A modern comic book editor at a major publishing house must be a mercurial superhero who wears many masks, often donning the guise of a trusted friend, loyal mentor, talent scout, tireless muse, stalwart gatekeeper, forgiving priest, and master sculptor.
With such an influx of talent flocking to an expanding industry, it takes someone with a strong will, an instinctive eye for sequential storytelling, and boundless patience to succeed as an effective editor today.
Boom! Studios Senior Editor Eric Harburn seems to be one of these rare individuals who truly has the right stuff. Since coming to the Los Angeles-based indie comics publisher in 2010 as an assistant editor, he's since presided over an astounding number of highly acclaimed and award-winning titles, including James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas' The Woods, Grant Morrison and Dan Mora's Klaus, Cullen Bunn and Jonas Scharf's Bone Parish, Si Spurrier and Matias Bergara's Coda, and Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins' Black Badge.
With all that megawatt talent, things can get a bit dicey in the creative process, and that's where Harburn shines, shepherding the best projects possible and matching up writers and artists whose chemistry clicks.
SYFY WIRE spoke to Harburn on the shifting job description of a busy comic editor, what it takes to achieve success wrangling several projects at once, how indie publishers can stay autonomous in a competitive environment, and which titles he's most excited about on Boom!'s brimming release schedule moving into 2019.
Plus stay tuned after the chat for some exclusive art from Coda #6, Klaus and the Crying Snowman #1, and Low Road West #2!
How did you rise up through the ranks of Boom! Studios?
Eric Harburn: The first thing I did in comics was at Marvel as an intern on Spider-Man: Brand New Day in 2008. So I spent a summer in New York during college, then I went back to school and went out to L.A. and landed at Boom! in 2010. After a couple years I became a full-on editor and started honing in on the original series we do through the studio's imprint. Earlier this year I was bumped up to senior editor.
What qualities make a great editor?
The biggest touchstone I use, and one we use here at Boom!, is that the goal is always to help your creators tell their story and the best version of it that they can. And taking on and removing any obstacles that might be in their way to do their best job creating.
What were some of your favorite comics and creators growing up, and how did they forge your preferences as an editor?
Like any kid, I read comics sporadically, but I wasn't a diehard reader or superfan when I was real young. So I really fell in love with comics when I was in high school and read some of the classic evergreens like Watchmen and Frank Miller's '80s stuff. The big stuff that got me into monthly reading and wanting to work in the industry was Brian K. Vaughn, primarily Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina, which began right when I was getting into the weekly comics shop routine.
So that became a real seminal book for me, and it was the type of material I resonated with. It showcased comics as a medium rather than an avenue for superhero stories. I've always been a fan of story in general, I love all types of genres, and that's something we try to instill here at Boom! We're not just trying to make horror or sci-fi or fantasy, we're just trying to help creators tell the best story they can.
How do you chose your projects, and to what do you attribute your string of successful titles to over the past few years?
I'm really happy and thrilled with what we've been able to cultivate over the last few years. You can trace what we're doing in 2018 and in the years coming up back to 2013. That was the first year Boom! really came out swinging, and we had a great slate of books and creators and fostered an environment where we accomplished those goals I mentioned earlier. A lot of the mainstay creators that we've been working with since 2013 are how we've been able to form a backbone and tell great stories with them, but also bring in other creators of similar mindsets.
James Tynion is somebody near and dear to me, so is Si Spurrier and Cullen Bunn, and others. Forming relationships with these types of creators to foster their voices and complement their other work at other publishers has set us up for success in 2018.
What are some of the main titles you're excited about and focused on towards the end of 2018?
I'm currently on Coda with Si Spurrier and Matias Bergara, Bone Parish with Cullen Bunn and Jonas Scharf, Black Badge with Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins, Low Road West with Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Flaviano, The Empty Man with Cullen again and Jesus Hervas, and lastly for this year is the next Klaus Winter Special which is Klaus and the Crying Snowman with Grant Morrison and Dan Mora. Cullen is pulling double duty this year, so good on him for that. We've been working on The Empty Man for a couple years, so it's nice to finally get it out there.
Coda is one of the highlights of Boom!'s lineup, with its brilliant revisionist fantasy saga and breathtaking art. How did that series come together for you?
I'm really excited with Coda. Si is one of my closest friends and collaborators in comics. This is the fifth original series we've done together, and I honestly think it's some of his best work. This will be a 12-issue maxi-series, and the longer length of the series has allowed Si to take his time, slow things down, do more character work and some emotional soul-searching with these characters.
We're reaching the midway point, and we're getting into the complicated relationship between Hum and his wife Serka. Si is exploring some stuff we don't see very often in mainstream comics, and particularly in a fantasy world like this. Coda is a great example of the collaborative power of comics. The book wouldn't be what it is without Matias' art. He was one of the diamonds in the rough in the comics industry, and we're thrilled that Coda has been a platform to show his stuff and be a coming-out party. He's doing work in Coda that I don't think I've ever seen in comics before.
How has Klaus and the series' winter specials become an annual event, and what is it about this Super Santa origin story that readers love?
Klaus is kind of a dream-come-true book. Working with Grant is a major career highlight. He's one of the foundation creators of the medium, and it's been a true pleasure working with him since the first Klaus miniseries in 2014. And we've done two annuals in 2016 and 2017, and our third one, Klaus and the Crying Snowman, is coming out this year. Grant had this idea for a long time, and we were finally able to partner with him and tell it. And Dan Mora has been an amazing partner for him in the development and the fleshing out of the character work and mythos of this world. This new special continues this trend, and if you've enjoyed past specials you're really gonna dig this one. Dan experiments each year and tries out new artistic tricks and different processes. This year's has very much a Mignola Hellboy-ish flair to it. It's been a blast.
How does Boom! keep itself ahead of the crowd as the Big Two (Marvel and DC) try to imitate some of the things you do best?
For me, I let the great leaders of this company worry about those details. It's just continuing to stay the course and do what we do best, which is finding new creators, harnessing and cultivating the voices of the creators we already work with, and telling the best original stories we can. The Big Two do what they do best, tell great stories with great talent, and a majority of those are superhero stories.
We're more interested in the broader canvas and not locking ourselves into one box. I picked up DC Black Label's Batman: Damned and loved it. I'll never be mad about more great comics and more great material in our industry.