Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves?

201201251401 Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves?

Even as the economy shows fitful signs of flickering back to life, the comics economy, which was
“too small to fail” to really take much of a hit during the Great Recession, is still puddling along, under-capitalized, under-recognized, and with even the greatest cartoonists prone to spells of belt tightening. Comics have been traditionally immune to the effects of a recession—”cheap entertainment does well in bad times!” we’ve heard time and again—but the corollary is also true: Economic boom times rarely touch comics.

During the late ’90s and the first dot.com boom, one of the greatest eras of general prosperity in American history, comics were going through their WORST slump since the end of newsstand distribution, with sales numbers so low executives were crying over them. And then, paradoxically, comics began to do better even during the mini-recession following 9/11 and the end of the dot.com bubble.

During the recent real estate bubble/stock market boom, quite a few cartoonists bought homes that would never have been available before—and some have lost them, sadly—but most comickers we know were sticking with comics instead of going into hedge funds and condo flipping. A lot of money flooded into comics in the end of the last boom, but the tide has been slowly going out.

But now it’s gone out. And people are wondering when it will come in again.

Yesterday Tom Spurgeonwrote:

there’s a bunch of stuff out there right now on creative teams fighting and/or dissolving. It’s not something I care to link to, but you can find it pretty easily if you look around. The thing that I wanted to note is that this kind of public griping always seems to happen when comics is in a real emotionally stressful period; I think the mini-era we’re in qualifies, for sure. I think we’re past the point where people are just starting to realize that all the exciting things happening around them may not happen to them, and into a phase where people are beginning to worry that comics may have a detrimental effect on their lives.

This prompted contemplation from Johanna Draper Carlson:

As someone who chose to leave the comic field and pursue primary-job employment elsewhere, I look around at acquaintances my age who stayed in and see the things they don’t have: Health care coverage. A home (instead of a rental). A retirement account. Any kind of job security. (Not that anyone has that these days.)

I value their work and am glad they could pursue an artistic career, but I worry what might happen to them as they reach the tail end of middle age and beyond. The U.S. is not a friendly country for those who don’t have enough. Maybe my definition of “enough” is bigger than theirs, and they’re happy with it, I don’t know.

That doesn’t even consider the various mental challenges of working in an industry that often attracts … well, there’s no polite word that comes to mind. I’m fond of saying that most people in comics are broken in some way. We’re all drawn to this wacky field because it gives us something we couldn’t get elsewhere, whether escapism or validation or a feeling of community or a business where the usual rules don’t apply or room for extreme individualism or sheep to be fleeced. The flip side of that is how much comics can bring bad feelings or fallings-out or mental scars.


Both Spurgeon and Carlson are floating variations of the “Comics people are damaged people” line that you still see used here and there. This is a view of the industry that very much seems to be focused on the “bronze age” of comics that so many internet commenters view as the baseline. It’s a notion I reject: people are nutty, creators more so, but while comics for a long time definitely drew a certain kind of personality, that was more a function of the ascent of fans into the industry than a peculiarity of the words and pictures medium. When you hang around a random room of today’s young cartoonists, they aren’t any nuttier or needier than a random group of indie musicians or writers or any creative types.

Which isn’t to say that hard economic times don’t bring out everyone’s anxiety tics. There have been a few particularly harrowing comics stories of late—the death of Steve Perry, Steve Rude’s ongoing legal battles—that make everyone think “Maybe that WAS the best of times.”

Comics are an industry with no obvious safety net and dubious rewards, and that exacerbates insecurities, for sure. And right now, as a new year begins, everyone is wondering where the big payoff is coming from—or if it will never come and it’s already too late. In just the last few days, several creators have spoken out about piracy, which it’s hard not to see as one of the grinning death monkeys holding an axe to the neck of the average freelancer.

201201251410 Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves?

The other day Joshua Hale Fialkov spoke for many. Fialkov is the author of I, VAMPIRE for the DC reboot, TUMOR, the first graphic novel serialized on Amazon, and his ELK’S RUN was one of the first graphic novels to get picked up by a major publisher (Random House.) And he’s had it with piracy:

Well, sorry, folks, but, that’s over. SOPA or PIPA or arresting website developers is not going to change the world that we now live in. There’s no amount of threats, either legal or brow-beaterly that will change the fact that many more people are unwilling to pay for the intellectual property than those who are happy to plunk down the cash.

And, of course, the economy is horrible! And you’re un (or under) employed! And you have to see/read/listen or else. I’m sorry. That sucks. But you’re being an asshole. Stop it.

We’re all spoiled brats, myself included, but, we can’t do that anymore. We have to get over our greediness (just like we keep bitching about the bank executives doing) and put something ahead of our own (incredibly trivial) needs.


This prompted David Brothers, one of the most vigorous proponents of the digital revolution, to point out that piracy does not exist in a vacuum of competition for the one fan-one transaction ideal:

To put forth the idea that piracy on the part of consumers is “singly responsible” for anything, especially when piracy by its very nature is impossible to nail down in terms of concrete numbers and cause & effect is dishonest. Bootlegs have always existed, whether in barbershops or art galleries. They’ve been here, and they aren’t going away. Do they cause harm? Any idiot knows the answer to that question is “yes.”

But for my money, the thing that killed comic books is “everything else.” We’re living in an all-new status quo, and I keep seeing people, especially comics people, acting like piracy is the sole cause of all their ills. When no, that isn’t true, and a half glance at the world will tell you so.

I don’t even have to leave my house to be flooded with things to do. I can have food delivered, songs and movies I buy (or download, whatever) appear on my hard drive or PlayStation like magic, video games can be bought and played without ever touching a physical disc… we’re living in the future, and that’s without even going outside. Outside, I can go to the movies, check out stand-up open mics, hang out with friends, drink Starbucks, eat donuts, play board games, go to bars…


Fialkov’s helplessness in the face of piracy is widely shared among creators. Just yesterday Steve Niles and Neil Gaiman were also going at it on Twitter, kicked off by Gaiman’s retweet of indie musician Jonathon Coulton:

“Make good stuff, then make it easy for people to buy it. There’s your anti-piracy plan.”

which prompted a conversation, part of which you can see below:

gaiman niles Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves?

nilesgaiman2 Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves?
Niles’ original anti-piracy piece went up last October and sparked much chatter at the time.

This time out, it’s a little hard not to see Gaiman and Coulton as among the 1%ers of creators— both are in a place where they are making a far more than decent living from their creativity. Gaiman did it the old fashioned, pre internet way—writing marvelous books that touched readers and reaping lots of royalties from the results. Coulton is the avatar of the internet creator—he wrote songs and put them where people could find them until he gained his own loyal, passionate following. And a 1% income—he makes over $500,000 a year from his music.

Like most things in life, this whole discussion goes back to money. Fialkov makes a living from his writing: for over six years he’s been a full-time comics writer with a few side gigs here and there. Brothers—a voracious consumer of culture according to his blog posts—has a day job in the video game industry. I doubt either of them is in 1% territory, but they are looking at the piracy phenomenon from opposite ends of the telescope. It’s Johanna’s safety net. And it’s part of the general anxiety about making a living from your creations that seems to be sweeping the industry.

201201251411 Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves?

Annnnnnd along comes Faith Erin Hicks just today with a long blog post that hits all of these topics. After talking about how happy she is to be making a living from comics, she lays out the numbers—bear in mind, she’s from Canada and thus doesn’t have to worry about health insurance. Also, these are (presumably) Canadian dollars:

My income fluxes like crazy, and has since I stopped working fulltime in animation. For example, in 2010 I had my best year ever, actually making a really good income, above $30,000! I was pretty blown away. But in 2010 I also got an $8,000 grant from the Nova Scotia government to write and draw Friends With Boys. So in reality I only made about $22,000. But that was still a ton of money! I had a lot of unexpected freelance jobs in 2010, like Girl Comics for Marvel and an illustration job for the Girl Scouts of America which paid very well. These were one time only jobs and I have not had repeat work from these clients.

In 2011 I made about half what I made in 2010.

How do I survive?


Hicks’ post should be read in full. But it also skirts another issue that many people have been mostly in denial about…until now.

Hicks is a published author with FOUR books to her name, all of them delightful. She’s hardly a wanna-be. But…maybe she isn’t Neil Gaiman or Jonathan Coulton, either. Maybe a lot of people aren’t. Maybe a lot of people are never going to be.

Superstars like Gaiman and Coulton are the shining stars on the hill of content production paying off. But they are also the rare exceptions. Like Jeff Smith, Marjane Satrapi,, and Peter Laird.

We’re more than 30 years into the “creator era” of comics, and the question isn’t where is Scott Snyder now. It’s where is Don McGregor now. What is the career path? Where is the security? Is the answer really a spouse with a day job?

I don’t have any answers. I’m anxious; all my friends are anxious. Everyone would like to just sit at home and write or draw; instead we have to figure out the future right now in order to be a part of it.

201201251400 Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves?

Comments

  1. I won’t presume to have the answer to these problems. The pre-date internet piracy by quite a while–I’d notice some artist whose work I liked would disappear. A common story was that Artist X was willing and able to starve during his or her 20s in order to produce comics, but marriage, kids, and age combine to make that kind of deliberate self-impoverishment impossible. They end up working some more remunerative job–and who can blame them? But when that happens, comics as a whole is diminished.

    One thing that partly addresses this both in terms of providing some income and some protection against piracy is Kickstarter and its imitators. At first, I viewed Kickstarter as a philanthropic tool–a way for laser-directing my own giving to worthy projects. But for comics, it has become more and more a method for pre-ordering books. The cartoonist(s) are saying, if you, collectively, pay me so many thousands of dollars, I will publish this comic and send you a copy. (This approach is very bluntly laid out in the Kickstarter campaign for Suspect Device #2, for example.)

    What this means is that before there is anything out there to pirate, the cartoonist has a certain amount of money in hand. What happens after the comic is publishers is out of the cartoonist’s hands. But a Kickstarter campaign says that readers have to pay in advance for X number of copies or else this doesn’t get published.

    Obviously this is not going to change comics into a high-earning profession, but it does take some risk out of it for some cartoonists.

  2. MBunge says:

    Why, it almost sounds as if people in comics are starting to understand why work-for-hire is considered a perfectly healthy and even vital part of other entertainment industries.

    Mike

  3. I concur with Robert about Kickstarter. Hopefully we’ll see a reduction of those 30-90 day campigns to, say, a week. Since that’s about the time people actually bid – four days at the beginning, three at the end. Shipping can be a bugger though.

  4. And now I’m depressed.

  5. SentiMental says:

    Comics haven’t been “cheap entertainment” for a long time, and in dollar value are now one of the most expensive. That’s become another anchor around its neck as the Internet continues to sink the old paradigm.

  6. Mario Boon says:

    As I’ve said before: piracy means that there’s a demand outside the traditional comics circle for your work. The art is of meeting that demand.

    And for indie creators, piracy is the least of their worries. Diamond not carrying your book is. Retailers unwilling to order your book is. You and your publisher unable to get the word out about your book is.

  7. As far as piracy goes, the assumption that every pirated copy is a lost sale needs to stop. There’s no evidence of it. Yes, piracy is a problem. It’s not, however, The problem.

    As for solutions to the other issue, that has been a problem in creative professions for years. There are any number of writers with multiple books under their belts who have to work a day job because writing isn’t sufficient to pay the bills. There are any number of artists with gallery shows and critical praise who work day jobs because the art doesn’t pay the bills.

    There are reasons an artist (or a writer, or an academic) used to be so hot to find a patron. It meant they could not worry about things like finances, having a place to live, or affording a doctor when things of a color that have no analog in nature start dripping out one’s nose. With the exception of relatively limited grants etc. we really don’t have much of that for people who want to pursue the “life of creativity.” The academy as a whole doesn’t provide the same refuge that it does for academics (yes, there are some artist-in-residence appointments and whathaveyou).

    The long and short of all my rambling being that this sort of problem has been around for a long time. Without making some fundamental changes to the way we engage with the creative professions as an industry it’s likely to remain with us for a long time still.

  8. Interested Observer says:

    A lot of people pirating are people who are curious. A lot are people who bought paper copies and want to read on tablets. A lot are thieving scumbags who turn around and sell stolen runs of comics on DVD and should be tracked down and given a good headkicking and I mean that. Any underemployed cartoonists might want to start vigilante squads and I wish I were kidding.

    At the same time a lot of people pirating are diehard fans who are broke.

    There are those of us who have been screaming at the top of our lungs for years that comics are too expensive and have priced young readers out of the market. I am a dues paying member of the Comics are Too Damn Expensive Party.

    If you want to make piracy a permanent condition keep charging 2.99 for comics on Comixology. Keep selling trades at the same price it costs to buy the single issues.
    Keep jacking up the prices for the same old same old. Keep pretending that anyone cares about fancy paper, cardstock covers, extraneous backup stories, eye-taxing and expensive computer coloring.

    If you want to cut piracy off at the knees- do two things. Have a team of people scour the net constantly and drop the dime on pirates- have their blogs, message boards and whatever shut down if you can. Keep filing complaints against hosting services that allow piracy.

    And stop trying to rip people off in print and online by charging 2.99 and up for 10 minutes of entertainment.

  9. Matt Pizzolo says:

    Piracy is mainly dangerous to creators because it devalues content… then new platforms & devices emerge to aggregate that devalued content and shave off enough pennies for the aggregator to profit while the creators struggle.

    What makes this extra tough for comics is the perceived value of comics is low to begin with.

    Comics already feel over-priced to the consumer but are underpriced in terms of cost to produce vs size of market. There’s not as much wiggle room to cut costs as fans like to assume. That’s why you have comics-as-movie-treatments.

    Kickstarter may be the thing that bridges the gap. It’s *not* charity and that paradigm has to go away. As Robert & Rich said above, Kickstarter should be seen as a pre-order structure with a very simple, analytical way to judge demand in the marketplace.

    Every publisher makes decisions based on perceived demand and every creator should as well, but with Kickstarter it’s not anecdotal (publisher X saying “nobody wants female protagonists” for example) it’s based on literal purchases. That can open the gates to wild creativity we haven’t seen in ages.

  10. we can all agree that piracy is most probably wrong, but i cannot buy into the idea that piracy = lost sales. People like stuff because its available…they most usually would not spend money on that product if they weren’t already. I think they are curious and want to sample.

    The X factor here is publishers and creators depending on a business model (the direct market) that was created in the early 70s as the prime way to sell things. That and cover prices. There are SOOOO many books i’d be willing to check out if only they were a dollar or two cheaper and didn’t have to go to a comic shop to pre-order them. Digital is helping, but its not perfect.

    Also, creators need to start getting creative with their marketing. I’ve yet to see a creator truly use the internet to market their books and generate an audience besides the almost meaningless “hey pre-order issue #” tweet, or the occasional blog. Its not enough. More engagement, more entrepreneurial spirit.

  11. Answers are there but may be elusive, depending on what we want. The future might not be able to escape from us anyway, so maybe no reason to be too anxious.

    OWS was a step in the right direction for the same worldwide ailment we suffer in comics. Our demonstration sites are our websites. But it’s not easy to persevere and raise a voice unless a movement grows. It needs massive popular support. Leadership from the ranks.

    I don’t know how that can come if the ranks are being obliviously tempted aside. Maybe when things get bad enough (as if they aren’t already).

    That’s why I couldn’t get behind the big bruhah last summer. It seems to have sunk the industry deeper into despair, instead of heralding new growth.

    The 1%, publishers whom we’d always assumed had the best interest of the industry in mind, are pulling a slow fast one. Raising hopes only to shatter them, as they frolic in success from everything else – while the comickeers who made it all possible are trampled under the rude soles of corporate combat boots.

    The 99% have a big job to do in order to weather the fall. No need to be anxious. But it might help to face the impending reality for what it is, and understand that we are the most likely agents for change.

  12. Why can’t we just accept that maybe making comics isn’t the path to lots of money?

    Seriously, the market just isn’t big enough for hundreds and hundreds of small press graphic novelists to make a great living.

    I have argued this countless times…comics are almost certainly the most expensive entertainment dollar out there…I read Jason’s (amazing) “I killed Adolf Hitler” in like six minutes…for $13 on Amazon…great book…six minutes…but the audience size just doesn’t exist to make that book $8 and still net more money…

    It is what it is.

  13. dan head says:

    “. So in reality I only made about $22,000. But that was still a ton of money!
    …..
    How do I survive?”

    The same way millions of other workers earning less do?

  14. Thanks to both cheaper publication options and various Internet-based forms of distribution, it has never been easier to get a comic out to where readers might find it… which has created competition for readers. There are now many, many comics creators out there thinking that they’re within a few good moves of making A Real Living. In many ways, this flourishing of the artform is making it ever harder to survive in it as a business.

    The talented Ms. Hicks does have one longer-term hope. The bulk of her work is owned by her and not tied to some continuity. Handled right, she can keep her work available, and with her creative inventory built up, whenever she does manage to score a new reader, she’ll have ever more to sell to them.

    But it is hard, these days, indeed.

  15. “Why can’t we just accept that maybe making comics isn’t the path to lots of money?

    It is what it is.”

    At the bottom where most creators are, we’re not asking for “lots of money”. Just a fair share of what the work generates, to allow creators to keep on doing it.

    It is what it is because we all, and that roughly means most everyone in the world, allowed it to become what it is.

    But it will be what we make it.

    The early pioneers of a free economy counted on a certain measure of goodwill that might have been more prevalent in their time. They counted on the strong having a sense of collective responsibility. It was assumed to be in their best interest because if they didn’t, then a free economy wouldn’t work. The people would one day stop working if they felt they were being abused or economically enslaved.

    But something went wrong. The strong found a way, over several generations, to bring humanity to its knees, and keep us working even though we’re being abused and economically enslaved.

    Now it’s only a question of whether we’ll understand that this is what’s happening and do what it’ll take so the strong will understand that this game can’t work forever.

    Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll just settle for being slaves.

