Compare and contrast: Sean McKeever on editorial mandates
J.L. Bell, who knows a lot more about this topic than me, has a great post about Sean McKeever’s varying accounts of writing DC’s Teen Titans. McKeever was responsible for scripting the comic, but the plot was dictated by editors, who have control over continuity. Here’s McKeever talking to Newsarama about writing Teen Titans in 2008, when he was still on the title:
I know people throw around the term “editorial mandate” like it’s some great horror, but I was actually really grateful for everything they had in place for me. Titans [of] Tomorrow was a story that I really wanted to revisit, and it was also really nice to have a premise thrown at me that I could dive into, so that while I was working on that, I could think a little more on my long-term plans for the book.
Here’s McKeever talking to Titans Tower earlier this month, after leaving DC for Marvel, about co-writing the Deathtrap crossover with Marv Wolfman following Judd Winick’s departure from the companion Titans series:
Marv and I were left to put together this story that was never our idea, and we gave it our best, but we couldn’t read minds and so we weren’t making editorial happy. After two passes on the plot, we were sent a new document with a terse message like, “here — write this.”
It was really, really great to work with Marv, but I won’t kid you — the poor guy had to talk me out of quitting altogether more than once during that period.
McKeever also asked that credits be changed on some of his comics because “my approved-and-drawn scripts were altered by other parties to my dissatisfaction.”
McKeever’s varying opinions are entirely understandable and may reflect the difference between the enthusiasm he felt when he was new to the series compared to the burnout when he left. It also is a good reminder for journalists, though, that a creator doing a promotional interview for a publisher who is still paying him is likely to present only the positive side of the story. Often you have to wait for the creator to be cut free to find out what he really thinks, which is why it is always worthwhile to go back and ask.