At Last, the Answers
I invited questions and I got them. Not as many about non-DC stuff as I would have liked but them’s the breaks. I’m going to do the best I can with what’s been asked without giving away secrets and the like.
1) It’s July 31, after 4pm. How do you like your Mets?
I didn’t want Manny Ramirez and just as happy that deal fell through. The Mets can’t seem to get into a rhythm and are the posters boys for average. They can’t seem to put together a few winning streaks to push themselves well beyond the .500 mark so I think we’re stuck for the rest of the season. They needed bullpen help and the best arm out there went to the Braves. However, we’re setting up a team that should break out of mediocrity next year when Mike Pizza is gone and they have his $15 million salary to spend on a few guys.
2) Absolute editions are hard to resist. They’re really a great format. 2005 sees four such volumes set on the schedule, including three in the last half of the year! This seems to me to be evidence that this is a format that DC is really excited about. Can we expect a similar output of Absolute editions next year?
Yes, DC likes the Absolute format but we’re being selective. 2005 was an unusual year and just because we’re releasing four this year doesn’t mean we’ll release four or more in future years.
3) What advice would you have for someone looking to break into the industry as an editor?
Ask a dozen editors how they got in and you’ll get at least a baker’s dozen replies. Having a college degree in English or related fields certainly helps. Being an intern who wows the top brass doesn’t hurt. Starting at a smaller publishing house isn’t a bad way to go. Honestly, getting any staff job in publishing, not just comics, is tough. Timing and location has as much to do with your qualifications. Determination and drive are also key qualities.
4) Who cuts your hair?
A lovely woman named Grace, who cuts not only my hair, but Deb’s, and has been handling us for, gosh, about a decade now.
5) Any plans for the ’70s All-Star/Adventure JSA/Super Squad stories? The
Wood-inked stories would fit nicely in one volume with the Joe Staton stuff filling
volume 2. This would be a great follow-up to the recently completed All-Star
Nothing currently planned but it’s something we’re always talking about given how many of us are fond of the material.
6) What are the factors when deciding which books DC decides to collect into
TPB? I ask as one of those people still waiting for the next editions of Gotham
Central and Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman…
As with any of our titles, sales history, retailer and reader demand gets taken into consideration. We have only so many hours in the day, so many books we feel will sell in a given year and we try and strike a balance across not only the DCU options but the entire line from WildStorm to Vertigo. Every year is juggling act that gets constantly refined as we watch changes in the marketplace. There will be more volumes from both of those titles.
7) What sort of work goes into editing a collected edition of material already
published in the magazine format? The actual story’s already been done, but I’m
sure there’s more to it than that when it comes to the TPB, extras or no
Well, if it’s current material, we determine how many issues make up the proper volume which helps set page count. Since we work in multiples of 16 or 32 (the way the paper is folded into signatures for printing), the story content helps determine the page count. Once we see what’s leftover, we figure out the front and back matter which can be as simple as title, credits, cover gallery and a backlist. Other times we have room and material to do things like the recent two-pager on the Flash statue in The Secret Life of Barry Allen. We also pick a cover, sometimes commissioning a new piece of art.
If it’s older material that needs reconstruction or recoloring, we determine what materials are on hand and get started on ordering film or stats which then have to checked, proofread, colored and turned into digital files. The rest is pretty much the same. Trust me, I’ve simplified it a lot .
8) Do you see any chance for softcover versions of DC Archives ever happening?
We’ve pretty much said there won’t be softcover versions. The closest you’ll find are the Chronicles series of titles we’re starting. We release Batman Chronicles this year and have announced Superman Chronicles for next year.
9) With the Showcase books coming up, (which I have preordered and will continue to with each one — I have been waiting for something like this from DC for a
long time) how obscure can the characters showcased (pun not intended) get? Not
that I expect to see B’wana Beast, Congo Bill, or Ultra the Multi Alien, but is
Eclipso or Bat Lash possible? What about Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen or dare I ask,
Superboy or Sugar and Spike?
Honestly, we have the first 10 or so mapped out and once we see the sales figures this fall, we’ll figure out what to do afterwards. By sampling major and minor heroes plus off-genre stuff in the first 10, it’ll help gauge what we think will work best. Everyone has their wish lists ready so the debating should be fun and spirited.
10) Continuing with Showcase — how often will a second Superman, Green Lantern,
Justice League et al follow after the first? And are the stories chronological?