  16. I’d like to buy and own comics that I can download from the internet.

    Why are they making this so hard? I should be able to go to Marvel.com, look through new releases (or whatever), put what I want in a basket, pay a REASONABLE price and get d/l codes for the comics which I can save on to my computer and re-read if the fancy takes me.

    I will not pay $3.99 for a digitial comic when the print version costs the same. I will not pay $3.99 for a print comic either, come to think of it. The equivalent price where I live is €5 (approx. $7!)

    People don’t mind paying for things, believe it or not. People do mind making it really hard to pay for those things though.

    Somebody make a bloody Bandcamp for comics, please. THAT’S how I buy most of my music these days. Notice how I can buy the digital album at a lesser, but still fair, price than the physical copy. I paid for Louis CK’s new stand-up show recently. It was very EASY to do this and was more than worth the money being asked.

    I’ve illegally downloaded comics in the past. Guess what? I now BUY more comics than ever before, but usually they’re trades.

    I have NO PROBLEM paying a reasonable price for downloads. Yet the comics companies seem to have a problem with me wanting to do this. Am I going to travel to another city that has a comic shop in order to buy single 20-page issues at an extortionate price? No, I’m not. I prefer trades cos’ it saves me money and space. But I would LOVE to buy them online soon as they come out.

    Why are they making it so hard for people to give them money for their product?

  17. “Why are they making it so hard for people to give them money for their product?”

    Because they don’t need this money for their product?

    Publishers’ overwhelming profits aren’t generated from sales of comics, but rather from Intellectual Property sales. They could lose on comics sales and still make enormous profits elsewhere, to more than make up for it.

    It seems that’s why they allowed the Direct Market to suffocate comics sales. When the industry is on perpetual ropes, no one, including creators, will ask for more from a failing industry. The publishers get the raw materials cheap, and make their killing everywhere else.

    It’s that free economy without collective responsibility thing.

  18. DJ Coffman says:

    If you want to create comics as a full time “living” you’re going to have to start thinking way outside of the longbox. It can be done. It IS being done.

    You’ll have to learn to wear more than one hat, and to work your ass off. Not to mention create things that are good. You’re competing with everything else, now more than ever.

  19. Ian Kelly says:

    I think one of the most dangerous things about piracy, and something I never see talked about, is the normalization of piracy.

    I see this situation with comic books all the time. A new comic book comes out, friend wants to read it, friend immediately looks up a torrent and pirates it. It’s not that they can’t get the comic legally, or that they don’t want to pay for the comic. The idea of getting it through legal means (such as the great apps on iOS, digital stores, or the local comic shop) doesn’t even occur to them. The default answer for “How do I get this thing?” is just grab a torrent and download it.

    This kind of normalization is a real danger. When it becomes the norm to just pirate something instead of buying it, I can’t imagine how you possibly combat that kind of thinking. No matter how cheaply or easily you offer the comic you can’t beat what the pirate is offering. With music you can still make money from going on tours and licensing songs to other media, and with movies you still have the allure of the theater. What do you do with comics? Go on a reading tour?

  20. Andrew Farago says:

    I’d bet that there are thousands of manga readers in the 10-18 age bracket who don’t realize that manga and anime are available for legitimate purchase. They see it as some free thing that they get off the Internet, and there’s some fundamental disconnect between them and the notion that artists and publishers should be getting paid for content.

    And it’s not a leap to assume that there’s a whole generation that thinks the same of movies, music, comics, and pretty much any content that can be pirated online. While it’s distressing that non-creators don’t understand that artists not getting paid is a major problem, it’s troubling that so many people who make a living off of their artwork don’t see any problem with downloading movies and other content off the web.

  21. @ian–you are touching on a bigger topic which i think is the key to the whole thing.

    its the idea of subscription on demand entertainment is becoming the norm. We don’t mind paying as long as we don’t have to be bothered with seeing the transaction.

    the idea of single issue _+ ala cart cover price is an antique. If i had to bust out my CC every time i wanted to watch a netflix thing i’d never watch anything.

    I think there is a future in changing how comics are sold, but we still are slaves to our pre-orders and catalogs and that’s whats getting in the way of embracing the 21st century.

  22. DJ Coffman says:

    I keep arguing with a friend about digital vs print… And my argument is that I believe that all this digital stuff is going to end up making print much more special again. No more endless tradepaperbacks all looking the same or single issues just taking up space or collecting dust. Books will be special again. You may even love them so much more you’ll install track lighting to shine on your favorite hardcovers.

    I believe the same will be true for anything analog. It will become more special, more personal. Letter writing, etc.

  23. dan head:

    “The same way millions of other workers earning less do?”

    Um, you snipped out the most important part of Hicks’ comment, which is that “In 2011 I made about half what I made in 2010.” Or, in other words, $15,000 for the year. Or, in other words, about 25% less than a minimum wage job (assuming, as Heidi did, that these numbers are in Canadian dollars, and using the lowest Canadian minimum wage per Wikipedia). That’s…disheartening, to say the least.

  24. Hey Guys-

    Just to clarify, a bit more conversation went on between Neil and myself. In the end, I think we both agreed to disagree. I see where the sample and buy model has worked for him. It hasn’t for me, but I am dealing with much smaller numbers.

    While still, and always, anti-theft (Piracy makes it sound so bold. It’s stealing). I believe now that the biggest battle is with the hearts and minds of the people who are unaware or don’t care about the damage they are causing. I think the real battle is against this hurricane of self-entitlement.

    That said, I posted this blog a ways back: http://www.steveniles.com/2011/10/happy-halloween-freaks-and-pirates.html

    It recounts my dealings with theft on one comic. As Neil points out those dl numbers do not necessarily mean lost sales…but I’ll never know, will I and the artist is still out of comics.

    Mostly, I think the talk is great. We need to figure this out. With so many differing opinions I doubt any of us are right…yet.

    Thanks!

    -Steve

  25. “What do you do with comics? Go on a reading tour?”

    No, you take your hallmark characters and make blockbuster films, toys, statues, video games, shirts, underwear, towels, blankets, notebooks, drinking mugs, lunchboxes, and a million other products that make so much profits that you don’t care who pirates your comics.

    Oh. They’re already doing that. Never mind.

  26. “This kind of normalization is a real danger.”

    Sure. And the best way to combat it is to offer reasonable, easy alternatives sooner rather than later.

    You could say the same thing for music but I’m more likely to pay the artist for it if the option is presented on the likes of Bandcamp. People buy music off iTunes in very large numbers yet music is the easiest thing to pirate on the internet.

    You can beat what the pirate is offering. Absolutely. These companies can also reach out and attempt to grow their base by advertising the fact that they have downloadable new comics at a decent price and that’s easy to do. Pirates can’t advertise!

    Imagine an ad after every episode of those new DC Nation cartoons encouraging people to go download a comic? Give a free d/l to every single person who buys a movie ticket to The Dark Knight Rises.

  27. sean w says:

    first things first: “piracy” doesn’t equal lost sales. this just trading on a large scale. real piracy does do harm, though.

    the problem is this (and has been since the price of a comic book went over a dollar): entertainment value vs. actual value. $6.00 for a comic book? for something that lasts all of 5 minutes? sorry, that just doesn’t compute.

    too many middlemen, too many hands in the pie = too many bottom lines that need to get bigger every year. and the creators get squat.

    there is a solution for every comic creator and publisher though: HTML5.

    imagine a comic book is now a website. every page takes up the whole screen. you can move it and turn pages. you can buy it once and see it just about anywhere. phone, tablet, computer, or television.

    it can’t be pirated. it won’t be pirated. why? because you only have to charge a dime for it. comics can once again be 10 cents. want a hard copy? buy it from lulu dotcom. print to order. pay a fair price. but this is going the way of the dodo.

    i believe converting a comic to an HTML5 website is the future, possibly for many books. it’s practically ubiquitous and you don’t have to carry any back stock.

    “what do i use to make my comic an HTML5 site?” you ask? i don’t know, try tulmult’s hype for one. put it behind a paywall with dwolla (any purchase over $10 there’s a 25 cent fee, the rest is free). market the crap out of it.

    your welcome.

    scott mccloud saw this coming and told us all about it years ago.

    stop whining! whining is for teething babies! come on people you’re creative!! now get to being creative!

  28. @Steve Niles–i understand there are challenges and i’m sure its tough being a creator in this day and age.

    the main problem i have with creators talking about stopping “the boogeyman” aka Pirates is that its an unsurmountable challenge that requires little to no action or real problem solving.

    wouldn’t it be better for the creators and the industry to look at itself and start to reconsider if the way comics are sold is still relevant for the 21st century? Instead of making the current generation cater to a 40 year old business model, why not change to cater to them?

  29. Charles Knight says:

    “I keep arguing with a friend about digital vs print… And my argument is that I believe that all this digital stuff is going to end up making print much more special again.”

    To a very very small and decreasing percentage of people – the rest just want it now, they want it cheap or free or forget about it.

  30. traci says:

    Ah, invoking the name of the Great God McCloud, he who has yet to realize the dream of workable micropayments, so he runs around delivering a 20 year old lecture to make a living.

    Free comics get pirated all the time, just ask Questionable Content, where I can go and find a dozen apps to bring it to me any time I want it. Even a dime is too much for most of these jokers to pay.

    If you’re making a fortune on your ten cent comic, then I want to see your yacht.

    Your volume at your ten cent is going to have to be huge to make any decent money on that thing. Most comics are niche products for niche audiences, and have to be priced at a certain rate in order to pay for them, whether they exist in the analog realm or not.

    Whiney babies, my ass. These are the people who spent years building up the art form at which you can now hurl your contempt because they haven’t figured out how to sell comics for a dime like you. Clearly your dime comic has made you very wealthy. Can’t wait to see you in your yacht.

  31. NTabak says:

    Is piracy theft? The fact is, it doesn’t matter. It’s a completely academic question.

    This is the reality of comic piracy in 2012: you can Google the name/issue number of any DC/Marvel comic published in the last few years, plus the name of a certain file-sharing site, and you can get a direct download link within seconds. Other comics are only slightly harder to find.

    This process bears so little resemblance to any of the practices that have historically been unanimously understood as theft – it’s so easy, so abstract, and so completely devoid of any possibility of legal consequences – that you will never, ever be able to convince any remotely significant percentage of pirates that what they’re doing is equivalent to theft.

    If your anti-piracy strategy consists mainly of attempting to convince pirates that they’re thieves, well, that fight was lost long before piracy even made the radar of most creators.

  32. DJ Enigma says:

    “I see this situation with comic books all the time. A new comic book comes out, friend wants to read it, friend immediately looks up a torrent and pirates it.”

    I really don’t believe your friend represents the norm. I’m not like that, I don’t know anyone like that, and no one I know knows anyone like that.

    The good will Michael Netzer cites in an above comment does indeed exist. I’ve been watching the independent music scene long enough to be sure of that. And the indies making a living are doing it by producing stuff for an audience that likes their stuff and is willing to pay for them to keep doing it.

    There is no reason why comics creators can’t do the exact same thing.

    Here’s what I’ve seen work:

    – The creators find, connect and engage with their audience.

    – The creators make their product easily accessible. They often offer free stuff and they sell related merchandise.

    – The creators cultivate community. Sometimes they band together to do this as a group.

    – The creators earn consumer time. It’s all about time these days. People have a limited amount of it and a dizzying array of options to spend it on. Where they spend their time is also where they’ll spend their money.

    In addition, I think comic creators in particular need to stop looking at themselves as some sort of aberration. Given the eccentric, dysfunctional industry that has dominated and defined the medium, I can understand where the perception comes from.

    But now is the time for that definition to be rewritten, and only the creators are going to be able to pull that off.

    The idea that graphic literature is right now, in this digital age, an obscure form with a fringe audience is, to me, absolutely ridiculous. It’s -words- and -pictures-, for heaven’s sake. C’mon. Everyone should be into that.

    There needs to be a concerted effort to break away from everything that’s keeping the medium locked in this little incestuous world.

    Including the damn pamphlet.

    If the situation looks bleak, I’d suggest you need to take a step back and look again. Creators have never been so empowered as they are today. If the status quo is ever going to change, there has never been a better time to change it.

  33. I keep seeing people say “creators need to do X to bring comics into the digital realm.”

    So we’re just ignoring all those comics that have been on the internet for years, now?

    I mean if you want to reinvent the wheel I guess that’s cool….

    Flipness aside, comics don’t need to do anything new to move into the digital realm, because they’re already established here without needing apps, microtransactions, HTML5 or anything else. That we tend to think of webcomics as the domain of comics like Penny Arcade or Something*Positive, and not as the domain of “proper comics” is a failure in our own thinking.

    Do most comics become the media enterprise that is Penny Arcade? No. Most of them don’t even achieve the financial success of Something*Positive. That they don’t doesn’t mean they can’t. It also has the advantage of significantly lower buy in; a failed webcomic is much less financially ruinous than a failed print comic.

  34. R. Maheras says:

    Digital piracy is just a recent phenomenon that exacerbates an existing reality: Being an independent artist, writer or publisher is a very tough gig that has only gotten tougher.

    I think a lot of people thought the rise of creator-ownership in the 1970s was going to make most creators fairly well-off — or at least allow for an independent lifestyle that would be comfortable. But for every successful creator like Eastman or Laird, there were hundreds — perhaps thousands — of creators whose creations had no real market value.

    I’ve watched this whole push for creator-ownership process unfold for more than 35 years, and I saw how traditional publishers were raked over the coals again and again by the pro-creator crowd for “cheating” their work-for-hire talent out of ownership. I was even a part of that crowd for awhile – until I started to look at things from a wider perspective.

    One thing rarely, if ever, discussed when criticizing the “evil” publishers, was the great financial risks those publishers took bringing the relatively few successes to market. For every Superman, there were hundreds of failures, and the cost of those failures was almost exclusively borne by the publisher.

    Yes, historically there were crooked publishers, and yes, creators sometimes were screwed out of payment for even their standard freelance page rate. But the fact is that for the vast majority of artists and writers, they got paid for their freelance work even if a new title bombed and was cancelled.

    Even more telling, however, is the fact that there are scores of examples of creators trying to launch their own publishing ventures in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and beyond, only to find out it was a lot harder to publish successfully than they’d ever imagined, and who ended up failing miserably – some even losing everything they had in the process.

    The fact is, unless a creator is independently wealthy and can absorb the many, many losses they will no doubt incur for every success, the odds they will find a lucrative, marketable idea before they go belly-up are slim indeed. A very few have succeeded, but most won’t – which is why working for the big publishers on a work-for-hire-basis is nothing to be ashamed of or indignant about.

    But even then, the freelance life may blow up after a decade or two of steady work with the bigs, and at the worst possible time — when creators have families, responsibilities and a mortgage. And don’t even get me started on the subject of benefits – or lack thereof.

    So, all things considered, the prospect of a creator having a life-long “day job” may not such a bad fallback plan.

  35. I urge everyone to go read Faith Erin Hicks’ piece on surviving as a cartoonist. It is full of honesty:


    Sometimes the being poor thing sucks. I wore a coat I got at a Salvation Army for $9 for two winters, and it was terrible. I bought a new winter coat this year, paid for with money I made at a convention. It is very nice and warm. But again, I do not feel deprived. Well, most of the time. I try to steer clear of malls, because malls are filled with beautiful things that I very much want to buy. I stare in store windows and feel an ache in my belly when I see a beautiful pair of shoes (I’ve kind of gotten into shoes lately). But I remind myself: do I want those shoes, or do I want to work in comics?

    I want to work in comics. Sometimes this is hard, but I always know it’s the right decision for me. Maybe you would choose the shoes instead. And there is no shame in that.

  36. @Josh–the wheel needs to be reinvented, especially on the sales and business model side. My kids think touchscreens, on-demand and interfaces are “normal” ways to deal with media. Handing them a Previews catalog and asking them to choose and wait for things 3 months in advance, sight unseen is completely bizarre to that reality. Its not even retro-cool…its horse and buggy stuff.

    Cater and adapt to the young’ins or you’ll be gone sooner than later. not every comic has to be digital, but you can’t ignore the world changing around you.

  37. One thing I think is the issue is that people think comicbook piracy is synonymous to music or even book piracy but it’s not. Unlike music and text, part of the product with comics is the actual delivery. You can play music on almost any device these days and you can read a book formatted in just about any way on practically any device with a screen.

    With a comic you hold the book, you look at a set sized page and sometimes even choose how the whole page is presented to you by which panels you look at first (Batwoman is a prime example). Even legit digital comics have problems with this sometimes.

    The key? Make your product worth holding in your hands. Then make it available to be purchased and held. Make people know it’s available to be purchased and held.

    I know it keeps being said but the message still hasn’t been heard…a lack of marketing and reasonable product availability are the two major things killing super hero comics and keeping good comics from prospering. There are tons of people who are prime comic book fans and don’t even know it because they haven’t been shown a product worth pursuing legitimately…and that’s a damn shame!

  38. Chris Hero says:

    I buy all my comics. I like esoteric comics by people like Shaw, Kupperman, and Huizenga. Finding those comics to buy is a pain in the ass. If I didn’t think it was morally important to buy their comics, I would download them on-line just to avoid the incredible hassle of finding the comics to purchase.

    I love comics. If I didn’t, I would just do other stuff like play video games, read books, etc. Most people don’t love, or even like, comics. The days of comics having an audience large enough to support most of the work are ending.

  39. @Joey – You seem to have missed the point I was making. There are already non-print models for comics that have proven to work. Yet we continue to ignore them when talking about what needs to be done in comics. Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel when we’re already ignoring the new wheels we’ve been offered?

  40. X-fan says:

    Maybe the comics industry finally has to go the same way as the music industry. $1 downloads through an iTunes account. Steve Jobs saved the music industry, but we lost a helluva lot of stores in the process. Can we adapt the same way to save comics?

  41. Interested Observer says:

    “This is the reality of comic piracy in 2012: you can Google the name/issue number of any DC/Marvel comic published in the last few years, plus the name of a certain file-sharing site, and you can get a direct download link within seconds. Other comics are only slightly harder to find.”

