Scott Allie is a man who needs no introduction. But just for kicks, let's do one anyways. Kind of a big deal in comic book circles, Scott Allie recently hit 18 years of working with Dark Horse. He's been hard at work at the company for each and every one of them, starting to edit Mike Mignola's Hellboy only one month after joining the editorial department. All his hard work was most recently rewarded with a promotion to Editor-in-Chief at Dark Horse. However, the change in title has not changed his output, as he continues to edit all things Hellboy, Dark Horse's Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, The Goon, and plenty of other books. He also somehow finds time to write comics, the most recent of which is BPRD #104 Hell on Earth: Abyss of Time Part 2.
As his editor, I've been his primary sounding board for eighteen years. He talks through his stories a lot. This may sound goofy, but in a lot of ways Mike is sort of an oral storyteller—he tells me a story over and over, maybe tells it to Duncan Fegredo, Arcudi, maybe his wife, god help her. And in telling it over the phone, he's refining it before he ever gets around to putting it on paper. I think that lends the story a certain kind of life. Also, he does a lot of revision out loud, so less retyping.
Allie: James Harren brought a tremendous level of crazy to it. In our quest to do horror stories as opposed to John's action stories, we wound up with something that's like 45% fight scene, because no one does action like James Harren. I'm really trying to write to the artists' strengths, and James does wild monsters, and explosive action. This story also allowed me to do some Robert E. Howard-type stuff that I never got to in the Solomon Kane stories I wrote. Working with James is just great all around. He's got a ton of energy, really creative, adds a lot to whatever you give him, and is just terribly gracious.
Allie: Unlike comics, I connected with horror as a genre at a very young age. I'm a pretty laid back guy, low affect, never really athletic. Horror always got my blood pumping. The adrenaline, the catharsis. I think that's what I got out of it at a young age. It was more my love of that emotional reaction than anything else. It's not that I loved monsters, or certainly not violence, but it was that feeling I got. I remember running out of the room the first time I ever saw the Wicked Witch of the West. Whatever it was that caused me to literally run out of the room, that's the feeling I've been chasing the last forty odd years. Since then I've grown real fond of a lot of the tropes of the genre and the various subgenres, but I would always rather get or deliver that creepy feeling than see two monsters fight each other.
Allie: Yeah, but that's not the most driving thing for me. I'm more obsessed with how to tell a story, effects I want to try to get out of storytelling, and then finding the story that best achieves that. I have a few personal things, true life stories, I want to do. I have a thing with Tim Seeley, but right now writing Abe Sapien is giving me the greatest opportunity I've ever had to tell the kind of story I want to tell.
Allie: My assistant, Daniel Chabon, is key to that. Dan does a lot to keep it all straight. We keep various spread sheets to help keep track of it all, but there's fun involved too. Mike's brain is such that he can juggle a lot of things, remember a lot of things. We're working on a map, now, to track the damage we're doing around the world. We keep wiping out cities, and it's hard to remember what shape they're all in, so you need various reference tools. The Hellboy Companion helps in some ways as well.
Allie: Sometimes people say, So, you're a comic book editor, you edit the balloons? No. Or not just that. We're project managers—if anyone in the company has a question about a book, they go to the editor for answers. We are the hub of information. We "edit" the art, the color, the text, all that. And we art direct the covers, we run the budgets, the schedules, we supervise teams of creators as well as assistant editors.
Allie: None at all, and it depresses me. I have issues of Hawkeye and Revival stacking up unread. I have books about voodoo half started, and this crime series my wife and I read together that we haven't gotten anywhere with in ages. But I'm reading The Hobbit to my son, and that's going well. I hadn't read it since fifth grade, and it's amazing to me how much fun it is. So even though I'm reading it for Sid, it's reminding me to make comics fun, informing my work in a certain way. Everything does.
There's a huge difference between working with people by phone and email, and a much bigger difference with the in person thing. I've talked to Mignola on the phone nearly once a day for eighteen years, and so we are able to do everything we really need by phone—and that's somewhat built on a foundation of him having lived here for a number of years. But whenever we can use a convention to get Mike and John Arcudi and me together in one place, we try to make it happen. When we launched Buffy Season 8 with a writers summit in Santa Monica, with everyone face to face, it really helped kickstart that thing properly. And there's a project I'm pulling together now with a team of writers all based in Portland. Portland provides an opportunity that we try to take advantage of. Communication is just far more nuanced, clear, specific, and intuitive if you're face to face. A wise man once told me, "It's all about relationships," this work, and it's much more effective building relationships face to face. It can be done, but it's easier doing it face to face. The best thing about conventions is that face time you get with your key creators. The connections you build that way are irreplaceable. Face to face is invaluable; the phone is the next best thing. If you rely solely on email there is a level of connection that at the very least is much harder to attain, in my opinion. But society evolves. Probably some of the associate editors do all their correspondence through twitter and no one finds it weird.