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[DISPATCH] A Deep Dive with Molly Mahan
The Editrix Maxima swings by for a wide-ranging conversation and shares new art.
Welcome back, and thanks for joining us for an all-new edition of the [DISPATCH], a weekly directly report from us to you featuring news, recaps, exclusive content and more.
Last week marked the release of a brand new comic from [MAPS], the second Graphic Novel Sourcebook from 3 Worlds / 3 Moons. If you haven’t experienced it yet, all paid subscribers can see what the Orphans are up to on Therra in THE NORTH.
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This week, we’re checking in with Molly Mahan, the Editrix Maxima of 3 Worlds / 3 Moons. Below, we speak with her about settling into the role, a number of future-facing questions for our concept universe, and a whole lot more.
Please join us for this wide-ranging conversation with Molly.
3W/3M: Molly, welcome back, and thanks for joining us.
Molly Mahan: Thank you for having me.
Now that you’re a sizable chunk of your first year into the job, what’s an average day like for the Editrix Maxima?
I start my day around 8 or 9AM, checking the digital 3W/3M workspace to see what may have come in while I was blissfully unconscious. Since we’re working across three time zones in the core group, I make sure that whatever Mike, Mike, or Jonathan have completed gets handled first so they aren’t waiting on me. If a script comes in, I read it and give feedback or hand it off to the artist assigned to that story. If art comes in, I review it, provide notes as necessary, and send it off to the next person – a colorist or letterer, typically.
Meetings are usually late-midday to early afternoon, and then I pivot to my email inbox for those we work with outside the 3W/3M core group, to answer questions, ask questions, ensure folks are paid, and generally do my best to keep the trains moving. An editor is the conductor, check point operator, traffic controller, and quality assurance agent, among other things. Whenever new art or lettering comes in, I share the file with the core team to gather their feedback while also reviewing it on my own, sending out questions for clarity to the team or external party if necessary. I try to review things before sharing with the rest of the 3W/3M guys, so I can have those questions collected ahead of their review, but if things are running tight, then I share first, follow up later.
If it’s a week a comic is going live, then I spend the day before putting together the various files – PDF, CBZ, and vertical scroll JPEGs – and review each multiple times, including against each other, to make sure that everything is in order (I am forever grateful to the readers who call out when I slip up, so we can fix it ASAP). I then share those files with Rob [Levin], who reviews with fresh eyes in case I missed anything, and then we post them to the website. Sometimes, if he or I notice something fairly late in the process – such as a typo, a continuity error, etc – then I’ll make the fix myself. If we have a little extra time, or the issue is too great for my limited skillset, then I’ll reach out to the proper creator to make the adjustment.
If I’m diligent, then I’ll update all my various trackers that day, but usually it’s something I do at the end of the week. At the end of the month, I go through everything that’s live on the site and record new vocabulary, characters, and other key information and lore. The reason I wait until it is live is because sometimes names and terms are placeholder in scripts, and the live data is the best data.
And how does that differ from past roles at Dynamite, DC, and Riot?
DC’s a huge operation and everyone has clearly defined roles. I don’t think editors are supposed to touch the final art; even if I could, I didn’t have access to Adobe products outside of Acrobat Reader, so I’d be pretty useless making any adjustments to the art or lettering. So, if a last-minute change needed to be made, it either went back to the freelancer or was handled by the in-house Pre-Press team. There’s also a team who tracks what art is in and when folks need to be paid.
At Dynamite, we had in-house designers, but I also recall making some adjustments to the art myself in Photoshop a time or two. With the amount of books I was working on there, my day was pretty much determined by my email inbox – either thanking someone for turning their work in, handing it off to the next creator in the assembly line, or trying to chase it down.
Meanwhile, Riot is a giant, meeting-heavy, cross-team collaborative operation. I worked hand-in-hand with an art director on the comics, who would provide likeness notes for the characters to make sure they stayed on model, and I’d share the various stages of the comic (script and lettered art, at a minimum) with other writers and editors around the company for visibility and feedback – in part to make sure I wasn’t stepping on someone else’s toes, and that the characters felt true to the majority of folks working on the property. Thankfully, there is a whole team dedicated to tracking the lore and vocabulary at Riot, so once the story was live, it was someone else’s job to track those developments.
A little while back we released THE THIRTEEN QUESTIONS prototype for members of THE CIRCLE, our premium subscriber tier. Have you gone before The Assessor? If so, what were your results?
I have! I took it a few times, actually, for testing purposes, and it seems I am either destined to be a Judge or taken away to the Lab.
What do you think that says about you as a person? How about as an editor?
While wildly different outcomes, they both feel very true to me and my vocation. I suspect most editors are a natural fit for the Judge outcome because we work with a lot of people and information and try to guide them all to a singular goal, doing our best to maintain a cohesive and error-free canon and continuity. If something is too divergent or contradictory to what we have said before to be true, I have to flag and correct it, otherwise the rules of the world become meaningless, and my role as an editor entirely redundant.
That said, from an overall narrative and creative perspective, I don’t want things to feel too predictable or familiar to other stories and worlds that people are know well, so it’s necessary to have a bit of that heretical Lab mind to keep things fresh, singular, and exciting.