    And here’s what should be the reality of the pushback- every publisher should have an employee whose job it is to run a bot searching for all of their titles and where they are hosted. That information should be fed to legal which should be sending C and D emails out to every offender and building cases against the major ones.

    Fans and creators who can’t afford all that should do it by hand with their indie titles and learn how to hack. Or fight. Or do whatever it takes to make the pirates take up another hobby.

    All this inevitability of piracy mumbo jumbo is a copout- these people are trying to murder your future. Are you going to sit by and let them? If so, you deserve what you get.

  42. With regards to the struggle of creator-owned publishing…

    Diamond is ridiculous. A lot of the issues regarding independent comics publishers getting any sort of foothold in the industry is due to how there’s only really one way to get into most comic stores…and you have to sell a ridiculous amount in order to stay on the list…unless you’re already established.

    Maybe piracy is just being blamed for the industry’s complacency and stagnation? Does anyone really think Ms. Hicks is a victim of rampant piracy? I’ve known a lot of piracy types and they’re just dumb consumers anyway. They don’t pirate anything thoughtful because they’re not thoughtful people. I don’t think they’re really the target demographic for most talented comic-based creators/producers.

  43. Andrew Farago says:

    Steve Niles is right on with this statement:

    “I believe now that the biggest battle is with the hearts and minds of the people who are unaware or don’t care about the damage they are causing.”

    If your favorite cartoonist has to call it quits and get a day job, is that enough incentive to stop stealing content? If every cartoonist had to call it quits, has enough content been created that you’d never have to seek out brand new material? Or if every professional cartoonist quit, would there be more than enough unpaid artists to meet any demand for new content?

    I’m thinking of the commercials that aired at theaters a few years back where people in the film industry talked about what they do and asked audiences “If you love movies, please don’t steal them,” and was dismayed at how many audience members would boo and loudly complain about the message. Maybe it was because the ad was lecturing to people who’d already paid money to see a film, but the disconnect between paying money for content and that money going to the content creators seems to be growing every day.

  44. Interested Observer says:

    By the way, while there will always be sharing, the days of widescale stealing may well be numbered:

    http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/shuttered-megaupload-site-sends-file-sharing-sites-packing/

  45. “Steve Jobs saved the music industry, but we lost a helluva lot of stores in the process. Can we adapt the same way to save comics?”

    No, the music industry committed suicide because they were too busy suing Metallica fans while Apple muscled in and took 30% of their businness. DUMB.

    There’s no point in trying to convince people who are illegally d/l comics to stop doing it “for moral reasons”. You are so past point now, it’s ridiculous. They’ve already made their decision.

    Believe it or not it IS still possible to get a large amount of those people to pay for comics. It’s even possible to GROW your base. A huge portion of potential customers are out there and guess what? They’re not all that interested in superheroes. Look at the sales for Persepolis or Maus or Hark! A Vagrant or Scott Pilgrim or even The Walking Dead. Those comics are bringing in non-regular comic-book readers. They’re out there.

    Offer easy-to-download comics, high quality, no DRM bullshit, on day of release at an affordable price. Offer deals for back issues, similar to how Image offer the first trade of a series for cheap. Offer them IN MULTIPLE LANGUAGES. Make it so after I read an issue of Captain America, I can click on Ed Brubaker’s name and be brought to issues of Criminal.

    Sometimes the easiest and most obvious solution is the best.

  46. The days of professional artists in any field (comic books, music, literature) being propped up by giant faceless corporations creaming it in from the mass market dollar are, its sad to say, numbered.

    Piracy itself is less of a problem than the fact that a gigantic proportion of the money wrapped up in the creative industries never goes anywhere near the creatives themselves, even less so as industrial entertainment conglomerates collectively shit their pants at the prospect of the pot getting smaller.

    The death of any industry, be it comics or music, will never spell the end of creativity ; and talented individuals who know how to sell themselves and produce art that touches a significant amount of people will never go hungry. Despite popular misconceptions, success in the arts (as a profession at least) tends not to have much to do with luck. Years of vinyl archaeology by obsessive record collectors hasn’t turned up another Beatles who never got that big break.

    We can’t all grow up to draw Batman for a living, but why should that stop us from doing our own thing, on our own dime, and reaping the rewards if they ever come? And if they don’t, we’ll just have to work a job that someone finds useful enough to pay us for and enjoy the spiritual rewards of creativity instead.

    Its never been easier to share your creative endeavors with the whole world. Sure it would be nice to make a living out of that but don’t you think everybody else doing it would like that too?

    The simple answer to the question of what to do when your art can’t support you financially is to get a job that can. Just like the rest of us. The world does not owe you a living.

  47. Truthfully, it’s a burden to have a dream you want to live 24/7, but don’t. Because you can’t make even a middle class living at drawing comics. I have my work published. Now very often. But it is published and I am proud of my work. My point is, you may need to get that day job, and still have your work published. I’ve been broke living as a cartoonist and really hated it. Maybe I should draw more commercial?

  48. “…and you have to sell a ridiculous amount in order to stay on the list”

    $2500 is “a ridiculous amount”? Really?

    -B

  49. NTabak says:

    “And here’s what should be the reality of the pushback- every publisher should have an employee whose job it is to run a bot searching for all of their titles and where they are hosted. That information should be fed to legal which should be sending C and D emails out to every offender and building cases against the major ones.

    Fans and creators who can’t afford all that should do it by hand with their indie titles and learn how to hack. Or fight. Or do whatever it takes to make the pirates take up another hobby.”

    Except that the TV, film, and music industries – all of which have far, far more resources at their disposal than DC/Marvel’s publishing divisions, let alone indie creators – have been trying exactly that approach for over a decade now. After all the lawsuits they’ve filed and P2P services/pirate sites they’ve successfully shut down, the results of the scorched-earth approach speak for themselves.

  50. Question. Was there actually a “golden age” where lots of non-Marvel & DC creators made a middle class living in the comic industry? I think there were maybe a 2-3 good years at certain points but my understanding is “indy comic creators are poor” is a very old story that pre-dates the Internet becoming mainstream.

    The other thing to acknowledge is the web is a completely different animal in terms of audience & market place.

    First, forget about piracy. You are competing against a lot of free entertainment that’s out there. Youtube, Facebook games, Cracked.com, etc.. trying to get people to pay to be entertained is already an uphill battle. There is only so many hours in a day and you can easily fill up your time with free entertainment.

    Even those that are producing comics for free, the audience may prefer a comic strip with stick figures over a multi-media superhero comic made by what the print world deems a hot artist and writer.

    I would like to think a comic done for the web (by that I mean is formatted for a computer monitor) done with a mass market appealing sized chunks and frequency (whatever that might be) could do well with a web model (free with paid ads & merchandise sales). But I don’t know if anybody has tried such a thing or not.

  51. AaronT says:

    “And here’s what should be the reality of the pushback- every publisher should have an employee whose job it is to run a bot searching for all of their titles and where they are hosted. That information should be fed to legal which should be sending C and D emails out to every offender and building cases against the major ones.”

    All that leads to is leapfrogging between the comic companies and the pirates. There are too many possible venues to stop it, and it won’t work any better than it did for other industries.

    In other words, pretty much what PreacherCain said. The genie is not going back into that particular bottle.

  52. Anonymous says:

    I don’t have money, so I’m not going to buy any of this stuff anyway. That’s a sad story but whatever.

    Sometimes if I get some scratch I buy some beer and go see a movie at the $2 theatre.

    But I don’t buy comics. Never comics. Not enough bang for the buck.

    And even though a lot of comics you can read for free, most of them aren’t even worth reading.

    I’ve stopped downloading so many of them because they’ve gotten unreadable.

    I have a Krazy Kat and Ignatz book on hold and my library system has 12 copies(2 available with no holds) of that Hark! book that everybody talks about but I’m so bored by comics I’m not sure I even want to set up the delivery. It’ll probably just sit around my house and I’ll have to return it without ever having read it. There’s currently 2 Faith Erin Hicks’ works and no holds on those.

    The pirates product is better btw. You can dl a file and drop it down to a DVD for storage or deconstruct the file and remix it if you want. Total control. The files and apps associated with torrenting and downloading don’t tend to be resource hogs looking to pattern your consuming behavior either. Discreet and simple.

    There’s not enough trust in the consumer to have that kind of world though.

    Anyway, I don’t even know why I jumped on here. I’m not really anybody’s target demographic. Like I said, I don’t have any money. So if any of this stuff went away, well, C’est la vie. Good luck to those doing it for the love though, their work is their reward, no?

  53. Interested Observer says:

    NTabak,

    But look at the situation now- Napster, crippled. LimeWire, crippled. Megaupload, gone. Pirate Bay, on the ropes. Sharing services- on the run. All without SOPA. So maybe there’s hope after all.

  54. “One thing rarely, if ever, discussed when criticizing the “evil” publishers, was the great financial risks those publishers took bringing the relatively few successes to market. For every Superman, there were hundreds of failures, and the cost of those failures was almost exclusively borne by the publisher.”

    WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG and WRONG!

    Creators took a bigger chance than publishers.

    Anyone with money and a little business savvy can publish, but few can create the properties that publishers need to succeed.

    Creators took a bigger chance because they worked for peanuts while publishers had capital to invest that wasn’t their private money.

    It was mostly protected venture capital. If the company starts failing, publishers bail out after milking the last profits for their salaries, and are not affected by the failure.

    Creators are more affected by the failure because they gave all they had to give, and gave it away for peanuts. The publishing failure affects them personally the most.

    They also took a big chance and counted on some decency from the publishers. That if the industry succeeded, publishers would be decent enough to reward them.

    Creators took a chance and lost on both counts.

    If a publisher failed, they lost out because it affected their livelihood more adversely.

    If a publisher succeeded, they lost out because they made the publishers rich and were paid peanuts for it.

    The mitigating factor is that comic book publishers, like most of the 1%, have lost all sense of decency and collective responsibility.

    Crocodile tears for publishers taking a chance, in light of how things have played out, would be a laughable proposition, if it wasn’t so saddening.

  55. Conflicted says:

    @Michael Netzer
    “What do you do with comics? Go on a reading tour?”
    No, you take your hallmark characters and make blockbuster films, toys, statues, video games, shirts, underwear, towels, blankets, notebooks, drinking mugs, lunchboxes, and a million other products that make so much profits that you don’t care who pirates your comics.”

    A couple of problems with this, though.

    If you’re a big company like DC/Marvel/etc. that’s possible, but maybe not so much for independent creators or small companies (or manga publishers who would have to deal with licensing and may not have the budget for it). And even then, they’re not going to risk much with new concepts or characters if all the money is in merch and licensing.

    There’s also the issue of whether merchandising is appropriate for the type of comic you’re making. If you’re making a comic about serious or delicate subjects like historical/current events (like Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, or Guy Delisle), or traumatic childhoods, then relying on merchandise like T-shirts and mugs isn’t really going to work.

    It’s weird that after so many parodies of clueless executives focused on merchandising and advertising at the expense of creativity, that New Media advocates are relying so much on that as the only viable way to support artists. But then again, they have a vested interest in free content to make money off of the services/platforms and the ads that run on them and not pay royalties or licenses. (it was noted infamous pirated manga aggregators plastered ads all over their site.) I’m as skeptical about them as I am about Old Media.

  56. AaronT says:

    “Sharing services- on the run.”

    According to whom? New ones spring up constantly, and it’s not necessarily easy to get them shut down – look how long it took the entertainment industry to shut down the services you mentioned. And I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence that said closures have reduced piracy overall.

  57. @andrew farago–that movie industry campaign failed because no one wanted to hear how difficult it is to live out your dreams. Call it jealousy or whatever you want, if you get to make movies, or draw pictures for a living you’re not really going to get much sympathy by complaining about how miserable that makes you. Not when the option of “get a real job!” is always on the table and thought by FAR more fans that you’d think.

    Of course creators should be able to earn a fair living from their own work. of course…but its still a dream job no matter what it pays. The hearts and minds thing is a tough if not impossible battle to win.

  58. Ian Kelly says:

    I see a lot of people offering up the argument of “They need to offer it for cheaper” or “They need to make it more available” or “They need to catch up to the digital age” and variations of the article.

    My question is: what do you propose they do? The two major comic companies already offer a digital solution to get comics. The prices on the comics are pretty fare ($2-$3 is fairly cheap, even with the economy in the toilet, it’s the price of two double cheeseburgers at mcdonalds). What do comic creators have to do in order to wrest away the attention of people stealing comics? Is this more of a PR problem than a delivery/cost issue? (Someone pointed out how well iTunes has done in combating music piracy, and I think a lot of that is due to Apples incredible PR abilities)

    @Josh Yeah those are some good points. It is interesting to see that web comics still kind of remain in the area of “not professional comics”. I know that web comics being profitable is very rare and it usually relies on the merchandise, but I can’t help but wonder what would be the case if a more well known comic writer/artist got into the ring.

    For comparison, I think one of the most interesting things to happen in the past few years was Joss Whedons “Dr. Horrible” internet series. Before that if you had asked me if an internet based TV show could be profitable I would have just shrugged it off as crazy talk. But Whedon showed that when someone who has a lot of experience at making TV Shows, and also happens to be good at it, enters that ring they can make something that ends up being really popular and successful.

    I can’t help but imagine if a web comic done by a Steve Niles or by a Neil Gaiman or by anyone else who has a good fan base (for word of mouth) and good skill at making comics would do.

  59. @Jeff Bonivert – “Truthfully, it’s a burden to have a dream you want to live 24/7, but don’t.”

    Wow Jeff, that is an astonishingly arrogant thing to say. It may come as a shock to you but people who aren’t professional, or even semi professional cartoonists also have dreams that they wish they could pursue 24/7 but don’t. Most people don’t dream of working in the accounting industry or behind the counter in a shop. Its called dealing with real life.

    I have literally not an ounce of sympathy for you, Faith Erin Hicks or anybody else that complains about the money they aren’t getting for writing and/or drawing for a living. If the work you’re doing isn’t reaching a big enough audience to pay your rent do something else that will and save your pet projects for your downtime. If you simply can’t find any projects that prop up your lifestyle then face it tiger, you’re in the wrong job, despite the ‘burden’ of your dreams.

    Once again, the world does not owe you a living

  60. Interested Observer says:

    There’s only one solution here- the major publishers need to realize that the 2.99 price point just offers justification for all the freeloaders and parasites, and really won’t effect the retailers. Their pullbox customers want the pamphlets, do or die. 99 cents is a perfect price point for a comic online and if you’re not willing to pay that you’re a punkass and should find another hobby.

  61. AaronT says:

    Ian, re: digital – you seem to be ignoring some points made above. $2-$3 (well, definitely the latter) is NOT “cheap” relative to competing entertainment media. And you’re getting a product that you don’t actually own, can only view on certain devices, can’t transfer…

    As Anonymous said above, I’d actually get a better, more user-friendly product by pirating. I buy from Comixology anyway, though.

  62. @Ian Kelly – Warren Ellis already did. He released Freak Angels first as a webcomic, and then collected chapters of it were sold in printed format, much in the manner other webcomics do.

    As far as I can tell sales of it were decent. Other webcomics seem to do decent sales on their print compilations as well. Even when you give it away for free some people want to buy a print copy.

  63. AaronT says:

    Interested, I think we’re more in agreement re: digital – but comics retail throwing a hissy fit over anything resembling bold moves in digital pricing is part of the problem.

  64. @Josh Benton
    Webcomics on their own are a viable business model for like fifty people world wide (assuming you’re not talking about porn). And ironically comic book stores operate on the same principal as successful webcomics: community building. I can’t imagine that’s a viable ecosystem.

    I suspect a different paradigm is needed. I agree about the need for an iTunes for comics. I think we’re on the precipice, mostly thanks to the Kindle Fire and Nook Color. And the Comixology and Graphic.ly apps are about 90% there. You might even get away with them as they exist in a wireless world. I’d also like a Netflix for comics, but I’ll take what I can get for now.

  65. “If you’re a big company like DC/Marvel/etc. that’s possible, but maybe not so much for independent creators or small companies (or manga publishers who would have to deal with licensing and may not have the budget for it). And even then, they’re not going to risk much with new concepts or characters if all the money is in merch and licensing.”

    You’re absolutely correct. But independent or small creators/publishers did not lock the industry down into failure with the Direct Market. DC and Marvel did.

    When the DM began taking shape in the early 80’s, there were not yet many, if any, independent creators or publishers. DC and Marvel, being the only major players at the time, shut the lid on the success of anyone else by supporting a store/distribution system that would eventually ensure that no one else could compete with them at their level.

    History has borne out this strategy to have been a success for them.

    I’m of the opinion that had DC and Marvel conducted themselves more equitably for the success of the industry, there would be many more successful independent publishers today and comics publishing would be thriving.

    But DC and Marvel, from their position, didn’t want a thriving publishing industry. They’ve done everything possible to choke it into failure. It’s more comfortable and less risky for them because they make their profits elsewhere. They only need the comics for raw materials, not for profits.

    So, though what you say is true, it would all change if DC and Marvel were to change strategy and decide to get back to the business of publishing comic books for profit.

    Ironically, this would elevate everyone, including the big 2. But, because we live in a business world where it’s considered good business to destroy one branch of an industry for everyone else, in order to maximize profits for yourself in all the other branches, then we will not likely see this happening anytime soon.

    Unless something miraculous happens and the people (or in this case fandom) raise a voice against it that affects the reputation of the publishers. Their fear for negative publicity is the only thing that caused them to shift a little towards equity with some creators.

    Their fear from negative publicity caused DC to relaunch its entire line. They didn’t do it for presumed profit. They did it for publicity. “See? we tried!”

    It’s so transparent.

  66. Interested Observer says:

    And if you’re a indie cartoonist it’s very tough to sell your work. Always been that way. Working a dayjob or no job sucks but it’s always been that way too. But it’s very, very easy for a lot of people to see your stuff every day now. And that’s brand new and exciting. My advice? Forget publishing and figure how to get in touch with regular folks online.

  67. @Joey Peters
    Really? 50 people in the whole world? Even if you were right, that’s more than the number of successful comics publishers. I can buy webhosting and a domain for a year for less than half of what it would cost me to do 100 issues of a 22 – 24 page b&w book.

