by David R. Black
Let's have a little less conversation, a little more action!
This month I decided to something a little different. Admittedly, I am a "process junkie," meaning that I love to read behind-the-scenes information and follow the creative process from initial idea to finished product. I have at least a dozen books in which creators discuss the creative process, and the best comics related ones I've read are "Writers on Comics Scripting" and "Artists on Comics Art," both of which were compiled and edited by Mark Salisbury.
CrossGen, in Route 666 #1, presented a one page glimpse at each step of the creative process. One page showed an excerpt of the writer's script, the next page showed the penciller's interpretation of that excerpt, the next showed the inker's work over top the pencils, the next added the letters, and the next added colors. I'm fascinated by the process and how each member of the creative team adds to the finished product. Comics, in their purest form, are synergy in motion.
In Fanzing #36, Nicolas Juzda, D.J. LoTempio, Matt Morrison, and myself presented a behind the scenes look at how the four of us collaborated to create the conclusion to the Vial Vile saga. I think our readers enjoyed this little glimpse into how Fanzing operates, and so I decided to do it again, but with a twist.
Instead of showing the process used to complete a work of fiction, I'm going to describe what a normal month at Fanzing is like. Ever wonder what an assistant editor does? You're about to find out! In what follows below, I summarized my daily Fanzing related activities over a course of a month. I also estimated how much time I spent working of Fanzing, mostly because I was interested in knowing.
Sunday, August 11, 2002 - I updated the Fanzing Archives to include all the articles, fiction, artwork, columns, and miscellaneous items published in issues 46 and 47. The archives consist of fourteen separate pages, and each has its own particular quirk. Some pages, such as the "news" and "interviews" pages, are easy to update. Others, such as the "art by artist" and "fiction by author" pages, take a longer time to update.
Overall, I spent two hours updating the archives, and I then e-mailed them to Michael so he can upload the files to Fanzing's servers. While doing the updates, I found a few errors (the back covers for issues 13-16 were missing) and decided to tweak the "Best of Fandom" award entries to make them more useful.
Monday, August 12, 2002 - Most weekdays I get home from work, grab a quick bite to eat, and fire up the computer. I check my e-mail and the Fanzing Forum, and then start into whatever needs to be done. The deadline for the September issue (Issue #48) is two weeks from today, and I decide to format the items I've received thus far. (In January, one of my New Year's resolutions was to not wait until the last minute to format everything, and I've stuck to it.).
I format one piece of fiction (Adrian Tullberg's "Disillusion") and two columns (John Wells' "Oracles Files" and Nicolas Juzda's "From the Bookshelf). I had read through Adrian's piece earlier, and it's good to publish. I briefly skim through John's and Nicolas' columns, but don't read through in detail because both writers have excellent track records and do conscientious work. Both writers consistently submit prior to the deadline, which makes my job much less stressful.
I create a basic table of contents page and menu bar for issue 48 before I shut the computer off for the night. Overall, the time spent on Fanzing tonight is two hours.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002 - I receive a fiction submission, "Girl of Steel, by "Dr. Thinker". I read through it but reject it due to of numerous typos. Nicolas Juzda, our fiction editor, usually reads through the fiction, but he's on vacation this month, so it falls to me. By the time I'm done reading, I really wish Nic was around to lend a hand.
After sending off the rejection e-mail, I leaf through a few comics in hopes of finding a good quote of the month. It takes a little while (I tend to get involved in re-reading the comic rather than just searching for a good quote), but I eventually settle on a bit of dialogue from Top Ten #7.
I had previously received a suggestion for a this month's Best of Fandom award, and I spend a few minutes checking it out. It looks good, and I write up a quick blurb for the site and format it.
While doing the BOF award, I notice that we haven't received any interest from artists looking to do the back cover. I head over to Contributor's Central and, gasp, we don't even have a front cover artist lined up! Yikes! I quickly post an "art wanted" message on the Fanzing art forum. The artists there have been really enthusiastic lately, so I think we get a positive response
Overall, the time spent on Fanzing tonight is two and a half hours.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002 - I take the day off, not doing anything Fanzing related other than checking out the Fanzing Forum. Erik Burnham, who I found out is doing the cover for issue 48, has posted a preliminary sketch of the cover. It looks great! The Fanzing artists have really been churning out some quality stuff lately. They've always done quality work, but the current prolific rate at which they've been pencilling, inking, and coloring is phenomenal.
Thursday, August 15, 2002 - I receive a resubmission of "Dr. Thinker's" story that I rejected. It's been run through spell check and a few glaring errors have been corrected, but I still find some grammatical errors and mismatched verb tenses. I decide not to edit the story any further (especially since it's a writing challenge entry) and let the judges decide.
