Welcome to the triumphant return of Editorial Edits! It’s been a while but I really wanted to get back into this seeing as I’m doing so much research on comics editorial. Thought I’d try my hand at doing some of my own. Every week I’ll be combing through my new comics pile and finding something that I can comment on while wearing my fancy editorial hat.
This week Editorial Edits comes to you courtesy of the absolutely phenomenal Aquaman #6 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, edited by Sean Mackiewicz and Pat McCallum. Unless you’ve read the issue the following page probably won’t make a lot of sense. Let me hit you with some…
In this particular instance it’s not solely a matter of page construction, the story/dialogue makes this slip up an issue. Mera went to the local general store to pick up some dog food for the canine Arthur recently adopted. She is physically harassed by the manager of the store and finally, after asking him not to touch her, she breaks his arm. This page shows the police rolling up after the water witch dispatches the in-house security.
Can you figure out what’s wrong with this page? Besides the crappy quality of this photograph? Ok, let me explain: “What the hell is going on?” which is clearly said by a police officer in the first panel is answered by the paramedic in the second panel yelling “Aquawoman!” The problem here lies in the two remaining speech bubbles in this panel. It looks like Randy, the man who has just had his arm broken by Mera, replies “Aquawoman?” as if he isn’t intimately aware of her identity at this point. He then seems to refer to himself in a fit of insanity in the third bubble, “Haha, you’re scared of Aquawoman Randy?”
Doesn’t seem to make much sense does it? I think the solution to this particular situation might be as simple as moving the thought bubbles a little to the left. This would make it look like Randy was yelling “Aquawoman!” and the police would look as though they were making fun of him, which is most likely how it was supposed to be.
Can you spot another small tiny, itsy bitsy “mistake” on this page? It’s in the very last panel. Did you find it? Mera uses a double negative, “It’s not a wound he won’t recover from.” As an editor I think I might have asked Geoff why he had her using a double negative before ok’ing it, maybe have her say something like “He will heal,” but dialogue is tricky. You have to take into account the voice and speech patterns of the character. Does the double negative fit the way Mera speaks? Is it true to her character? In this case I think so, and it works.
As an editor, I think it’s inevitable that some things are just going to slip through the cracks. That’s not on anyone, especially the people working so hard on the book. You’re just too close to the material. You’ve seen these pages dozens of times and… Well you know.
I want to emphasize that Editorial Edits isn’t meant to call out any editor or creator or anything like that. This is meant to simply be an exercise in which I talk about the decisions that editors make while working on comics. The inherent problem with this is that I will almost always be highlighting mistakes or little slip ups, because when editors do their jobs perfectly, we praise the creators for their vision and talent, not the editors for putting it all together.
I’ve heard editing is a thankless job, and that when things go wrong editors get blamed. I’m ok with that, and I hope Sean and Pat don’t mind me pointing out these little mistakes. Heck, they’re probably well aware of them, but the book’s printed, that ship has sailed. It’s time to move on, and so I’ll leave it at that. Great comic this week, keep up the good work gentlemen!