#MakeComics: Valiant Executive Editor Joseph Illidge

How do the pros #MakeComics? We’re here to tell you. Comicosity is picking the brains of someone who is killing it in the comics industry, and this week I was lucky enough to talk to Valiant’s Executive Editor, Joseph Illidge! Bloodshot: Rising Spirit, Livewire, Faith: Dreamside, Forgotten Queen and many more are titles that should be on your radar, and Joseph was kind enough to give us a glimpse as to how those titles come to exist.

Livewire #1 Cover by Adam Pollina

What does a typical day in the life of Joseph Illidge look like? 

There’s no such thing as a typical day in comics, so that’s a trick question!

I start answering e-mails on the morning commute to the Valiant office so I can hit the ground running once I get in. Dive into the e-mail stream to see what goodies have come in from the Valiant pool of creators while eating breakfast. Morning greetings to colleagues in the office. Reading scripts, story outlines, and pitches. Daily talk with Fred Pierce, Valiant’s Publisher. A meeting or three throughout the day with either Editorial, the entire staff, or department heads to strategize and look at all the good artwork we’ve assembled on various books. Final burst to get materials out for creators to keep moving and maintain momentum of progress. Do the final e-mail check during the evening commute!

There’s also laughter throughout all of that, and sometimes either pizza or donuts for the staff.

What time of day do you do your best work?  

Another trick question! The start of the day with breakfast is always good, because it’s the boost for a day of adventure. The return point after coming back from a lunch excursion is also good. The final last hour boost to pack in what you can is definitely a good time, too.

Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teams on your projects?

Lots of e-mails and phone calls. Phone calls are good for introductions and welcoming creators to a book, and they’re best for matters of brainstorming and problem-solving. Once everyone hits their groove, then it’s about working together to make tweaks or revisions to script and art so the books are firing on all cylinders. When you put a good team together, communication is easy because there’s mutual trust and respect. Inspiration comes naturally because writers get inspired by seeing great art, artists get inspired by action-packed scripts with character, letterers get inspired by art and good scripts, colorists get inspired by good art.

Everyone has the goal of story first, so it makes for good creative collaboration.

How do you manage your to-do list?

I have daily agendas and meeting agendas. Daily agendas are skeletons, and the chaos of working in a creative business adds unexpected elements to the body of any day. Meeting agendas involve going into a discussion with goals and benchmarks to achieve.

Not everything you need to do is a write-down. Some stuff is organic. Conversations and check-ins with colleagues. Brainstorming conversations with writers involve script notes, but after that, it’s a bit freestyle.

What is your workspace like?

There’s always new art and advance comics coming in, so my desk is a colorful storm that I straighten up at the end of every week. This is what comic book publishing looks like!

What tools are essential to your process for getting a comic launched and out the door?

Almost every department of Valiant is involved in that process: Editorial, Production, Design, Sales, Marketing.

The pitch is where it begins. Story outline is next. Multiple drafts of a script to get to a final draft. Black-and-white art. Lettering. Colors. Cover art. Assembly of all those elements into a cohesive, print-ready book file, inclusive of ads, editorial features, design pages. Various eyes checking the book for final tweaks and revisions. After all that creating, assembling, vetting, and revising, it’s time for the baby to leave the nest and go to the printer, and emerge in the world one day soon as a printed comic book!

What do you love most about creating comics?

Working with great creators and a great team of colleagues! It’s really one of the coolest jobs.

What is your favourite phase of a project?

Holding a copy of the finished book in my hands, and seeing the tangible reward of the collective love and labor of everyone involved with making that comic book.

What do you listen to or watch while you work?

Nothing. I like to stay connected so that if any of my colleagues needs to speak with me, they’ll have my attention easily instead of there being a barrier of sound and technology.

Bloodshot: Rising Spirit #1 Cover by Felipe Massafera

When you aren’t editing comics, how do you like to spend your time?

Spending time with my fiancée, catching up on shows via Netflix and Hulu, reading, cooking, hanging out with friends, trying new restaurants, having brunch at the neighborhood cafe.

Networking and meeting creators are an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?

I love meeting people, so face-to-face IRL is my preferred way. That said, I am on social media five days a week, and have met many a creator through Twitter and Facebook. Still meeting a lot of new ones!

What comics are you reading right now?

Lazarus by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, and the rest of their talented crew. Not a comic book but comic book-related, Supergods by Grant Morrison. Wolverine: Enemy Of The State by Mark Millar, John Romita, Jr., and crew.

What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?

Greater expansion into more outlets, and for comics to be a safe space for anyone who feels threatened by the world outside the panels.

Check out Valiant’s titles here and check back soon for a new #MakeComics interview!


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