Monday, February 22, 2010

A letter from Dave Sim...

Above: CEREBUS artwork by Dave Sim.

In continuing our conversations on comic book Creator’ Rights, I am posting Dave Sim’s latest letter to me. Dave is responding to my blog posts "Comics and Work-Made-for-Hire: Creator’s Rights", "An e-mail from Erik Larsen...", "An e-mail from Fernando Ruiz…", and "An e-mail from Steve Bissette..."

With his letter, Dave had included a copy of Steve Bissette’s "En Route… another true-life tale." Which I won’t be posting here.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010


ARCHIE ALL-STARS VOLUME 3: THE CARTOON LIFE OF CHUCK CLAYTON trade paperback is now on sale. This volume collects ARCHIE & FRIENDS #126-#129 written by Alex Simmons, with art by Fernando Ruiz (pencils) and myself (inks). I wonder if Archie Comics will be sending me a royalty check for this collected edition.

Below is some artwork from ARCHIE & FRIENDS #126-#129 by Fernando and myself…

Above: Artwork from ARCHIE & FRIENDS #126.

Above: Artwork from ARCHIE & FRIENDS #128.

Above: A face only a mother could love. Artwork from ARCHIE & FRIENDS #128.

Above: Artwork from ARCHIE & FRIENDS #129.


Friday, February 12, 2010

"Comics and Work-Made-for-Hire: Discussing page rates"

When I first started working for one particular comic book publisher, a fellow creator told me that this publisher didn’t like it when their creators talked amongst each another. Why is that? So we remain stupid? So we can be better controlled? So we don’t discuss things like page rates and royalties? Can publishers be so scared and so cheap?

Using a page rate system to pay comic book creators seems ok to me. However, one problem occurs when a publisher or editor acts dishonestly when trying to nickel-and-dime creators.

On one occasion, a fellow inker (who had worked in comics many years longer than I) asked me about my page rate. He wasn’t too happy when he found out that my page rate was higher than his. The fellow inker then contacted our editor to get an increase to his page rate. When told "no one gets paid THAT much" (a line once used on me, as well), the fellow inker responded with: "Al Nickerson does."

The fellow inker soon got an increase to his page rate.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Rendezvous with Destiny...

In honor of the 99th birthday of President Ronald Reagan, here are experts from a speech Mr. Reagan had given on October 27, 1964:

If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand--the ultimatum. And what then? When Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we are retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary because by that time we will have weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he has heard voices pleading for "peace at any price" or "better Red than dead," or as one commentator put it, he would rather "live on his knees than die on his feet." And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don't speak for the rest of us. You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin--just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it's a simple answer after all.

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

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An e-mail from Steve Bissette...

Above: TYRANT artwork by Steve Bissette.

Continuing with creators’ responses concerning "Comics and Work-Made-for-Hire: Creator’s Rights", here’s an e-mail from another buddy, Steve Bissette:


Some creators resent the Bill because they deed 'authority' to some perceived 'higher' position: as if they expect publishers to take care of them, their interests, and detest any thought to the contrary.

Some creators resent the Bill because, frankly, they don't want to deal with the business of comics. Of making a living. Of being responsible for oneself and one's work.

Others -- oh, I don't know. They resent having anything spelled out as 'rights.'

Rights imply obligations.

Some never learn; some learn the hard way (and sometimes too late).

I just don't know. Having seen the fortunes and situations of key creators of my own generation so sorely impacted by their own (sometime stubborn) refusal to engage with all it requires just makes me sad.

Such is life.

I do my best to teach my kids and my students otherwise -- to know their rights, to defend them, use them, and take care of themselves.

It's the best I can do with the time and arenas I have....

Steve B

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Friday, February 5, 2010

An e-mail from Fernando Ruiz…

Above: Artwork from Archie Comics’ "Football Star" by (penciler) Fernando Ruiz and (inker) myself.

Continuing with creators’ responses concerning "Comics and Work-Made-for-Hire: Creator’s Rights", here’s an e-mail from my buddy, Fernando Ruiz:

Always remember... Nobody can force you to sign a contract. This is true today and it was true in 1938. These "creator's rights issues" are a a whole lot of nothing. They amount to the same amount of disingenuousness as when an artist takes on a job and then complains about the page rate. The work for hire agreement is what it is. If you don't like it, don't sign it. If you don't like the terms of a job, don't take that job on. I'm always beyond disgusted when I hear a fellow artist say, "They're paying me crap so I didn't try very hard!" Hey! If you agree to work for crap, you give them your best! Don't complain because they're paying you the rate you agreed to. Pass on the job if the terms are so offensive!

Regarding the grandaddy of all these creator's rights issues, the Siegel and Shuster case, read "Men of Tomorrow" by Gerard Jones. It offers a very sober and even-handed look at the Siegel and Shuster story.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

An e-mail from Erik Larsen...

