Heather Antos Talks Editing at Marvel and Comics Culture
Heather Antos has made a name for herself as an editor at Marvel, Disney, Lucasfilm, Image Comics, Activision/Bungie, Dynamite. Now, she’s Editor in Chief at Unikrnand is continuing work as an editor and story consultant. Heather is a jack of all trades, and a comics veteran, so we approached her to talk about editing comics, as well as some of the culture around comics in social media.
All-Comic: You were an editor Gwenpooland several Star Warstitles for quite a while over at Marvel! For readers, that job goes pretty unnoticed a lot of the time; could you walk us through what editing those titles was like?
Antos:A dream come true! (Laughs)
The thing about making comics is every single series – hell, every single issue even within a series – is a completely different beast. With every different creative teams comes a brand new chemistry of collaboration that as editor it’s your job to make sure works. Not everyone is going to agree on everything all the time – be it other offices that want to use characters you’re overseeing, your writer with an off the wall plot point, artists with new character designs…
There’s a saying about making comics that I really like; “Making comics is a lot like alchemy.” In other words, it’s putting a bunch of different ingredients into a pot – the editorial team, the writer, artists, letterers, schedule needs, budget concerns, etc – and hoping that what comes out is gold.
Of course, that isn’t always going to happen. But I like to think that in my time at Marvel I was able to help produce a couple of those gold comics – Gwenpooland Star Warstitles being among them.
All-Comic: As an editor, at what point do you jump in and start working with the team on building the story?
Antos: It depends on the project. At a major publisher like Marvel or DC, usually the editor is on the project before there is even a writer. For a publisher that publishes creator owned work like Dark Horse, Boom, etc, and editor will join after a pitch is accepted, so there is usually a substantial amount of story already developed. And then for publishers like Image where editors aren’t necessarily on every project (up to creative team discretion) editors can be hired to work on the story as early as the pitch stage, after a project has been greenlit, and even mid-way through a story!
All-Comic: What’s your relationship with a team like? Do you see yourself more as a leader or as a teammate?
Antos:I like to describe a good editor as Team Captain. Maybe the Coach, to some. But a good editor is in the trenches with their team, not just calling shots from the bench. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together, putting these funny books to print. Every decision and action I make as an editor affects the progress and process my team can make, if I delay the writer that can then delay the artist, which can then delay the colorist and letterer and then make its way back to a full circle stressfest! Same as if the pitcher doesn’t fully communicate with the catcher can lead to a poor decision, outfielders aren’t ready, and suddenly, it’s bases loaded and there are no outs on the board. Things are about to get hairy and nobody wants that. In a situation like that, there’s only so much a coach can do from the bench – but a Team Captain, a player on the field, can maneuver and communicate and make the plays that can ultimately turn a bad day into a great project put to print.
All-Comic: I think you were one of the first comics editors I recognized by name, just because of how often other comics creators would retweet you. It seems like you always have a positive attitude on social media. I admire that because it really stands out against a lot of the trolling that can present itself in comics, and I think other people do, too! Is that a conscious effort for you? Could you talk a bit about being a popular name in comics on social media?
Antos: Well thank you very much for the kind words! Being a positive presence in the community is something that is very important to me. I had so many mentors and role models that I looked up to when I was getting started (and still do) because of their amazing presence and interaction with their fans online. Comics was one of the first communities where I really felt like I fit in and belonged – and a big part of that was because of the genuine and personal interactions I received from big name creators. The very least I can do is return the favor for the next generation of fans and creators that see me in the same light. After all, I wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for them. The very least I could do is be a decent person!
All-Comic: One of the other things you’re known for is #SignalBoostSunday. What started that trend?
Antos: When I was getting my start in comics I got a lot of help from established pros in the industry – folks who went so far as to talk or correspond with me about the process as well as those who were willing to just give a retweet of my own work. These simple actions meant the world to me and helped not only help establish myself as a creator as well, but also really helped boost my self-confidence. It’s the least I can do to help pay it forward to other creators – whether they’re in comics or not.
All-Comic: On that note, is there any work (yours or of others) that you want to boost?
Antos: Can I issue a challenge instead? I want to challenge each of your readers to pick up a comic – be it a single issue, trade, or graphic novel – of something that they never would normally buy next time they’re in their LCS. It can still be from a creator you know, but just challenge yourself to something different.
Some of my current favorite reads and creators I follow were done by doing just that – walking into my local comic shop and just buying something completely random.
All-Comic: Prequels or sequels and why?
Antos: Personally, I don’t necessarily see a requirement for either – especially if they are being forced for a money grab. As a viewer, reader, or fan, I think it’s fairly obvious when a publisher or studio is pushing a story purely to make a buck, forcing creators to scramble to try and find something that “makes sense”. Prequels and sequels only work for me if they add valuable insight to the characters and world in which they live.
I have a lot of respect for Brad Bird – the creator behind hits like The Iron Giantand The Incredibles– When The Incrediblesfirst came out and instantly became a box office hit, there was a demand for a sequel right away. Hell, one could easily argue that the film itself led directly into one. But Bird was adamant that he not do a sequel until he had “the right story.” He didn’t want to force something to happen that he knew he wouldn’t be happy with just for the buck. And I think a lot of studios and publishers could learn something from that.
All-Comic: Too true! I don’t think a lot of people knew about that connection with Brad Bird (me included), but it definitely makes sense.
You have some great insights, and I think everyone should take up your challenge to read something new; comics are overflowing with good stuff right now! Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to us, and for all the amazing content you create.