Even I Can Be a Mean Editor

Last week I had an experience that showed me first hand, why Web comics are fundamentally different than print comics. At least different from the kind you'll read in a newspaper. It wasn't really anything I didn't already know, but it came such a way that I can now more clearly explain the difference between the two mediums as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the two.


As I've said in the past, I'm an editor at my campus paper. One of my columnists turned in a humor column. At one point in the piece, he made a joke about midgets. It wasn't super offensive, but I've worked for the paper long enough to know that something doesn't have to be offensive for people to get offended. The editor in chief and I discussed it and decided that not only was the joke not funny enough for us to go to town for, but it could easily be changed and still be the same joke, so we did.

???????? Naturally the columnist was upset to have his content changed. I would be too. The problem was ' and this was my epiphany ' if something's in the paper it's not entirely his content. A newspaper is a group effort and everyone involved has stake in everything printed.

???????? On the Web this is entirely different. Every Web comic creator has complete control over his content and is the only one who will be held accountable for it. This gives an unequaled level of freedom. They are a completely individual effort while paper comics are necessarily a group project.

???????? Like I said, nothing earth-shattering but I think it's a very clear example.


5 thoughts on “Even I Can Be a Mean Editor

  1. FANTASTIC OBSERVATION!! Yes!! Although, not just to hold to webcomics, but most internet stuff is beholden only to the creator (*cough*Wikipedia*cough*).

    I’ve met a lot of fledgling writers and quite a few professional authors and the good ones not only *know* how to self-edit well, but also know the value of editors and beta-readers and are able to hold their egos in leash long enough to process constructive criticism and figure it’s worth in a thoughtful manner to improve the end product.

    This applies very much to visual artists as well, who don’t always know they don’t know how to create something as well as they might, or are willing to apply themselves to their craft.

    Doing a webcomic for sh*ts and giggles is great and a lot of fun, but if you want to gain readership and maintain longevity it takes a lot more work.

    Good stuff, Geek 🙂 Later!

  2. I don’t know if I agree 100%. If you’re a syndicated artist I’m pretty sure you still retain editing rights to your work. If the paper doesn’t like a joke or comment, then they just won’t print it. I doubt that an editor has the power to physically change a comic strip’s script and go ahead and post it without the creator’s hand in the editing. You were able to edit his collumn easily since it was in word right? Do all newspaper editors have photoshop?
    It is a minor nit-picky thing and you’re main point applies very well but I just wanted to point out that a print comic still has to be edited by the artist.

  3. Lee – absolutely! A print comic still needs to be edited by the artist and that was part of my point. The skill to “self edit” is not an easy one, but it does lead to a better final product.

    Those who have syndication deals must temper their work for the broader audience. A syndicate will work with a new artist to hone that ability before they are actually published. That’s why Frank Cho chose to leave the newspapers and make Liberty Meadows a comic book – he didn’t enjoy reigning in his humour for the mass appeal (as an example).

    Later 🙂

  4. Lar pretty much said what I would have. In the case of syndicated strips, it’s the syndicate not the editor that makes the comic a group project. Everything else is the same.

  5. Lee, Newspapers can and often do change comic content. There have been many examples of editors changing the text inside of panels to make jokes less offensive. There have also been times where editors have rearranged and/or removed panels from Sunday strips. Pick up “Your Career In The Comics” by Lee Nordling to read some of these examples directly from the artist, syndicates, and newspaper editors.

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