    If it fails that still leaves creators out less than $100/year. Compared to the hundreds, even thousands of dollars I’ve watched people sink into their comics (some of them good, most of them not), that’s not a whole lot to lose. But not even exploring the option is cool too.

  68. Piracy is and remains a sticky situation, but conflating it with the continued success of long time comic workers seems wrong to me. Sure a lot of them may lose some sales because of piracy, but the real issue is putting all one’s eggs in one basket.

    Every book on writing I have ever read pretty much goes in to detail about why you shouldn’t give up your day job until you’re making well more than what you need to survive. Because any creative job comes with inherent risks in things like healthcare, emergency situations and the like.

    As to piracy, I think it’s all about creators and publishers to really get things moving on their fronts. Take the initiative. Examine what you need to do and market, market, market!

    Sane price structuring for digital would be great, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m fine with the day of publication price being equal, but why not make the price drop by half a month or two later. $3 for 20 pages of digital content is insane. I can buy episodes of TV shows for less than that and get at least 5 times the length of entertainment. I have the utmost respect for publishers like Boom and Antarctic that half or quarter their comic prices for the digital market place, because their realistic. It’s a good first step.

    My concern with comics in the digital age is that it may be too late. The pirates may be entrenched so well that the digital purchase options might never effect them. And many are probably more than happy to continue to get books for free as they’ve done so for years.

  69. R. Maheras says:

    Michael — This statement makes no sense: “Creators took a bigger chance because they worked for peanuts while publishers had capital to invest that wasn’t their private money.”

    The fact is, most creators have no marketable ideas. Even the best creators were lucky if even one or two of their ideas took off in their lifetime. Rarer still were ideas that had long-term value.

    So the fact is, most creators were getting paid a very decent page rate in their era for mostly pedestrian, generic material — stuff that was cranked out by the carload since the page rate was so crucial for economic prosperity.

    One of the reasons I was so enamored with the prospect of becoming a comic book artist and working for Marvel or DC circa 1970 was because, compared to the lifestyle I grew up in, artists like Jack Kirby were absolutely rich.

    Think about that for a minute.

    Circa 1970, Kirby was drawing at least three books a month, which average out to a total of about 66 pages. He was making about $75 a page at the time, which came to about $4,950 a month, or about $59,400 a year. Some months he did more, and I have not touched at all on his cover output, which paid an even higher rate than interior pages.

    To put that into perspective, Kirby was making about as much in a month-and-a-half as my dad — a union truck driver — made in an entire year. In fact, my parents bought a four-bedroom house in Chicago in 1970 for $17,500. Even after taxes, Kirby could have paid in full for that house in about four-five months.

    To even further put that into perspective, plug that amount into the Department of Labor CPI inflation calculator, and Kirby was making about $344,000 a year in 2011 dollars.

    Even the lower pages rates of other Marvel and DC artists were enough to make my eyes water in 1970.

    So characterizing comic book creators’ pay back in the day as “peanuts” is absolutely false.

  70. Interested Observer says:

    I know there are a lot of people working for the Big Two reading this thread, and I say this to them- get moving now. Don’t wait for the lame excuses of the downloaders to become set in stone. The people buying the pamphlets are not going to switch over because of price point. They don’t want to read comics on computers. This is a make or break year. Those dependable GenX’ers are going to be lost to attrition and there’ll be no one left but kids stealing your books online. Look at what happened to Tokyopop- it CAN happen to you.

  71. Conflicted says:

    @Ben
    “If the work you’re doing isn’t reaching a big enough audience to pay your rent do something else that will and save your pet projects for your downtime. If you simply can’t find any projects that prop up your lifestyle then face it tiger, you’re in the wrong job, despite the ‘burden’ of your dreams.”

    When people complain about the crap Hollywood (or any other creative industry, for that matter) puts out, it’s because the top executives have the same attitude you do. It’s the Michael Bay movies and Twilights that make enough to pay the bills, and if your “artsy” movies, books, or TV shows can’t bring in enough money to support it, then they’ll tell you the exact same thing you wrote.

  72. This:

    “The idea that graphic literature is right now, in this digital age, an obscure form with a fringe audience is, to me, absolutely ridiculous. It’s -words- and -pictures-, for heaven’s sake. C’mon. Everyone should be into that.”

    And pretty much everything else in Dj Enigma’s post, seems dead on to me.

  73. @Conflicted Gareth Edwards’ Monsters was made on a budget of less than $500,000 and took the best part of $4m at the box office. And then made more money on DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix etc. etc. It was written, directed and actually shot by Edwards and is vastly more entertaining than the Twilight saga or anything with Michael Bay’s name on it.

    Making money is not some sort of inverse badge of honour suggesting vapid artistic content. Bryan Lee O’Mallley’s Scott Pilgrim was a massive mainstream success before Michael Cera went anywhere near it. If your work is good and has popular appeal it will support you financially. If it is either not good or doesn’t have a wide appeal it will not. To suggest that marginal indie creators are somehow deprived of a living by internet comics piracy or are being put down by ‘the man’ is ridiculous. They are deprived of a living because their work doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, and there’s nobody to blame for that but themselves.

  74. Dave Elliott says:

    ““…and you have to sell a ridiculous amount in order to stay on the list”

    $2500 is “a ridiculous amount”? Really?

    -B”

    Agree with Brian. Work to promote your comic BEFORE you go anywhere near Diamond. Create awareness first.

    If you’re on Twitter check out the #comics #comicspro and especially #comicmarket hashtags. Follow retailers like Larry’s Comics and JetPack Comics there and communicate with them. Tweet pages to retailers and listen to suggestions.

    Listen to the advice creators like Steve Niles freely offers there.

    Then go to Diamond.

    This industry has HUGE potential. Yeah, it CAN reach the masses and be a commercially viable industry to work in. But will it? Probably not. It’ll probably continue to limp along because it can’t address the plethora of issues that need to be addressed, not just one thing at a time.

    While I don’t believe there will be pirates dancing on my grave, and I don’t plan on giving up the good fight anytime soon, if things don’t change I probably will die poor and homeless.

  75. @R. Maheras Those Kirbynomics are fascinating. $344k a year!? I wonder what Stan the Man was pulling down in 1970?

  76. Al™ says:

    re: Faith Erin Hicks, and the article’s comment:
    “… these are (presumably) Canadian dollars:”

    At today’s rate, $22,000 CAN, her income for 2010 was = US$ 21,739.13

    And she says her 2011 income was HALF of 2010! So $11,000 CAN = US$ 10,869.57

    Not a lot no matter what developed country you live in. $11,000 is about half the salary you might earn if you worked full time at a Tim Horton’s coffee shop.

  77. I guess … I’m glad I’m not alone in this struggle?? But still. Ugh. Depressed.

  78. Piracy has been a huge problem in comics, books, music, and movies, years before the internet.
    I mean, I used to read all of these books for free at the library. I discovered hundreds of authors (and later comic books) that I would have never spent the money to read, there and in plane site. Why haven’t those brazen criminals been shut down, am I right? Even now they continue to peddle free reading to the kids in my neighborhood, and the library only had to pay for that book once. Think of how much money those writers are losing, and its not just happening there, either. There’s a comic book store a few exits down from where I live that will let you sit and read as many comics as you want, and not pay anything for them. I’ve read way more than I could even afford to there, and only paid for like one or two that I really liked, when I left. How do they get away with it, I ask you?
    Don’t even get me started on all the free movies and TV I watch, and all I have to do is turn on the TV!!! FREE ON DEMAND BABY!
    There’s a guy at my work that listens to free music all day long on this thing called Pandora, but I’m guilty of an even worse crime. I have this device in my car that picks up radio waves that carry free music on it, all day long. I’ve never once paid for it, but I hear that there are people who do. They’re like those suckers that went to the movies and paid to watch The Simpsons. I heard that movie made a lot of money. Oh, and when I was a teenager, girls would make me mixed tapes with songs from bands they liked on them.

    In all seriousness, though, the biggest irony of all is that my art magazine, which I made available for free download, got taken off the web when megauplaod got shut down. Totally all mine. I had all the rights and permissions to publish it. So who really suffers for the war against piracy? I’m sure its lost on no one that the government was sending a message to all who protested against SOPA and PIPA, although the “anonymous” retaliation that took place after sounds like a total “Wag the Dog” story to me. This is about a small group of people trying to control a large group of people who wont play they way they’re used to.

    Hey, wait a minute. I put my material on line for free? How do I make any money? Well, I don’t make that much, but that’s more to do with me, then anything else. I’m committed to some other projects right now, so I don’t spend the time I need to, if I wanted to make a real living on it. If I did want to make it my mainstay, I would do more of what I’ve done in the past. Merchandising! “Where the real money from the movie is made.” I’ve sold T-shirts, art prints, stickers, and (get the front door!) hard copies of the magazine. People DO like what I do, but I REALLY DON’T THINK people would have invested the TIME to care about who I am or what I do, if they couldn’t check it out for free.

    If you don’t think its fare that you’re not getting more money for what you do, maybe its not because people are stealing your stuff. Maybe, as wonderful as it is, people are just finding stuff that interest them more. Sorry. You’ve worked really hard, just like I have, but hey, at least I have a full time job (and maybe you do, too) so I don’t have to compromise my artistic integrity. Its very liberating, and if I really need more money, I can always go panhandling on kickstarter, write for grants, or ask the taxpayers via the government (no, I won’t do that last) but even then, I’ll be asking people to vote with their money, and if they don’t find it good enough, I can accept that. Not everyone can be a rock star, everyone can do what they love, as long as we stay a free country.

    There IS a new business model that many will be able to find success through, but its still forming, and there’s no going back. Lets not kill it, by assuming that its a problem, when non of us truly know what we’re seeing take shape yet.

  79. R. Maheras – I can appreciate being a devil’s advocate. It helps put things in perspective sometimes. But you make it too easy.

    “The fact is, most creators have no marketable ideas.”

    That’s so silly and lacking of any understanding about the business. Where have the ideas for all the comics ever produced come from? Publishers? Editors? Hardly. If any come from them, it’s only because they are also creators. Every single idea, every single comic book, has come from the minds of creators. Some are more embraced than others, or more marketable, but everything that’s ever been marketed in comics comes from creators.

    The only ones who don’t seem to understand anything about marketing are publishers. Or maybe they understand but they don’t want to market comic books. They just market the ideas, and do a good job of it. But somehow they fail with the comics. I wonder how that works.

    All the ideas in comics have come from creators.

    About Kirby. Maybe you should be happy you didn’t become an artist. You seem to have a skewered view of what drawing comics is about. You seem to think artists are flying high with exorbitant salaries, living an easy life. You have no idea what they have to go through to be able to do what Kirby did.

    Kirby was an exception. Most artists were lucky to do a book a month. 17, not 66 pages. The exceptions, like Kirby, had to work about 16-18 hours a day for that 50k/year. And he only got there after years of poverty while learning the ropes and developing his work. He did it, according to what he’s said, because he believed Stan would fulfill his promise of reward if Marvel succeeded.

    We all know how that worked out.

    The picture you paint is so distorted that it really needs no comment. But for the record, 50K/year salary cannot be compared by rate of inflation today. It must be compared to how salaries have risen since then in general. Statistics are not supportive of 50K becoming 300+K. Based on how salaries have grown, Kirby would be making less than 100k/year today.

    That might sound like a lot to you but think about it for a minute. Kirby made Marvel what it became. He, more than anyone, gave Stan the ideas that have turned Marvel into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. He deserved to be treated fairly and decently by all standards of morality and ethics. Instead, Marvel rewarded him by spitting in his face. Sorry to be so blunt but that’s pretty much a consensus among people who know the score.

    Truth to tell, I don’t think you could have lasted a minute as a comics artist. You seem to think you just put in some hours and hope to get rich. You don’t appear to have much of an idea of what it takes. You lose your life to be able to do what Kirby did. It may be satisfying but he worked his ass off to help make Marvel succeed.

    Sorry to say this but the picture you paint is somewhat nauseating. Happens with advocates sometimes. No hard feelings.

  80. randy says:

    It is easier and quicker to illicitly download many gigs worth of pirated comics (or music, literature, movies, games, etc.) than it is to purchase them legally. It takes fewer mouse clicks, you don’t have to enter credit card info, and it is “free”.

    Heck… in a handful of mouse clicks, you can download every major Marvel comic in the last decade. Just click, click, click, wait a bit, and you now have gigs and gigs of digital comics that you will never ever have time to read.

    With those realities in place, I don’t see how legitimate internet sales will thrive.

    You can’t compete with “free”.

    As piracy grows in perceived legitimacy, I’ll honestly be surprised why anybody is still purchasing digital content.

  81. NTabak says:

    Interested: “The people buying the pamphlets are not going to switch over because of price point. They don’t want to read comics on computers.”

    If you’re right on that point, then things would be a lot simpler. I suspect otherwise.

    I agree that most current DM customers aren’t particularly price-sensitive and would be willing to pay a few bucks more for their preferred paper format (as long as prices don’t get any worse than 20 pages for $3.99, anyway), but “most” isn’t enough. A very large percentage – if not a majority – of LCBSes have pretty narrow profit margins, and couldn’t afford to lose even 10-15% of their customers to digital. In the current economy, I think there’s little chance that the percentage that would switch to $1.99 digital comics over a few months would be less than that. And if the shops close, it’s not guaranteed that the remaining customers would have another LCBS near them, or would start grudgingly buying digital.

    Basically, I don’t think you’ll see any drastic changes in DC/Marvel’s digital pricing until (“unless,” if you’re far more optimistic about the DM’s future than I am) the DM shrinks significantly further and forces them to pursue revenue from elsewhere more aggressively. But right now, retailers are too (rightly) terrified of the possibility that digital actually could cannibalize a vital percentage of their business in the near future, and the publishers are loath to risk cannibalizing the revenue stream that accounts for the vast majority of their current revenue. There’s no easy solution, sadly.

  82. Conflicted says:

    @Christopher Moonlight

    This is going to sound more harsh than I mean it to be, but I don’t think you know how libraries, TV, radio, and Pandora work.

    Legit streaming radio services like Pandora or Spotify do pay licensing fees for playing songs, as does radio (and they make that money back by ads or subscriber fees). “Free” TV has been funded by advertisements which fund what the networks spend to pay the people who make their shows.

    Libraries buy stuff and are supported by taxes, and only let you borrow stuff, instead of letting you have a pristine copy of your own to keep.

    The ads/subscription fees on Megaupload, and many other services, go completely to the people running the site, and not towards any fees to the original creators.

    And again, merchandising isn’t right for every type of project, and many creative endeavors aren’t going to be able to be made on the side of a full time job. Many creative jobs are *supposed* to be full-time jobs, instead of a hobby. Look how much work and time it takes to make an animated movie, for example.

  83. How are DMs “rightly” terrified about digital comics cutting into their profits? All the numbers I’ve seen show otherwise. Granted, I’m not an insider but the impression I’ve gotten from actual numbers is that digital has been growing and print has been relatively constant. Anyone have some real numbers to counter that to tell me that the DMs are being drained? So far all I see are lapsed readers and uninitiated future fans getting into comics through a new medium.

    Why anyone in the industry would be against that is beyond me!

  84. @ Conflicted
    Thank you for making my point for me, although I’m sure you didn’t know you were doing it. Just remember, what is supposed to be and what is are two completely different things, but thank you for cunningly outlining potential assets that independent creators (such as myself) can and do use to make money. I mean, hey, if they work for those other media outlets, why can’t they work for us? There is hope.

  85. @Michael Netzer – I don’t think you’re giving R. Maheras a fair crack of the whip there. On marketable ideas you simultaneously ignore the all too common editorially mandated series, a product of committee rather than a legitimate ‘artwork, and the effect that major publisher marketing dollars (regardless of how ineptly they’re spent) have on the profitability of a title.

    In your romanticised world of well paid artistic freedom cut free from the shackles of the evil paymasters, let’s imagine a writer/artist launches a new title and puts all of his marketing savvy into pimping it to anyone who’ll listen. To our writer/artists dismay, no-one thinks NfL Super-Pro is a good idea. The title quietly dies and the creator is left whining about how he can’t make ends meet.

    Without the evil empire of Marvel and DC there would be an awful lot more professional artists and writers who would find their creative endeavors sadly lacking when it came to covering their utility bills.

    On Kirby, I don’t think anyone’s suggested he had an easy life. Anyone pulling in a salary that can buy a house outright in a month and a half (in 1970 dollars, with no adjustments for inflation or the wage index) would, I’d imagine, be working their ass of to earn it.

    Then and now the safe money is in work for hire superhero comics. There’s a reason why people like Ed Brubaker, Matt fraction, grant Morrison et al toil away on the despised corporate icons every month. Its because that’s the safest way to ensure you’ll be able to pay your bills at the end of the month. I’m sure Kirby understood that better than most.

  86. JasonintheUK is an ignorant person. That’s is about as polite as I can say it.

    There is no shame in taking EI when you don’t have enough to make ends meet. Lord knows Faith has paid taxes into the EI program and will continue to do so. It a part of payroll taxes here in Canada.

  87. @ Conflicted
    …and I also don’t mean to be as harsh as that read.

  88. @conflicted Then how would you suggest that creative endeavors that demand full-time attention and yet are not either good or of a wide enough appeal to support that cost are funded? Who should foot the bill to support the artist?

    Its a harsh fact of life that for the vast majority of us merely existing incurs an ever-mounting cost every day. Its not fair to suggest that all of the poor saps pumping gas rather than selfishly living their unmarketable and unsustainable dreams should pay for it indirectly through government subsidy.

  89. NTabak says:

    @Mike – Many retailers were against day-and-date digital. More (like Mr. Hibbs above) were against what DC and Dark Horse are now doing, dropping new comics by a dollar after a month.

