Editing at Dark Horse Comics

I spent three months as an editorial intern at Dark Horse Comics in Milwaukie, Oregon, earlier this year and learned so much more than I could have imagined. If you’re reading this now, you most likely know that much of the publishing world, like any other area of specialization, comes with loads of jargon, or a variety of unique neologisms, for particular tasks within the industry. The comics industry, though, has taken on its own hybrid set of words and phrases, pulling from both the English publishing sphere and the commercial art world. I’d like to spend some time describing a few of the primary responsibilities of an editorial intern at Dark Horse.

DHDPs:
This is an acronym for Dark Horse Digital Publishing and is basically a catch-all term used to refer to comics produced in-house from Dark Horse. The only way to view DHDP files is through the Dark Horse Comics application, which people can download onto their smartphones, tablets, or computers, and are slightly different from other digital comics on the market. The editors often have interns do the relatively easy and safe task of checking a DHDP comic file against the hard copy on their first day. We are first given a physical copy of the comic—a “floppy”—and we read through it as we view the digital version in a special application on the DH computers called Vellum. There is an option called “Panel Zoom” in the DHDP app, where instead of simply viewing the entire comic page on your device, the app automatically zooms in and moves from panel to panel, then page to page. We must read the hard copy and determine whether or not the flow of the DHDP is correct. There are often a few hiccups in the DHDP files before they hit the digital store, so what we (the interns and editors) do is read through and make note of anything that needs to be checked or fixed. From there, we send a corrections email to the digital art department, which is on the floor above us, with a “correx” email. This may just be a comics term, but yes, we label the subject of the email as “CORREX,” and then list what exactly is wrong.

Work Orders:
In comics parlance, a work order is a form with directions for what exactly goes into and onto a comic book, trade paperback collection, or art book. It is a guide sheet for the design department for when they put together the entire book, and includes instructions on what to put on the front and back cover, on the inside sleeve, the spine of the book, and the order of the interior contents of the book. For example, most comics consist of story pages—maybe 80 percent or so, I would estimate—extra pages for supplemental material from writers, artists, or editors, advertisements, letter columns, etc. These components are written into the work order, on what pages they are supposed to be on, and how many should appear in or on the final product. The work order also includes the size and material of the actual object: the trim size, the paper stock, whether or not there is a sleeve cover, the ISBN and barcode information, the updated indicia, and contact information. Everything we gloss over when reading books is what pops up on a work order sheet.

That’s all for now. Next time: Bookmaps and Comp Lists!

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