Diana Schutz at Michigan State University in 2018
|Born||February 1, 1955|
|Awards||Eisner Award for Best Anthology (1999), (2005)|
Friends of Lulu Award for Women of Distinction (2006)
Diana Schutz (born February 1, 1955) is a Canadian-born comic book editor, serving as editor in chief of Comico during its peak years, followed by a 25-year tenure at Dark Horse Comics. Some of the best-known works she has edited are Frank Miller's Sin City and 300, Matt Wagner's Grendel, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, and Paul Chadwick's Concrete. She was known to her letter-column readers as "Auntie Dydie". She is an adjunct instructor of comics history and criticism at Portland Community College.
Diana Schutz was born on February 1, 1955 in Canada. She read comics as a child. By her early teens, she began drifting towards romance titles, and then away from comics altogether until college, where she studied philosophy and creative writing. Finding comics, including Steve Gerber's Howard the Duck a welcome diversion from -- if ultimately not a polar opposite to -- "Plato, Bertrand Russell and Immanuel Kant," she found herself pulled back into the world of comics. Frequenting the comic shop called "The ComicShop" (owned by Ken Witcher and Ron Norton) in Vancouver, British Columbia, she ultimately dropped out of graduate philosophy (with an undergraduate degree in creative writing) to move (in 1978) from being one of the ComicShop's few female customers to being one of its few "counter people," where she says she found herself "learn[ing] social skills I never learned in the ivory tower of academia."
Witcher, Norton, and The ComicShop swiftly proved able sources for Schutz to discover comics, including "Barry Windsor-Smith's Conan; Jim Starlin's Captain Marvel; Craig Russell's Killraven; and Dave Sim's Cerebus, of which she was "one of the first 2,000 readers to actually buy issue 1."
Schutz worked in comics stores for six years, moving from Vancouver to California and from The ComicShop to Comics & Comix in 1981. By 1982, she was making the move from retail towards publishing by means of a "bimonthly, 32-page newsletter that [she] put together for Comics & Comix entitled The Telegraph Wire which was modeled on The Comics Journal (each issue containing an interview, reviews, news and adverts), and its production swiftly became her role at C&C.
Working on The Telegraph Wire "put me in touch with creators whom I would interview [and] publishers from whom I would solicit advertising to help underwrite the cost of this "newsletter" that we would give out for free at each of the 7 Comics & Comix stores." These contacts were added to by her attendance at an increasing numbers of conventions, including the Creation Conventions and the San Diego convention:
In addition to meeting and mingling with publishers, distributors, promotion teams and all manner of creators, Schutz started freelance work for "various other fan publications", including Comics Buyer's Guide, The Comics Journal, Amazing Heroes and Comics Scene, from which she graduated to a very brief -- four-day -- job with Marvel Comics as an assistant editor.
Recommended by friend Chris Claremont, Schutz was to be (at age 29) Ann Nocenti's assistant editor on the X-Men, but found herself entering her new job with "unrealistic expectations"; ultimately handing in her notice after a mere four days. Several months later (in 1985), she (and Bob Schreck) began work at Comico, which "with its opportunities for creator ownership, and the fact that it was much smaller and more personable, was much more [her] style". Schutz's first comic book editing credit was Robotech: The Macross Saga #3. Having picked up in her brief tenure at Marvel some knowledge "from Virginia Romita how to create and enforce production schedules", Schutz took over as Comico's primary editor. (Schreck oversaw "all the marketing and publishing type aspects".)
Having been one of the small core of readers who bought the first issue of Dave Sim's Cerebus, Schutz got to know the man himself, and began working for him as a proofreader, first unofficially, and then officially from the "middle of '94" until early 2001. She explains that she "never proofed the book itself," "[j]ust the text, the typeset text" feeling that her respect for his abilities outweighed any potential "qualms" about the book's often-contentious content.
Schutz's stated stance (which has largely held sway throughout her entire editorial career) is that her role is not to interfere with an artist's story, merely to make sure that their work is "as grammatically clear as it could be." This she did for Sim for several years, balking only when Sim sent her a "boxing challenge to proofread" which she felt was a personal attack on a friend (and one introduced to her by Sim himself). Schutz promptly resigned in January 2001, and Sim even published her resignation letter in Cerebus #265. This issue also included a "20-page anti-female diatribe," and Schutz remains mildly aggravated over this juxtaposition, since she thinks some readers might equate the two--she did not, and found herself having to explain that she had no problem proofreading "an argument, no matter how faulty, in which Dave believes," no matter her personal views, and that she had resigned over the boxing challenge itself from the previous issue, #264. Indeed, even while Schutz was performing proofreading duties, she did so via fax, and had very little--if any--personal contact with Sim himself.