To quote myself, “Once we see the sales figures this fall, we’ll figure out what to do afterwards.” Yes, everything is planned to run chronologically.
11) My question is, with all the work you do in the comics *field,* did you ever
want to write more (or any) comics yourself?
Good question. I don’t think I’m anything more than a middling comic book writer, but with a mere five or six stories, I also don’t know if I ever got the chance to really see what I could do. Also, I never had a burning desire to write any one character that had me campaign for a shot. At the time I did these stories, I was more interested in editing and then managing than actually writing. Also, at the time, my disciplines was more for non-fiction than fiction but that evolved with time.
12) Any non-superhero reprints (a la Jonah Hex and Rock’s Battle Tales) that
you can tell us about? I’m especially interested in old romance comics (though I
doubt there’s much of a market for ’em), Bat Lash, and Mark Chiarello’s idea for a
Best of Toth collection …
Sorry, you’ll have to wait for announcements.
13) Is DC going to try different genres with Showcase besides super-heroes (e. g., Sugar & Spike, Sea Devils, “The War That Time Forgot” from Star-Spangled War
Tales, Rip Hunter, plus countless others)?
As I mentioned, we’re looking at other genres, not just western with Jonah Hex. Again, wait for announcements.
14) Are obscure super-heroes (such as Metamorpho) more likely to debut in DC
Showcase versus DC Archives?
As I mentioned, we’re looking at other second tier heroes, not just the Man of 1000 Elements. Again, wait for announcements.
15) For SHOWCASE: Can you tell us the expected ratio between releases which have
some material already Archived and those which will be collected for the first time?
There’s no set formula in place. Everything is being taken on a case-by-case basis.
16) I’ve enjoyed a seeming change in DC’s trade paperbacks over the last three years more toward resembling graphic novels; for example, the retitling of issues as “chapters” in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and the removal of author credits at the beginning of each issue in Teen Titans: A Kid’s Game. Was this a conscious effort, and if so, what were some of the catalysts or thinking behind it? What changes or improvements do you think we’ll see in trade paperbacks over the next three years?
Yes, we wanted to improve the reading experience for everyone. By collecting these stories into one volume, we wanted the books, where appropriate, to feel like a single experience. Having the lettering all digital now helps those efforts tremendously. Since the mass market world considers any comics material between cardboard covers a graphic novel, we try and deliver on that promise.
Changes in the next three years? Personally, I’d love to see more non-super-hero stuff from our library as well as constantly experimenting with different formats from digests to coffeetable books. As the marketplace evolves, it’d be nice to find, say, a western collection in the western section but convincing the retailers this works is another matter.
17) What is some of the division of labor in the Collected Editions department?
Do the Collected Editions editors both copyedit and, say, choose the color and
embossing of a hardcover’s endpapers, or does that go to a design department?
How much input does a monthly title’s editor have on their titles’ trade paperbacks?
DC has a Collected Editions department consisting of four editors, plus a Design Department with three people dedicated to the collections. So, once we have approved titles, we divide the titles among ourselves. With the Art Directors, we discuss cover choices and decisions over the look of the collection. It’s the ADs who request special treatments on our covers, usually just the hardcovers. If we’re collecting recent material, we always consult with the original series editors from content to cover choices. Again, a very simplified version of the work.
18) A little fan speculation: The trend this year appeared to be two trade paperbacks for many titles (Catwoman, Flash, Adventures of Superman and Action/i>, Superman/Batman, JLA/i>), with JSA even seeing three, moving toward lining all the trade paperbacks up with Identity Crisis by the year’s end. Was this indeed intentional? Is there a move (or any interest) toward lining up the collected editions with milestones (bringing them all to the same timeframe as Countdown, then bringing them all to the same timeframe as Infinite Crisis)? What will the focus or some of the goals of the mainstream DCU trade paperback program be next year, during the year of Infinite Crisis?
There’s been a great deal of debate among fans and retailers regarding the timing of a collection. With no clear cut answer out there, we try and do our best when crafting a publishing plan. Obviously, with the renewed interest in the DCU as a whole thanks to these major events, we’ve quickened the pace on some collections to take advantage of that interest.
19) How much emphasis is placed when making the trade paperback schedule on catching the trade paperbacks up with “real time”? Is there a length of time that you feel is too soon for a trade to come out after the monthly issue? Too long after?
