Hello from the Humanoids!

A Day in the Life of a Comic Book Editor:

The things I do mostly correspond to what I have always done at school, except that there are a lot more pictures. I read books, think about them, and make changes. Any time a book is made here, it is put together in what would be a publisher’s version of a rough draft, and I read it. There are usually lots of problems on a first read-through: badly-placed speech bubbles, typographic errors, bad punctuation, mistakes in the coloring (one time I found a main character who was in the background of a picture, whose hair had turned from blond to black!).

After I read it, I pass it to the “Éditeur en chef” who does her own read through, saying which of my changes should be integrated into the next draft, and which ones she doesn’t agree with. After that, the book gets sent to the head graphic artist, who does a third read-through, focusing on the images and the appearance of the lettering, and noting mistakes there.

THEN it gets sent with all the changes to be made to the graphic interns, who go through the many changes and DO them. Then it gets passed back to me to make sure that everyone’s changes were properly put in place. The graphic interns and I usually play a few rounds of hot-potato at this stage of things.

After everyone is (almost) entirely sure that there are no more changes to be made, the book gets sent to the printer, who is “in China” (I never get any more information than that; every time anyone communicates to the printer they talk “to China”). They send us a final cut to read through once again before we give the go-ahead to do an actual print job.

I find myself reading hundreds of pages every single day–much more volume than I have ever read before in any given period of time. Because not only am I reading the French version, but the US office (Humanoids Inc.) has also been taking advantage of the the first anglophone intern in a few years and using me to read the English translations of many French titles. And then, there’s my personal reading, which has been a mix of Victor Hugo and the Humanoïdes Associés classics. I’m currently halfway through the Jodorowsky-Moebius masterpiece L’Incal.

One other responsibility that I will mention briefly (there are still many others) is probably my least favorite thing I have to do here on a regular basis. It is me and me alone who receives all of the project proposals we receive for publication. I have to read them, look at them, and decide whether or not they’re good enough to send on to the head editor and the literary director. It sounds like a fun and interesting job, but that’s until you realize that it also involves responding to these artists–countless sincere and talented artists–and in the VAST majority of cases tell them that we can’t publish their book. I have received perhaps 100 projects, and so far I have passed on one. Most of these are the creations of many years of work by professionals. Many of them even went to school to create these pieces of art (France has colleges just for comic book writers!).

This brings me to the new things I was given to do today, the first of which was the task of destroying a large pile of books. These are books that belong to the company and of which there are new editions that have replaced the old, but the old books are beautiful. It is not enough simply to throw them away; no, I had to stand outside next to the trash can and individually rip apart 50 or so books, to ensure that they couldn’t ever be resold. I’m not sure why they gave this task to the editing intern (read: the token book-lover) when there are marketing and law interns right downstairs, unless it was to hammer home my rude awakening to the harsh realities of the publishing world. Ripping a book apart is almost like what I imagine slaughtering an animal to be. In order to keep my conscience subdued I had to avoid opening the book and looking at the words–the same way I’m sure anyone working an abattoir has to avoid the eyes of the animals he processes.

On a more joyful note, I was was also given the job today of delivering books at the residence of the legendary Alejandro Jodorowsky a science fiction revolutionary and a household name at the Humanoïdes. He lives in a big and beautiful apartment next to a big and beautiful train station, and I was really hoping that he would be home. He wasn’t in, but his wife is very nice. And I got to see his desk–it’s just as cluttered as mine.

This internship is co-sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. Professor David Sedley is the faculty advisor.