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The Daring Life of a Comic Book Editor-in-Chief

Mike Marts, former Marvel editor, and now, AfterShock Comics' editor-in-chief, talks editorial vision and intelligent risk.

by Giaco Furino
May 15 2016, 1:00pm

Panel from Dreaming Eagles. Illustrated by Simon Coleby. Photo courtesy of AfterShock Comics.

The role of editor-in-chief can be one of those nebulous, hard-to-pin-down titles that means something vastly different in each industry. In print magazines, an editor-in-chief arranges editorial boards and works with layout and overall vision. On the web, the editor-in-chief does everything from wrangling freelance pitches to focusing on big picture campaigns and site-wide movements. But what about the editor-in-chief of a comic book company? In a business filled with writers, artists, inkers, letterers, colorists, and—above all else—the dreaded deadline, what's the job like for an EIC? Mike Marts, former Marvel and DC editor, and editor-in-chief/co-founder of the upstart AfterShock Comics, explains the role, the hardships of the job, and what makes his new company so different from traditional publishers.

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Panel from Rough Riders. Illustrated by Pat Olliffe. Photo courtesy of AfterShock Comics.

Marts explains the work he did before moving to AfterShock: “I was working at Marvel comics as their executive editor, running both the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy franchises. I spent about ten years at Marvel, off and on, and prior to that I was working at DC comics on their Batman line.” Marts says he was initially drawn to the idea of AfterShock chiefly because of the company’s publisher and co-founder Joe Pruett, who Marts had worked with in the past and respected. “When he let me know that he was starting up a new comic book company, I was instantly very interested in what he was doing.”

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Mike Marts, editor-in-chief of AfterShock Comics. Photo courtesy of AfterShock Comics.

So now that he’s the editor-in-chief, what does he do? “The editor-in-chief of a comic company you can liken to a showrunner on a TV show, or a general manager of a basketball team. There are many different hats that the editor-in-chief will wear over the course of their day. It’s really being responsible for and shaping the publishing line, and giving it an identity. And that identity can consist of everything from what type of talent you’re recruiting, selecting, and putting on your titles, what type of stories and products are you putting out? Is it going to be all superhero products, or is it going to be horror, sci-fi, a mix of different things? Are you aiming it at mature readers, young readers, or somewhere in between?” AfterShock features a healthy mix of comics, from the very mature InSEXts about a pair of Victorian women who transform into sexual creatures, to the PG-rated Rough Riders, starring Teddy Roosevelt and a steampunk-ified crew of famous historical figures.

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Panels from Strayer. Illustrated by Juan Gedeon. Photo courtesy of AfterShock Comics.

Aside from those big editorial choices, Marts also says the editor-in-chief is responsible for a lot of the physical day-to-day maintenance of the company, making design choices, and even being the public face of the company at conventions, fundraisers, and special events.

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Panel from InSEXts. Illustrated by Ariela Kristantina. Photo courtesy of AfterShock Comics.

So what makes AfterShock different from other companies? “Intelligent risk,” Marts confidently answers. “Any time we go into a project or a new relationship we think about how things have been done before and what can be done different now. What were people afraid to do in the past that we’re willing to take a risk on?” Marts points to the aforementioned InSEXts as a great example of intelligent risk. “It’s a mature readers title and the idea of sex is an important factor to the overall story, and I think to a lot of publishers that could be something they would have passed on. I think defying expectations is something you have to take into consideration when taking these risks.”

To check out inSEXts and more of these intelligent risks from AfterShock Comics, head to your local comic book store or visit AfterShock Comics.

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