DC chose 52 artists over me, and let me twiddle my thumbs for a full 3 months while they tried to find inventory work for me. I knew I wasn’t currently in anyone’s “top ten” artists, but to find that I wasn’t in the top 52 was a shock:). If any of you are ever asked to be exclusive to any company, make sure they will incur penalties if they can’t keep you busy:) I had that clause when I first signed, but the renewals did away with it because “it wasn’t really needed.” D’oh!
[snip] So anyhow, don’t feel sorry for me–I don’t want that. Don’t use this as an excuse to bash DC over their new books, but DO use this to understand the life of a freelance creator. We pay for our own healthcare, we pay an extra tax known as the self employment tax, and we all work strange long hours trying to make sure your comics ship on time. Support comics by the creators you like! Every sale helps. Support the independent publishers, and the small press comics, because they are putting their hearts and souls into their creations without any advance payments or page rates.
For whatever reason, the “exclusives wars” of the mid ’00s seem to be over, and given out to only the most top creators at a company. For a mid-level creator, it isn’t really a career advantage any more.
Mark Evanier also had thougths on the subject of ageism and comics evolution:
Over the years, I became friendly with — or at least interviewed — most of the comic book writers and artists whose careers predated or coincided with mine. Some managed to remain “in demand” as long as they were able to write or draw or wanted to work. Others hit a wall they’d never expected — one they’d once been more-or-less promised would never be there. A number of very fine, experienced creators in the last decade or two have been told things like, “I’d love to give you work but they tell me here I have to look for the new, young ‘hot’ artist.”
Usually, it isn’t that nakedly admitted but sometimes it is. Not that long ago, a veteran artist came to me and asked if I could help him get work…which he needed the way anyone might need work. I knew of a comic that a major company was about to launch and phoned up its editor to suggest the older guy would be perfect for it. The editor replied, “You’re right. He would be. I wish I could use him.” I swear: “I wish I could use him” is a verbatim quote.
Normally I wouldn’t quote a post at such length but there is much truth in it so I’ll add this bit:
I’m not too worried about Jerry. He’s very good and some smart editor (there are such people) will snap him up one of these days. I am worried when the industry seems too quick to dispose of talented folks and it becomes impossible or even just difficult to make a long-term living in comics. I think that would be very bad for the business. When good people come along, you don’t want them to think of their time writing or drawing comics as temp work that will only last until someone younger comes along with impressive samples and no grey hair. If today I was considering a career in comics, I don’t think I’d expect it to be a very long, stable one.
The other night I spoke with Calvin Reid at an SVA course on the business of cartooning taught by Dan Nadel. Calvin and I have been doing this every six months or so for four or five years, and every time I bring along a slideshow on different career outlets in comics. I find that I have to substantially update it every six months—and the current one has no relation to the one I started with. Syndicated comic strips aren’t even discussed, and even the “creator participation” model of comics seems to be dwindling away as companies like IDW and BOOM! turn more and more to licensed books and creators choose more to participate with themselves at Image, Kickstarter, or their own company. This was a large class—maybe 20 students—and when I asked who wanted to draw Thor not a single hand went up. When I asked who was on Tumblr, probably half the class raised their hands. That’s a huge switch from even 5 years ago.
At the end of the day, comics, like most industries, is still a meritocracy. A talented hard worker like Jerry Ordway still has job skills that a kid on Tumblr won’t develop for years and years. But I get the feeling that the career path of just wanting to grow up and draw superheroes is going to get more and more specialized.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.