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UNDER THE RADAR (C2E2 EDITION): Jordan White & Editing Marvel Comics

Posted on May 3, 2014 at 5:18 am by Heather Antos

jordan-marvel-blog_400x400Jordan White is quite possibly the coolest person I met while at C2E2 – he definitely has the coolest mustache! When he’s not serenading panel attendees by playing the X-Men Theme on a ukulele he can most often be found editing comic books such as the Deadpool series for Marvel. We had quite the interesting conversation about what it is to be a comic book editor as well as the editing process!


HEATHER ANTOS: Throughout your time at Marvel you’ve held a number of different editorial positions. You’ve been an assistant editor for Uncanny X-Men, you’re the editor for the Deadpool and all the Deadpool miniseries, editor for Thunderbolts…How do all of these different jobs vary from Assistant Editor to Editor to Senior Editor?

JORDAN WHITE: Well that’s a very good question! Basically when you start out as an assistant editor you’re teamed up with an editor on every book. So, the editor of the book is the one who is most responsible for it, the one who makes all the final decisions, but as the assistant you do everything you can to assist. It’s really a variety of things! Because they’re new and don’t know a lot about the process, the assistant editor is going to be focused on just the physical things that need to be done; moving files around. Files will come in from the penciller, they have to make sure they get to the inker, things will come in from the inker and they make sure they get to the colorist and letterer, and things like that. When the lettering comes in they make sure it gets through proofreading and through everyone who needs to read it. Those are the simplest parts of being an editor. Things that don’t really need to be thought about but need to be kept track of – and there’s a lot to be tracked! But the more experience they get, and even earlier on they’ll start to get more familiar with the material and might start giving notes on content.2615273-cover

I was hired at Marvel by Mark Paniccia and the first books that I worked on were mostly the young readers’ line (which doesn’t exist in the same form anymore) Marvel Adventures. Mark was a really great person to learn how to be an assistant editor, how to be a Marvel editor from. So very early on I was already reading scripts, giving notes on scripts, and discussing story points with him and things like that.  That’s the most important part of being editor; being able to perform the non-scientific voodoo that makes a comic. It’s a weird thing to say, I know!

Tom Brevoort likes to say it’s much more alchemy than science.  When casting a comic book it’s pairing ‘this writer’ plus ‘this artist’ plus the inker and colorist. You know, maybe you’ve seen something they’ve done before but whatever they do now is not going to be the same. You kind of just have to think “If I throw all those ingredients in a pot I have a vision for what that’s going to be!” And then to think about how you can make the book the best version of what it can be – that’s the most important part about being an editor, but that’s something you have to learn!

So to get back to your actual question – The progress at Marvel is you start out as an Assistant Editor, you’re working with an editor collaboratively to get everything done for the book. The longer you’re there the more responsibilities you get. Then you start to get your own books to edit while assisting others; for example when I was assisting Nick Lowe on all the X-Men books I was also editing Deadpool. At this point I’m no longer assisting on anything and I actually have assistant editors working on books with me. The next step up, Senior Editor, is to oversee other editors; All the books that I edit go through Mike Marts in the X-Men office. He doesn’t look at them to the degree that I do as editor, chances are he’ll only need to look through them once to double check content. If there was anything really awful in the book he’s the one who would say, “I think there’s something things that could perhaps be done better,” followed by suggestions.  And then above that is the Executive Editor and then the Editor-in-Chief, but those are really a whole separate ball game!

3690511-25aHA: Having then worked on a multitude of titles throughout your career, do you prefer having a larger number of titles at a time?

JW: Well, that’s a really tough decision! Right now I’ve just transitioned to this place where I’m editing and having assistants. In addition to having to let go of things, it’s taking some getting used to, because in some ways it feels like I have less work than I’ve ever had. The period before this was the busiest I ever was – I was assisting on all of Nick’s books, I was editing my books, and then from a certain point of view I was assisting on my own books. And now I’ve gone from “three jobs” to “one job.” So on some level I feel like I have so much free time.

