Sal Chats with IDW Managing Editor, David Hedgecock

Hey there everyone, this week Sal is bringing you an interview he conducted with the one and only David Hedgecock, for those of you that don’t know he is the Managing Editor, at IDW Publishing. Sal and David discuss his love of comics and breaking into the business.

SB: To begin, let’s keep in simple… How did you get into comics?

DH: My first memories of comics? I collected a lot of comics. I think the first comic book that taught me that the numbers on the corner meant something and that comics came out roughly every month and that there were specific people doing specific things on comics was, I remember very vividly, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! #4. It was a Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw book. Cover had a title that said, “His Name Is Mudd!” Captain Carrot and his team were stuck in this swamp.

SB: Was that the first comic you saw?

DH: I don’t think it was the first comic that I read. I think I was reading Hot Stuff and Casper. It [Captain Carrot and The Amazing Zoo Crew #4] was the first comic where I was like, “Whoooaa! This is like nothing I’ve ever seen before!” It made me want more. I realized this things were serialized and all books had different creative teams. It was the comic that taught me how to collect comics.

SB: Very cool. Where did your reading go from there?

DH: The Wanderer, GI Joe, Transformers, and other stuff. I was always eclectic in my taste.

SB: Yeah, I noticed you didn’t mention many mainstream Marvel or DC. It seems that you were into franchises that were owned by other companies or publishers.

DH: Yeah. For me, a thing like Speedball was an amazing new comic book. I guess to my very young self’s credit, Steve Ditko did create and draw Speedball, so I think I noticed some level of quality. I was always drawn to the more eclectic stuff. I didn’t get into the X-Men or anything like that until I was a little older around the time Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee took over.

SB: So you saw these comics were being published, you knew actual people were creating and working on these books, and then the 90’s came and you jumped into the mainstream titles?

DH: Yeah, there were book at Image that grabbed my attention. I saw Rob Liefeld‘s work and I liked what he was doing. As a young adult and teenager, here was a guy who was not much older than me doing this really cool thing doing Levi 501 jeans. He was creating totally new characters and doing new and interesting things in comics. He had a really huge influence on me and was pretty important to me because he kept me interested in comics where I would have been more likely to play football and find girls. Liefeld made me keep on hand in comics to see what was going on. His work kept me interested in a time where I really could have stopped reading altogether. I really have to credit his work to keeping me into comics because I think I would have fallen off without it.

SB: Were you the only one out of your friends who was into comics at that time?

DH: Oh yeah. I was absolutely the only one. I didn’t hide it, I just had nobody to talk to about what I was reading.

SB: After high school did you continue reading? Did you go to college to pursue a career which would help you later in a comics career?

DH: Yeah, I went to college and I kept reading. I read a lot of Image. At that point my taste started getting to a pretty wide net. I think the book that made me think I wanted to do comics for a living was Poison Elves created, written and drawn by Drew Hayes. When I saw that book and saw what that lone individual creator was publishing I was impressed by what he was doing. The story [Poison Elves] was a black and white book with a rockabilly sensibility to it. It was nothing like Elf Quest or anything fantasy. It was a down and dirty assassin book featuring an elf who had a unique aesthetic. It’s a great book.

Drew Hayes basically self-published for the first twenty issues. In the beginning of every issue he had a letter to his readers titled, “The Starting Note,” which was basically him telling his readers what he had to do to survive this month. It was really hardcore. He told readers what he had to go through each month to make a comic book. It really spoke to me on a personal level because as hard as it is, it can be done. Somewhere in there when I was in college and getting my degree –somewhere in there Bone started comic out, Terry Moore started doing Strangers In Paradise and I started getting the idea of this being something people can do and try to make a living at it.

SB: Did that influence your career path?

DH: That’s what put me squarely in the camp of “I want to do this for a living.”

SB: Did you gear your classes in college or your major towards creating comics?

DH: Not really. I have a Structural Engineering degree.

SB: That’s actually pretty cool. [laughs]

DH: [laughs] Yeah. Towards the end of college I did tack on a Studio Art degree.

SB: Really? You draw too?

DH: I made a living freelance drawing for a while, pencil and Inks. I did it for a living. My color theory is crap so I didn’t color. I did a lot of freelance. I was even lettering for a while. T-Shirt design, game boards for RPGs, and other illustrations. A little bit of comic book work here and there.

SB: Was comic book work something you did professionally or on the side?

DH: At first on the side but then professionally.

SB: After all that what made you make the jump to editor?

