Frank Miller got me thinking...
Above photo: Klaus Janson and Frank Miller at the School of Visual Arts’ “100 Years of Genius: The Life and Legacy of Will Eisner” event in April 2017. Photo by (DC Comics editor and SVA faculty member) Joey Cavalieri.
Frank Miller got me thinking.
On April 4, 2017, during his chat at the School of Visual Arts’ “100 Years of Genius: The Life and Legacy of Will Eisner,” Frank Miller talked a bit on the topic of Will Eisner and comic book Creators’ Rights. Miller explained Will’s views on comic book Creator’s Rights and contracts:
The most frequent business advice [Will Eisner] gave me was: ‘Stop whining.’ Because I would go in saying: ‘Creators’ Rights this, Creators’ Rights that, Creators’ Rights this.’ And he’d say: ‘Look, if you sign the contract, it’s over. Stop complaining about anything.’ His point of view was simply that if you’re working on other people’s material, then you don’t have that much of a claim. And so, clearly, his whole point was that the future of comics was for people to be introducing new material.
(You can watch the entirety of SVA’s “100 Years of Genius: The Life and Legacy of Will Eisner” event here on Youtube.)
In the book EISNER/MILLER, Will stated:
Take a look at the marketplace and understand what its realties are. I never subscribed to this Creators’ Bill of Rights because I believe that there was no reality to it. In the marketplace, moral rights are often disregarded.
Well, there is no ingrained right, there are no God-given rights here. The rights are what you negotiate.
Now, it’s true that Will was a very savvy business person. (And you really have to be if you want to have a successful career in the arts.) I don’t think that Will would have needed to be reminded by something like (the very important) Creators’ Bill of Rights. However, the vast majority of young artists do need to be reminded and told about the Bill and about Creators’ Rights.
(I lecture on all of this in my Sequential Art: Comics Illustration class at SUNY Orange.)
In an interview on the Creators’ Bill of Rights and Creators’ Rights for THE COMICS JOURNAL (No. 137, September 1990) by Gary Groth and with Steve Bissette, Scott McCloud stated:
Whatever crimes are going on at companies where Creators’ Rights are not honored become pretty quickly irrelevant because essentially it’s your own damn fault if you decide to work there… if there is an alternative… yeah, if you went in with some knowledge. ‘What’s smoking?’ As long as the warning is there.
(A must-read and/or must-listen interview with Stephen Bissette and Scott McCloud.)
Over the years, I’ve been quite outspoken about comic book Creator’s Rights.
In 2005, I began becoming more vocal and more public about my views on Creators’ Rights. I started conversations with folks like Steve Bissette, Dave Sim, Rick Veitch, Scott McCloud, and even with Denis Kitchen, Erik Larsen, and Fernando Ruiz.
(All of these discussions are collected and posted at www.yacanteraseink.com)
Dave Sim had suggested to me that my eventual departure from Archie Comics may have been due to my public outspokenness on Creators’ Rights. Dave could very well be right.
In 2010, I officially ended my contributions toward work-made-for-hire.
(Two weeks ago, for about an hour, I was on the phone with a publisher and trying to convince him that I had no interest in working on their work-made-for-hire project.)
Above photo: This photo was taken in June 2014 during the "Creator-owned Comics (vs. Corporate-owned Comics)" panel at the Special Edition: NYC comics convention which was held at the Jacob Javits Center New York City. I was joined on the panel by Kurt Busiek and Mike Allred.
In 2014, I was on the “Creator-owned Comics (vs. Corporate-owned Comics)” panel held at the Special Edition: NYC comics convention. The panel featured a discussion between myself, Michael Allred, and Kurt Busiek. That panel pretty much summed up my view on Creators’ Rights in regards to Creator-owned Comics versus Corporate-owned Comics.
Simply put: Comic book publishers have a horrible history with treating their writers and artists. If you’re interested in playing in the work-made-for-hire sandbox, then know the environment in which you’re working and know what your rights are. For me, now, creator-owned comics are the only thing that I’ll be doing in comics.
The topic of comic book Creators’ Rights does still interest me a great deal. I still believe that, at the very least, the Creator’s Bill of Rights is a must-read for professional comic book creators and for young artists who wish to have a career in comics and/or in animation.
It’s just that, now, I don’t know if we can actually change the policies of comic book publishers that promote work-made-for-hire. Maybe it’s just best to ignore the likes of Marvel and DC. There are more creator-friendly publishers out there. Why keep flogging a dead horse?
My opinion hasn’t changed, exactly. I like to think that my focus has just evolved. I don’t care what the corporate comic publishers are doing anymore.
I’m wondering if Will Eisner was more often correct about Creators' Rights than I previously thought.