Having to move non-stop and go crazy has its own pluses. It’s kind of awesome and exciting in a way. One of the other reasons I feel like I have less work than I did is because: One, I do! And two, I just finished a project called Deadpool: The Gauntlet. It was the Infinite comic that we did and it came out weekly.  Infinite Comics are different than print comics in many ways. Simply because they are a different process they are more work. Not only was the process of putting the comic together different, but it was weekly as well. It was non-stop! We got to a certain point where the deadlines became ‘Everything is late, always!’ At the same time we were finishing Deadpool: The Gauntlet we were working on Deadpool #27 which was something like 13 different artists, 80 pages. Those two projects both took so much time! And now that they’re both over I feel strange.

That being said, there is definitely a benefit to having fewer projects because then you can focus on them more. You can devote much more time to saying, “I’m going to make sure it’s as good as humanly possible!” When other times you have to make choices. I guess naturally speaking I want more books.

HA: You had mentioned previously what the most important part about being an editor was. What’s the hardest part?2758793-02a

JW: The hardest part is when things…when things don’t go the way you want them to. To go back to the ‘alchemy,’ you know, when that doesn’t go off the way you had envisioned it can be really tough. It can be tough to say, “This is not what I thought it was going to be. I was imagining ‘A’ and I ended up with ‘B’.” You then have to decide what’s best for the project. Is it best to take that ‘B’ and smash it until it becomes an ‘A’? Or is there a way to change gears and aim for a different goal and make that work as best we can?

It’s difficult because sometimes what happens the elements come together differently than you anticipated. You don’t want to tell your artist or write they didn’t do a good job – most of the time they do, they’re doing their best and trying to make a good comic same as you! I then have to give notes and try to decide what notes are the most important. Do I go back to the artist and ask them to redraw a page because they don’t understand what’s going on? But then I have to weigh that against when the book has to come out. Or, do I go to the writer and ask them to rewrite the scene to match the art? The editor has to weigh all these options against each other and the deadlines for the book itself.

HA: There is a ton of resource material out in the world for comic creators who want to become writers or artists, but there’s a lack of information for those of us who dream of being comic book editors. Do you have any advice?

JW: Well a lot of people who I’ve seen talk about wanting to become editors most of them actually really want to be writers. I can understand why people think that way, it’s definitely happened. And, of course, in the early days of Marvel everyone did everything! Nowadays it’s a little different. But, every once in a while I do meet someone who legitimately wants to be an editor and that’s terrific! It is a very small group of people. Marvel puts out, I don’t know, seventy-something books a month and there are less than twenty people in Marvel editorial.

Night_of_the_Living_Deadpool_Vol_1_2_TextlessIf I were to look at my own experience, before I got a job at Marvel I ran a radio show at my college. It was a free-format station – you could do whatever kind of show you wanted. Most people would do a regular music station. I wanted to make stories so I did a “radio series.” I created a bunch of radio serials for that show. It was a ton of work. I could not physically write them all. I brought in other people to help write; obviously I needed a billion people to act in them. I edited the scripts as well as edited the audio….there was a ton of work involved. But, it was very similar to being an editor at Marvel in that it was about working with people, getting a large group of people to collaborate on a certain project, rallying everybody to get it done by a deadline, working with other writers…I think that doing all of that – and the necessity of doing it on that schedule – gave me a good basis of skills to be a Marvel editor.

Most people don’t know what an editor does unless they are really interested in it. In Comics we call it an Editor, but I would say it’s much closer to a Producer; in addition to working on the content of the project you’re making sure it actually comes out. I guess the only way to get experience is to edit your own comics, produce your own projects, things like that! Those are the things I would pursue.

HA: Any last comments on editing and your experiences?

JW: I really love it! I really think it’s great! Being able to collaborate with people like that? It’s great getting to work with such great talented people and to be able to find people out there doing great work and then to bring them in to Marvel is also really terrific! That is a really great feeling, you know, to help people make great work!


To Read Marvel Comics:

To Visit Jordan White’s Blog:

To Follow Jordan White:  @cracksh0t


Under the Radar is a column where I, Heather Antos, interview comic creators, writers, and artists of all kinds about their talents, skills, and projects to come! If you know of a comic creator who is Under the Radar and waiting to be discovered by the comic industry, contact me: @HeatherAntos

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