DH: Well, I didn’t jump straight to editor. I really wanted to start doing self-publishing. I did a bunch of freelance work for a company and made them a giant pile of money and I didn’t see anything from it. I thought to myself, “Oh, that’s not smart. I shouldn’t do that again.” So, I started doing more of the business side of comics. Started self-publishing for a bit with some friends. We made a company called Ape Entertainment.

SB: Yeah, I know Ape.

DH: I ran Ape Entertainment for a number of years. We were a small startup on a shoestring budget. Before I sold my interest of it, we had a bunch of Dreamworks Animation titles, Sesame Street, and Strawberry Shortcake to name a few.

SB: Were you manufacturing the deals?

DH: I was the CEO of the company and that was definitely part of my job. We started out small but by the end we were a full-blown company with salaries and various employees and all that.

SB: When you sold your portion of the company, where were you in comics at the time?

DH: I decided to do something different. I had been friends with the owner of IDW, it was in the same city that I lived in, and they were doing really interesting things I wanted to be part of and that’s when I started working for IDW. I’m not the Managing Editor. In general, IDW is a really amazing place with a lot of really smart people.

Ted Adams, the owner, is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He’s really talented and I wanted to be part of his vision. I love my job and all the things I get to do because of it. It was the right decision for me at the time and it still is today. I’m really glad I made the choice to work for IDW and I have no regrets.

SB: For people who don’t know what a Managing Editor does, can you explain what you do?

DH: I wish I knew. [laughs] It’s a little bit of editing and managing. Obviously there is editing, but there is more to it than that. Everyday is a new challenge. Because I have experience in different areas what I do, or at least I hope I do, is manage the editing side of things while doing the managing side of things. I enjoy working on the creative side. When there are new opportunities that open up for IDW I like to help exploit those opportunities. I do a little bit of everything. The bulk of my day is spent being creative which is something I enjoy.

SB: I always hate to ask this question, but what helps drive the creativity and stops making work actually feel like a job?

DH: Different things at different times. Working on new projects, working on things differently than they have been done in the past and finding ways to make comics a viable form of entertainment in today’s marketplace.

Putting together teams of talent is always a lot of fun. Finding the right talent to fit the needs of an IP. I find a lot of joy when I get pages handed in from a creator who I put on a project because I believed their talents was the right fit for the work. When pages come in and it’s exactly what I had hoped and the licensers are doing back-flips because they like it, I get such a great feel of pride.

SB: Do you find working with licensers hard?

DH: They’re always a challenge. When you create your own stuff you make your own choices you came up with in your head. Licensers have a lot of do’s and don’t’s. There is a lot of back and forth, fortunately for me, I haven’t seen much push back on the projects I’ve been a part of. You have to find the common ground and then it’s easy. I’ve been working on licensed stuff for so long, it’s been a while since I’ve working on creator-owned projects.

Right now, I’m really enjoying the book D4VE by Ryan Ferrier and Valentine Ramon. They have a new project, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk about it but I’ll talk about it anyway. Before I talk about that though, if they’ve done two volumes of D4VE that have been really well received.

SB: Yeah, I’m actually a fan of the series.

DH: They really are a great team. Ryan is a great writer and Valentine is a great artist; they’re a fantastic team. Everything about D4VE has been an overall great experience.

SB: D4VE started off being digitally published at Monkeybrain Comics. How did IDW come to be the publisher of the series?

DH: Yeah, the first series of D4VE was release digitally through Monkeybrain then we released the print version of it. That’s when we decided we wanted to published D4VE 2 which is the sequel that nobody knew they wanted. That was always well received.

Their next series is called, Hot Damn. It’s their look into Hell. If you know what D4VE is then imagine that in Hell. We’re hoping to bring the audience they’ve established in early as well as grabbing the attention of new readers. I’m really having fun with those guys because they make it so easy to create.

I’ve been having a lot of fun working with any creator-owned title I can. There is a lot of talent out there.

SB: When you’re looking for talent are you looking for anything in particular? How do you find the right fit? IDW is a very eccentric publisher.

DH: Well, we are eccentric in the sense that we are diverse and have so many licensed titles.

SB: Right. Eccentric in the sense that IDW has Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, and My Little Pony.

DH: Yes. That’s true. As part of my job, I have to find and scout new talent. I’m constantly looking for new talent. For artists, I can kind of tell good line art and inks pretty easily. That’s what you really have to look for because the style comes in after the basics are understood. Whatever the style is it has to be matched to the title. The starting point is “do they have the chops?” And, if they do I need to find the best place to fit them into the puzzle.

