Monday, March 4, 2013
Howard Beale strikes back!
Wow, thanks for the outpouring of comments! I appreciate every one of them, and I want to clarify that yesterday's essay had been simmering for a while, and was brought to the surface by a few things. I had seen comments on the internet, that the reason I wasn't on regular assignments had to do with me being semi-retired, or perhaps independently wealthy:) Neither is true. I also was at a bookstore this past weekend, looking at a big book on DC, a history, year by year. It reminded me of how many noteworthy DC universe projects I've been involved in over the 33 years in comics.
My intent was not to garner sympathy, because I have a fine life, and career. I am doing fine, and have more commission requests than I can handle right now. I wanted to pull back the curtain a bit, to show a little of what goes on behind the scenes. I made it clear that I chose my path, I made the decisions, and I don't have any real regret, except for staying with the DC exclusive contract when it wasn't really helping me.
I brought up the contract issue of not getting work, while being exclusive to DC, because I have heard from others who were in the same situation, who might not feel free to publicly say anything about it. DC comics has always been fair to me, and honored signed deals with no problems whatsoever, in all the years I worked for them, except in this one instance. To take this further, I think that if DC had, say six artists, that they DESIRED enough to sign to exclusive contracts, then those six artists should have all been incorporated into the New 52 launch. You assign the folks whom you have obligations to FIRST, then hire others. That's called honoring the contract that you as a company drew up and signed. Personally, I was surprised that I wasn't included. I contacted plenty of editors when I was open, and I wasn't even told of the plans to relaunch. I pitched story ideas, and did my best to contact any who could help me, finally resorting to contacting Jim Lee on Twitter. Jim probably got me onto a list of creators that Palmiotti and Grey saw, when they were planning their Freedom Fighters mini-series.
DC chose 52 artists over me, and let me twiddle my thumbs for a full 3 months while they tried to find inventory work for me. I knew I wasn't currently in anyone's "top ten" artists, but to find that I wasn't in the top 52 was a shock:). If any of you are ever asked to be exclusive to any company, make sure they will incur penalties if they can't keep you busy:) I had that clause when I first signed, but the renewals did away with it because "it wasn't really needed." D'oh!
So anyhow, don't feel sorry for me--I don't want that. Don't use this as an excuse to bash DC over their new books, but DO use this to understand the life of a freelance creator. We pay for our own healthcare, we pay an extra tax known as the self employment tax, and we all work strange long hours trying to make sure your comics ship on time. Support comics by the creators you like! Every sale helps. Support the independent publishers, and the small press comics, because they are putting their hearts and souls into their creations without any advance payments or page rates.
I know it's easy to be negative, and throw out comments like"Everything new sucks, why can't we have 1980's comics again," but don't stop buying comics, and then remain on the sidelines complaining. If you like comics, stay in the game, search out books you think you might like, look for familiar creators you like. Your dollars count, and if you support what you like, and support your local comic stores, it helps us all. Buy from smaller publishers! Competition is what pushed DC and then Marvel to initiate royalties on comic sales, putting creator names on covers, raising rates, etc. With the industry dominated by a few, there is no incentive to treat freelancers better. People joke about the content of the Image comics at their launch, but Image Comics' success forced other companies to pay creators better, rather than lose them to creator owned books.
When I started professionally in comics, in the Summer of 1980, comics were printed on the cheapest paper known to anyone except the toilet paper manufacturers, and the big publishers all bemoaned the state of the business. Then things started to change. DC made great strides, and created deals to lure talent to their ranks. People were offered equity in new character creations, royalties came into play, new formats were targeted to the new, direct sales market, and there was growth in the industry again. People were enjoying more creative freedoms, freelance rates were raised, and this wave lasted through the Image launch and the comic book "boom" time of 1991-1994. Once creator owned books were no longer guaranteed to earn a creator the equivalent of a DC or Marvel page rate, the power reverted back to the publishers with big pockets. Since then, page rates have been flat, and year by year, and with a glut of freelancers available, the publishers have treated everyone with less respect.
The time is now:
I think that the comic fans who feel like they've been abandoned could organize and be a force for change. I hear from so many of you, that there's nothing to buy that interests you, except for reprints of older stuff. If you can all rally around me, based on my blog post, then let's see you rally around books by creators you like. If I had a kickstarter, I would love your support. I know of plenty who have crowd-funded projects who could use your support. Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon, Jamal Igle, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey, all did or are doing their own stuff. And there are many many others. Support them! Support Image books. We all love comics, or we wouldn't be here right now, correct? Your local comic store probably needs your business as much as I do. If any of your favorite creators solicits a book through Previews, please pre-order a copy, and try and talk it up to the owner, in hopes they will stock a few extras to be discovered by a customer or two.
Whatever ire I've stirred in you, it needs a positive outlet. Hopefully something good can come out of my rantings. Thanks for listening.