    But I wasn’t primarily referring to the current digital market, which is designed to be nothing more than a small ancillary revenue stream for print, offering minimal incentives for current print readers to switch mediums other than the convenience inherent to digital. What retailers are afraid of is the prospect of digital comics actually becoming SUPERIOR to print in some significant way, like, say, pricing. Remember the brouhaha last month, when retailers went apoplectic because it briefly looked like Dark Horse would be selling new day-and-date digital comics for $1 less than print?

    Maybe higher-priced print comics can coexist with more affordable digital comics, but retailers don’t seem to believe it, and I suspect they’re right. Though I also don’t think that the Direct Market Uber Alles business model can sustain itself much longer, and that there may well be a major parting of the ways within the next five years.

  90. @NTabak

    Yeah, I still don’t think it’ll be digital’s fault if DMs go out of business. I have yet to hear of a regular DM shopper who plans on forsaking his local store for digital. I’m sure there are some but most of the people who are prone to abandoning comic shops probably already did. That’s why the numbers are going down for print already.

    I think this is more just another case of certain people in the comics community being afraid of change. That’s why we have the same characters since the 60s!

    As for the original subject, being a professional artist is more often than not the quickest way to stay poor. That goes for ANY industry. Such is life…

  91. @Ben
    There’s that “fair” word again. It means so many things to so many people. Is it fair that others make millions doing exactly what I do in my free time after work, and I don’t? I think so. Its not their fault I’m not famous. However, it is within my power to change MY situation, as it is within the power of every human being, IF they stop worrying about what’s “fair.” If someone is pirating your stuff, report it. Hell, find out how they were making the money that you couldn’t, on your stuff, and do that. Saying something isn’t fair is such as worthless, defeatist thing to do. You go around saying that, and you’ve already lost. Your loss is nobody’s problem but your own. I get angry that so many people are trying to make it my problem. All its gotten me is my own content removed from the web. Thanks.
    God, I wish we could talk about this over drinks. It’d be so much more fun.
    Piece out, home fries.

  92. One week you’re on the cover of TIME, the next week you live in a dumpster. Repeat several times over 20 years. Such is the comics life.

  93. @traci

    “Ah, invoking the name of the Great God McCloud, he who has yet to realize the dream of workable micropayments, so he runs around delivering a 20 year old lecture to make a living.”

    wow, he’s been saying this for 20 years?? and you’re still not listening to him? btw, i never said he was a god. i do think he’s pretty smart though. and his “understanding digital comics” was published long before the music industry was saved by apple.

    “Free comics get pirated all the time, just ask Questionable Content, where I can go and find a dozen apps to bring it to me any time I want it. Even a dime is too much for most of these jokers to pay.”

    well, you just keep right on going to Questionable Content. i won’t judge. really, i won’t.

    “If you’re making a fortune on your ten cent comic, then I want to see your yacht.”

    i never claimed anything of the sort. fwiw, i prefer to make a living, not a killing.

    i suppose if i made a really kick ass comic that people wanted read, then i could buy a yacht. maybe two! i’d make even more money selling the rights to make it a movie or statue of the characters, or an animated tv show. hell, then i could buy 10 yachts!!! or or one huge yacht that takes the same space as 10 yachts!! jeez, the possibilities are endless!!!11!!

    “Your volume at your ten cent is going to have to be huge to make any decent money on that thing. Most comics are niche products for niche audiences, and have to be priced at a certain rate in order to pay for them, whether they exist in the analog realm or not.”

    10¢ or 99¢, it doesn’t matter. sell it for whatever you want. give it a way for free!!! live off the t-shirt profits! sell the original pages! i’m sure that are a dozen different permutations of the same business model. there’s only one way to compete with free: free or cheap. period.

    read chris anderson’s book “Free”. go ahead, download it. it’s free. he’s got a dozen different business models in there.

    “Whiney babies, my ass. These are the people who spent years building up the art form at which you can now hurl your contempt because they haven’t figured out how to sell comics for a dime like you. Clearly your dime comic has made you very wealthy. Can’t wait to see you in your yacht.”

    i hurl no contempt!! i am also one of those people who have spent years on my art. i make a living at it. i’ve done it for nothing and now i support a family of four on it. i have no extra money (or time) but i’m doing it.

    i don’t have contempt for my fellow artists. i have an answer, that’s all. technology is scary, i get that. but it’s here and available and pretty cheap. dwolla is free. tumult’s hype is $50. hire a coding student for free (or for food), if you need one. Facebook is free. Youtube is free. Twitter is free. Google+ is free. a blog is free. a COMIC SPECIFIC BLOG TEMPLATE IS PRACTICALLY FREE.

    attention to all those still living in the 20th century: the media has changed. “print is dead” (egon spengler, 1984). the new media is the web. that’s just the way it is.

    i love holding a comic book as much as the next guy/gal here. i got shelves of them!! but times are changing thanks to this amazing technology. water flows around rock and guess who’s the rock?

    one final thing: if you are trying to make a living selling your comic book. guess what? you’re an entrepreneur. a business owner. your product is your comic (duh!) but you also have to sell it. partner with someone who digs selling things if you don’t like it. either way, you are the one responsible for your business. learn to be a business man/woman. or be the best damn barista you can be so you can split a table in Artist’s Alley with your co-worker at your next local con.

    screw the pirate. screw the middlemen (that will give you the copyright and steal the rights to everything else, just so you can be published). screw the haters. screw everyone that wants to keep you under the yolk of impenetrable BS to make you think you need them.

    you are the creative. you have a story to tell and the means to do it. you now have the means to sell and distribute it. if you do good stuff people will find it.

    be as creative in selling your product as you are at making your product and you will do OK. scout’s honour.

  94. Wow… passionate comments here.

  95. Interested Observer says:

    Having worked in comics retail and spent more Wednesday nights with the lifers I can say that there are two audiences for comics- the pullbox boys and the casual readers (a much smaller crowd). The pullbox crowd almost to a man hates digital comics. Hate the idea of it. I would be shocked and amazed if even 10% switched to digital but even then a lot of those readers would want to get the material in trades. Ask any retailer what percentage of his pullboxers are under 20 and most will tell you zero. If comics want to continue, they have to get younger readers, which means they have to go online which means they have to pull the price point down enough to discourage piracy.

    Then get out there and make sure everyone is damn certain that the entire industry could close up shop faster than anyone could dare imagine if people aren’t willing to pay a reasonable price for their comics. DC and Marvel do not need to publish comics to make money on their characters. Quite the contrary.

  96. I wish someone was willing to express a strong opinion on this topic.

    [irony meter off] Well, that seems to have touched a nerve.

  97. Ryan H says:

    I think the divide in viewpoint on what constitutes the ‘industry’ is interesting.

    Some commentators basically address the direct market shops as the industry. The creators and publishers are a behind-the-scenes secondary aspect. How something will affect the industry is viewed purely based on how it will affect the shops.

    Others view the publishers as the industry. The creators are secondary and mediated through the publishers. The stores are viewed as a middle-man. They view any changes based on how it moves product from the publishers to the readers.

    The last group sees the creators as the industry. Both the publishers and stores (and other distribution) are simply middle-men with various levels of benefits and drawbacks. Both or either are potentially interchangeable.

    I’m not saying that any of these positions are necessarily right or better than the others. It’s just interesting seeing how each is a different lens and each on display.

  98. R. Maheras says:

    Michael – No, I understand the comic book quite well, and I stand solidly behind my statement that “most creators have no marketable ideas.”

    First of all, you selectively took that quote out of the context from the statement that followed, namely that most creators are lucky if, in their lifetime, they come up with even one or two ideas that “take off,” i.e., are very successful. And, as I added, even rarer were creators who came up with an idea that had long term value.

    In other words, most of the creative stuff you go on to lecture me about is generic, not very successful, and has little long-term value. All you need to do is yank a copy of Overstreet’s price guide from the bookshelf and start looking at the thousands of forgettable comic books titles listed inside that people were paid good money to create, along with the tens of thousands of forgettable characters. Then compare those with the relatively few breakout hits and truly memorable characters. It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to see that I’m right and you’re not.

    Take Marvel’s oft-bragged-about stable of “more than 5,000 characters” – most of which were created since 1961. How many of those can be categorized as characters that were breakout hits with long-term marketing value? Maybe 40 or 50?

    Let’s be generous and say, for the sake of argument, the number is 50. How many of the thousands of artists and writers Marvel has employed over the years (including me, believe it or not) actually were responsible for creating those 50 breakout characters?

    I’ll wager it’s 20 or 25 people, tops.

    So what were the rest of those thousands of Marvel creators doing since 1961? They were getting paid hundreds of millions of dollars (no exaggeration) to create generic characters by the carloads in the hopes that a hit character would emerge in the process. Either that or they were just re-hashing stories featuring old characters created by someone else – hoping against hope that sales stayed steady or ticked upwards so they didn’t get fired.

    Regarding the life of the Marvel comic book artist in 1970? We’re both wrong, but you far more than I.

    I had forgotten that the page count had dropped to 20 pages by 1970, but it also wasn’t 17 pages, as you stated. I also had forgotten that Kirby was off of “Captain America” by the time 1970 had rolled around, so he was down to two books at Marvel rather than three. But he had one foot out the door on his way to DC, and so about a year later, he was penciling “New Gods,” “Forever People,” “Mr. Miracle,” and “Jimmy Olsen” – Not to mention the two B&W magazine one-shots, “In the Days of the Mob,” and “Spirit World.”

    Your claim that in 1970 Kirby had finally made it after years of poverty is also not correct. He’d been working steadily in comics for nearly 30 years up to that point. And while there were some lean years in the late 1950s, by 1960 Kirby was cranking out – and getting paid for – pages at a remarkable rate. For example, a cursory glance at his 1963 output shows he penciled about 800 pages that year, along with about 100 covers.

    And your assertion that Kirby was an “exception” and that most creators were lucky to get one book a month is also not true. I picked a random month in 1970, March, and did a quick breakdown of who did what for that month. By my count, Stan Lee scripted 121 pages; Roy Thomas scripted 100 pages; Jack Kirby penciled 42 pages; Joe Sinnott inked 43 pages; Jim Mooney penciled 20 pages and inked 27 more; Gene Colan penciled 54 pages; John Severin inked 42 pages; John Buscema penciled 49 pages; Dick Ayers penciled 40 pages; Gary Friedrich scripted 40 pages; Sal Buscema penciled 20 pages and inked seven more; and Dan Adkins inked 27 pages. And while folks like Herb Trimpe only drew one book, they did both the pencils AND inks, so got a correspondingly higher page rate. So in reality, many of the key bullpen artists were working on two books.

    Finally, your statement regarding inflation is a crock: “But for the record, 50K/year salary cannot be compared by rate of inflation today. It must be compared to how salaries have risen since then in general. Statistics are not supportive of 50K becoming 300+K. Based on how salaries have grown, Kirby would be making less than 100k/year today.”

    That inflation calculator I used was devised specifically by the Department of Labor for comparing job-related inflation. Yet here you are, dismissing it out of hand because the result it calculates doesn’t fit your paradigm. It’s actually pretty accurate.

    For example, in 1977, I was making $6.06 an hour at my union warehouse order-filler job. If you plug that amount into the Department of Labor’s CPI inflation calculator, it comes to $22.50 an hour – which is about right for a similar unskilled union position today. In another example, in 1974, Marvel paid me $20 for a one-page script. Plug that in to the inflation calculator, and in 2011 dollars, it works out to about $91 a page. Sound about right? That’s the good news. The bad news is that since 1968, comic book prices have risen at a rate that is four times the rate of inflation. That means that while the page rates today have kept up with inflation all of these years, the creators’ slice of the total revenue pie is actually about 25 percent of what it was in 1968.

  99. george elliot says:

    Not a lot no matter what developed country you live in. $11,000 is about half the salary you might earn if you worked full time at a Tim Horton’s coffee shop.

    Not true. Mimimum wage which most shops pay in the Uk would give you 12646 pounds which depending on exchange rate equates to about 13 -17K dollars a lot less than 22k!

    Also factor in taxes and higher prices and you can halve the purchasing power of the pound to the dollar giving an equlivalent purchasing power of 7.5 – 8.5k

  100. alan bell says:

    “But for the record, 50K/year salary cannot be compared by rate of inflation today. It must be compared to how salaries have risen since then in general. Statistics are not supportive of 50K becoming 300+K. Based on how salaries have grown, Kirby would be making less than 100k/year today.”

    Jesus what planet do you guys live on. I would consider $50k in todays money to be a large salary!!

  101. @Christopher Moonlight – 100% agreed. Fairness, luck, the shrinking direct market, digital piracy etc. etc. ad infinitum, none of these things are responsible for not being able to earn a living from your art. If you work hard at your art, its good and it appeals to a wide audience then it will support you. If it doesn’t then it’s not good enough, it hasn’t got a wide enough appeal or you’re not working hard enough. That’s it. It’s nobody else’s fault but yours.

    What are you drinking? First round’s on me.

    @Jamie Coville – we have a similar payment here in the UK called Jobseeker’s Allowance, funded through income tax, but you aren’t eligible for it if you leave your job to pursue your dreams and the income you get doesn’t prop you up. Many of UK comics big names (Moore, Morrison etc.) relied on its predecessor, the Dole, in the 80’s but the economic landscape of Britain was very very different then. The government of the day hobbled the country, especially the North and Scotland, to prop up the lifestyles of its richest supporters and many either had nothing else they could do or didn’t work in protest at the shitty hand they’d been dealt by Mrs Thatcher. I don’t see any necessity or politics in the position Miss Hicks has put herself in, only a whining sense of entitlment.

    Framing Miss Hicks’ poorly paid self-employment as a damning indictment of the industry via the big bad publishers or, even more bizarrely, digital piracy, is nonsensical.

  102. filippod says:

    Paper comics are becoming a collector/lover item (like vinyl LPs: they exist, they have a small, not particularly profitable but solid market). Digital is the way to go but is being handled very VERY poorly. Kids can buy great games on their iPods/iPhones/iPads/Android devices for $1. The comic market is trying to milk existing customers instead of trying to expand. Publisher should create the HABIT for people to read comics and do it digitally. How? FREE and QUALITY content (not crappy previews). Give away very frigging #1 of any series after a few months! Heck, even every first issue of any new story arc when it is concluded! And for older series, give away full story arcs! And enable social functionality (twitter, facebook, forums and whatnot): maybe it’s stupid but people expect that. And create attractive subscription services for those more inclined towards that model. When people will start enjoying reading digital comics they will want more. And they will buy. Where? Where they are used to do it. Going for pirated content will not even occur to them. Expand the market and lower the prices. Or face extinction.

  103. Allen Rubinstein says:

    Having read or skimmed all 100 (!) comments here, I think maybe one of you came close to what I believe is the central issue.

    The number of people in our population who read comics – who consider reading comics – who even think about comics at all in any context, is very, very, very tiny. If everybody downloading comics turned around and paid full price for them, it would still not be enough to support half of the incredibly talented creators out there. Comics needs a bigger audience, and that’s all there is to it.

    I spoke to a retailer once from a hole-in-the-wall comics shop who asserted, “Comics is a niche market and always will be.” While I don’t agree with that, I mentioned it to another retailer from a much better store who really put a point on it – “Maybe that’s true, but maybe we could be a niche market for five percent of the public instead of one percent.” That would make the comics industry five times bigger, five times the customers, five times the pirates, five times the money.

    When I read this site, and half or more of the articles are about two companies publishing stories from one rather silly genre, I can’t help but think that’s a much larger part of the problem than digital pricing and downloads. (not blaming you, Heidi! You’re great!). Digital piracy has been around for a decade or so, but the superhero overload has been the norm since well before my birth.

    The graphic novel explosion (a freakin’ golden age!) has been happening for twenty years now. Can we at least find a different name for every other type of story known to humans than “independent” (including books published by Random House, Scholastic and Houghton Mifflin)? You could apply that logic to a Barnes and Noble and declare ninety percent of the store “independent”. The comics art form now includes works in ALL of the genres and subject matter, which includes the types that appeal to the 280 million Americans who don’t give a shit about Superman.

    Honestly, I don’t object to superhero fans enjoying what they enjoy, I just want comics to get out of the ghetto and grow into the popular mass medium that it has every potential to be. It’s hard to imagine that when all that can be seen from the outside is colorful costumes.

  104. Charles Knight says:

    “I spoke to a retailer once from a hole-in-the-wall comics shop who asserted, “Comics is a niche market and always will be.”

    More than that, digital removes a lot of the barriers to entry, so an ever increasing number of people can enter the mark further pushing down income.

  105. Allen Rubinstein says:

    Actually, Charles, one thing I think is wonderful about comics is that it’s a craft that takes years to develop. That’s a much higher barrier to entry than any corporate structure, and one of the reasons there’s a much higher concentration of great work here than other mediums. Someone has to be very dedicated and love doing it to go about the intensive work of drawing a comic.

  106. @Allen Rubinstein – While I agree with what you’re saying 100% – it would be great for the whole industry if the comic market were to grow to five times its current size – I think that there are really very few barriers beyond the indifference of 280 million Americans (to use your example) to that actually happening.

    Mass market bookstores now all have a graphic novel section, comics are in libraries, back on the American newstands in some form (I think), thousands upon thousands of them can be illegaly downloaded for free off the internet – The ‘problem’ is that a large proportion of the population don’t want to read them (or, by extension, buy them). And if they don’t want to read them, then the market cannot support the unsustainable ‘professional’ status of someone like Faith Erin Hicks.

    If Art Spiegelman had to work for Topps for 20 years in the run up to producing Maus I think its wrong headed for people to think they’ll be able to coast along on good money generated by their faltering first efforts.

    From the article above –

    “I don’t have any answers. I’m anxious; all my friends are anxious. Everyone would like to just sit at home and write or draw; instead we have to figure out the future right now in order to be a part of it.”

    That’s right. Everyone (professionals, semi-professionals, talented and untalented amateurs all) would like to sit at home and write or draw. But who’s going to pay their rent, their mortgage, their bills?

    R. Maheras mentions above that in 1963 Jack Kirby drew nearly 800 pages of comics along with 100 covers. That’s 900 pages of art and (as Maheras has demonstrated) a more than healthy salary to accompany it. Can any of the creators who find themselves ‘doomed to die poor and homeless’ honestly say they work that hard?

