Behind the Heroes : a look at the role of an Editor in Chief
When we think of comic books and graphic novels one of the first things that come to mind is the artwork, which is natural given that comic books are a story told with sequential art.
The writing would most likely be second, (or may be first for some; after all, without a story a comic book would be a series of panels that may or may not connect.
But is that all that you need to put together a great comic book?
The answer is quite simply, no.
A comic book requires a series of different roles to be filled in order to produce a solid title that is organized and doesn’t frustrate the reader when they try to enjoy it.
While this sometimes means that people have to assume multiple roles to get the title out; positions such as editor in chief, editor, writer, artist, inker, colorist and letterer must all be filled to ensure that.
At the helm of all this is the Editor in Chief; usually this is a person with a strong background in art as they not only have to assemble the team and delegate the roles, but they have to be aware of every nuance associated within the construction of a title.
Some examples from well-known industry names would be Jim Shooter stepping in to pencil pages and contributing to scripts as well as Todd McFarlane taking on the role of inker.
Often the role of editor in chief falls to the person who created the title; they know how they want their idea presented and will take the lead role.
A great example of this is Brian E Lau.
Already an artist with multiple credits on different projects, Lau assumed the role of Editor in Chief when he decided to launch his title ‘Staunch Ambition’ in a graphic novel format rather than comic book form.
“I'm simply doing everything that I can at a professional level. Anything that is beyond my ability or that I just have no time to do myself.” Lau said of his decision to take on the role of editor in chief “ I have found some amazingly talented professionals to work with. And finding the right people was not easy at all, but I kept at it until I did. The many hats needed to manage all of this is very much a trial and error method.”
When asked if becoming Editor in Chief was a role he chose, Lau responded, “This was not a conscience decision. It's just how it played out. I'm just doing everything I need to get this book out to the fans of science fiction. Then when I researched what job title fit. EIC was what my life had become.”
For many the idea of being in charge seems like an appealing role to assume, but many may not realize that it also comes with added pressures and responsibilities.
“So many things come to mind.” Lau said about some of the pressures associated with the role, “Having a day job and a wife with 3 kids at home forces me to be up till 1 or 2 am most nights to get this book done. We live in a time where we have so much knowledge within our reach, so I do spend a large amount of time researching. I really believe in this story and for years it would not leave me alone. But it's such a scary thing to put so much time and money into a vision, not knowing how it will be received. All the decisions add up to what and how good the final product will be. No pressure.”
The graphic novel is often viewed as the ‘big brother’ of comic books, and as such is held to higher standards that require a great deal more work.
So given all the added pressure, what motivated Lau to choose this format?
“Well you could say that it is a comic book series, and maybe I should. But for many people "comic book" conjures up the idea of a super hero story.” Said Lau, “Characters with giant muscle, guns, and boobs with a certain style of art and we are not doing that. This is more a Sy-Fy novel with no pencils and inks but full color paintings. I'm not saying that comic books are all as I described above. I know better but many people still do not get this.”
Despite these pressures and the added strains that he has assumed with this new project, Lau is still looking to the future for different ideas and projects. But for right now Staunch Ambition is his primary focus.
“I have this epic story that just won't let me go and my plan is to do the whole epic. We all love the stories that take us to some extraordinary place. Sometimes they can even change our lives. That is what this story has done to me. I guess that's why I'm pouring my life into it. So as long as I get a decent fan base then the story will be told, and the solar system is the limit. I just hope it happens before I bleed out and die.”
Although the project is still developing, you can still go to the website to see an over view of Brain E Lau’s Staunch Ambition, or follow the progress on Facebook or Twitter.
While the project is yet to be completed a look through the web links and reading Lau’s words show that all his hard work as Editor in Chief will be time and dedication that the fans will benefit from with an outstanding title.
It also reveals that while great art and a strong story are requirements for a good comic title, the driving force that is the Editor in Chief plays an equally important role in producing the great books that comic fans enjoy.