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It isn’t known who first said it***, but truer words were never said than the laws of freelancing. A person will always get work if they are two of the following:

a) always good

b) always on time

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c) a heckuvva person

while these three elements play out in endless combinations what if there’s only 1 and a half of them in a given freelancer? That’s when it gets tricky.

Last week we told you about how a second volume of The Legend of Wonder Woman by Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon had been cancelled by DC Comics, despite glowing reviews, reportedly because of tweets critical of DC by Dillon. While you can find around the clock coverage of the kerfuffle on another website, I’ll give you the abbreviated version. Dillon was indeed publicly critical of DC, both of the marketing campaign for the book, and of the recently announced Amazon-themed book by Kevin Grevioux – a subject close to a rejected pitch by De Liz.

I was also told by “senior DC sources” that these public matters were only the tip of the iceberg in what was a fraught working relationship  between Dillon and DC. A Mary Sue article  about the kerfuffle reprinted the tweets and some criticism that was supposedly planted by Dillon…before all reference to the tweets was removed. from the article. But it appears to have been the last straw for DC. (I’m told the Grevioux pith and the DeLiz pitch were handled by different departments and neither editor knew of the other project.)

Obviously, waging a stealth campaign against your publisher is….not an unaggressive move. Still, the world is full of difficult freelancers who still deliver great work and the success of the DeLiz book in a market that is starved for Wonder Woman would have seemed a cushion for the project surviving. While to observers, it seems like DC got in a dudgeon and made this decision quickly, resetting their stupid clock to zero, I’m told this was the culmination of a long series of problems and internally there was no sense of acting in haste.

Despite all that, there is no way DC doesn’t look petty and vindictive, no matter what went on behind the scenes. The readers are the ultimate losers – almost everyone I know who likes Wonder Woman loved The Legend of Wonder Woman, and the book not continuing is a loss involved for everyone.

But this is not the whole story. Here’s the even deeper background. Immediately after the book was cancelled, as I reported, DeLiz set up a GoFundMe to get a monetary cushion for the holidays because of the lost work, and a baby on the way. The campaign is already at $5000, $3000 more than its $2000 goal, and it seems offers of other work were coming in.

However here’s where it gets a little messy. It’s an open “secret” in the “business” that DeLiz and Dillon have used crowdfunding to get past some rough patches in the past and are years late with both delivering on their Peter Pan Kickstarter 

 

 

 

and on commissions that were paid for years ago in a previous crowdfunding effort. You can read all about these commissions in this FB thread.

 

In case it’s removed, words like “con artist” are thrown around by Scott Massino, who has made proving his claims against DeLiz and Dillon something of a cottage industry. In the thread, many people complain they haven’t gotten their commissions, or their copies of Peter Pan (which took four years to print), and some of those who never got what they paid for suggested that the overage from the current GoFundMe be used to pay back some of the people who never got their artwork. And in one Case, Dillon posted that $400 had been refunded to one person.

Dillon has been mostly very polite in the thread (although there’s obviously bad blood between him and Massino). But there are a LOT of people who are mad at him and DeLiz.

So anyway, even from a neutral observer looking at the history of  the duo,  it’s fair to say that they are a creative team who has a hard time “getting it together,” as repeated illnesses, crises and monetary troubles prove. And hey, a lot of us have been there. Sudden illnesses in a profession without a safety net can be devastating. And not everyone is good at quotidian matters.  I would never do a Kickstarter where I had to mail stuff out because I hate mailing things, and would be no better than Dillon and DeLiz on that. But I haven’t done repeated Kickstarters – one of them raising more than $100k – either.

There’s been a lot of industry talk about this matter at the holiday parties of comics and on FB. And I suspect a lot of us are sympathetic to freelancers who get jerked around by giant corporations that have near endless pocketbooks. But it’s a two way street. In a private post by a very well known editor on FB, it was pointed out that if editors went public with all the nutty and unprofessional things that freelancers did,  it would look terrible but also, the stories would never, ever end.

Having seen it from both sides (and having been a bad freelancer a few times myself) I can state categorically that hair tearing, cursing, ohmygod-can-you-believe-that-happened incidents from the freelance end are an almost daily occurrence, especially in the high stakes world of monthly Big Two comics. Because people are people, no two are the same, and if there is a way to complicate things, someone will find it, no matter how self-defeating it is. The creator who is always professional and reasonable is more valuable than rubies, and that is why you see the same reliable (bot sometimes boring) names year after year after year. And sometimes firing someone off a project affords more relief than a giant bottle of Tums. Petty but true.

