The Life Of A Comics Artist: Divided and Conquered

The Life Of A Comics Artist: Divided and Conquered

Comics artists, and writers too, are overworked and frequently underpaid. Is it finally time to unionize?

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I'm legitimatly pissed about BOOM!, I own all the Adventure Time comics not because they're set in Ooo but down to the great stories and artwork. I've even talked to some of the artists involved over on DeviantArt... really, REALLY pissed to hear they're being exploited.

Blame the readers. It is the compliance of paying customers who allow the comic book industry to continue the industry-wide practice of exploitation. Trying not to sound like a pretentious wanker here, but I do go out of my way to support fresh & original intellectual property. I've picked up some really good reads in the last six months just by sitting down and having a chat with the guy who runs my local comic store. East Of West, Rat Queens, The Sixth Gun, Colder, just to name a few titles that probably will never be made into a Hollywood blockbuster as they're not the very best bits that have been picked out from sixty odd years worth of bloated rehash.

Paradoxrifts:
Blame the readers. It is the compliance of paying customers who allow the comic book industry to continue the industry-wide practice of exploitation. Trying not to sound like a pretentious wanker here, but I do go out of my way to support fresh & original intellectual property. I've picked up some really good reads in the last six months just by sitting down and having a chat with the guy who runs my local comic store. East Of West, Rat Queens, The Sixth Gun, Colder, just to name a few titles that probably will never be made into a Hollywood blockbuster as they're not the very best bits that have been picked out from sixty odd years worth of bloated rehash.

Has Sixth Gun not been picked up as a potential TV show? I have a vauge recollection of that somewhere. Also, I whole heartedly agree about supporting the indies. There's such a wealth of fantastic material beyond the generic DC/Marvel superhero drivel.

$400-600 per page? How is that the price of a page when commissions for something like a sketch is like at least $20...weird.

Paradoxrifts:
Blame the readers. It is the compliance of paying customers who allow the comic book industry to continue the industry-wide practice of exploitation. Trying not to sound like a pretentious wanker here, but I do go out of my way to support fresh & original intellectual property. I've picked up some really good reads in the last six months just by sitting down and having a chat with the guy who runs my local comic store. East Of West, Rat Queens, The Sixth Gun, Colder, just to name a few titles that probably will never be made into a Hollywood blockbuster as they're not the very best bits that have been picked out from sixty odd years worth of bloated rehash.

So a good writer/artist finds a job in DC/Marvel and writes/draws Batman or whatever for that company...then I'm to blame because I like their work?

http://www.tcj.com/its-about-goddamned-time/

Between this and the other problems I would question working in comic book industry all together. After the whole Scott Lobdell thing, I gave up on working on comics all together.

"That's a totally normal challenge for someone to face if they want to work in the glamorous and high-stakes business of putting drawings on paper and then stapling the paper together."

Pseudonym2:
http://www.tcj.com/its-about-goddamned-time/

Between this and the other problems I would question working in comic book industry all together. After the whole Scott Lobdell thing, I gave up on working on comics all together.

"That's a totally normal challenge for someone to face if they want to work in the glamorous and high-stakes business of putting drawings on paper and then stapling the paper together."

I'm not sure if I want to laugh or cry after reading that article. I didn't start reading comics until a few months ago, when I picked up Watchmen. Is it really that toxic?

anian:
So a good writer/artist finds a job in DC/Marvel and writes/draws Batman or whatever for that company...then I'm to blame because I like their work?

The problem is that most people approach it from exactly the opposite direction. They think that the creative teams that are hired to work with already very well-established and popular brand names must be good because otherwise they wouldn't have been hired to work on them in the first place. The majority of DC/Marvel content nowadays is made up of filler and advertising. Because no one in their right mind wants to be the next poor, miserable bastard to enrich their publisher in exchange for a bag of complementary peanuts and a tummy rub, by surrendering the rights to the next big thing in comic books.

So you end up with all of the big name brands stuck in perpetual third gear surrounded by start-up but go nowhere independents.

Paradoxrifts:

anian:
So a good writer/artist finds a job in DC/Marvel and writes/draws Batman or whatever for that company...then I'm to blame because I like their work?

