Robot 6 Q&A | Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons on moving from marketing to making comics
Earlier this year Jim Gibbons, publicity coordinator for Dark Horse Comics, made the jump from the publicity side of the business to the creative, as he became an assistant editor for the publisher. Old habits are hard to break, though, so when he emailed me recently to suggest a few possible interview subjects he’s been working with in his new role, I thought I’d see if he’d be interested in answering a few questions about his new job.
We spoke with Gibbons, who is also a Wizard Magazine alum, about his move to Dark Horse back in 2009, so catching up with him again about his new role seems to bring everything full circle. My thanks to Jim for agreeing to answer my questions.
JK: When did you start working for Dark Horse, and what were you hired to do?
Jim: I was hired on as a publicity coordinator in 2009. In fact, Sean T. Collins interviewed me about being hired by Dark Horse for Robot 6 way back when! As a publicity coordinator, I was responsible for arranging stories (interviews, previews, artists process pieces, etc) with a number of different online outlets and just generally doing everything in my power to get coverage for Dark Horse projects both big and small. I was (Still am!) a massive comics fan, so making it my business to learn the ins and outs of numerous different comics and graphic novels in order to promote them properly was a pretty fun way to make a living. At a certain point, putting in a lot of effort to increase the amounts of online publicity Dark Horse was getting on top of my passion for these projects and comics in general gained me some recognition by folks like Dark Horse president/publisher/head honcho Mike Richardson, VP of marketing Micha Herschman, senior managing editor Scott Allie, editor Sierra Hahn and my old boss, the director of publicity, Jeremy Atkins and the prospect of moving over to editorial was put on the table. (A big, big thank you to those fine folks, by the way! Especially Scott Allie and Sierra Hahn—many, many thanks!) I excitedly confirmed I’d love to move to the editorial department and when the stars aligned, I was transitioned from one dream job to the next!
JK: Was it always your hope to one day move from marketing/publicity to editorial?
Jim: Oh absolutely, but I didn’t really know if it’d ever be a possibility. I always thought, “If I do well in marketing, maybe I’ll get a chance to do something on the creative end at some point.” I always hoped I’d get a chance to actually work on comics instead of working around comics, I just thought it’d take a lot longer to get to that point. So, being the assistant editor on some of Dark Horse’s biggest Fall launches at age 27? Pretty excellent! I didn’t expect things to go quite this well, but I’m not complaining. Now I just have to make sure I don’t fuck it up…
JK: What are your job responsibilities in your current job, on a day-to-day basis?
Jim: My job is very much a supporting role in the comics creation process. I’m an assistant editor, so my primary job is—shockingly—to assist an editor. I work with editor Sierra Hahn (Green River Killer, Kull, co-editor on Angel & Faith and Buffy Season 9), so if she asks me to do something, I do it. To elaborate, the tasks I tackle range from reading and making notes on scripts and art; communicating deadlines to creators; passing along notes on the aforementioned scripts and art to creators; finding reference materials for artists; writing up work orders for our design department so they know what needs to be included when they construct credits pages, letter columns, logos, etc.; helping in the creation of cover art concepts; checking art and dialogue for inconsistencies/errors… the list goes on and on. I also end up writing solicit text for the books I work on. It’s a mixture of necessary paperwork and getting to participate in the creative process. In the end, though, as I mentioned, this is all done in a support capacity. I run everything I do by Ms. Hahn for final approval.
JK: Are there lessons you learned in your previous job that you’ve applied to your new position?
Jim: A lot of the attention-to-detail skills I honed during my journalism days have certainly helped me in my position as an assistant editor. I’m one of a few different sets of eyes that goes over everything I work on before its published, but I’ll notice things that other folks don’t and then have to pay attention to the things Sierra picks out that I’ve missed… growing and ever improving as an assistant, hopefully! A lot of the job is about communication with artists, writers, colorists, letterers and different departments at Dark Horse as well, so years of practice expressing and explaining myself via email and over the phone in both my time in journalism and Dark Horse PR have been hugely helpful in that regard.
JK: What’s been the biggest surprise in your new job?