Nonetheless, in the artist and publisher relationship, the publisher has more resources, more power and ultimately it’s more important that they act ethically. Ratting out difficult freelancers would be extremely unethical and horrible, and nurturing them through their self destructive behavior is often the most important thing an editor can do, and something that’s invisible to the person reading a comic book.

I’ll take the liberty of quoting one paragraph in the above FB thread from artist Meghan Hetrick, artist on Vertigo’s Red Thorn, who speaks from experience:

All that to say, i get it. I get the emergency moments, and the panic, and the WTF AM I GOING TO DO?!? that goes through your head. But there comes a point when you really do need to just get shit done, and honor your prior commitments. I know with a larger family, and especially pregnancy … how difficult that may be, but something HAS to change if you value your professional standing and reputation, which is integral to longterm survivability in this industry.

There is no easy answer to the story of Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon. Publishers can treat freelancers like interchangeable cogs, and having a channel to register complaints is paramount, but some people get into the same trouble over and over again. (See Inside Llewyn Davis for the best exploration of this.)  DeLiz is obviously an incredibly talented artist and cartoonist (and also great to work with I’m told) who has had a lot of troubles but scrapped to get through them. If it was just the Legend of Wonder Woman matter, everyone would feel tremendous sympathy for them. But there’s a long history of drama – and unsatisfied customers –  that will require a period of Getting Shit Done to overcome. But I’m sure most people, myself included, hope that they can get it together and just make more good comics.

As for DC, many people have pointed out that the two way street is a little narrower on one side than  the other. It’s a continuing source of embarrassment that DC staffers who have harassed freelancers didn’t get the same “three strikes you’re out” treatment as bad freelancers and remain employed. That’s a troubling situation that supersedes a few salty tweets from a freelancer.

***Comments, don’t let me down!

25 COMMENTS

  1. “It isn’t known who first said it*** …***Comments, don’t let me down!”

    Well, without claiming that it was the *first* citation of the freelancer good/on time/nice person trifecta, I’ll start out by noting that in a 2012 commencement address, Neil Gaiman mentioned these three elements of “secret freelancer knowledge” as bits of advice given to him by Stephen King.

    http://www.adweek.com/galleycat/neil-gaiman-shares-secret-freelancer-knowledge/52806

  2. It seems like they’ve dug themselves a colossal financial hole. The blatant lying and misdirection for commissions and kickstarters are always the wrong way to handle things. This stuff always seems to catch up to creators in the end as they point fingers at everyone else.

  3. For the record, I had absolutely nothing to do with that Mary Sue article. That whole conspiracy is bizarre to me and I’m shocked someone at DC would even think that. We’ll be having some calm, considerate conversations with DC and hopefully get that straightened out.

    It’s not a secret that we are still working on getting getting Peter Pan Kickatarter copies out. Lots of people have gotten there’s but there are more, of course, especially international which has been very complicated.

    And we have some very old commissions that we’ve struggled to get through but are almost there

    We’ appreciate everyone’s support and kindness through this shock in our lives

    Happy Holidays!

    -Ray.

  4. I started making comics 5 years ago and paid Ray 1,000 dollars to complete a 22 page issue comic. I received 5 pages over 2 years with every single excuse you can imagine, including months of ‘I didn’t get your e-mail’ I’d be more than happy to share every piece of communication with you, if you’d like it. turbulencecomic@gmail.com to get a hold of me. This practically killed my small comic, 1,000 was all I had saved up when I first started making comics.

  5. “It isn’t known who first said it*** …***Comments, don’t let me down!”

    That’s been around before Neil said it during that commencement speech. I *believe* I first read it on usenet, but I’ll be damned if I remember who said it.

  6. I’ve not read nor heard of their their WW before this kerfuffle, although it looks like something I’d like, and I’m someone who speaks out on the side of the worker in person and online (and with my vote!), so initially thought this was another DC does dumb, comics screws creator, but looking at the tweets Rich collated on Bleeding Cool…. WTF did Ray think would happen?
    A comic fan can mouth off in public about DC, Marvel or Image’s faults as much as they want, and perhaps in a perfect world a contractor should be able to as well, but if you rely on someone as your employer, or business partner if you prefer, every public criticism is going to bring you closer to the end..
    The article may have brought it to DC’s attention, but every tweet was a risk – this literally publically happened before at DC to the late great Dwayne McDuffie, and he wasn’t as directly critical, he told the truth over time and it made them look bad – and it isn’t a DC specific thing, or a Marvel one – you never hear a freelancer slag Marvel until they are out the door with another job lined up – most companies/employers in the world wouldn’t put up with this.
    I’ve signed agreements with most contracts I’ve taken that I won’t publically comment on the company, but even if I hadn’t I wouldn’t put my name to mouthing off against someone who I want to keep working with. It’s just a dumb move.
    I feel for Renae and Ray in their current life situation, and I’ve had a job taken out from under me for before, it seriously sucks, but the lesson here is that if you want to be a professional, act like a professional.

