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The same company that brings to comic readers titles such as “Witchblade,” “Wanted,” “The Darkness” and “Rising Stars” has undergone an internal retooling — and the winners are the fans.
The core changes involve the streamlining of the positions of the editorial team at Top Cow. Jim McLauchlin, Top Cow editor in chief, Renae Geerlings, managing editor, and Scott Tucker, editor, are shouldering the brunt of the changes. The changes, say McLauchlin, will make Top Cow a more efficient company.
“The moment of truth was one day when I looked at our (editorial) schedule and I said, ‘This schedule sucks. We’ve lost four months,'” McLauchlin told CBR News. “Effective in four months, we’ve got to get on a new schedule.”
The new process began back in October, but the comics will start to reflect the new system beginning next month. Now, McLauchlin says, Top Cow books will be on time, a higher quality, and they’re even going to add some more benefits — including letters pages in all their books.
“We put out seven or eight books a month,” McLauchlin says. “Take a look at [Marvel editor] Tom Brevoort. He edits seven or eight books a month himself. We were less effective as a team than Brevoort by himself.”
It was this frustration that caused him to ask fellow editors Geerlings and Tucker to help devise a plan to make the machine run smoother. The plan, created by Geerlings, has been dubbed by McLauchlin as “The Renae Plan.”
“Each of us had three books — it was hard to get in inks, plots, you name it. Each one of us was ‘deadlining,'” explains Geerlings. “Having your own book was wonderful because it gave you a sense of ownership, but it’s hard to manage people when you have to keep your eye on three books. Now we’re streamlining — giving each person a portion of the process.”
The new process shakes down like this:
Jim McLauchlin — Future planning
- Solicitations/marketing liaison
- Story editing head — passes out scripts and deadlines for comments
- Final proof
- “Good cop”
- Keeps books on McLauchlin’s deadlines
- Traffics all pencils, inks, scripts, colors
- Artist liaison
- Lettering proofs
- Proofs all pencils, colors, letters
- “Bad cop”
- Puts book out the door
- Runs master schedule
- Accounting liaison
- Liaison with printer, Image Comics, production
Scott Tucker — Trafficking
Renae Geerlings — Production
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“I really liken what Renae did to a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ The answer was right in front of us the whole time, but no one saw it,” McLauchlin says. “Hell, we didn’t even know a Waldo was there until she pointed it out. But there it is, and we’re much more streamlined.”
While some editors lost responsibilities in part, they gained responsibilities over the whole.
“Everyone tends to go where their strength is,” says Geerlings. “Jim loves talking to writers. I like to put together the pieces — playing Tetris. I like it when we’re on deadline. And Scott is great with his artists — when he’s got three guys late on their pages, he doesn’t just throw his arms up.”
This doesn’t mean they’ll all be cutting out on Friday afternoons to hit the beach. Things are still hectic, but McLauchlin says the Renae Plan will make life easier on them and the product better for readers.
“We’re dealing with better writers here. We’ve got guys like Mark Waid, Paul Jenkins, Ron Marz,” McLauchlin says. “More time will allow us for better back-up features. People are spending good beer money on these books, we’ve got to give them a good product in return.”
Currently, Top Cow has an office of 12 full-time staff members. A guy like McLauchlin puts in 55 to 60 hours a week, depending on deadlines. For him to stay out of the office an entire weekend is a cause for celebration, he says.
“Scott Tucker was in the office all weekend. We hired two new people, so we had to move around offices. No one does that, it’s not part of anyone’s job description. But someone has got to do it so these new people have a place to sit,” McLauchlin says. “But it’s ok, because to make up for all the heavy lifting, I bought Scott a chili dog on Monday.”