Jim: How much people I work with listen to the input of the lowest man on the totem pole. Or rather, that the input of the low man gets listened to at all! Ha ha! Seriously though, I’m lucky enough to be working with an editor who encourages my input and creators who’ve been very kind about a lowly assistant adding his thoughts to the creative process. It was, and continues to be, a very pleasant surprise.
JK: What are some projects you’ve worked on (or are currently working on)?
I did some work on two archival books that I’d recommend: The Savage Sword of Kull Volume 2 and Brain Boy. Kull is yet another brilliant edition in Dark Horse’s Robert E. Howard line that I was a big fan of before working at DH. It’s definitely a thrill to have my name pop up in the credits of a barbarian comic! Brain Boy is one of those amazing old comics that time forgot. It only ran for six issues, but it’s publication in regard to the nation’s political climate at the time is very interesting. It’s a book about a young telepath who works with the government to thwart the plans of mind-controlling communist dictators, crazed time travelers and telepathic dinosaurs. It was written right around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and is definitely informed by the “about to go hot” Cold War of that era. If you like comics history, or a combo of comics and history, it’s a very interesting read. I worked on those with editors Patrick Thorpe and Philip Simon, respectively.
As for the big Fall launches that I’m extremely psyched to be working on—which are all captained by editor Sierra Hahn, by the by…
Musical mastermind Tom Morello of The Nightwatchman and Rage Against The Machine fame teams with artist Scott Hepburn for Orchid, a science-fiction/fantasy epic informed by Morello’s political activism and the duo’s great appreciation for sprawling sagas. It’s a 12-issue series full of action and adventure that I think’s pretty much a no-brainer for comic fans. It’s actually out in less than two weeks and you can download a free preview in the Dark Horse Digital Store, so go check that out!
Next, House of Night—based on and expanding upon P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast’s best-selling series of novels—comes out in November. It’s follows the series protagonist, the 16-year-old vampyre fledgling Zoey Redbird, as she delves into vampyre history to better understand her place in modern day vamp culture and her magical affinities for the elements. If you already love the novels, I think you’ll fall in love with these comics, because (and here’s the pitch for comic fans who might not be familiar with the House of Night series) Joëlle Jones (Troublemaker, Spellcheckers), Karl Kerschl (The Eisner Award-winning The Abominable Charles Christopher), Joshua Covey and a few other brilliant artists we’ve yet to announce are delivering stunning work in their interpretation of this magical world. When P.C. Cast and comic series writer Kent Dalian (a massive HoN fan) are responding to the art in almost exclusively exclamation point-laden sentences of elation, well… I think that’s certainly the sign of something special.
I’m also working on our adaptation of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire novels, starting with The Strain. The comics are being written by the Eisner Award-winning David Lapham (Stray Bullets, Silverfish, Kull) with art from Mike Huddleston (The Coffin, Butcher Baker) and, put simply, these guys are killing it. I’ve read and enjoyed the novels, but Lapham and Huddleston’s interpretation is such a new, unique, and exciting take on the story that I’ve just been falling in love more and more and all over again with this horrifying tale of a vampire virus every time I see more of their work on this book. This book is going to make your skin crawl in the best way. Guillermo has been responding to the scripts and art with f-bomb after complimentary f-bomb of praise for Lapham and Hudd’s work as well, so get excited for this one, horror fans!
Lastly, as far as stuff I can talk about goes, I’m also assisting on Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s “The Massive,” which will come out in Dark Horse Presents #8, #9, and #10 in 2012. I can’t say too much about this project, but I think it’s pretty much guaranteed to knock your socks off. Mr. Wood has put out a few teasers for it already and the first look at the interior art is coming up at New York Comic Con, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Once you see those pages, I think you’ll be hooked. If you’re not, you’re crazy. It’s that simple. Great concept, interesting and moving story, melt-your-eyeballs art… it’s a complete comics package here, people! I’ve been a Brian Wood fan since my college roommate brought home DMZ #1, so getting to be a part of anything he’s created and working on is a huge thrill. Did I mention you should keep your eyes peeled for those beautiful Donaldson interiors come NYCC? I did? DO IT!