On Editors And Censorship

“Creative people listen to [editors] because [they] make that a condition of employment. [Editors] are worse than useless when it comes to creativity. [They] are intrusive.”
Dave Sim

I think Mr. Sim is equating editors with censors here, and in that vein I disagree. Even the best writers can get caught up in their own work and not see how it appears to others. A good editor, who has the respect of the writer, can actually improve on a work with subtle changes. And all due respect to Mr. Sim, whose work I admire, someone could have told him to tone down the rants or at least publish them separately, as I feel his personal issues became far too much of the Cerebus story.

Even censorship can be a positive thing: after all, the Smothers Brothers thrived on pushing the edge, it was CBS that went overboard by canceling them. Two of Seinfeld‘s classic episodes became that way because they had to find creative ways to get around censorship: how funny would The Contest have been if they were free to just say “masturbation”? Or Not that there’s anything wrong with that?

I agree with Mr. Moore (from the article) that working for a big corporation like Marvel or DC can really stunt the creative process, and he has every right to disassociate himself with them (and kudos to him for continuing to work even when the situation changed, as he pointed out, he had a responsibility to others who were working), and of course Sim, to paraphrase one of his own characters, did more than just pick a side and start swinging, he started his own side.

I made a point in an earlier post that I don’t submit any of my work for critique: I’m confident enough in my own writing style and skill that I don’t feel the need for that kind of validation, if a company wants to perform my play, that’s recognition enough for me.  And I can also edit my own work, and a harsh editor I can be: I’ve had to remove some very good lines because they don’t fit into the greater work that I’m doing, and I will rewrite whole scenes if I don’t like the tone, even if they’re important to the story.

But if someone makes a very constructive comment, I listen, and sometimes I wish I had someone working with me who could show me a new angle or way of thinking.  I still have the final say, as I think all artists should, but I won’t discount any constructive comment out of hand.

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5 comments on “On Editors And Censorship

  1. While it’s true that it’s fun to see Seinfeld get away with stuff in a creative manner -it’s really only funny because we know it’s a winkwink in a “see what we did there” manner. We’ll never know if it wouldn’t have been even more brilliant if we lived in a world where nobody would be offended by the subject matter. It’s great when people push the envelope but not sure if we should therefore embrace the envelope -know what i mean? And yes i know what you mean, but saying that “Censorship can be a positive thing” is a slippery slope and might not be something you want to stand by too firmly:)

  2. I cite Mr. Sim as an example of what happens when writers get too involved with their own work and not let anyone in. The deterioration of the story line after “Jaka’s Story” could have been altered if Dave had gone beyond the bubble he lived in and had someone try to steer him in other directions. If that seems like an insult, I feel the same way about Heinlein, one of the great scifi writers who became too famous to control editorially and started writing stories about his main character doing things like going back in time to have sex with his own mother.

    It would be interesting to see what would have happened if Seinfeld were allowed to have just said “masturbation” or been more graphic, but I can’t see how that episode could have been made any funnier. If there were a way to contact him, and assuming he would even bother to reply, I’d like to hear how he would have done the show if there were no restrictions at all.

  3. not that i don’t see what you are saying but i think when speaking of great art and citing TV sitcoms (and nobody loves them more than i do) as an example…I think the part you object to is when things transitioned from the “entertainment” camp and moved more into the “High Art” camp. I think there are different criteria for judging each and you can’t apply one to the other.

  4. Dave wasn’t making any distinction between editors in any medium, he said editors are “worse than useless when it comes to creativity”, which is a very broad brush indeed. If he had stuck with saying “comic book editors” or even “comic book editors as employed by Marvel or DC” that would have been different.

  5. High Art doesn’t have editors -it’s what makes it High Art, no? entertainment and populist media does. I get you are calling him out on broadstrokes, a bit of hyperbole in service of making a point here, and i can see why it would elicit a gut reaction…but you’ve read enough about Dave Sim to know it’s not that black and white. He’s worked with editors himself. He’s a fan of work done under editorial guidance (though again we’ll never know how great it would have been without). And hey i’m with you that Seinfeld or “Marvel and DC” can be creative endeavors -though many would argue they aren’t:) or at least hardly lol I know Stan Lee get’s a bad rap by many but i think he’s creative -and also an editor. I guess being an editor in itself can be creative…and if you broaden the definition of creativity then anything can be creative really. In the end it’s sorta like saying you are pro censorship without including the rest of your thoughts on the matter -would have made a nice title, no? “Censorship can be a positive thing”:)

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