The problem is that most people approach it from exactly the opposite direction. They think that the creative teams that are hired to work with already very well-established and popular brand names must be good because otherwise they wouldn't have been hired to work on them in the first place. The majority of DC/Marvel content nowadays is made up of filler and advertising. Because no one in their right mind wants to be the next poor, miserable bastard to enrich their publisher in exchange for a bag of complementary peanuts and a tummy rub, by surrendering the rights to the next big thing in comic books.

So you end up with all of the big name brands stuck in perpetual third gear surrounded by start-up but go nowhere independents.

Obviously there's a lot of comedic exaggeration but the article was referring to Brian Wood. A lot of other women have commented on how DC seems to know about these allegations and doesn't care. Apparently there's a whole system for women to warn other women of who is the creepiest guy out there.

Fox12:

Pseudonym2:
http://www.tcj.com/its-about-goddamned-time/

Between this and the other problems I would question working in comic book industry all together. After the whole Scott Lobdell thing, I gave up on working on comics all together.

"That's a totally normal challenge for someone to face if they want to work in the glamorous and high-stakes business of putting drawings on paper and then stapling the paper together."

I'm not sure if I want to laugh or cry after reading that article. I didn't start reading comics until a few months ago, when I picked up Watchmen. Is it really that toxic?

Yes and No.

It's better than it used to be but for Artists, they still have the problems of the old days (even if the amount is reduced) but fandom have given them more respect/appreciation than their employers these days.

I'm sorry, but why does anybody take print comics industry seriously in 2014? The entire industry is corrupt to the core. Wonder Woman's a desperate housewife, Amanda Waller's a runway model, Superman's a goth, and Spider Man solves his problems by making a deal with the devil. Writers are idiots. Artists are fucked. Management's contempt for their talent is rivaled only by their contempt for their readers, and the only corporation I can think of off the top of my head that has done more to destroy the medium than the Big Two would have to be Diamond, the monopoly that kicked off the race to the bottom.

Why the fuck would anyone choose to write, draw, ink, letter, color or edit for the Big Two? Just start your own damn webcomic. If you want to "write for Batman" or whatever that badly, just do some anonymous fan fiction on the side so you get all the creative outlet and none of the frivilous lawsuits from the Big Two. You'll be richer, healthier, happier, and more in control of your destiny. Sure, you'll need to wear a lot of hats and work your ass off to run it as a business, but it's better than knowing for certain you're being fucked every month for the rest of your life.

Just remember, we call them "Heroes," "Supers," or "Capes." Never "Superheroes."

Pseudonym2:

Paradoxrifts:

anian:
So a good writer/artist finds a job in DC/Marvel and writes/draws Batman or whatever for that company...then I'm to blame because I like their work?

The problem is that most people approach it from exactly the opposite direction. They think that the creative teams that are hired to work with already very well-established and popular brand names must be good because otherwise they wouldn't have been hired to work on them in the first place. The majority of DC/Marvel content nowadays is made up of filler and advertising. Because no one in their right mind wants to be the next poor, miserable bastard to enrich their publisher in exchange for a bag of complementary peanuts and a tummy rub, by surrendering the rights to the next big thing in comic books.

So you end up with all of the big name brands stuck in perpetual third gear surrounded by start-up but go nowhere independents.

Obviously there's a lot of comedic exaggeration but the article was referring to Brian Wood. A lot of other women have commented on how DC seems to know about these allegations and doesn't care. Apparently there's a whole system for women to warn other women of who is the creepiest guy out there.

It is almost as these women you speak of continue to exist far beyond the visual range and are capable of independent communication amongst themselves.

We must conduct further experimentation. I think we might be onto something big here. :P

:Edit: All my prior comments were in reference to the original article about underpaid artists.

Paradoxrifts:
Blame the readers. It is the compliance of paying customers who allow the comic book industry to continue the industry-wide practice of exploitation. Trying not to sound like a pretentious wanker here, but I do go out of my way to support fresh & original intellectual property. I've picked up some really good reads in the last six months just by sitting down and having a chat with the guy who runs my local comic store. East Of West, Rat Queens, The Sixth Gun, Colder, just to name a few titles that probably will never be made into a Hollywood blockbuster as they're not the very best bits that have been picked out from sixty odd years worth of bloated rehash.

