The Process: Editor Stephanie Cooke On Trying Everything and Keeping an Open Mind

Stephanie Cooke has worked in several different roles within the world of comics, settling into two very different editorial roles as of late: as a freelance editor working on a variety of comics including We Are The Danger, published by Black Mask Studios; and as editor-in-chief for websites Rogues Portal and Creator Resource.

The MNT spoke to her about the former, learning more about her journey into editing comics, and her advice for anyone looking to start out in the industry.

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The MNT: Can you tell us a bit about how you got into comics editing – and what drew you to it?

Stephanie Cooke: A couple years ago I wrote a story for the fourth volume of The Toronto Comics Anthology. I had an amazing time working with the team there and when the publisher put up an ad the following year for a new Lead Editor, I wanted to see if I would be a good fit. I wanted to get involved in comics in new ways and expand upon what I was already doing. I also wanted to find a way to give back to a community that’s been so supportive and uplifting to me.

I really believed (and still believe) in what the folks at Toronto Comics are doing in ushering in new eras of creators and helping to give them a published platform to tell their stories. Helping to make the book more inclusive and tell a bigger variety of stories was something that I wanted to tackle with the team.

From there, my comics editing quickly grew and I began working on other projects outside of the anthology.

What do you love most about being a comics editor? And what sort of challenges have you encountered?

Comics editing is something that I unexpectedly love doing. I hadn’t really anticipated that my career would take a turn into editing but I’m really glad that it did. There’s something so satisfying and rewarding about working with a comics team to help improve on an already good idea and make it great. As a writer as well, it can be really hard to see things that don’t work within a story so I love being able to help focus ideas and make things work even better.

The biggest challenges for me tend to be with the feedback in terms of how much or how little to give. I try to communicate with the creators I work with to see how they work, what they expect out of the project, and what sort of approach I should take to each story. Finding that sweet spot where you’re giving constructive feedback without it feeling like you’re taking over the story can sometimes be tricky. You want to fix any issues that you see but you also don’t want to completely change what the creator has built.

A recent project is We Are the Danger – a book written and illustrated by Fabian Lelay – how did that come together?

Cooke: Fabian and I have known each online for a while now. I was a fan of his work on Jade Street Protection Services as the co-writer and artist of that, so when he asked if I’d be interested in working on a new book with him, I was really excited. He brought me on as he was getting the outline together so I was on board very early on to help guide things and give encouraging pep talks (inspirational pep talks and motivational speeches are included as a part of my editing services!)

What are your favorite aspects of We Are the Danger?

Cooke: I love our team so much. Fabian did the story and art but getting to work with Claudia Aguirre and Taylor Esposito (on colours and letters, respectively) has been such a treat. I love the story that we’ve all put together and the amazing characters too, but Fabian, Claudia, and Taylor are all creators that I have been wanting to work with for a long time. Getting to work with them is such a blast and each of them make it stand out in their own ways.

What role did you play in the research for We Are The Danger?

Cooke: Fabian had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to do with the story when I came in. He had a look in mind for the characters, the outfits, and everything. Julie’s (the main character from the series) heritage is very in sync with Fabian’s own experiences and he was writing from the heart. My job was essentially to let Fabian know if anything didn’t work but mostly just to guide his vision.

How collaborative was the experience?

Cooke: It felt very collaborative for me. Fabian didn’t just leave me on the outskirts of the book to make notes and suggestions, he actively asked for my input throughout the whole process. We’re still finishing up the last couple of issues but it’s been an experience that I will always remember very fondly.

For other people interested in editing comics – what do you look for in a potential project?

Cooke: I think most people automatically assume that you just need to like the project itself to take it on. For me, it’s about the story but moreso about the creators working on it. We need to be able to work together and the way I give critiques and feedback needs to be in line with what they want to get out of the whole experience.

Do you have any other editing projects coming up that you can talk about yet?

Cooke: Not just yet! I’m working on a very cool project with the fabulous Johnnie Christmas, and I feel it in my bones that Fabian and I will wind up working together on at least one more project in the near future.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Cooke: Editing would not have been something that I would have actively searched out a couple of years ago, but here I am! I love it and it’s reaffirmed that you should always try things and keep an open mind. Comics can be a really hard industry to break into, especially if you’re looking to do one of the more “traditional” roles (ie. writer or artist) but there are so many other aspects to this industry that we desperately need more people filling.

The point is this: try a number of different things in comics. You might just be surprised at what sticks.

Stephanie Cooke is a writer and editor, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of the comics website Rogues Portal. To follow more of her work as an editor, you can find her personal website hereand she’s on Twitter here! 

Originally posted on The MNT

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