Two are eschewing big events. For now. I hope that means they focus on storytelling: real, organic character arcs. Let's let all these great creators take the characters and run with them without having to stop every other issue to shoehorn in the Event. That's what I'm looking forward to.

See, I love you, Big Two. You can have my money.