Inside Dark Horse Comics, Part II

I worked as an editorial intern at Dark Horse Comics in Milwaukie, Oregon, during PSU’s winter term this year, and while I was there, I ended up learning more than I ever anticipated. In my previous post on my time at the Dark Horse offices, I focused on explaining DHDPs and work orders. In this entry, I’ll continue my detailed look into what exactly a comics editor does, and I’ll focus on two more editorial tasks: creating bookmaps and comp lists.

Bookmaps (or BKMPs):
I think of work orders and bookmaps like siblings. While the work order is more of a text-based document, the bookmap is more visual (I think of it more like an actual map). I would often fill out a spreadsheet in Excel showing precisely what goes into the book, column by column. On the left side of the spreadsheet is a listing of every single page of the book and a brief description of what goes on it. If the book is a longer trade paperback, the bookmap can end up looking overwhelming and rather redundant (e.g. PAGE 7, STORY PAGE; PAGE 8, STORY PAGE; ad infinitum), but it is necessary for the design department to have this and it is helpful to see what will happen in a document before it goes to print. On the right side of most bookmaps is basic information from the work order, like the size, paper material, or general content information. If a bookmap for a comic is a twenty-two-page issue of a recurring series, it is quite easy to bang through one of them. If you have set up a bookmap properly from scratch, the rest of the issues for that series should be a cinch since you are, in theory, only changing a few bits of information on the following BKMPs.

Making bookmaps is not necessarily difficult, but it is a good exercise in staying disciplined and honest in your daily work. Making sure things are consistent and being consistent yourself are two fundamental characteristic one needs as an editor.

Comp Lists:
In the publishing industry, a comp list is used as shorthand for a book that is comparable to another recent title—a way to narrow the focus of the book’s marketing strategy. However, in comics, comp lists are actually short for complimentary lists. They are lists of people who are owed a certain number of copies of the book because they have worked on said book that is ready to publish. Artists, writers, and other team members are often owed a specific number of copies per their contract with Dark Horse.

As an intern or an editor, we are required to research the entire team that had a hand in producing the book and look around the contract and voucher files in the database to see what and how many copies are owed to whom. Very often, artists and/or writers are owed roughly eight to ten copies of their own works, colorists, either two or three, and letterers, two or three. Editorial often receives one to two copies, and the editorial director receives exactly one copy of everything Dark Horse publishes.

This was a relatively simple task that allowed me to get familiar with the contents of the editorial department server, which is massive and confusing for a day or two just because there’s so much content on it. Again, though, once you’ve gotten the hang of it and understand much of the industry jargon being used, it is merely somewhat-fancier data entry work. It also gave me a peek into the economics of the industry, at least from the perspective of a medium-sized publisher like Dark Horse. Seeing what properties are connected to more or less money and how comps are doled out informed me of that sometimes-invisible hierarchy that definitely exists in the comics world.

If you are outside the book publishing community, or even within the circle, some of these tasks may not sound all that thrilling. While they are sometimes tedious and time-consuming, they never feel burdensome if you have passion for the medium you’re in. Thankfully for me, that’s the case.

For more information on Dark Horse Comics, please visit their website.

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