When can our subscribers expect an update on [THE COMPETITION]?
Soon™. All scripts have been delivered, but our focus is on wrapping up [MAPS] first. Once it’s off to the printer, Jonathan and I will sit down and put together narrative and continuity feedback, as well as any other kind of direction or nitpicks inherent to the comics medium, for the winners to digest and execute a second draft, before we move to the next stage.
Turning to existing stories in the world that are further along, is there anything you can share, whether art or story teases, now that I’ve just put you on the spot?
Here’s a sweet shot of Tajo and Arlo, from THE VALLARS BOOK TWO, looking down on Ordo from inside the Wingbill. Art by Jason Howard, of course.
And here’s a super cool transport design that Mike Huddleston turned in on a yet-to-be announced project. If you remember the Fly Wonderful from BIRTH, then this is kind of an evolution of that idea. It’s bigger, roomier, and has more power. If the Fly Wonderful is a motorcycle or compact car, then this is your midsize sedan (with the Wingbill a fullsize luxury vehicle).
Say what you want about the Institute, but those guys have developed some amazing vehicles.
Very cool! We spoke to you after THE VALLARS BOOK ONE ended, and talked a bit about the family heading to Ordo, but I’m personally curious about the Moon’s Fair. Is that going to be a major part of BOOK TWO?
It would be unfortunate to hype something up so much in BOOK ONE and not pay it off.
And speaking of books, I know that you’re a voracious reader. What are you reading right now in terms of comics or beyond?
Emily Wilson’s translation of The Iliad recently came out, so I have that on my nightstand. In the office, I’ve been reading Ice Cream Man by W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo, and Chris O’Halloran, and Wheelock’s Latin by Frederic M. Wheelock (in what little spare time I have, I’ve been taking Latin lessons from comics writer and scholar Benito Cereno).
I just moved, so things are a little sparse at the moment.
I’d tell you that Latin is dead, but I don’t think that would make a difference.
Trends come back around, why not languages?
[Laughs] Do you read purely for knowledge and pleasure, or does that also affect how you approach stories as an editor and storyteller?
There was a time when I found it incredibly difficult to read or watch anything solely for pleasure, without focusing on the storytelling and the choices that were made in the process. When I first got into comics professionally, comics and movies were my life, which led to some serious burnout about six months into my first job, as well as making me incredibly tiresome to watch movies or discuss stories with, as I would be very critical in ways that most of my friends and family were not particularly interested in. I had to force myself to find other hobbies and ways to entertain myself, which subsequently had the effect of putting me at a disadvantage of not paying enough attention to current trends and creators in the industry. By the time I got to Vertigo, I had found a better balance, but it is something I know I need to be cognizant of, as I have a natural tendency to get into something and dig and dig and dig until it’s no longer interesting or I’m just exhausted by it.
So, to answer your question more simply: It’s a mix, and usually when I pick a book or comic to read, or movie to watch, I try to know how I am going to engage with it before starting. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, as I don’t think you can ever truly turn off the storyteller brain when engaging with stories, even if it’s on the more passive side.
And finally, I know we’re on the other side of the spooky season now, but I can’t help but ask about it since the responses are always fun – what Halloween traditions do you partake in? Are there any movies you rewatch every year that you’d recommend for our readers?
I love carving pumpkins (always a cat design) and giving out candy to trick-r-treaters! Though I haven’t done much in terms of costumes since 2020, I used to be a top-runner for many Halloween costume contests, especially at DC where I won Best Overall Costume in 2015 (Booster Gold), Best Hero in 2016 (Justice League International Black Canary), and Best Group in 2017 (New Gods – I was Big Barda). Recently I’ve gotten back into sewing, and I was hoping to have something together for this year, but the timing with the move made this year difficult. Maybe next year…
As far as spooky movies go, I love engaging with the supernatural, but there’s no horror franchise that I revisit annually. I’ll check out whatever is recommended or is in the cultural zeitgeist that year, but I’m probably not re-watching a horror movie. Unless you count the first Terminator and Predator films, which are technically stalker/monster movies, then I watch those at least once a year, whenever the urge strikes.
That said, as to not leave anyone hanging, I plan to finally watch Midsommar this year, and I highly recommend the Robert Eggers-directed films The VVitch and The Lighthouse (and The Northman, though that’s not really a horror movie).
And, because I am a tiny bit basic, I do enjoy a beginning-of-the-season pumpkin spiced latte from my local coffee shop, and I will be watching Taylor Swift’s concert film in theaters later this month.
Thank you to Molly Mahan for chatting with us.
Now, let’s check out the week that was…
[Q&A] We chatted with artist Meghan Hetrick about drawing a story for [MAPS] and how she hopes there’s more sci-fi in her future.
[COMICS] THE NORTH is the latest [MAPS] story to debut, featuring stunning art and colors by Meghan Hetrick and Nick Filardi, respectively.
[PROCESS] Artistic juggernauts and 3W/3M co-creators Mike del Mundo and Mike Huddleston broke down how they designed various elements for THE NORTH. You know you want to see the mech designs (and more)…
More cool stuff headed your way this week. Keep your eyes peeled…