Blah Blah Blog – Plus One

A post from my long departed Marvel blog concerning the tendency of freelance creators to take on one more assignment than they can comfortably manage.

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Plus One

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

It’s one of the realities that you’ve got to deal with when you sit in the editor’s chair: left to their own devices, every creator, every freelancer, will take on one more assignment at a given time than they can comfortably handle. Whether we’re speaking of a penciler who isn’t really fast enough to do a monthly book, but is put on one anyway, or a writer who can handle three books a month but winds up with four, or three plus one or two special projects, the end result is the same.

There are plenty of good reasons for this phenomenon. Some of it is simple opportunity; after spending years trying to get into the business, many creators’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs when it comes to projects being offered. Similarly, some creators fear saying no, or confessing that they have limits, because of a fear that that’ll be the last time they’re asked to do anything. And some of it is simply self-delusion, thinking that you can accomplish more than you actually can, forgetting that you have a life outside of comic books that’s going to demand more of your time than you’ve allocated for it.

Any creators with a decent amount of popularity or ability are constantly being courted by editors to work on their projects–and editors have different goals, at that point in the game. The average editor is only concerned with the projects under his oversight, and doesn’t really care about the ones under another editor’s purview (especially if the other editor works for a competitor). This tends to up the self-delusion component to two, as an editor will convince himself that a given creator can handle one more assignment, and will then set out on a campaign to convince that creator of it as well, because at the end of the day, the editor wants that creator on the project he’s peddling.

And there’s no simple solution for this conundrum, in that all of the fears and concerns can be justified. Yes, there may come a time when a given creator isn’t so much in demand, so it does make a certain amount of sense to grab as much as you can while it’s still coming along. On the other hand, you would think that nothing would kill a career faster than having to hack out a massive pile of work at a substandard level of quality in order to keep up with all your commitments. But it’s a crapshoot.

It would take an inordinate dose of reality administered to creators and editors alike, up and down the line, to truly put a dent in this, and I just don’t see it happening–especially not when, much as the fans might complain about delays, they’re much more likely to support a book by a better/more popular creator even if there are scheduling difficulties of one sort or another than follow a book by a lesser/less popular creator who always delivers the job, month in and month out.

More later.

Tom B

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