  7. I first read the freelancer thing in an essay written by William Messner-Loebs in a Flash comic 25-30 years ago, and he referred to it as old then, so my suspicion is that that axiom has been around for even longer than that.

  8. A set of laws about freelancing should start with the strength of the economy and market demand. Otherwise it’s just another set of self-help rules, with no interest in market reality.

  9. ” That’s a troubling situation that supersedes a few salty tweets from a freelancer.”

    Since when is someone not held responsible for a ” few salty tweets” in this day and age? Not the world I live in. Watch the news.

  10. the “be good or be fast or be easy” paradigm has been around for a loooong time, i was hearing it when i was a kid and that’s not recent history.

    (wow i’ve had to edit this comment a lot)

    what’s with “eternal war of creators and publishers”? maybe some creators and some publishers, but this isn’t some sort of secret norm, so please leave everyone else out of this.

  11. Honest to God, how hard is it to follow the basic rule of “Do *not* criticize your employer in public.” I’ve been following that rule since Usenet days. I wouldn’t do that now, and I have a union and job security to cover my ass in the event I got deeply stupid. I would think that goes triple for freelancers unless you’re an absolute top tier creator, and even then there are consequences.

    Yes, there are times to take a stand, but complaining about delays in approving a second volume and not enough publicity are not the hills to die upon. I’m sorry not to be getting a second volume, but too much of this is self-inflicted to have much sympathy for the couple. Perhaps a Twitter/Facebook break would be a good idea for a New Year’s resolution.

  12. Jimmy Palmiotti says ” Since when is someone not held responsible for a ” few salty tweets” in this day and age? Not the world I live in. Watch the news”
    Mr. Jimmy Palmiotti, you’ve questioned the wisdom of the Queen. That can be grounds for excommuication from this blog.

    what’s with “eternal war of creators and publishers”? maybe some creators and some publishers, but this isn’t some sort of secret norm, so please leave everyone else out of this.”
    You’ll have to excuse our Queen. The social justice bug has bit her and transferred to her the amazing ability to perceive everything as a moral crusade. What you see as a professional misstep may seem to her a case of a big publisher being mean to a member of a long-marginalized group.

  13. @Erik Scott
    Saber Tooth Tiger Mike isn’t trolling, he is being ironic.
    In this day and age you have to be too naive to think tweets aren’t reasons for the dismissal of a freelancer or a employee.

  14. I notice the Go Fund Me page is still live as of today, despite having amassed $3,000 more than they were asking for. At least this time it’s just straight out begging, without anything promised in return.

  15. The worst part about this is that it is going to be a very long time before Renae and Ray are able to get any work where they are allowed to write and draw. They’re both going to be stuck doing “work-for-hire” art duties for the forseeable future while they try to rebuild their reputation.

    (which, ironically, is even more in tatters after all these articles about missed Kickstarter deadlines and angry fans wating five-plus years for commissions)

    Ray, if you read this, you and Renae need to realize that it will be a very long time before any editor trusts the two of you enough to let Renae write her own scripts. Pregnancy aside, the two of you are going to have to hunker down at that drawing board and start cranking out work-for-hire pages for Marvel/Dark Horse/Image/Dynamite to prove to everyone that you can be trusted again.

    “Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 6, #18: Script by Brian Michael Bendis. Pencils by Renae Deliz. Inks by Ray Dillon”

    “Dejah Thoris: Red Goddess of Mars #2: Script by Gerard Jones. Pencils by Renae Deliz. Inks by Ray Dillon”

    “Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle, The Official Comic Book Adaptation: Script by Gerry Conway. Pencils & Inks by Renae Deliz and Ray Dillon”

  16. “Since when is someone not held responsible for a ” few salty tweets” in this day and age? Not the world I live in. Watch the news.”

    See: President Donald Trump

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