See above. I’ll add that yes, sometimes too much time has passed for a potential collection if the status quo or creative team changes and going back doesn’t make commercial sense.
20) Do you find it difficult to focus at work and not just start reading all the great classics you get to work with? I could never do your job… I’d be distracted!
Difficult? Sometimes daunting if I have to read through 500+ pages of a Showcase title in a week, fitting it in around the rest of the work. I do relish the chance to re-read a story arc in one sitting or stuff I’ve never gotten to read such as the first Archive I’m collecting for the end of this year.
21) Do you find that re-reading the classics is not as fun as it used to be now
that it is your job?
I’m still a fan and re-reading the classics is a perk. No question about that.
22) Is there any work for a young dynamic old-timer like me back at the home-ranch?
I’ve answered this one privately, but I’ll say this: if someone can still write or draw and wants to work for DC, checking with the current editors never hurts since, after all, you never know what may happen.
23) Any chance of using the new Showcase format to reprint the Rozakis-era SSOSV books and related JLA issues? I think it would make a nice tie-in to the Villains United collection.
For now, the Showcase titles are looking at a slightly earlier era than the mid to late 1970s.
24) I really appreciate the extras you put into the TPBs you edit. (For example, the JSA intro pages and the bonus cover repros in the Imaginary Stories book).
I would like to ask if you could try to include something that really shouldn’t be considered extra — page numbers. Unlike other publishers, DC is usually pretty good about putting page numbers on their books, but lately I’ve noticed more and more seem to be lacking this basic feature.
Yeah, I like page numbers too. However, it can be tricky given the way artists bleed the drawings off the bottom of the pages these days.
25) You work for media company (DC Comics) and you also do writing projects for other companies and publishers (the Eisner bio, your Star Trek novels, etc.)
Obviously, the “outside” writing you’re doing isn’t really competitive with anything’s DC’s doing. But I’ve come to realize that every media company has different policies and attitudes toward employees’ extra projects. Does DC have any (formal or informal) opinion or approval over your other projects?
Most major corporations have police regarding this and Time Warner is no exception. It’s only been a problem once over all these years so I have nothing to complain about. A buddy of mine, though, got a far more draconian document to sign over at his mega-corporation. Once he and his lawyer read it over, it became apparent that his life as freelance writer would be forever compromised. Being a member of the Screenwriter’s Guild allowed him to bring in their lawyers and the mega-corporation was stunned to see just how restrictive and possibly illegal their original document was. Things got worked out but I’m thankful this wasn’t me.
26) Does DC plan to do a TPB of Tony Isabella’s Black Lightning? And if not, can
you push for one? It’s the book I would most like to see from DC.
Never say never.
No plans right now.
28) Marvel recently published a Steve Ditko Visionaries volume. Are there any plans for DC Comics to publish any of Ditko’s DC works in trade paperbacks or hardcovers?
No plans right now.
29) Do you follow The Phantom in the recent newspaper strips? How do you feel about the comic series after Lee Falk passed away?
Honestly, it’s better written now than in Falk’s last few years where clearly his imagination and storytelling skills were fading. That said, the current daily storyline, Paul Ryan’s first as artist, has dragged out about a month longer than necessary. The Phantom is an action/adventure strip and watching him endlessly walk through a tomb has gotten very boring.
The Sunday feature, with neat art by Graham Nolan, is more lively. In both cases, though, it’d be nice to see a little more character interaction. Diana and the kids are way too off stage for my taste. It’s about time the twins grew up and we watched the current Phantom start to age and so on.
I do like the fact that both storylines are drawn by old pals of mine since I have loved the Phantom ever since I first read his adventures in the Long Island Press.
30) You have written and co-written some great comic books. Will you do any freelance work for DC in the nearest future?
Nice of you to say. Once a year, a project comes along that I’m suited to and get permission to contribute. This year it was writing nearly half the questions for a Batman Trivia Game; last year was the terrific DC Comics Encyclopedia. Makes curious to see what next year brings. Also, I do a lot of uncredited writing in all of my collections such as the Cast of Characters and What Came Before type of pages so I get to flex here and there.
31) Are there plans for more Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League trade paperbacks?
Well, I Can’t Believe it’s Not the Justice League will be out later this year and I’d still like to get the older The Secret Gospel According to Maxwell Lord back into print but no such plans right now.