It bears repeating: In publishing, a story may begin with the writer, but it’s only as strong as the editor who nourishes it. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the most intelligent, compassionate editors in the business—and though he may not yet bear the full title (he’s an assistant editor at the moment), I know that Mike Horwitz will be making waves. While working on NYX as editorial assistant, Mike saved my bacon more times than I can count—sometimes with nothing more than a kind word. I’m proud to consider him a friend.
Okay, first of all, tell readers a little bit about yourself—like, what were you doing before you found Marvel? And how on earth did you end up in the comic book business? Was it always a love of yours, or did it take you by surprise?
Before Marvel, I was struggling to figure out what the heck I was going to do with my life. I was beginning my junior year of college at NYU as a film student, and I was miserable. I love movies, but it became very very clear that this was not the track for me. I was doing art direction and design for my friends’ student shoots and inevitably I was flaking out of all of my commitments. The one thing I did on my own and that I’m pretty proud of was a short about vegetables and their emotions. Don’t ask (or do!). But I just couldn’t do it anymore. Then I found out a classmate of mine was interning at Marvel and I think I harassed her without end until she gave me the contact info for the intern coordinator . I had always loved comics, but I never seriously saw it as a profession.
So I interned for Marvel’s print logistics department, which was not at all what I was expecting (I had glamorous visions of me sipping mojitoes with editors). But it taught me the mechanics of getting a comic printed and gave me an understanding that this is as much a business as an art form. When my semester ended, I was shocked when the company asked me to interview for a part time position as an editorial assistant, which somehow I got over more qualified applicants with degrees. It was basically assistant editor boot camp: I would help out John Barber (the NYX editor) on one or two books while also assist on some various projects for management such as submissions. Now, the workload wasn’t awfully heavy at first but I did my best to make my plate as full as possible. Which is good, right? Well, I was still in school, and thus began a rather awful trend of skipping classes and turning in assignments far too late so that I could focus on Marvel. My parents were not pleased, but they realized how much this meant to me, so they supported me as they have with everything else I’ve done.
What did you do when you first joined Marvel, and how have your responsibilities changed—say, from working on NYX, and now Laurell K. Hamilton’s book?
It’s funny. As the editorial assistant, I started out working on two books (NYX and the anthology Marvel Comics Presents) and as time went on, the number of books I worked on got bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And the number of editors and people I reported to got so unwieldly that I made this crazy excel spreadsheet to keep track of it for myself. Along the way, one of the books I assisted on was the Anita Blake adaptations. Now, I was a fan of the novels (I read them at a rather inappropriately young age along with such other naughty classics as Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Valley of the Dolls, and the Happy Hooker) and this was a huge deal for me. When I was promoted to assistant editor and moved to another office I begged for two things: that I keep working on NYX and Anita. And I’m so glad that worked out. Those two projects are definitely ones that I have a personal connection to and are intensely proud of.
You have an incredibly keen eye for story and detail. Is that an instinct you feel has been honed over the years, or was it something you always had? Has a love of reading been an influence? What are your favorite books?
Yowsers (and thank you!)!
I’ve always loved storytelling. I went to a visual arts high school for painting, and one of the things the staff drilled into us was being aware of how the different elements, subjects or media we used related to each other. Even if we weren’t entirely sure where a piece was going or what it “meant” (and I’m using big ol’ quote marks there), the inherent contrasts and conflicts within a simple composition created drama. If you have drama, you have some kind of story, even if it’s not event heavy or logical. And I think that spilled over into my understanding of literary storytelling. I read a lot as a kid and the books that always stayed with me were the ones where I lost my ability to consider them logically. Where I just outright refused to break down the plot and figure out how things happen, because I was afraid it would diminish that magic hold they had over me.
My high school English teacher told me I was a flower-for-the-forest kinda kid and while he’s right, I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. My favorite books, like House of Mirth, The Virgin Suicides, Women in Love, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, and The Long Goodbye sucked me into worlds that are so completely imagined that the details of character, costume, and setting distract from the mechanics of making stuff happen. I eat that detail up like crumb cake. But at the end of the day though, comics ARE plot-focused, though, so that’s something I have to really push myself to be more aware of.
Do you have advice for people looking to break into the comic book business as an editor?
Probably the best thing you can do if you want to be an editor is read. DON’T just read comics, though. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on. At the end of the day, that will give you a HUGE range of reference that you can bring to your work. It will make your critiques richer and more insightful. There are hundreds of people who know everything that ever happened in an old X-Men series, but that doesn’t qualify them to understand storytelling. It may even hold them back.
And go to galleries or conventions. Talk to artists about their process and what it is that gets them moving. Your job is to motivate them when they are at their lowest and they have to feel like you have their back. So knowing how to create a dialog with them is key. They aren’t cattle…but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have to herd some.
What projects are you working on now, and is there anything you can’t wait to get your hands on?
Aside from the books I assist on like Nova, War Machine, Thunderbolts, and War of Kings, there’s a bunch of really cool things coming down the pipe, and some of them with a few members of our NYX crew. Robin Furth, who I’m working with on the Dark Tower series, is doing a Spellbinder story for the “Astonishing Tales” anthology that’s going to be illustrated by our amazing inker Ramon Perez and colored by John Rauch. Spellbinder, for those not familiar, is this awesome 80’s creation: she’s a telekinetic girl who’s gained control over the forces of chaos and order. And she wears a ballet unitard like Jane Fonda. Robin has a really neat update for her that I cannot wait to see Ramon bring to life. Sara Pichelli, who helped out fabulously on NYX is drawing a short story by Kathryn Immonen that flashes back to Peter Parker’s college days. It’s Hi-LARIOUS, and I can’t wait for Sara’s schedule to free up so she can tackle it. Kalman Andrasofszky and I have made a blood pact to do a Dakota North story. It WILL happen! Maybe not tomorrow…but ONE DAY!!!
As for what I can’t wait to get my hands on, that’s simple: the outline to NYX volume 3! ☺