  107. wayne beamer says:

    This is a great and serious conversation I’ve been waiting to read about the future of comics for quite some time. Not sure if I’m quite up to the task as others — specifically, Russ Maharas and Mike Netzer.

    But I’ll give it a shot from the perspective of someone who has read floppies, come the summer of 2013, for 50 years, and paid my love of comics forward to my three kids and, over the past couple of years, my oldest granddaughter.

    I was there when 10-cent comics became 12, 15, 20, 25, 35, 40, 50, 60, 75. I swore up and down that I’d never pay $1 for ‘em. Yep, I’m still here. You see, I just love this medium, and for the most part, the people who toil in it. My love goes out to anyone who ever got paid to write or draw a comic book, sell it on the street or publish it independently from DC or Marvel.

    That said…

    Unless you’ve seen them grow from near death to the elephants in the room, you underestimate the power of the big two comics entities, especially now with the full marketing power of Disney and Warner Bros. behind them, at your peril in this conversation.

    Here’s a non-comics analogy for you. See if it makes any sense…

    Arguably, the only entities standing in the way of a college football playoff system are the BCS-approved conferences who only recognize maybe half of the 120 teams playing D1 football. That decision to do/not do a playoff comes down to a handful of people. Some believe it comes down to two conferences — Big 10 and Pac-12 — that would refuse to allow their teams to play in such a system because it would make irrelevant their cash cow, the Rose Bowl, and ESPN (Disney)

    Much attention when teams outside those conferences go undefeated — think Boise State, University of Houston, Fresno State, BYU and TCU — and force those big-boy conferences and the BCS shell game.

    Replace the BCS, Pac-12 and Big 10 with DC and Marvel — hoping and praying those indy books fail so their talented creators will work on the next Batman franchise — and Boise and UH with indy publishers think — Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Slave Labor, et.al — and you’ve got a medium rigged for failure and eventual collapse.

    There’s no question, the comics medium and industry would’ve been the poorer had books like Maus, Love and Rockets, Ghost World, From Hell, Blankets and Fun Home not found homes outside the mainsteam.

    All of this magic conjured up Spiegelman, Thompson, Moore and Campbell, Bechdel and Clowes began, not in a boardroom or editorial retreat, but at their desks, drawing boards and in one personal case, I know of, the dining rooms, of creative people with dreams that mainstream publishers can’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t see.

    What’s more, I know people who are just as creative, just as skilled, just as talented who could still revolutionize this comics industry we love so much. But they languish in poverty or take too many side jobs to make the comics all of us are dying to read or walk away in disgust. (Not to mention, the physical and mental aches and pains from creating these books that go unattended and ignored until they have to stop or run away…)

    You see, their works aren’t part of a brand, so they don’t count. In fact, the big 2 and all the systems they feed see them as competitors for those same funnybook dollars, rather than as part of a larger whole industry.

    All by my lonesome, I don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. Wish I did. This blind man can only see one side of the elephant.

    Heidi asks what happened after Sabre? The creative drought at the New DC 52 and the former House of Ideas continues unabated, with rare exception, while many of our youngest, brightest and best minds in comics continue to die on the vine.

    Seemingly, for every step forward the industry takes, it falls back three steps due to something usually associated with holding onto the past that’s not good for anybody.

    I’ve read, bought, edited, proofread, sold and loved comics for nearly 50 years. I couldn’t have done it without making changes, sometimes painful.

    To make something bigger and better that will last the test of time, sometimes you have to let the old habits, the old ways die.

    We are at that crossroads RIGHT NOW, if you haven’t been paying attention…

  108. Charles Knight says:

    “Actually, Charles, one thing I think is wonderful about comics is that it’s a craft that takes years to develop. That’s a much higher barrier to entry than any corporate structure, and one of the reasons there’s a much higher concentration of great work here than other mediums. Someone has to be very dedicated and love doing it to go about the intensive work of drawing a comic.”

    No this is back to front in the digital era, Literally tomorrow I could put out the crappest comic you have ever seen in a digital format – even if it only sells five copies at $1 each, that is $5 off the table for someone else selling a quality product. Even if that is the only comic I release, there are thousands and thousands more versions of me out there waiting to release sub-standard product – even if we all simply sell five copies each at $1 each and never sell anything again, the overall impact is to depress income.

    We aren’t at the stage yet where that is reality but we aren’t far off because the tools are getting easier and easier to use and the digital platforms for launching comics are increasing. The only way is down in regards to incomes.

  109. Rick Vance says:

    I know my example is not the common one but piracy is the reason I ever got into buying comics in the first place. Grew up with the onset of it and got into American comics through reading fan scanlations of manga which are usually very linked communities.

    In this modern age there are too many forms of entertainment and no more hours in the day than there ever were. I am not sure I remember what the exact time was that I bought my first comic, but I do remember the more I pirated or looked at the more I appreciated what I was looking at and the more I wanted to actually own what I was looking at. However 90% of my friends who I meet up with IRL are not comic readers and the desire to pick one up has never crossed their minds.

    There is also no reason to assume it ever will.

  110. Why don’t people just make comic strips?

    Comic books are a mug’s game by comparison and always have been. Middle-class cartoon life: it’s in the funny papers.

  111. Wow, so much here to read and mull over. Thanks to all for their passionate responses.

    I could pick nits all over the place–and of course it would be from my perspective.

    Ultimately, creators create. That’s what creators do. What becomes a hit (and that is subjective–sometimes obscure creations have a second life long after their birth) can be a bit of a mystery. Even editorially mandated works need someone to “create” them–bring them from the realm of ideas to fully formed.

    After all, we don’t disparage a painting by Vermeer just because a patron commissioned it, do we? It’s still a creation.

    Comics will go on. Yes, some say that five minutes of entertainment for $3-4 dollars is excessive (personally, if I adore a comic I can spend hours with it–rereading, looking at the artist’s line, wondering over the colors), but I love comics and feel the effort of the creators should be rewarded with a purchase. And I bet I’m not the only one that feels that way.

    The comics are not going away. Despite the naysayers, the pirates, those who have given them up–comics will survive. In what form that will be is to be determined.

    And I’ll be there buying them–and hopefully making them as well.

  112. MBunge says:

    “some say that five minutes of entertainment for $3-4 dollars is excessive”

    “Some say” has nothing to do with it. 3 or 4 bucks for 5 minutes of entertainment is excessive unless it involves a woman of ill repute.

    It’s a problem that has to be dealt with from both directions. Comics have to figure out a format with a better price point and creators have to embrace denser, more substantive storytelling. The example I always use is if you compare comics to cinema, each comic panel used to be like an individual scene. Now, comic panels are like individual camera shots that combine to create a single scene. That’s why I can pick up a 17 page Marvel comic from the 1970s and it will take me almost twice as long to read as its modern equivalent.

    Mike

  113. Mike,

    And that’s your perspective. As I pointed out, I rarely spend only 4-5 minutes with any comic I purchase.

    Comics keep on giving.

  114. MBunge says:

    “As I pointed out, I rarely spend only 4-5 minutes with any comic I purchase.”

    I think you maybe need to possibly consider the potential that comics might have to appeal to an audience slightly larger than just you.

    Mike

  115. Interested Observer says:

    “The example I always use is if you compare comics to cinema, each comic panel used to be like an individual scene. Now, comic panels are like individual camera shots that combine to create a single scene. That’s why I can pick up a 17 page Marvel comic from the 1970s and it will take me almost twice as long to read as its modern equivalent.”

    Exactly. Comics are not storyboards. I have no idea how much writers are paid for scripts these days but I damn well hope they’re not paid by the word. Writers- start writing again. Comics are a visual medium but they are also a verbal medium. Most comics today are just movies that don’t move. That’s the Manga influence. And look how well it turned out for the Manga industry.

  116. Mike,

    I would say that just the fact that the comics world exists–and has not collapsed as some have predicted–means that the audience is much larger than me.

    Not that there is no room for improvement, of course, but there are many of us who love comics. And we’ll continue to enjoy them.

  117. sean w says:

    rstevens just made an ibook of his “diesel sweeties” comics. it’s free at his site.

    gettin’ creative!

  118. joe.distort says:

    i think the real story of 2012 is starting to rear its head…the concept of people telling comics fans, the ones that have stuck through all of the shit, that ‘hey, we arent doing so good’.

    well, the industry is dying. one of the things that happens when thats going on is it becomes untenable to support yourself or a family by working in a failing business.

    i love comics, i think its safe to say anyone who actually cares enough to be reading this blog loves them. i pay for all my comics. however ‘all my comics’ used to mean 10-12 a week. now it means 1-4. i know im not alone. you can blame quality, price, growing up, more distractions, or whatever but its still true. as sales drop, less people will be able to make a shitload of money. theres no way around it.

    and if the fans responses in this thread start to seem too harsh or whatever, you need to remember: right or wrong, these are the people whos waning interest determines the market. the way things are portrayed to us lately is starting to be a ‘woe is me’ record skipping. i wish i had the time to make comics, but working a demanding job to support myself and my wife destroys that part of my time. oh well! ive moved on, and do what fun stuff i can with my spare time, stuff probably 10 people will read. just because i WANT to do something doesnt mean im entitled to just drop everything and have money flow in to keep my life going. the fans/ ‘amateurs’ are not just going to keep listening to the creators who are always yelling about money- we have our own concerns, and being brow beaten about how the steve niles or eric powells (for random example) arent rakin in the dough anymore just gets old.

    tl,dr: shitty comics dont make money, sometimes art isnt profitable, even the hardest of hardcore fans dont want to hear constant complaining about your income. we already do the only thing expected of us: enjoying the comics.

  119. joe.distort says:

    OH also maybe stop posting pictures of your fancy vacations/ brand new, day one ipad2 purchases/ constant stream of fancy purchases if you expect any of us to pity anyone.

    none of those things are wrong to have or enjoy, but juxtaposed with ‘oh noes, pirates ate my money!’ it doesnt exactly elicit sympathy.

  120. joe.distort says:

    (UH, SORRY FOR THREE IN A ROW)
    i would just like to clarify that the above comment obviously doesnt apply to everyone. i know most people dont do that stuff…but there are definitely a fair amount that do. i didnt want to be painting EVERYONE in a bad light.

  121. joe.distort is my hero

  122. R. Maheras says:

    Ben wrote: “R. Maheras mentions above that in 1963 Jack Kirby drew nearly 800 pages of comics along with 100 covers. That’s 900 pages of art and (as Maheras has demonstrated) a more than healthy salary to accompany it. Can any of the creators who find themselves ‘doomed to die poor and homeless’ honestly say they work that hard?”

    I certainly can’t.

    Just to put Kirby’s 1963 page output into perspective, in the 40 or so years I’ve been drawing comic books, I doubt I’ve drawn HALF that many comic book story pages.

    Part of that is because I’ve always had a “day job,” and drawing comic books have never been my bread-and-butter. For example, during surge periods at various points over the years, I’ve found I can pencil 2-3 pages “Kirby style” in an about a 10-hour day.

    Still, the sheer volume of Kirby’s page output over the long-haul is remakable by any standards.

    In a mail interview I sent to Kirby in 1974, I asked him if he had any idea what his lifetime page output was up to that point. His response? “It’s too mind-boggling.”

  123. traci says:

    Comparing Kirby’s output with the Artists Doomed to Die Poor and Homeless is kind of pointless. It doesn’t prove anything.

    Jack Kirby worked very hard, but had a relatively simple style and used assistants and inkers. 900 pages a year is impressive, but it says a lot about his output and nothing about how hard other people work.

    Hal Foster produced only 1 page per week, 52 pages per year, at a solid 60 hours a week. Highly rendered pages and matchless skill. He wasn’t slacking.

    Faith Erin Hicks didn’t write a post to get public sympathy, but to detail the challenges faced in her career. I really don’t see where the ire is coming from. Kind of nasty, really.

  124. Quasi Pirate says:

    I have been reading comics since I was 5 years old. I love them have all my life. However in a little over 20 years I have seen the price of my books rise from 95 cents to 3 or 4.99 an issue.
    When I had disposable income I would spend upwards of $200 a month. Was it all good? No, but I was stupid, young and didn’t know better. These days I can barley afford to buy 10 books a month. This is only because books are so damn expensive.
    If it were not for piracy I would never have found much less read books like Sandman or The Walking Dead. The later of which I consider one of the best comics ever now. Were comics cheaper their is the chance I may have picked them up from the start but its nearly impossible to give books a chance based on limited means.
    Since Ive discovered how and where to find books online I have given plenty of things a shot. Some I like some I don’t. However if I do find something I like I will go out of my way to start picking up the current issues, or get the issues I have downloaded at conventions.
    I know buying back issues toes not really help out the artist or writer but at this time that’s the best I can do to help the industry. Perhaps if I was paying 3.99 for a book with 20 pages of story and 20 pages of ad’s I could do more. That however is on the industry to change itself. Were books cheaper and either had more content or less filler I would gladly lay down more of my disposable income.
    The other problem besides price is diamond. Often there are comics I am interested in that my local shops do not stock because of some issue with diamonds ordering system. So where do you think I have to turn to read this book? And before you say the online store I absolutely refuse to pay cover price for no physical copy. That at its core is just price gouging. With most books being done in some form or another with computers these days you cant tell me it costs nearly as much as it used to to produce these books.
    Prices continue to increase though, and the digital copies cost the same as print. Another problem with these online comic shops is unlike iTunes if my drive crashes I haven’t seen one offer the ability to re download my purchased collection.
    The industry has many problems but I don’t believe piracy to be chief among them. Of all the people I know who would be labeled “pirates” if something is worth the price after seeing or using it, they will buy it. However unless your a farmer, if you see crap your not purchasing crap.

  125. MBunge says:

    “I would say that just the fact that the comics world exists–and has not collapsed as some have predicted–means that the audience is much larger than me.”

    Yeah, but the point is to avoid the fallacy you see all the freakin’ time with political pundits who assume that the correct course for a politician to follow just happens to coincide with what that pundit is advocating.

    I’m as guilty of it as most, but it’s a mistake to confuse what you like or want out of comics with what might be best for the artform or industry as a whole.

    Mike

  126. NTabak says:

    Belated response @Interested – “But look at the situation now- Napster, crippled. LimeWire, crippled. Megaupload, gone. Pirate Bay, on the ropes. Sharing services- on the run. All without SOPA. So maybe there’s hope after all.”

    This isn’t exactly the first time that major copyright holders have claimed to have pirates “on the run”, and I assume that pirates will do what they’ve done after previous major shutdowns like those of Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire: relocate to decentralized torrents, or to new file-upload sites based in locations that make them even harder to shut down.

    The folks who analyze this stuff for a living agree with me, and history bears them out:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/24/us-megaupload-impact-idUSTRE80N03J20120124

  127. @Traci – The quantity of Kirby’s artwork is not the point. it’s the work ethic that’s relevant here and you can apply that equally to Hal Foster. His work was good, had wide appeal and he worked hard at it. Consequently he was never, as far as I know, Doomed to Die Poor and Homeless.

    I, and I’m sure everybody else who has commented, have nothing against Faith Erin Hicks or her work. Genuinely I hope things pick up for her and her life turns out the way she wanted it to be. But the professional niche she’s trying to carve out for herself – well-enumerated indie cartoonist whose books sell in the low thousands – simply doesn’t exist. And no-one commenting on Miss Hicks blog seems to acknwl

  128. Torsten Adair says:

    The comics shops will go the way of music stores. Why? Because what’s to keep a retailer’s website from automating their Diamond Digital or Comixology retailer sites? DD says the digital only copy must retail for a higher price than if it is sold with a paper copy.

    But what if a store discounts their price, cuts into their margin? It’s all automated, so once your web designer codes the proper set-up, the overhead is minimal. Charge $0.99 and drink the other guy’s milkshake, not just next door, but nationwide, 24/7.

    As this happens, stores will also be doing the same thing, except they’ll be ordering fewer non-returnable paper comics and instead market the digital downloads in the store. Replace the overhead of ordering and maintaining paper copies (where one unsold copy can wipe out the profit from the other five copies). Replace the inventory taxes you have to pay. Take those back issue bins and use that retail space for sidelines which sell better. Use the man-hours spent on back issues more efficiently elsewhere. And encourage digital buying by cutting the price, and even using the redemption coupons as discount coupons on the trade when it’s published.

    Publishers need to exploit their content.
    * Follow the newspaper model. Each page view has an advertisement or three. Turn the page, new page view, another ad is seen, the micro-payments accrue. How do you fund new content? The same way you fund it now, except that instead of one ad page for every two story pages, you have one ad per page online.

    * Or you set up a company-run Kickstarter fund, where fans “vote” by funding series they want to see. Once the costs has been met, the profits go to the creators.

    * Each page (each panel!) online has it’s own comment fields, where users can comment and footnote the story. Characters can be tagged, annotations made, panels linked to those in other stories… in other words, take the letter column and spread it over the entire comic book, then inject it with super social media serum and power it with hyperbole!

    (Then allow users to Tweet, post, whatever to other sites. The publisher then reviews the comments, and posts the best to social media as well.)

    * You encourage users to order print-on-demand titles, for about ten cents a page (the cost of a photocopy, and the general cost of a trade paperback). Or cheaper or more expensive, depending on the paper and binding and quantity. (Just like Marvel’s poster store.) The reader can even edit his/her own collection (say, all of the appearances of The Impossible Man) and then advertise that collection on the publisher forums. If others order that collection, then the “editor” gets an associates fee. (Marvel, with their conservative warehousing of trades, should do this NOW. Offer a first printing via the traditional methods, then shift the “infinite” edition over to print-on-demand for eternity. Retailers would receive a discount if they have success hand-selling the trade in the store, and need to order POD copies.

    (Yes, a customer can request the file digitally as well, on a disk, just like Warner Archives sells POD copies of their lesser-known movies on DVD. Maybe even offer a DVD/Book bundle.)

