Forums Forums Main Forum Is it “Impossible” to make money as a writer or artist in comics? Reply To: Is it “Impossible” to make money as a writer or artist in comics?

  • philipspace

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    August 26, 2021 at 8:49 pm
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    Hmmm. From the Shooter comments, it sounds like Disney is very concerned about having to pay some kind of settlement down the road similar to what the Kirby estate eventually received, except multiplied by the number of creators writing and drawing the Marvel lineup over the last 50 years or so. If the Superman creators could wind up with a settlement 40 years (?) later, once that character graced the big screen, then anything’s possible. ESPECIALLY when blockbuster, multi-film, high-budget movies become the cornerstone of your licensing revenue stream.

    That comics doesn’t pay many of its creators enough to live on is nothing new. As Greg Capullo said a while back, it’s a small food dish with a lot of dogs trying to get at it. The upshot is that, if you can get established, you can potentially have a lucrative income stream down the road (if you’re an artist) selling commissions to fans, or springboard yourself into another creative field.

    Monetizing creativity is challenging in any field. It’s like acting; a small percentage of individuals are able to make decent paychecks, the remainder are subsidizing their income through other means. If I recall correctly, Arnold Schwarzenegger sold real estate for a time before acting in Conan. Brad Pitt wore a giant chicken suit to advertise for a restaurant. Those bills won’t pay themselves.

    Comics illustration also isn’t really comparable to other graphic fields, economically. Other graphic fields are typically working with companies who need specific images produced for specific purposes, therefore the graphics are not directly tied to their revenue stream. This is simply not the case in comics, where there is no product to sell without a significant amount of graphic production.

    The publishers are typically running fairly tight margins, and assembly line production means a lot of people trying to put food on the table. If you figure that you’re going to have a writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer and editor in the mix (to say nothing of the other people in the office, marketing, shipping, etc.), and each of those people need about $2,000-$4,000 a month ($24-48k/yearly) to live on and/or support a family with, you need to sell an awful lot of books to just to break even. Assuming an average overall compensation of $30,000 a year, which correct me if I’m wrong is still below the Federal poverty line, 6x30k=$180,000 in revenue just to pay everybody that worked directly on the book, which is problematic when most of your income is from book sales in specialty stores. It’s not hard to figure out why outfits like Image or Alterna don’t even offer page-rates, or for that matter why Kickstarter becomes a more attractive offer for independent creators to put their books out. Less slices of the pie to have to distribute.

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    p class=””>The main hang-up in that math that we’re seeing right now is that licensing (if and when it happens) changes everything. Your revenue is then no longer narrowly confined to a single product through limited outlets, now it can be everywhere. Eastman and Laird found this out back in the 80’s with TMNT, Marvel and DC have long been slapping their characters on lunchboxes and T-shirts for decades. Now that big-screen adaptations of their characters are finally viable, they have a massive platform to promote their products. Are the people that those platforms being built on seeing any of that? Of course not, any more than a construction worker sees rent from an apartment building he helped build. As far as the publisher is concerned, they have simply helped produce a commodity entertainment item. So the better question is, should the end-goal of a creator be to work for a major publisher to make their living? Until they start including future licensing revenue streams in their contracts as part of the work-for-hire arrangement, I think that becomes largely rhetorical.