Support Shawn's writng with a donation

Thursday, June 6, 2013

DC Comics bullies Writers and Artists…Does anyone know how to be professional here?

I was reading about how writers and artists were being mistreated at DC Comics and it hurt my heart. As a fellow writer, artist and publisher myself I hate to see creative people being abused like this.

It is the height of unprofessionalism to have someone like James Robinson working on a title like Earth 2 then create another title with the same characters of that universe without talking to them about it or asking for their input. That’s yanking the rug out from under them.

It is also the height of unprofessionalism to tell an artist like J.H. Williams that you want to change their story in the middle. Moreover, it’s the height of unprofessionalism to tell them they can’t use a character in a story when they spent two years building to the use of said character.

This is in addition to the numerous horror stories I've heard from numerous writers about having their stories re-written by editors without their consultation, being thrown off a project before it starts and being undermined in their creative process.

No professional editor like myself works like this. No professional publisher like myself works like this. We know mistreating talent like this leads to people quitting a company. Moreover, it leads to them going to work for a competitor and kicking our asses.

It’s clear to me the DC Comics editorial team is applying the same clumsy ham-fisted micromanaging approach that insecure Administrators in the New York City Department of Education are applying in supervising New York City teachers. Threatening, bullying and harassing people to make them do things their “Right” way. Scrutinizing their work to the most minutest details and criticizing them until they become discouraged. Trying to force things through to get the exact same “perfect” result every time.

It’s an insane environment to work in. A nightmare. I would never subject a creator to such hostile and unprofessional working conditions. Because I know all they’d produce is flat uninspired work with no heart and no soul.

In this type of hostile environment, writers and artists don’t get the support they need that helps them improve their skills. They don’t get the help that allows them to get better at their crafts. They plateau creatively and don’t take their skills to the next level.
The Current DC Comics approach to editing is not only unprofessional, it’s just dysfunctional. It stifles creativity. It stifles inspiration. It takes the passion, heart and soul out of a writers’ stories and an artists’ pictures. It’s the main reason why the work at DC is so bland, lifeless and BORING today.

Here’s how you work with a creative team as an editor:
1. You review their proposal and samples to see if they are a good fit for the character.
2. You give them the guidelines for the company’s house style and the list of standards and practices regarding content for the brand. (nudity, profanity, sex, violence)
3. You provide them with reference materials, (bios, model sheets, access to reference materials) so they can get a sense of a character’s personality or their “voice”)
4. You provide them with support (advice, suggestions, ideas) and guidance when they ask for it. An editor’s door is always open and they are always an e-mail away. I practically stayed up til eleven at night working with a writer to get their book just right.
5. You leave them the hell alone.
It’s about as simple as that. Sure there’s communication about stuff everyday like cover concepts, or color tests, or art But in most cases creators have to be given the space to do their work.

Creative people don’t need to be micromanaged. They don’t need to be harassed. They don’t need to be bullied.
If anything micromanaging a writer or an artist only keeps them from producing a quality story or piece of art. It makes us anxious and that anxiety is what’s conveyed on every page in between the lines of the story. That’s something readers can feel when they read their comics. It comes across in a forced line of dialogue, or an awkwardly drawn sequence of panels. It’s something the reader knows just doesn’t “feel” right.

Working in a field like publishing is requires an editor to trust their workers. To have faith in their ability to provide editor with the materials they can use to publish a quality book. If they can’t have faith in their people they won’t wake up with the passion and the heart to persevere and create the best quality stories.

Moreover, it’s very instinctive. There is no one “perfect” way to write a story or draw a character. Each artist or writer has their own interpretation of a character based on the guidelines given to them and the history of the character and the time they’re being written in. It’s the editor’s job to make sure that the he conveys the house standard to the writer and artist before they start work on a title.

As a writer, artist, and publisher, I believe in Do Unto Others as they Do Unto You. I wouldn’t want someone dictating to me on how to create my characters and my stories, and I don’t want to interfere in someone elses’ creative process on their characters and their stories.

That keeps that creator from being able to write the best quality stories possible. That keeps that artist from being able to convey the right images for their stories in the panels of their pictures.

I’ve had to work with other writers on commission projects (Lawrence Cherry on Commencement, a national bestselling author on her eBooks and another author on her first book Determination, Hard work and Support Equal Success) and I never touched their the heart of their story. If I did any editing, it was to help improve sentence structure and grammar. But I never did anything to their work without their permission. I understood that those were their words and their story.

I may have suggested a thing or two (Commencement was originally be called Commencement of Faith before I told Larry that it was just easier for the reader to remember one word like Commencement), but I never demanded or insisted he do things my way. Again, I understood that this was his story and my job was to provide guidance and support to him in helping him create a book that would sell in the marketplace.

All of the writers I’ve had the pleasure of working with have gone on to have great success. In my role as an editor, I understood that it was my job to give them the space they needed to do their work and a helping hand when they needed it. As a publisher, I understood it was my job to take their raw unfinished materials (manuscripts, art) and convert them into an attractive product that would be appealing to readers when put on sale.

My job was not to re-write. My job was not to threaten or intimidate. My job was not to force people to do things one way. My job was to serve those writers and give them the wisdom of my experience and the guidance they’d need to take their stories in the right direction. I spent more time listening to the people I worked with than talking to them.

It seems like no one at DC Comics understands the role of an editor. Most there see editing as an end to a mean, not a component of the craft of publishing. It seems profits and sales are coming first at DC and that’s sad. Because unless a publisher gives writers and artists the space to produce quality stories, they won’t be able to get the word of mouth that allows them to get those sales. It’s not fancy covers that sell comic books. Comics are sold based on the 22 pages of story presented in between the front cover and the back cover. If DC got back to focusing on stories, they wouldn't need to re-boot to 52 new titles every four or five years to get readers' attention.

1 comment:

  1. The height of unprofessionalism?
    More like lying and cheating and stealing. Sad that people do this.