The challenge makes entries compete on an "as is" basis, not on how well or how much time I have to edit them. I format the story and call it a day. Time spent: One and a half hours.
Friday, August 16, 2002 - I receive the final piece of a Star Spangled Kid article from Gerald Wilson. Unlike most contributors, who submit their stories or articles in one piece, Gerald submits his in installments. I've told him that I'd prefer he submit in one piece, but he can't or won't.
Ordinarily, I'd reject all the installments and ask for one comprehensive article, but I'm desperate. It's only nine days to the deadline and this is the only feature I've received thus far. Gritting my teeth, I cobble together all four installments of Gerald's article, put them into one document, and do some editing to smooth the transitions between the installments. Time spent: One hour.
Sunday, August 18, 2002 - I begin working on Fanzing #50, which is going to feature "Fanzing's Greatest Hits." This means that we'll be reprinting all writing challenge winners, art challenge winners, and the best features and columns ever written for Fanzing.
Deciding which pieces of art and fiction to use is easy, but deciding on the columns and features is tougher. With 50 issues worth of material there's a lot of stuff to sort through. I choose the features I think are worthy of the special issue and send my list to the other editors and staff members to see if they concur.
While waiting for their feedback, I download the fiction in preparation for putting them into a special 50th issue HTML template. I won't have to re-code anything (thankfully), but I will have to do a significant amount of cutting and pasting. I decide to save that for another day.
I create a table of contents and menu file for Issue 50 before shutting the computer down. Estimated time spent: Two hours.
Monday, August 19, 2002 - I finish preparing the fiction section of Issue 50. Cutting and pasting ten documents into the template isn't hard, but it can get tedious. Like most things, Fanzing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. I crank up my stereo and put my mind on auto-pilot after the third fiction piece. Estimated time spent: One and a half hours.
Thursday, August 22, 2002 - Quite a few submissions came in while I was busy with "real life" chores on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Gerald Wilson submitted a fiction piece starring Genius Jones and the Star Spangled Kid, and Mathew Rhys submitted a Powerpuff Girls fiction piece and an "DCU Travel Guide" article featuring Hub City. I read through everything and smile - the new issue is starting to take shape.
Matt submits his stuff in ready to go HTML, which makes my job easier. I take his two coded pieces and plop them into the Fanzing template. That's easy! Gerald's story takes me a bit longer as I have to put all the installments together and code it. Estimated time spent: Two hours.
Friday, August 23, 2002 - One of the nicest aspects of Fanzing is receiving a really excellent article from out of the blue. I never know what we'll receive on a month to month basis, which can be nerve wracking at times. However, it's like winning the lottery when something like "The Return of Kheperi" A Scarab Bio" (by D.J. LoTempio, Miike Condon, and John McDonagh) shows up unexpectedly.
Full of insights, issue synopses, images, and history of the Vertigo character Scarab, I've found the lead feature for Issue 48! I spend some extra time formatting the article, really wanting to make it shine. I also ask D.J. to resend the images. For some reason, the ones he included in the article were corrupted. Estimated time spent: One and a half hours.
Sunday, August 25, 2002 - I skim through the list of what we have (and what we need) for Issue 48. Three articles, four pieces of fiction, and two columns aren't a bad haul so far! I discover that I forgot to do the writing challenge and art challenge information and quickly update the info from last issue for this issue.
Checking my e-mail, I find that D.J. has sent me the images I requested yesterday. I add them into the Scarab feature, making sure that the placement works and doesn't interrupt the flow of the article. Estimated time spent: 45 minutes
Monday, August 26, 2002 - The Mount, Trivia Quiz, and another feature (by Robert Doucette) show up at the deadline. I format them and begin to put the finishing touches on this issue, including this column! We still need a letters column, art gallery, back cover, and Michael's editorial, but I'm sure the guys are working on it. Time spent: One hour.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002 - I wait an extra day before sending all the files to Michael, mainly just to see if anything shows up late. Nothing arrives, so I put everything into a ZIP file and send it to the chief! Time spent - 15 minutes.
Summary - Over the course of two weeks, I spent approximately 18 hours on Fanzing related work. Hopefully, this provides a bit of insight into what an assistant editor does and allows some insight into the inner workings of Fanzing. We do a lot more than you think!
Thanks for reading!
David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by David R. Black
Fanzing is not associated with DC Comics.
All DC Comics characters, trademarks and images (where used) are DC Comics, Inc.
DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.
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