Friday, January 07, 2011

Questions 24: Diana Schutz

Diana Schutz is an award-winning editor who has worked in the comics industry for over thirty years. Since 1990, she has been at Dark Horse Comics, where she is now an executive editor. She is also an adjunct instructor of comics art history and criticism at Portland Community College, a published author of both comics and prose, and the first female to be inducted into the Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.  She is Frank Miller’s editor on Sin City and 300, Matt Wagner’s editor on Grendel, StanSakai’s editor on Usagi Yojimbo, Paul Chadwick’s editor on Concrete, and Larry Marder’s editor on Beanworld. She also regularly works with Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, and Dave McKean, and irregularly with Harlan Ellison. She was fortunate to have been Will Eisner’s Dark Horse editor until his death in 2005.

What projects are you working on currently?
Xerxes, with Frank Miller.  The Milo Manara Archives.  A couple Neil Gaiman projects.  Usagi Yojimbo, with Stan Sakai.  A new Beanworld book, with Larry Marder.  And more.  Always more.

What is your process when editing? 
I fret over every single detail until everything is right.

What is it when writing?
The same only worse, so I don’t write very much or very often.

What did you learn from teaching that would have assisted you as a writer/editor?
I’ve been teaching comics courses at Portland Community College for almost ten years now.  I’ve learned that students still hate homework—there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

What comic/trade would you recommend?
Anything edited by Dean Mullaney for his Library of American Comics imprint—most recently, the magnificent Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett, an oversize hardcover reprint of the Sunday strips from 1913 to 1927: gorgeous, often surreal art that just sings on the page.

What comic/trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?
Depends on the someone.  Of the books I’ve edited: Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier; Pop Gun War by Farel Dalrymple; AutobioGraphix by all my best friends!  Otherwise: Bone if they’re young (or young at heart), Maus if they’re not.  I could so go on.

What skill would you like to learn?
Power Point.  Or, at least, I’d like to get a lot more savvy about it than I am.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned?
Ever?  In almost 56 years of living?!  This is a trick question, right?

Do you have a collection?   If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?
Through the years I’ve gotten rid of all my comics, even the ones I’ve edited—except: I can’t bring myself to part with my collection of pre-Code romance comics, especially the ones by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who pioneered the genre in 1947 with Young Romance #1.  I have a copy of it, signed to me by Jack.

What is your favorite genre of comics?
Non-genre comics!  So. Tired. Of. Biff-Bam-Pow.

Do you have an iPad?   If so what do use it for the most.
Nope.  iPhone, yes. 

What is your favorite TV show/movie?
I haven’t owned a television in twenty years.  Right now I’m reading Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, a 19th-century classic that Wikipedia says can be “difficult for modern readers to follow.”  That’s because they’re too busy watching TV.

How does the Portland comics culture shape your work?
Almost not at all.  It used to when I first moved here twenty years ago, but it was a lot smaller then and I was a lot younger.  Now I mostly interact with the local academic scene—either teaching comics at PCC, or guest-lecturing at other colleges and universities, or taking comics classes myself.  Last fall I was enrolled in Patrick Rosenkranz’s History of Comics course at PNCA, and it was inspiring: both in terms of seeing another teacher’s approach to the subject and in terms of learning even more about comics, and especially the undergrounds, which is Patrick’s area of expertise.  And this term I’ve just signed up for “The Graphic Memoir,” an English Lit course about autobio comics, which Trevor Dodge is teaching at Clackamas Community College.

What was your first comic convention?
One of the legendary Phil Seuling July 4th comic cons in New York City, in 1981.  My first San Diego con was the year after that.

What is your favorite part of comic conventions?
“None of the above.”  (No, just kidding.  It’s great to have my closest friends in the world all collected in one place, which happens every summer at Comic-Con.)

If you weren’t working with comics or teaching about comics what would you do?
I’d be in the grave.  Serious.

Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?
My brother-in-law’s dining room.  When Matt [Wagner] isn’t making comics, he’s a gourmet chef.

How long have you lived in Portland? What made you choose Portland?
Mike Richardson moved Bob Schreck and me to Portland in 1990 to work for Dark Horse.  We were the first employees he hadn’t hired locally, but instead from the outside comics industry.  Dark Horse consisted of only ten people total at that time, and the only other woman working there then was the receptionist.

What is your favorite part of Portland?
My house.  I’m a hermit.

Where in Oregon would you most like to visit?
I’d like to get to the coast more.  I miss living near the ocean.

Would you like to write/edit for another media? Or write a character from another media?
Nope.  Comics is it for me.

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