Above: My pal Brandon Carr sent me this shiny Erik Larsen sketch.


I have never understood what point of a "Creator's Bill of Rights" is.

Who decided what creator spoke for me and decided what rights I did or did not have? In what way has that been adhered to or enforced?

I have often heard it spoken about in reverence by the people who were there but I have never seen it, read it, or had it cited by anybody in all my years as a creator or publisher. It seems as pointless and arbitrary as me naming individual slices of Kraft cheese slices before I devour them. Okay--so Percy Pro decided I should be able to reprint my comics...why does that hold any weight with anybody? We're not forming a country and establishing rules--a few guys got together and made a list of "rights" with no authority invested in them by anybody.

I not only don't think it's "viable today" but as far as I can tell it's never been viable.

Which is not to say that creators don't have rights--of course they do--but the people who hammered out the "Creator's Bill of Rights" weren't the ones who determined what those rights are or were--those rights were determined in courts of law all across this land. I suspect that any judge would not put much stock in any Bill of Rights cobbled together by a small group of comics pros holed up for a long weekend somewhere.

-Erik Larsen

Image Comics
2134 Allston Way, 2nd Floor
Berkeley CA 94704
(510) 644-4980

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Archie Comics digests...

Above: Archie Comics digest cover artwork by Stan Goldberg, Tim Kennedy, and others.

Usually, I never know when my stories will appear in the Archie Comics digest books until I get my comp copies from the publisher. However, today at the comic book store, I saw two new digests that contain several stories that I had inked. The first and last stories are new in the digests with the remaining stories being reprinted material. So, check out ARCHIE DIGEST #261 and BETTY & VERONICA #201 when you get a chance.


"Comics and Work-Made-for-Hire: Creator’s Rights"

According to the Library of Congress, work-made-for-hire is, in part, described thusly: "Although the general rule is that the person who creates a work is the author of that work, there is an exception to that principle: the copyright law defines a category of works called ‘works made for hire.’ If a work is ‘made for hire,’ the employer, and not the employee, is considered the author. The employer may be a firm, an organization, or an individual."

If done respectfully, I don’t have a real problem with work-made-for-hire in the comic book industry. I don’t have a problem with someone being compensated for employing his or her skills at the request of a publisher. I do have a problem when work-for-hire is used to promote unethical treatment.

I don’t have to tell you about how comic book creators have been abused. I don’t have to tell you about how certain editors or publishers stole or swindled ideas or creations from artists and writers. I don’t have to tell you about the fight for the return of artwork to those who created that artwork. I don’t have to tell you about the right for creators to receive royalties.

However, if you think that these are issues of the past, then I do have to tell you that you’re dead wrong. There are some publishers today that do not return artwork back to all of its creators. There are some that do not offer royalties. There are some that don’t even guarantee creator credits.

Although things have gotten better for comic book creators and freelancers, not all comic book publishers abide by certain ethical practices. We work in an industry that has been appropriately coined by Steve Bissette (for THE COMICS JOURNAL) as "a moral ghetto."

In the world of commercial art, the Graphic Artists Guild has "the Code of Fair Practice." This is a list of ethics promoted by the Graphic Artists Guild.

In comics, we have the Creator’s Bill of Rights. Back in 1988, a group of comic book creators got together to see what they could do about protecting the rights of comic book creators. From these series of summits, specifically at Northampton, Massachusetts, the Creator’s Bill of Rights was produced. The participants of the Bill’s creation included Scott McCloud, Dave Sim, Gerhard, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, Larry Marder, Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Mark Martin, Steve Murphy, Michael Zulli, Eric Talbot, Ken Mitchroney, Michael Dooney, Steve Lavigne, Craig Farley, Jim Lawson and Ryan Brown. (I’m sorry if I left anyone out.)

The Creator’s Bill of Rights states various rights including "the right to full ownership of what we fully create," "the right to prompt and complete return of our artwork in its original condition," and "the right of approval over the methods by which our creative property is distributed." Some of these rights seem pretty basic, but they are not all honored today.

Sadly, the Creator’s Bill of Rights is largely ignored by many creators and publishers. It’s easy to ignore poor conduct when there is a lack of, or ignorance of, an established list of ethics. It’s even obvious why a comic book publisher would want to ignore the Creator’s Bill of Rights. But, why would a comics creator do so?

My intent here is to make cartoonists, especially young ones, aware of some of the pitfalls in the comics industry. At the very least, the Creator’s Bill of Rights should be looked upon as such. I’m hoping for outspoken discussion and awareness on creator’s rights issues while instilling change in our industry.

Tomorrow, I’ll start posting responses from various comic book creators from the likes of Erik Larsen, Fernando Ruiz, and Steve Bissette.

For more info regarding comic book Creator’s Rights stop by Ya Can’t Erase Ink and the Creator’s Rights forum.

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