    *If Marvel won’t use it, someone should license the PATENTED (#7882368) comics viewer from Disney/CrossGen. COW was already proven to work (not just on paid users, but also by encouraging customers to go to stores to buy the paper copies), it’s a good, simple interface, and works even better with touchscreens. Oh, and it worked on screens that are smaller than what most people have today.

    As for piracy? Sure, fight it like you fight counterfeiters. But concentrate more on selling first, offer a better, more trustworthy experience, and more bang for the buck. (Yeah, the thieves are giving it away, so that’s hard to do.)

  129. *acknowledge that.

  130. Wayne Beamer says:

    Torsten: All of your points are WONDERFUL! However, speaking from experiences in the meat grinder, there’s no way most of the best, most exemplary stores will give up back issues, in the short term, and probably never. It’s pure profit for many stores that order new comics and judiciously buy back issues to sell.

    That is, if we could get away from the “collectables” halo that persists in comics among most old-timers. I’m hoping a persistent, digital market over time will kill that insane speculation market once and for all.

  131. @Torsten Adair – If you don’t mind me joining in…

    A centralized comics web portal, like Youtube rather than Spotify. Creators upload their own content, charge whatever they want and pay a 10% hosting fee, keeping ALL of the rest of the money. Kind of like the Image setup with lower overheads and better margins for everybody.

    Flexible hosting – web comics, free samplers, meetings of words and pictures the form has never seen before. Non platform specific, not concerning itself with exclusives and variants and old fashioned paper publishing practices. Just giving it over to the creators and letting them loose. No editorial oversight, no quality bar, no interference. A glorious, 21st century playground of comics for all.

    Meanwhile, paper comics become individual works of paper craft art. Beautiful swans growing from their ugly ducking Be day dot beginnings

  132. The Beat says:

    BTW, anyone who thinks Faith Erin Hicks is entitled — you’re full of it. She’s a cartoonist with stories to tell in a style uniquely her own. From ZOMBIES CALLING to FRIENDS WITH BOYS she’s already created a body of work with an audience. The reason she was able to collect EI was because SHE HAD A JOB WHICH SHE LOST. EI is supposed to be paid while you look for work and it enables you to eat and house yourself so you are able to show up for job interviews not looking like a homeless scarecrow. The time she spent on EI allowed her to develop her NEW job as cartoonist–it served its purpose.

    Hicks has paid and continues to pay her dues as a storyteller and an artist. My concern is that we haven’t developed an industry where someone of her talent and work ethic can’t be assured of a lifestyle that enables them to buy new shoes occasionally.

  133. Chris says:

    @Ben That sounds a lot like what Graphicly is trying to do. check out the following for more:

    http://venturebeat.com/2012/01/25/graphicly-digital-comics-self-publishing/

    Also, someting interesting in that article is this statisitic (which goes uncredited and is probably just industry speculation):

    “The lack of affordable distribution options for self-published comic books makes it difficult for creators to turn their work into a business. But with over 300,000 self-published creators expected to begin selling their own comic books and graphic novels in 2012, digital comic book startup Graphicly sees a huge opportunity for growth.”

    Does anyone else think that maybe the sheer volume of people on the creative side of the industry has moved too large to sustain healthy average incomes for all?

  134. Ed Sizemore says:

    Ms. Hicks wasn’t writing a post on the state of the indie comics industry. She simply asked her fans if there were any questions they would like to ask her. She got a lot of questions wondering how to make a living as a comics artist. She decided to be honest with her fans and explain the sacrifices you have to make if you’re going to quit your day job and make a go at being a full-time comics artist.

    She should be lauded for her honesty. People who have any romantic notion of living the bohemian dream are going to have to wake up to the realities of their choices. I suspect more than a couple aspiring artists are going to be keeping those day jobs in light of what she shared.

    Me. I’m going to buy her books. Tell everyone I can, they should buy her books. And hope she can build an audience large enough to spend the rest of her life making comics full-time.

  135. The thing that`s wrong with modern comics for the most part is they are boring. The modern comic creator has been influenced way too much by the brits such as Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. That kind of storytelling was from the 1980s and is now dated. It is time for the comic book industry to look for a new style that is more in tune with today’s audience. Today’s mainstream audience would rather watch stuff like the Fast and Furious film series then sit thru Alan Moore`s Watchmen movie.
    Another thing is I am involved in the hobbies of coins and baseball cards, as well as comics. I have noticed something different about these three crowds I hang around. The coin and baseball card guys have money and women. The comic guys for the most part are always broke and don`t have girlfriends. This is what it all boils down to. The coin and baseball card guys grew up, while the comic book dudes are still living in the 1980s telling people how comic books have grown up and are not for kids anymore. Yes the comic book dudes are right. The comics are now for man-child’s who never grew up. Until the publishers start making comic books for the mainstream audience and ignore their man-child audience,then the sooner comic books will be accepted and be profitable. So if you’re an artist or writer reading this stop catering to the man-child’s and starts catering to a mainstream audience. In otherwords people who are into cosplay wear no pockets and without no pockets they have no money in the wallets to pay any bills.

  136. It’s not unreasonable for artists and writers to spend 8 hours a day or more on work and expect to be able to pay the bills.

    And honestly I spend as much money as I can on comics. But people like me are few and far between, and we all have saturation points in our budgets.

    I think we’re in a Great Creator Bubble. If I bought everything I was interested in, I’d be more broke than I am already. Piracy, digital, print… its all moot. I just don’t think there are enough eyeballs to go around with all the worthy things being produced.

    Cheap home scanners, digital coloring, word processing; All these things have made it that much easier to become a Creator. With each new book, existing creators’ pieces of the pie get a little smaller. This growth in quality creator-owned comics is unsustainable.

  137. Allen Rubinstein says:

    “However 90% of my friends who I meet up with IRL are not comic readers and the desire to pick one up has never crossed their minds.

    There is also no reason to assume it ever will.”

    I’ll side with that first sentence and disagree vehemently with the second. As I see things, it’s about education both from the inside and the outside.

    It’s somewhat revealing, don’t you think, that this wide-ranging conversation about the future of comics has revolved around pamphlet comics. The truth is that a better price point IS available and denser storytelling IS available in mass quantity. One piece of art from a gallery will run you hundreds of dollars, while literally thousands of drawings by a single comics artist costs less than twenty bucks. What you all seem to be saying is that the output of two global media conglomerates is a raw deal, both because they want to sell you as little as possible for as much as possible, but also because they’re a factory that churns out licensed product on a tight schedule within corporate guidelines in order to sell toys and movie tickets. I can’t think of anything more creatively stultifying.

    I’ve adjusted my thinking. In my world, Marvel and DC represent about one-fiftieth of the comics field (and everyone wears elf hats and the color of the sky is maroon). They’re a single set of bookshelves in a warehouse filled with biographies and autobiographies and historical fiction and children’s books and young adult books and thoughtful novels and political tracts and those amazing old newspaper strips, none of which are “independent” of anything. I’m talking about the art form of comics, not the business, obviously, but if they business side of comics looked like this, it would be a lot saner, and the Faith Erin Hicks of the world would have a whole lot more room to breathe.

    That’s the inside education. On the outside is a medium with a specific language that most people are unfamiliar with, in the same way that the first movie audiences fled the theater when they ran footage of an oncoming train, or in the same way that most of us can’t penetrate the difference between great classical music and lousy classical music. When I ran a graphic novel book club, about half the attendees were nerds like us and the other half were people who were interested in the medium, but had no idea where to start. They didn’t know what was “good” and what would be to their taste, and started sampling and forming opinions with the more experienced members suggestions.

    Just about everyone today can watch a movie preview and decide with reasonable accuracy if it’s something we want to spend time and money on, based on our past experiences. We watched our first films as a child and have grown up with everyone we know watching movies as a matter of course. That’s a mass medium, and there is nothing – n-o-t-h-i-n-g! – that inherently prevents comics from having that same status.

    I’d suggest though that it’s not going to happen via the serialized adventures of Green Lantern. The public already knows those characters, and if they wanted to read about them, they would. It’s a dead end. I think it’s about finding the material and new venues that will popularize and normalize reading comics among all age groups, but especially from 10-18 years old when recreational reading habits are established. I had a great conversation once with a Manga fan who inspired her entire, very wide social circle in junior high school to become fans. That’s how it happens, and that kind of growth will not be stymied by any amount of piracy.

  138. Andrew Farago says:

    The comments in this thread remind me that, ultimately, a cartoonist has to be in this business for himself. There are “fans” saying “screw you, no one forced you to do this, and I’m glad to hear that you’re barely making ends meet,” or “if your comics were better, I wouldn’t have to steal them,” or “your comics aren’t even worth stealing,” or “I don’t have any obligation to pay anyone for any content, ever,” or “if the copyright holder isn’t going to give me exactly what I want at the exact cost I want in the exact method that I want it, I’m not going to give them any money,” and on and on…

  139. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Andy Zeigert – do you think that everyone deserves to be paid a living wage for whatever it is they chose to do as a profession, regardless of how in-demand that might be?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there are lots of people (teachers, cops, firemen) who don’t get paid enough. But that’s because we as a society don’t realize how in-demand that ought to be. But I can’t necessarily make that same case for cartoonists.

    They provide entertainment, and that’s great, but perhaps paying our entertainers too much is something that could be argued as something that is wrong with our society.

  140. @JasonintheUK – From what Hicks says in that blog post, she was on EI when she was expecting to go back to work at the animation studio she worked at.

    The studio ran out of work, the animators who were under contract were let go, with the expectation that they’d be hired back when more work came in. Work didn’t come in to the studio, but some comics gigs came up for Hicks, so she did them, at that point still planning on going back to work at the studio when there was work:

    “But then First Second came along and asked me to draw Brain Camp. Since there was no animation work, I jumped at the chance. I told my old studio that I was drawing a comic, and that I wouldn’t be available for a few months, and then I’d come back to work when they had work. They still didn’t have work by the time I finished Brain Camp. ”

    Doesn’t seem like she was trying to take advantage of the system there.

  141. Glenn Simpson says:
  142. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Allen Rubinstein

    You make some interesting points. I think, though, that there’s a certain amount of semantics involved.

    If I say “I want there to be more comics readers”, then what I really mean is I want more people to be reading the kind of comics in the genre I like to read. Because really, why would I care if comics continued if they were all autobiographies or something? So while paper comics might survive as a medium, I don’t think anybody is really worried about that per se, even if they just call them “comics”.

  143. Allen Rubinstein says:

    Glenn, you might want to broaden your concept of “self-interest” there. A comics industry with verisimilitude is a strong, healthy industry for all genres, including your favorites. I assume you don’t object to Stanley Kubrick working the same side of the street as Michael Bay (I mean, aside from Kubrick being dead and all). Sales of one supports the other.

    The conversation is about comics artists making a living. That requires more people reading, meaning there needs to be material for their taste as well as yours.

  144. “Alan Moore`s Watchmen movie”

    Somewhere, without knowing exactly why, Alan Moore just popped a blood vessel.

  145. Al™ says:

    I said this about Faith Erin Hicks’ income:
    “Not a lot no matter what developed country you live in. $11,000 is about half the salary you might earn if you worked full time at a Tim Horton’s coffee shop.”

    George Elliot (many posts above) disagrees with that.
    He says: “Not true. Mimimum wage which most shops pay in the Uk would give you 12646 pounds which depending on exchange rate equates to about 13 -17K dollars a lot less than 22k!

    Also factor in taxes and higher prices and you can halve the purchasing power of the pound to the dollar giving an equlivalent purchasing power of 7.5 – 8.5k”

    George, I got my figures from using the current $10 an hour minimum wage in my region of Canada, x 40 hours a week= $400 a week. That times 50 weeks ($400 x 50)= $20,000. That’s before tips, and before taxes.

    So maybe a Tim Horton coffee employee might actually take home $14-$15K.

    But I think Erin was talking pretax dollars, and $11,000 sure is not much. Way below poverty line.

  146. William Green says:

    @The Beat

    I’m not aware of any creative industry that “ensures” people of talent and drive a living wage.

  147. Jason in the UK — yeah I can see how Hicks ripped off the system so she can arrange to live below the poverty level doing what she loves. Total narcissism and greed. Way to game the system, girl! Where do I sign up?

    >>>“I’m not aware of any creative industry that “ensures” people of talent and drive a living wage.”

    OF COURSE NOT. But I personally would like the line where people can make a living in the comics field to be at a level that includes the truly creative people out there. That has been my goal throughout my entire career in comics. I wish I could be an Annie Koyama with some extra money to help publish beautiful personal visions. Or a Dylan Williams who encouraged an entire generation of cartoonists. Or a Mike Richardson who had the capital and support to create a small empire. I don’t have the organization or money to do that.

    Instead, I run this website and try to promote and inform and entertain. It’s the best I can do. But I do believe in it. I believe in Jack Kirby and Anne Cleveland and Wally Wood. I believe creators are the fuel that runs the engines of industry. I just hope someone can pay at the pump.

  148. @The Beat – In effect, you’re saying that you think cartoonists are entitled to a good income. Entitlement. I think that impression probably comes more from your article above than Hicks’ piece that you’ve used as an illustrative example, but both edge around the same elephant in the room.

    Over the course of this discussion we’ve talked about how the publishing structure needs to change, the genre’s relationship with the internet needs to change, people’s attitude’s to piracy need to change, practically every element of the comics industry needs to change in order to support artist’s unbridled creativity. Every element, every single thing about comics, needs to change except the artist. They should be able to write/draw whatever they want, at whatever frequency they want, and be ensured a good wage for doing so.

    This kind of pipe-dream discussion prompts pie in the sky ‘solutions’ like Allan Rubenstein’s above; that the market for comics needs to grow five fold and then all of our problems will be solved. Great, that’s that sorted then.

    Its a sad fact of the consumer-driven world we’ve lived in since the 1950’s that in order to make a living from your creativity you need to create something that someone’s willing to pay you for. That’s why they call it the creative industry. To attempt to conclude the discussion as you do above by suggesting that anyone engaging in the act of creativity deserves unreservedly to be compensated for it is unrealistic, counter-productive and serves to answer none of the questions you posed in your original article.

    It would be great if you, or Mike Richardson, or Kevin Eastman, or anybody, had sufficiently bottomless pockets to financially prop up everybody everywhere while they create the comics that they want to make with no concessions to the market or the size of the audience. But that isn’t ever going to happen.

    Artists who rely on their work for their income need to service the market, and if their income is slipping to levels where they’re finding it difficult to continue then they need to change what they’re doing or do it better. No amount of blaming outside factors will ever do anything to improve their lot. Your destiny is in your own hands.

  149. Russ: Hans Kuhn once said: “Politicians use statistics like drunkards use lampposts: not for illumination, but for support.” I think it aptly describes how the stats you present mislead in order to support a political-like advocacy of corporate economic oppression and thanklessness.

    All the artists you named at Marvel worked for a nominally lesser salary than Kirby, who was the highest paid artist there. Yes they had a few good years where they worked their asses off to bring home some good bread home. But they were also the backbone of Marvel. They made it what it is. None of them are known to have ever sung praise for how Marvel ultimately dismissed their contribution and discarded them like bloody rags when they didn’t need them anymore.

    You seem to make a case based on numbers yet ignore a wider picture that tells another story. Starting with DC in the 50’s, comics were no longer being produced for marketability of the comics themselves. They were a loss investment for realizing much greater profits from merchandising and licensing outside of the industry. Marvel did not rise in the 60’s on the notion that it would make profits from comics sales. They went for the IP sales right from the start. Comics would become the most fertile farm for ideas that would be marketed everywhere else. They long ceased to be considered profitable in their own right.

    Yet the ideas that comics creators come up with for the comics, and you can take just about any comic book you’d like to find something in it that can be developed in other industries, these ideas are forging a cultural revolution in our time. It’s hard to see because we’re in the middle of it, but comics are rising to be the major influence on modern culture. This influence is growing and shows no sign of letting up.

    So, to say that most creators can’t come up with marketable ideas maybe statistically correct based on comics sales, but these are no indication of the actual proliferation of these ideas in other cultural industries. It’s another one of these misleading statistical statements trying to prop up a denigration of comics creators in order to try to sing the praises of publishers and corporate thieves.

    Frankly, I find your argument to be disingenuous. I might enjoy a banter with you at a bar for half an hour, but I honestly don’t know that I could tolerate too much more with someone who feels as you do towards the industry. You’re a downer. You seem to like to cut down what’s good and prop up what’s bad… and you’re well armed with numbers to try to make a convincing case. You’d likely make it in politics, given the present atmosphere in the system. Maybe you should make an effort there and stop bashing the good guys who’ve contributed immeasurably to this world, and have gotten little in return from publisher who’ve made billions on their backs and left them destitute.

    It’s just pointless to expend too much effort arguing all this incessantly if it only serves to satisfy some masturbatory lust for statistics in order to prop up a shady advocacy of corporate belligerence. The only way to understand the issues is by trying to grasp the essences. Not the outlandish masks that any set of numbers and statistics can be used to throw sand in our our eyes with.

  150. Nobody is getting the message.
    The message is these comic books are not good enough to warrant high sales. I bought the DC 52 Omnibus and for the most part I felt insulted after reading it. I felt like they talked down to it`s readers. This was my first comic book novel I read in 10 years. After reading it I was shocked that this is considered the standard in a mainstream comic. The reason why mainstream people don`t buy the comic books is because the characters are unappealing. Who wants to pay money for this gibberish? I will stick to animation,videogames,tv and films when I want to be entertained.

  151. A couple of people, Jason and Ben especially, seem to be willfully mis-interpreting my post in order to assume certain things about me. I will explain.

    1) I had a fulltime job for three years. During that time, I paid into EI. It was my RIGHT to go on EI when contracts ended and I was laid off my job. I was not “on the dole.”

    2) Jason, you are ESPECIALLY concerned with misinterpreting my employment situation in 2008 to prove your own agenda. I didn’t choose to lose my job, or reject an available job in animation because I wanted to do comics. THERE WERE NO JOBS. NONE. None at all. There was absolutely no work in Halifax in animation for pretty much ALL of 2008 and 2009. It was a horrible, horrible year. The largest studio closed it’s doors, putting nearly 100 people out of work.

