This month's topic...What do editors do anyway?
1. Editors hire the creative teams on the books. You don't like the writer, penciler, inker, letterer, or colorist on a certain book? Blame the editor! 2. Editors work with the creative team on the book. A good writer turns out a lame story one month. Blame the editor! A good artist draws a person's ear to look like an elbow? Blame the editor-- he let the artist do it! 3. Editors work out cover ideas with artists and write the copy (written blurbs). Don't like the choice of a cover scene? Blame the editor! Don't like the cover blurbs obscuring the art? Blame the editor! 4. Editors approve the work done by the creative team and sign their pay vouchers. If you don't think the writer, penciler, inker, letterer or colorist worked hard enough for your 75c thsi month, blame the editor! 5. Editors work out long-term directions for a book with the creative team. A multi-part storyline went nowhere? Blame the editor! The lead character's life has suddenly become too depressing? Blame the editor! Nothing got in the book he or she didn't know about. 6. Editors pass along administrative decisions to the creative team. Story length change from 17 to 22 pages? Editors have to tell the creators. Can't use the word "floobah" anymore? Editors have to tell the creators. 7. Editors proofread the whole package. Spelling errors? Blame the editor! Balloon tails pointing to the wrong person? Blame the editor! Something colored wrong? Well-- ahem, it might be the color separators' fault there. 8. Editors make stylistic decisions. Footnotes not boxed off or colored? That's an editorial decision. Flashbacks colored surrealistically? That's an editorial decision. 9. Editors assemble letters pages. You don't like the answers? Blame the editors. You don't like Mark's Remarks? Blame the editor. You don't like the letters? Well, you'd better blame yourself, there. We can't print good letters if we don't get them.
So what have we learend from all this? Well, if you haven't learned anything-- blame this editor.
Today I'm going to try to debunk a myth. On several occasions, I have heard certain comics professionals (no names please) assert that there's no such thing as a bad character, there is only bad handling. Conversely, with the right handling, any character can be good. For a while, I bought that myth. After all, anyone could see that a really hot creative team could make a lame series interesting to read. Now that I've been in the business of bringing heroic fantasies to life for the better part of a decade, I've concluded that the myth is wrong. There are such things as bad characters, and good handling can do no more than camouflage a character's intrinsic badness for a time.
Let's define what we mean by "good character," shall we? In a past M's Rems, I discussed what makes a good antagonist or villain. Some of the same criteria apply for heroes, but the standards are even more stringent. A good character has: 1) One essential concept that can be clearly and fully described in no more than a sentence. For exampe, "a multi-millionaire industrialist who becomes the ultimate high-technological warrior," or "an ancient Norse warrior-god who returns to Earth to protect modern day humanity who do no believe he's a god." 2) A strong motivation for doing what he or she does that can be completely and fully explained in no more than a sentence. For example, "...who battles crime to assuage his guilt over allowing a criminal to kill his beloved uncle," or "whose devotion to the ideals of freedom and justice are so great that he has dedicated his life to serving as a symbol of the greatness all men can aspire to in a free society." 3) All of his or her accessories, paraphernalia, modus operandi. and other aspects of basic legend in coordination with the essential concept and motivation. In other words, you don't have warrior gods whose weapons magically transform into saxophones, or men getting spider-powers from the bite of a bess, or a mutant who is also a demon, an alien, a teenager, a dental hygenist, and an insurance salesman. A good costume comes under the category of accessories, and should relate to and convey the essence of the character.
And that's it. If a character has these three things together, the character "works." If not, then the character is just a random compilation of origin, costume, powers, and other details.
It is my considered opinion that Marvel has quite an assortment of good characters and, inevitably, a handful of not-so-goods. Feel free to apply my criteria to your favorites and see how they rate. Marvel even has a handful of truly "great" characters, those who fit all of the above criteria and then some, but heroic archetypes are a topic in and of itself.