By 1990, Schutz began work for Dark Horse Comics, rising (by 2007) to the position of Executive Editor, having variously held the roles of Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Editor-in-Chief. In December 2001, she was the fifth-most-senior staff member in terms of length-of-employment (after, respectively, Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley, Neil Hankerson and Cary Grazzini), but stated that she had originally relinquished the job of Editor-in-Chief in December 1995, after almost two years, "because what it did is it put me in meetings all the damn time, writing memos and holding people's hands and I wasn't able to make good comics anymore".
Concurrent with her move to Oregon, Schutz returned to graduate studies, and in 1994 she received a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies from the University of Portland, writing her M.A. thesis on female cartoonists Julie Doucet, Roberta Gregory, and Aline Kominsky-Crumb.
With Bob Schreck's departure from Dark Horse (first to Oni Press and then to DC), Frank Miller found himself without an editor, and called Schutz - the two are friends - in the hopes that she would agree to edit his subsequent work. Initially reluctant, thinking that the professional relationship could jeopardize their friendship, she ultimately agreed to a "trial run of six months," which extended into an editor-writer relationship of several years.
In July 1999, Schutz instigated the Maverick imprint at Dark Horse Comics which was designed as an umbrella title for a number of creator-owned titles, including some already published by Dark Horse and some new to the publisher. The 'Maverick' name was designed "to provide a kind of identity or specific line for those sorts of individual creator visions." The aim of the "Maverick" line was to "push the medium a little bit," although Schutz recognized that such titles are often a hard sell. To help address this, the Maverick Annual anthologies (published from 2000 as Dark Horse Maverick and later under such subtitles as Happy Endings and AutobioGraphix) placed newer creators (Farel Dalrymple, Gilbert Austin, Jason Hall, Matt Kindt) alongside the more established names of Frank Miller and Sam Kieth.
Debuting with the Schutz-edited Sin City: Hell and Back by Frank Miller - who also suggested the "Maverick" name - the first year consolidated "[Dark Horse's] creator-owned, creator-produced titles under one roof -- such diverse titles as Mike Mignola's Hellboy, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, Paul Chadwick's The World Below, Matt Wagner's Grendel, and Sergio Aragonés (and Mark Evanier)'s Groo, to mention just a few," bringing in new titles such as Rich Tommaso's The Horror of Collier County and providing a home for such projects as P. Craig Russell's adaptation of The Ring of the Nibelung.
The eclectic titles had one thing in common, according to Schutz - "it has a lot to do with the particular project being a labor of love for the individual creator," despite the logical oddity of "attempting to unite the unique visions of each individual creator," which she termed "a paradoxical enterprise at best." The titles featured design work by Cary Grazzini, and each featured an individual variation of the distinctive Dark Horse "horse head," an idea of Mike Richardson's to "truly reflect... the spirit of independence that is Dark Horse Maverick."
During its second year, Schutz highlighted Maverick's "trades program" as standing out, both for collecting previously published materials, including Neil Gaiman and Alice Cooper's The Last Temptation (initially released in 1994 by Marvel Music), and debuting new work, including titles by such legendary individuals as Will Eisner. Somewhat ahead of its time, the imprint would contend with the "financial obstacles" that go hand-in-hand, said Schutz in 2001, with the then-declining numbers of people reading comics, but she maintained that:
Schutz announced her retirement from Dark Horse in March 2015.
A character named Diana Schutz makes a cameo appearance in issue #23 of Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Oeming's comics series Powers (collected in the fifth trade paperback, Powers: Anarchy), as the owner of an eatery called Dark Horse Coffee. Her character discusses the problematic nature of vigilante superheroes who exist above the normal system of law, and why non-powered individuals might feel betrayed by, wary, or resentful of them.
She has won an Inkpot Award and the 2006 Friends of Lulu Award for Women of Distinction, and was also nominated in the (long-discontinued) Eisner "Best Editor" category in 1992, 1994, and 1995 for her work on a range of titles.
In addition to editing multiple books which have received Eisner and Harvey Awards, she has edited a handful of titles which have won the Eisner Award for "Best Anthology" -- award-winning anthologies are often seen as the de facto 'editor's award' since their success depends far more on the editor than do other comics. She also -- with artist Tim Sale -- won the 2006 Haxtur Award for the Planeta deAgostini Spanish translation of their short story "Young Love" from Solo #1.
She says that:
|"||. . . one of the best moments of my life, before I ever began working with Will Eisner, was accepting an Eisner Award from him on stage and having him kiss me. I was standing in front of the microphone . . . and my acceptance speech went right out of my head. All I could say was, 'Oh my God, Will Eisner just kissed me!'||"|