It isn't that editors get in the way of the artists and writers or provide the overall perception for critics. Many comics editors, as it turns out, are also comics creators. They know how a character should look and sound because they had a hand in their design.
I suppose, to be consistent, we could look at the common features of newspaper editors and the choices they make in what to include; we could examine the magazine editor's bringing together of article and illustration; or note the way that comics have followed closely the book editors branding and blurb.
The real essence of an editor's work in comics remains in the medium. He or she is the one who makes sure that Captain Storm is outfitted correctly; that Miss America has the proper backstory and use of powers. The editor also examines the finished proofs to see that the lettering doesn't obscure the art nor the drawings cover the words. An encyclopediac knowledge of the characters and their world comes in very handy, but so too does a general knowledge to guard against errors of fact.
In the beginning, the editor was the one who liaised between the art team and the publisher. There would be one editor per book or one editor for the whole line.
Now, with the passing of time and an increasing sophistication in the industry, there is an entire editorial team:
- a consulting editor to provide a cohesive look and feel across a line of books,
- an executive editor to keep an eye on the work of other editors,
- an associate editor for schmoosing (I'm making that up), and
- assistant editors to do the legwork once done by the editor alone.