Editorial Eye is a new WWAC series where we go behind the scenes with comic and book editors to learn about their role in the creative process and discover how their passion for their industry helps shape their work.
AfterShock Comics is very proud of the books they have produced in only three years. They strive to be a publisher that lets creators tell the stories they have always wanted to tell, with established creators being published alongside the up-and-comers. “Our goal as a publisher is to tell the best stories possible from the best creators out there,” explains Christina Harrington, AfterShock’s new managing editor, “We’ve been doing that and we’ll continue to do that, to put story first… We want to tell stories that’ll make your skin crawl, that’ll pull on your heart strings, that’ll challenge the way you think about the world.”
Harrington’s pride in AfterShock’s work is almost palpable. She speaks excitedly about the company’s ambition and in the books they have produced so far and what they have coming down the pipes. Her passion for the industry itself shines through in her desire to let great stories shine and to give creators from various walks of life the opportunities to share those stories.
“At the end of the day, every editor wants to be behind good storytelling—and that’s my ultimate goal. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see a disparity in the voices telling those stories. I’d like to be an editor that amplifies diverse voices instead of ignoring or silencing them. There’s still a lot of work to be done in comics (and everywhere else, for that matter) but I try to be as optimistic about the future as I can.”
Harrington shifted from her role on Marvel’s editorial team early this year. Now, after just a few months, Harrington has settled into her role as editor, working from home most of the time with a chihuahua mix puppy named Rocket tucked in beside her on the couch. Rocket is frequently the star of her tweets at @coelecanthkiss—a handle that prompted a significant tangent from this interview’s focus due to a shared love of an ancient fish.
“Coelacanths are my favorite animals, ever since I read about them in one of my dad’s National Geographic when I was a kid.” If you’re unfamiliar with this creature, Harrington would be happy to induct you into the fan club once you’ve taken a deep dive into the Wikipedia page to learn about this “ancient species of fish that live in deep water off the coast of Africa and Indonesia. We thought they were extinct until the 1930s when one was caught off the coast of New London, South Africa. Surprise!”
Educational interlude aside, other than the working from home aspect, Harrington has found that transitioning from the corporate environment of Marvel to a smaller, independent publisher didn’t require as much adjustment as one might expect. “Turns out that the driving force behind both Marvel and AfterShock is a passion for comics—it’s been really great to continue working with people who love making comics as much as I do. There’s some overlap in the creators, too, which was nice, and being able to meet new creators is the hands down best part of the job.”
Harrington takes her editorial responsibilities very seriously. Finding new voices and giving them the platform to tell their story is a big part of her job—and her favourite part, as well. “Being in indie comics means there’s more wiggle room to bringing on board new people—is your story good? Is the artist good? Then cool, let’s make a comic book.”
The other major aspect of her job is, well, editing, of course. “My editing approach is always changing based on the story I’m currently reading—I don’t feel like you can have a blanket approach to editing, since every project is going to be different. The basics for me are there, but the individual way I go about communicating notes is going to change simply because every creator is different and every story is different.”
Harrington’s experiences from Sarah Lawrence, where she earned an MFA in fiction writing, taught her a lot about helpful criticism, which is an important function within the editing role. Workshop classes had students discussing each other’s work in front of the writers, which demonstrated the need for sensitivity when delivering constructive criticism. These experiences have translated into how she edits each story that comes across her desk.
“You have to be kind when you offer criticism. Art is an extension of the self, so whether it’s writing notes or penciling notes or coloring notes, you have to understand that a TON of work went into that project. Editors are on the side of the story, same as the creators. We’re your eyes on the outside, maybe noticing rough patches you might otherwise miss. Clear, kind communication will help more than anything else—asking questions instead of demanding changes, that helps, too. There might be a reason behind that story change you didn’t consider, and you owe it to the creator for them to explain themselves. If you don’t like the explanation, that’s another story entirely. But being open to having your mind changed about your notes, being flexible when you can be, being kind but firm when you can’t be flexible—all of that is important.”
The give and take of the editing process is something that Harrington has learned more about along the way, noting that she was initially not very flexible. “Instead of thinking about the story as an editor, I was thinking about how I would write it—and my notes would almost always be geared to my preference, rather than focusing on the story the writer and artist wanted to tell. It’s their story, at the end of the day, and the editor’s job is to help them tell that story in the best way possible. Which was a hard lesson to learn, but one I try to be mindful of every day, especially now that I work on creator-owned stories.”
Helping creators bring their dreams to life through their comics is a dream come true for Harrington as well. She always wanted to break into comics, and, despite her worries as she struggled with schoolwork and working four jobs, her confidence in her goal to get into comics never faltered. “I was going to do it, dammit, even if it took me forever to get there. And I was really lucky, because it didn’t take me very long to slip in. I was back at Marvel as an assistant editor about a year after my last day as an editorial intern.”
Making it with one of the Big 2 might seem for some to be the end goal, but Harrington is finding far greater satisfaction now that she is part of the indie scene. “I was lucky to get into Marvel when I did, and I’m doubly lucky to have made the jump to indie comics, which is where my comics-loving heart beats strong.”