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LESSONS LEARNED #9

By Chris Gumprich. (Originally posted June 20, 2005)

This is why I write comics.

The pages were coming in, and despite the few early hiccups they were fairly close to my vision. The letterer had been brought on board and was working feverishly at my spare computer, digitally lettering pages to the strains of "Timothology 2002." I composed press releases, arranged advertising, and confirmed my slot at the printers. After well over a year of stress and worry, things were finally coming together. I was feeling pretty good, and not even the occasional cry of "those tears, those damned tears" would not distract me from the goal. All I was waiting for were the final eight pages (promised to me two weeks ahead of deadline) and the Brian Wood cover art. Once everything was in-house, I would be able to put together the submission packages for the three targeted distributors, as well as preview packets for reviewers and select professionals.

We set up a basement studio so that Hlady (the letterer) and I could work without disturbing my wife. This was the only part of the creative process where I was directly involved, other than the script, and I loved it. Being able to bounce ideas off one another, making changes as needed, watching the scenes take shape - I could understand why so many artists set themselves up in studios. Writing is normally a solitary profession, with many long hours spent alone at the keyboard. Watching Hlady doing the work reminded me that this was all a team effort. I wasn't the only one with a vested interest in seeing this project finished.

There is nothing more exhilarating than watching the pages as they move to completion. Up to this point the story was nothing more than words on paper, and now, three years later, things were finally coming together. In retrospect, it's no wonder that I was fixated on the February deadline/May release date schedule - I had waited a long time for this, and I was not prepared to wait any longer than I had to. In other words, I was impatient. Not a good quality for an editor to have. An even less admirable quality in an editor who was editing his own work.

At last, the final eight pages arrived, and here I made my final two mistakes as an editor. One mistake was the artist's fault: lead character Jack Douglas was drawn with crossed eyes in the final panel. At least I thought the eyes were crossed. I wrote this off as me being too overcritical and sensitive after finding the earlier errors. I repeated my Ed-Woodian refrain of "nobody will notice." The other error was an error of writing - I had violated the cardinal rule of "show, don't tell," in one panel where Jack narrates his actions as they happen. I didn't notice this mistake until well after the book was released.

Remember: no matter how small the error, somebody will notice. Guaranteed.

Everything was coming together. but the cover had yet to arrive, and a bad cover could sink the book before it's even released. The little nagging doubts wouldn't go away. Sure, I was working with an Eisner-nominated artist, a professional in every dealing. but what if his schedule suddenly became so jammed that he wouldn't be able to finish the cover in time? What if he decides that he doesn't want to be associated with a no-name like myself? What if he loses his drawing hand in a horrible glazing accident?

I needn't have worried.

The email arrived, cover attached, with a simple "What do you think of this?"

Isn't it nice when things work out?