    Do you know what that’s like? I lived on a minuscule amount of money, supplementing it with my savings. I scraped and saved and applied for other jobs. I was not hired. I lived below the poverty line. Do you honestly think I would CHOOSE that if I had a job in animation to go back to? Ugh.

    It’s completely vile when you see people twisting your words to fill their own agendas. Good work, Ben and Jason. I hope you never end up in situations like I did, scraping out a living and terrified of being tossed out of your apartment, because it is horrible. Or maybe it’d be good for you if you did. It might give you some perspective.

  152. You’re such a fabulous talent, Faith. Thank you for all the sacrifice in order to do the wonderful comics that bring such enjoyment to behold.

  153. Marshall Khaddafi says:

    Hey Faith. Thanks for sharing your experiences in your blog. I wish you more success.

    Don’t let haters drag you down. There will always be those who’ll resent your achievements and your choice to live your life as an artist.

  154. @Faith – I have been there Faith, with two children. It didn’t give me any perspective on not generating enough income to sustain self-employment.

    I work extremely hard to support a family of four on less money than you ‘earnt’ in 2010. Please don’t try to lecture me on how difficult your life is.

    Good luck to you. Believe me, its nothing personal, I’m just picking up The Beat’s ball of using you as an illustrative example. Times are hard for everybody. I just find it puzzling that everyone here seems to be blaming every element of the comics industry apart from the artists themselves.

    Given that you’ve become (inadvertantly) a big part of this debate, I’m genuinely interested to know what you think is the reason cartoonists seem Doomed to Die Poor and Homeless? Do you think piracy plays a factor? Or the publishing strategies of the big two?

  155. Ben>> I support myself through drawing comics. I was not asking for any hand outs or anything more than what I make. You put those words in my mouth and you were wrong to do so. I wasn’t lecturing ANYONE on how tough my life is. I WAS ASKED HOW I MADE MY LIVING. So I wrote a blog post about it. A blog post I thought was really positive! Did you not get the part where I mentioned how lucky I was to work in comics and actually make enough money to pay my rent? You dragged me into this nonsense debate because you wanted to prove a point about big bad entitled creators. I don’t know why.

    I’m just trying to live my life, much as you are yours. You make sacrifices for your kids, I do so for my art (as it is my right to do so. It is MY LIFE). Oh, and the lovely quotations around “earnt”? Nice move. Seriously, lovely. How am I supposed to not take that personally, since you’re deriding how I make my living, and acting like I did not earn the money I was paid? I earned every cent.

    I work 60 hours a week drawing comics, making just enough to live on and IT IS MY CHOICE. I am HAPPY to do so. I CHOSE not to have a family or a house so I can work in comics. I thought that was communicated in that blog post, but you seem to want to read it differently.

    Finally: Seriously? You feed your kids on less than $15,000 a year? And you require no social assistance whatsoever? You must be better at budgeting that my mom.

    Everyone else: You are lovely human beings and thank you for enjoying my comics! I love my job and it is worth sacrificing all the financial comforts to do it full time. FOR ME. It may be different for you, and that is FINE.

    God almightly. 9_9

  156. Oh yeah, and just for the record, second hand shopping is AWESOME. I love it. I would second hand shop even if I was making a million dollars a year. There is this second hand clothing chain in Nova Scotia called Frenchys and you find the coolest stuff there. And you end up paying $3 for an awesome sweater. But it isn’t much good for winter coats and boots, which are hard to come by, which is where my longing for a new pair of shoes came from. But hey, now I have some boots ($5 at Salvation army) and a new coat (from Winners), so life is good!

    Also once I saw Ellen Page at a Value Village. Even movie stars shop second hand.

  157. @Faith – Honestly, genuinely sorry that you’ve been dragged into this and had to listen to my (and plenty of others’)curmudgeonly rants, often directed inappropriately at yourself.

    Like I said above, all of this ire is generated by the post here at The Beat rather than your blog post. That’s why I’m commenting here rather than on your blog. I genuinely wish you nothing but the best with your work and hope that you get a healthy bump in your royalties from all the attention.

    The ‘earnt’ thing was, I’ll admit, a dick move. It was supposed to be a snide reference to the grant though, not disparaging of your comics. Still snide though, sorry about that.

    For my part, the ‘feeding the kids’ thing is on about $30,000 a year which is what you said about your earnings in your blog post? Maybe I got the year wrong. And yes, it sucks.

    I’m glad you’re happy doing what your doing and don’t seem to feel that you’re doomed to die poor and homeless. I think The Beat’s use of you as an illustrative example was probably pretty poor, but some of us (i.e. me) should have been able to seperate the abstract question from the personal example.

    All the best.

  158. In conclusion we would like the struggling artist to get better benefits, but the reality is most consumers/people themselves are struggling to feed and shelter their families and pay gas, so we have other things that are far more important to worry about then if some poor artist doesn`t get a better cut in a merchandising deal if their character ever gets popular. To be frank most artists won`t get rich because there are just too many of them. It`s a buyer’s market. Same can be said with the struggling musicians or actors. A dime a dozen. Now if these were doctors, police or teachers my views would be vastly different because their jobs are much different in that society would collapse without them. The average artist will get paid for whatever the market deems them to get paid, and unfortunately that is not much.
    Frankly I respect the McDonalds or CNA worker more than the artist, as they are out there busting their hump making and instead of sitting in a room pontificating how they are not getting paid much for drawing.
    What has happened here was the artists thought they were something special and gifted, instead they got a cold slap in the face by capitalism that they are not that special. Looks like it`s time to go look for a job like everyone else to make ends meet. No sympathy here.

  159. Ben >> Thank you for listening to me. I appreciate it.
    Re: my income. The $30,000 was in reference to my best year ever, which was 2010. I said in the blog post it was an unusual year, elevated to a good wage by an $8,000 grant (which you should not disparage either. Grants are available to all artists who qualify and want to apply for them. You can too if you want to). The following year, 2011, I made about $15,000. Which is below the poverty line. I expect to make about $15,000 this year as well.

    I love my job. I love comics. I’m very grateful for that $15,000.

  160. MBunge says:

    “Starting with DC in the 50’s, comics were no longer being produced for marketability of the comics themselves. They were a loss investment for realizing much greater profits from merchandising and licensing outside of the industry. Marvel did not rise in the 60’s on the notion that it would make profits from comics sales. They went for the IP sales right from the start.”

    Methinks there’s some historical revisionism going on here. Merchandising and movies and such have been around since almost the beginning of super-hero comics, but the idea that DC and Marvel weren’t comic publishers first in the 50s and 60s seems like a stretch. The fact that both of the Big 2 used to do so many licensed comics, something they’ve almost entirely abandoned in the last 20 years, would appear to be a good indication of that. Why would DC bother with Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis comics, why would Marvel bother with Crystar and Starriors titles, if IP was always their primary concern?

    Mike

  161. Why do I always see pro-piracy folks arguing against a straw man when saying “one pirated copy does not equal one lost sale”?

    I *never* see anyone anti-piracy claiming a 1:1 on piracy versus sales. I see them say that none of the downloaders are entitled to a free copy of their own determination. I see them say that some percentage of pirated copies are lost sales. I see them say that an illegal download reader that likes the book isn’t necessarily as likely to go out and buy that copy or future copies, because if their morals didn’t insist they buy their first copy, it’s no sure thing they’ll force them to buy their next.

    All piracy leads to lost sales. The lost sales may be X where the number of pirated copies may be XY (talking algebra, not chromosomes), but there are lost sales. Whether the loss is 1 copy or 10k, the people who created that content have a right to be upset about it and want it to stop.

    (This is NOT pro-SOPA, just an anti-piracy)

  162. Faith:

    Thanks for your work and for being civil while being lectured to from some about “personal responsibility”.

    I don’t think that any artist here feels “entitled”. We take our shot and let the chips fall where they may. What we are saying is if fans/society finds favor in what we do, compensation should follow.

    People such as Stam don’t respect the artist. Well, whether it is your videogames, tv or film, the act of creation is being done by artists within each medium. Although Stam seems to have no love of comics (too bad!), I hope he/she has respect for the creators of these other forms of entertainment.

    Are artists a dime a dozen? I’m not sure I buy that. There may be many creators striving out there, but each has a unique outlook and talent.

    I mean, could anyone have created Superman? Bone? Love and Rockets? Without those singular creators, those comics would not exist.

    The internet does allow more to take part in creating, but also allows more to view and read. What that means as far as monetary rewards for the artist will vary with each work.

    Faith has chosen to work in comics, and is grateful for the $15,000 she collects annually. I don’t think that’s “slumming”. I could point out to Jason U.K. that many creations don’t get an immediate positive response from society. Van Gogh was not successful in the material sense while alive, but I think we are all grateful that he persevered and left us his wonderful paintings.

    We have many fans of comics. I have been fortunate to make much (but not all) of my living from drawing comic books. We, the creators, thank all the fans who purchase our work. We so very much appreciate it.

  163. Wow. Lot of comments since I last looked. I think what this all boils down to, is that “piracy” is here to stay, unless someone (like the government) sees fit to step in and take over the web, which even then, would only succeed in hampering the legitimate online users. In short, welcome to 1984. I will reiterate my position that there is a business model to be learned from the internet bootleggers. If you really feel they’re making money on your material by making it available for people to download for free, then why can’t you? Seriously. There’s a business model to be discovered here. A little daily search in the morning for your stuff, will easily dig up sites that have your content illegally uploaded. Write the host and tell them to take it down, and make sure that people know that YOUR SITE is the one to go to, and get free content. Then you can sell ad space, and anything else you might want to sell your fans. If people really like your stuff, and you get lots of web traffic, that could add up to a lot of money, right?
    Hey, you don’t get any money when people check our book out from the library. Who cares if they take it back or not. You can’t unread something. I’m sure there are flaws in my thinking, but business models can be refined.
    Why be mad at what you can’t change, if you can think of ways to make money on it.

  164. sean w says:

    @Jason in the UK:

    in defense of Faith, choosing to do comic work or animation work, in Canada anyway, makes very little difference. 90% of animation work is short term contract. i can guarantee the comic work probably paid better and cost her less money (no commute, etc). plus she gets to draw HER stuff instead of some crappy kids show.

    i’d have made the same choice. nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    the only difference, depending on how the studio pays you, is that you have your normal pay deductions for taxes, CPP, and EI.

  165. sean w says:

    here’s an idea:

    split your last page in half. in the empty half print something like this:

    “if you enjoyed this comic for free, that’s awesome!

    “if you want more, consider supporting our continued efforts by downloading our work from www . ourcomicbook . com.

    thanks!”

    or something like that.

  166. @Jason In the UK:

    Did you notice the bit in one of Hicks’ comments where she wrote this? ” I scraped and saved and applied for other jobs. I was not hired.” Sounds like she was being responsible.

    And she’s said repeatedly that she accepts the $15k she’s making a year as part of the price for doing what she wants to do. And that she lives within her means. Again, that seems responsible. She’s not asking for anything more. She’s not creating any sort of burden on society.

    You sound like someone with some legitimate concerns, even anger, about the state of the world economy and how it’s impacting a lot of people. It’s good to be passionate about people caught up in the economic downturn, but it seems like you’re letting loose at someone who doesn’t deserve it.

  167. Wayne Beamer says:

    Faith: Think I’m gonna go look at your comics. And, by the way, as a fellow creative, thanks for saying what needed to be said from a real world perspective, not from behind an anonymous monicker on a comics blog.

    Heidi: My wife and I agree that if we ever win the lottery, I’m taking a portion of our take to fund QUALITY COMICS WE LIKE. We feel exactly the same as you do. Hope both of us get to live that dream one day…

  168. @Faith Hicks – You are talented creator and thanks for sharing your story.
    @jason in the UK – you need to take personal responsibility for being an obnoxious jerk.

  169. Anyone have any empirical evidence of the harm of piracy on comics? I mean other than just logic or sore creators disappointed over lousy sales?
    Of course not.
    Here’s som logic: People steal not to get it for free but because free is what it’s worth.

  170. @jason in the uk:

    You chose the risk over the regular job, no? That’s your right but that’s also your responsibility. These are your choices. They are not burdens placed on you by society.

    Have you read the parts of her post and response where she ACTUALLY SAYS THAT THIS WAS HER CHOICE? She never once claimed that this was a burden placed on her by society. You are putting words into her mouth.

    She was asked by fans how she makes her living. She gave an honest response – this is not the path to riches, but she clarified several times that for her it is worth the sacrifice.

  171. Wonderer says:

    Since we’re on the subject of piracy, I’m gonna try to shoehorn in a question here, as I’m curious about other peoples stance on this.

    What is your stance on the legality of downloading a comic that you have already bought.

    Say for example if the format from comixology is a pile of shit and reading files in a cbr-format is preferred.

    Would you fault someone who has paid for the product for downloading it to view in another format?

  172. R. Maheras says:

    Michael – My stats weren’t wrong, misrepresentative or disingenuous. They were what they were, and just because you don’t like them, it does not mean there was any manipulation on my part. In fact, your false accusations are a classic form of misdirection about what the truth actually was, so who is being disingenuous here?

    You say that those other Marvel artists were paid “a nominally lesser salary than Kirby, who was the highest paid artist there.” Ok, what were their page rates so we can calculate what their pay equivalent was back then? You prove to me and everyone else they were being paid “peanuts.”

    As for the “discarded” artists accusation, while I actually agree with you that it would be nice if they had received a bigger piece of the pie, the fact is, with the exception of a handful of newer creators on staff, the folks at Marvel in 1970 were all seasoned professionals and they knew the score for freelancers going in. After all, most Marvel Bullpen members in 1970 had had been in the comics business for 20-30 years.

    You also show poor knowledge of the industry in the 1950s and 1960s when you make this wrong statement, “Starting with DC in the 50’s, comics were no longer being produced for marketability of the comics themselves. They were a loss investment for realizing much greater profits from merchandising and licensing outside of the industry. Marvel did not rise in the 60’s on the notion that it would make profits from comics sales. They went for the IP sales right from the start.”

    Where’s your proof? I’ve been following comics history for nearly 45 years, and from everything I’ve seen, licensing of characters was nothing more than some extra pocket money for the publishers well into the 1970s, and arguably into the 1980s. Unlike today, comic book sales back then were the main source of revenue for every comic book company. Why do you think Marvel made so many penny-ante film and TV option deals back then that led to either nothing or a low-budget pieces of crap – even though they were for their top characters like Spider-Man or Fantastic Four? In fact, I’ll even wager neither Marvel or DC had a full-time licensing person working for them until the 1980s.

    Regarding your statement, “So, to say that most creators can’t come up with marketable ideas maybe statistically correct based on comics sales, but these are no indication of the actual proliferation of these ideas in other cultural industries. It’s another one of these misleading statistical statements trying to prop up a denigration of comics creators in order to try to sing the praises of publishers and corporate thieves.”

    Your attitude says it all: You hate the publishers regardless of what the real historical facts are. Let me ask you this: When Kurtzman was a comics publisher hiring free-lancers, was he a corporate thief? How about Simon and Kirby? Or Kubert? Or Andru and Esposito? Or Neal Adams? Or Will Eisner? Etc., etc., etc.

    You really need to come to a better understanding of how the comic book business really evolved, because right now, your view is pretty damn skewed in the wrong direction.

  173. If anyone is still reading these posts, its important to know that this video… http://vimeo.com/31100268 is the future that some of you are asking for.

  174. Comet says:

    Haha, what a dick swinging contest

  175. MBunge says:

    “People steal not to get it for free but because free is what it’s worth.”

    If something is “worthless”, why are you wasting your time with it? If a comic is so terrible, boring, unentertaining, meaningless, pointless and shallow that you wouldn’t pay money for it…WHY ARE YOU READING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

    Mike

  176. Wayne Beamer says:

    Russ: I shook my head at Michael’s statement about DC Comics being published largely for marketing dollars too.

    What’s pretty indisputable: Neither Marvel or DC realized how much potential money they left at the table until the Salkinds made a goodly chunk of change on the first 2 Superman movies. And, it was still 1989 before DC truly understood how much they stood to gain by leveraging their IPs with the blockbuster success of the Burton/Keaton Batman movies.

  177. R. Maheras says:

    Wayne — You’re absolutely right. It was obvious to anyone watching in the 1960s-1970s that neither Marvel or DC knew how to leverage their characters very well — especially Marvel.

    For example, while the 1960s Batman TV show was a fad for a couple of years, it was popular because it was making fun of the original Batman brand. Imagine Coca-Cola, Boeing or Xerox agreeing to do a TV show that mercilessly skewered their brands.

    In another example, a lot of us Marvelites anxiously awaited the Marvel Super Heroes cartoon series of 1967, only to be horrified by the low-budget “animation” when it finally aired. I mean, those cartoons made “Clutch Cargo” look like it was a high-end cartoon.

    Stan Lee was promising his True Believers feature film adventures of their favorite Marvel characters for years, but apparently the signed options never panned out.

    The reason for all of this was simple: Licensed projects were simply not Marvel’s or DC’s core business. Both apparently collected whatever licensing fee they could negotiate, and then washed their hands of the projects. That’s why the quality of the projects — especially the TV of film stuff — was all over the map. There was simply no oversight or brand management by the comic book companies for their characters.

    That’s no longer the case — thank goodness.

  178. Everyone, Jason In The UK has now outed himself as the same troll who goes around calling women four-letter words. I deeply regret allowing his comments to stand here and causing Faith any added undue stress.

    So you can take his idiotic comments (now removed_ for what they are — comments form an idiot.

  179. So…another subspecies of bully at “play”.

    Wonderful.

    Well, I’m still here, still dreaming. And I know I’m not the only one, thanks be to Whoever is Responsible.

  180. Haha, JasonInTheUK = TEXTBOOK case of the first point here:

    http://www.cracked.com/funny-3809-internet-argument-techniques/

  181. The cost for an indie to print is almost 80% of the cover price if your asking for $3.00.

    http://www.ehow.com/video_4991385_printing-comic-book.html

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