I think the readers (including myself) have some power to change this, but the problem is that short of an outright boycott, sales tend to do two things: either confirm something isn't selling and thus stop doing it, or confirm something is really working and keep doing it. That something is "whatever we put into this issue," not "how we treat our employees.

Further, consumers often lack information needed to make, for lack of a better way to put it, moral considerations. Maybe they assume being a working artist is easy. That's certainly a problem in the US, where the attitude among many people is that being creative is somehow an illegitimate way to make a living and thus people who do it should never complain. But it's also just, maybe they don't know any artists or maybe they don't know how one breaks into the industry, or perhaps they just think about how much they like the stories. It isn't like most people have the time or ability to be fully informed on every single issue ever, especially considering how much everyone is overworked as it is. Which is why drawing attention to these issues is important.

FWIW, I support indies and buy comics from independent and underground artists waaay more than I do titles from the big publishers, but the money - which is needed so that artists can support themselves - is in the big publishers and more mainstream titles. That's in part because small publishers and truly independent artists don't have the PR and marketing machine needed to get attention, coupled with the fact that, just like with film and music, most people don't even know where to begin looking for stuff not from the big publishers.

Another thing, people like what they like. I happen to think that grown adults preferring The Avengers to, say, Jessica Abel, is a little disappointing, but I don't want to get into the business of telling people they can't like what they like. For another, I don't think there has to be a conflict, any more than I think someone can't like both Kim Stanley Robinson and Harry Potter. Which is to say, it doesn't matter if they're buying indies or major publisher titles, the work is similar and the artists are still artists. And as I mentioned in the article, going indie, going creator-owned, these aren't guaranteed pathways to success. Not to mention if everyone started buying indies, that would turn them into major publishers and lacking laws or organizations to protect artist/writer interests, there's nothing that will keep

tl,dr version: don't be too hard on readers. Shine a light on this stuff and maybe they'll start keeping it in mind.

It amazes me how little this article pays attention to the actual mechanics behind WHY so many creative folks get screwed in the comics industry.

First, writers can create a wide, expansive and deeply exploitable Intellectual Property much faster and cheaper than an artist can. This lays a foundation that artists can build upon, but those artists still work with other writers. Each new comic therefore expands the IP.

No one makes a multi-million-dollar movie on basis of a picture. They do it on basis of a story. The only place where art doesn't need story to go with it is in Merchandising. T-shirts, lunchboxes, baby diapers and adhesive strips don't need a writer to help them sell. But even then, the reason the images sell merchandise is because people remember and admire the stories that went with those images.

Second, Image was barely a notch above the standard corporate model, because only Original Creators got any extra benefits out of it. If you worked on Youngblood or any other Image title, but didn't own the IP, you were considered just another employee when the chips were down, just like anywhere else.

Don't believe that? Look no further than the case of Gaiman v. McFarlane, where Neil Gaiman had to go to court to prove he was a co-creator of certain Spawn characters. McFarlane, who had originally welcomed and declared Gaiman as a "co-creator" when working on the project, tried to reverse himself and claim Gaiman was just another "work-made-for-hire" employee. Absent any such contract, that was a lie, but the money became more important than honor amongst artists.

By the by, Gaiman won.

Third, the comics industry is exceptionally incestuous.

If you are not a networker and cannot schmooze, you had better have someone who can in your corner, because for every decent-paying job in comic books, there are literally a thousand people capable of filling the slot. When you do get into that rarified air, talent tends to be so ubiquitous that it's taken for granted. Thus, people often get slots on a book because of whose name they can drop, or whose kids were babysat by whom last weekend, as opposed to how well they know or care about the characters.

None of this can be fixed by unionizing. In fact, it's arguably true that the third factor would be made WORSE; have you ever seen a union shop with such a dearth of work compared to workers, in action? It's a shark pit.

Until there are enough jobs in the industry to support enough workers to break up the cliques, it doesn't matter who owns the IPs. They'll remain the lords and masters of anyone who takes a paycheck from them, and Devil take the hindmost.

 

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