Another lovely title/credits splash page by Jonathan Rector!

As touched on yesterday, there was a bit of an editorial battle-of-wills going on behind the scenes in the production of this issue.  So, I’ve once again brought in editor Steven Forbes to talk a bit about his memories of the conflict…

Welcome back, Steve!  Now, this opening scene for Chapter 3 is quite different from the first draft in the script.  Originally, this issue opened with a group of masked kids on a bank heist, and The Standard stepping in to stop them.  Can you remember your thoughts on that early version of this chapter?

I’m getting old, John, and my memory is going…

Let’s see if I can remember this without the benefit of email.
I like to start back at the beginning. I remember we went through the plots, and I approved them all after some minor tweaking here and there.
I saw you growing from issue to issue, like a flower blooming.
When we got to issue three, though, the plot that was written and approved, and the story that was written based on that plot–they didn’t fit. There was a huge disconnect because you had grown as a writer. It was going to need a total rewrite.
I remember thinking to myself, John isn’t going to like this.
And I was right.
Yeah, if I can recall, one of your biggest problems was that the grief over the loss of Alex Thomas – which in the process of writing issue #2 came to the forefront a lot more – was almost entirely absent in my first draft of issue #3.  And so you wanted a radical structural reworking that brought that more into focus and, in the process, totally removed this incredibly elaborate, intricate bank robbery sequence that I had taken AGES writing.

And my calm, measured reaction was a little bit like this:

After I’d got that out of my system, I wrote an e-mail back to you all like, “But… but, we approved the plan months ago and you were fine with the scene breakdown back then.  How can you not like it now that it’s written?  Isn’t the whole point of doing a plan ahead of time to stop things like this happening!?”  Do you find this happens often, as an editor?  That in the process of a story going from a rough plan to a full comic script, it shifts and changes and becomes something different to what you originally expected?
I remember talking to my wife after I got your email.

“John’s going to fire me,” I said.
She didn’t believe me.
She, however, didn’t feel your frustration. I did. I knew you weren’t happy, and I knew that if I didn’t get you to see it from my point of view, you were going to never trust me again, and you were going to fire me.
Most of the time, the plot is the plot, and things don’t move that much. Writers don’t grow that much from issue to issue that would cause the need for a rewrite.
And I had to stick to my guns, because I knew it was right for the story. It was your story to tell, but I had to make sure I was doing right by the story and by the reader. And I knew that you were going to kill me. I could feel it in our exchanges. You heard me, but you didn’t trust me. To me, it felt like you thought I was trying to change the story because I was on a power trip or something. Especially when I sent you a revised plot to springboard from.
I didn’t think an ocean would be enough space between us…
I was definitely rather annoyed!  But one thing I’ll disagree with is that, as frustrated as I was, I DID trust you.  I believe my response in the end was something like, “I really like the script as it currently stands, I don’t think it needs changed so drastically, but because I trust you and your opinion, I’ll try rewriting it your way. If I like your way better I’ll change it, and if I don’t I won’t. Deal?”  Of course, you were utterly vindicated, because when I rewrote based on your suggestions (and adding additional elements of my own based on those suggestions), the end result was much, much better.
I remember that quite vividly.

I know you didn’t want to rewrite it, but you did it. And in that rewrite lay my job.
I know what you say, but that’s how I felt: that my job was on the line. I made the deal with you, but I knew that if you didn’t like it, I’d be gone.
It was a test. A “does Steve know what the hell he’s talking about” test. And I wanted to pass, because I knew how good you were.
And when you wrote it and liked it better than the original…I felt relief. It wasn’t vindication I felt. Pure relief.
I also felt our bond become stronger, because I felt that I showed you that I wouldn’t lead you astray; that it wasn’t about my ego, but about the story. I felt that that test cemented us together.
Yeah, I can definitely see that.  I also think it highlighted just how valuable the writer/editor relationship can be when it’s working well.  An editor is someone who else who cares about the writer’s story, but is coming at it from a different perspective, so can have their eye on stuff that the writer may not be aware of, as in developing the story they’ve become so married to certain scenes and concepts that they can’t approach them with that critical eye and question them.  I was so married to certain parts of the original Chapter 3 script, but looking at the final product, there are parts here – this Zena opening, the increased focus on the fall-out of Alex’s death, the radically revised intro of Piper and his children – that wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t followed your advice, and which now feel utterly indispendable and integral.
This is what I wish more writers understood: a good editor isn’t there to muck up your story. A good editor is there to help you tell the story to the best of your ability.
I think the issue came out much stronger than the original because I challenged you, and the trust that we built over this issue saw us through the rest of the series when it came time for decisions to be made, such as cover choices.
When I didn’t get fired after you rewrote it, my wife asked me how the rewrite turned out. I said it turned out like I expected it to: outstanding. Not only that, John really liked how it turned out, too. I then told her that I think he trusts me more now. She asked me what I was going to do with that.
I said “not abuse it.”
And that “don’t abuse it” vow lasted until that time you got me to help you dispose of a body… wait we’re not supposed to tell people about that!

Thanks again, Steve, for stopping by to talk a little about the editorial process and the challenges that can crop up.  As I go through my commentary for this issue, I’ll be sure to highlight the scenes that were additions brought in through redrafts.  I’m sure the readers will agree they make this chapter richer.  Always a pleasure chatting with you!  

You can find online at ComixTribe, where he hosts weekly editing column The Proving Grounds, and on his blog The Daily Dose at Jay Crow Comics.