SB: When you are putting the puzzle together, in the end, how does the it feel when it all comes together and out there for the world to read?

DH: I try not to get too caught up in what people are saying about a project. I feel like, if I have faith in a creative team and they are producing good work–if they are working on a license that the licensers are happy–then we are going to succeed or fail as a team. Nothing goes out the door unless I think it is right, for the projects I’m working on.

SB: How many books do you work on at a time as an editor?

DH: Right now, I have six or seven. I’m also working in the games division and all that stuff. I have a lot of things going on.

SB: You’ve done a good enough job to take on more projects that are just comics?

DH: I wouldn’t say I’ve done a “good enough” job to where I’m rewarded anything. I’m the managing editor, so I work with a team of editors who are working on the other titles, which has afforded me the luxury of getting my hands into different projects outside of the comics. I work very hard to make a strong addition to IDW. I’m lucky enough to have the ability to work across the different areas of the company. It’s not because I’m great, it’s because I try to help as much as I can.

SB: You mentioned working with the other editors. What is that like? Do you do a lot of hands on or is it more like over the shoulder guidance?

DH: The way IDW works is the editorial staff are seasoned veterans. I saw that with all honesty. I’m always impressed by the people who work here and their ability. They get a long reign to do what they think is right for a project. Upper management discusses things but the company trusts the assigned editors to do what’s best for projects. There are plenty of discussions but they have plenty of freedom to make the best books they can.

SB: I’ve received a lot of questions from aspiring editors. How would you suggest someone should come up the ranks as an editor?

DH: [laughs] I have no idea. [laughs more] Start your own company and decide to go edit?

Comic books aren’t going to make anybody rich. It’s just not going to happen. You can make boxes or open a Pizzeria and you will make more money. I’m speaking in generalities of course. I think you must have a certain desire to make comics. I think most people who are in comics are in comics. It is because this is special to them and they are passionate to create comics. If you have the will to learn about this thing called comics you can start producing them.

In my life, there has been very, very, very, few people I’ve met who are more passionate than me when it comes to comics. I can count on one hand people who love comics more than me.

All the successful people in comics are the ones who are passionate.

SB: I hear that. Passion drives determination.

DH: Exactly. Not just a passion like “ooo I love comics.” It’s about consuming the medium. Read everything and anything. You have to want to understand it all, “How they are made? Why they are made? How are they published and printed or distributed?” You have to want to know it all. You have to want to understand the nature of comics.

That’s what will create opportunities for you as you move into comics as a profession. If you don’t love comics and have an inquisitive nature for learning comics than you really shouldn’t be doing this. It’s a tough industry to be in and stay in, especially without the drive to learn and succeed.

I work a ten-hour day and I work on the weekends. I would never know I was working if my wife didn’t remind me to get away from it for a couple of hours and pay attention to her.

SB: [laughs] Sound like my wife.

DH: [laughs] Yeah. That’s just the passion. People will say to get a life, but I’m having a great time. I spend my days immersed in a job I’m interested in. If I didn’t have that I would never make it in this industry.

SB: What do you suggest aspiring readers read?

DH: Everything by Will Eisner. If you are trying to figure out story read Story by Robert McKee. Read everything and consume everything.

As an artist, I traced and drew like the guys I liked in comics. Then I found guys out of comics and did the same.

Study. Study. Study. That’s how to get better. It takes years and years. It might look easy but it’s not.

SB: From IDW, what are books you suggest people read?

DH: Right now?

SB: Sure…

DH: Walt Simonson’s Ragnorak. Ghostbusters is really fun. Jem and the Holograms, I think Sophie Campbell is doing great work. Her sensibility, style and design is top-notch. She’s amazing.

Our creator-owned line has been really fun. I think we are doing really good things with our All Ages line. I’m very proud of the work our teams have done on Skylanders.

STL002323I’m looking forward to Hot Damn.

SB: Is that out this year?

DH: Yeah, in April.

SB: Final question…

DH: Okay…

SB: If you could take any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and turn it into an ongoing comic what would it be and why?

DH: Ugh… Hm.. I just watched Terminator: Genesis the other day… It wouldn’t be that. I would pick Running Man. There is plenty of story there. A lot of spots to jump on and keep it moving.

SB: On social media how could people reach you?

DH: @davidhedgecock on Twitter. I’m not a big social media type guy.

SB: David, thanks for your time.

DH: Thanks for having me.

To stay up to date with Sal and/or David, follow them on Twitter:

Salvatore Brucculeri – @SalveyB

David Hedgecock – @DavidHedgecock


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