There’s been a bit of back and forth here in the comments about what’s the best way to get your foot in the door, and whether WFH is good or bad or whether signing a shit contract is sometimes a great career move, but we think this quote from Mark Millar explains what’s going on:

“…once [Wanted] is up and running, Hollywood just comes knocking. When I sold one a few years back they said “Right, very well. What else you got?” And I’m like, “Nothing. I don’t own anything else I’ve been working on.” And they were laughing, like, “Ah, that’s stupid.”

Interview with Millar about his new creator owned Image seried War Heroes, quoted in Comic Foundry #3.


  1. The fastest way to success is the Frank Miller Method. Work on a corporate creation. Make mistakes while learning and honing your craft. Build your professional and popular reputation. Then go, create, and own your work.

  2. Re: the Hollywood people laughing. My friend the St. Martin’s book editor just didn’t “get” the TokyoPop situation at all. “You mean they own it? Why do they want their publisher to own it? What?” In his world, the Author is the God/King/Emperor and the publisher who serves loyally is rewarded.

  3. Torsten, I’m not so sure your “fastest way” is true at this point… particularly concerning that if, as a writer, you want to work on the corporate creation, your odds are much better if you’ve laid your groundwork elsewhere. (If you want someone to compare against Miller, you can go with Bendis.)

  4. Why would anyone from Hollywood laugh at the idea of work-for-hire, considering that’s how the overwhelming majority of their own product gets made? Outside of freaks like David E. Kelly and Aaron Sorkin, how much television is work-for-hire? How many films start first with a producer or director or studio head latching onto an idea and hiring a writer to come up with a script?

    Hollywood work-for-hire rules are a damn site better than comic work-for-hire rules, but it seems far to familiar a situation for anyone in Hollywood to have that sort of reaction.


  5. There is something to be said for the Frank Miller path, but also for the Jeff Smith path. Each has its advantages and drawbacks, and which one works the best depends a great deal on how one’s own skill develops, and on the ineffable whimsies of the market.

    And yet, I think it’s clear that if you don’t end up doing work you own within 10 years of when you started, you’re off the path completely.

  6. Well, the Miller situation was that he was given a weak title, Daredevil, and was allowed some creative freedom to create. This “Journeyman” system has existed for some time, but Miller (and soon thereafter, the Image founders) was one of the first to go and create titles which the creator owned.

    Sure, a writer can come from a variety of backgrounds. You can work in the Sales Department at Marvel. You can be a journalist in England. You can write for Hollywood. You can start at a smaller company, like John Byrne did, and then transfer. Or, like Bendis, you do it backwards, and create your own stuff, and then work for Marvel.

    Or you ignore Work For Hire completely and slowly build your reputation via other means (like Chris Ware).

    The basic idea is this: know what your goals are. What are you willing to do to make those goals a reality? Are you willing to work the equivalent of a cubicle job with little joy so that you can pursue your passion at night and on the weekends? Think long and hard and often so that when an opportunity presents itself, you are prepared to exploit it without it exploiting you.

  7. Even the folks who have done well through creator-owned works can find it worthwhile to then do Work For Hire. Miller has done, what, one issue of creator-owned material in the last few years (the Martha Washington one-shot, right?) Jeff Smith may be back at the creator-owned stuff, but that’s after a couple hundred pages of Shazam.
    Part of that is that these folks are now in position to make strong deals on their WFH material. Which should be a warning for the newcomers: the division of WFH and creator-owned isn’t as sharp as some will lead you to assume. It’s possible to have a deal where you technically own the copyright, but you’ve licensed so many rights to the publisher that you really don’t have any freedom with it. On the other hand, well, Charles Schulz never owned Peanuts, but he ended up with a high degree of control as well as piles of money.

  8. Maybe they were laughing at the fact he didn’t have any independent projects going on? That’s what it sounded like to me. Like, why would he only be spending his time on WFH stuff when he could be going the Frank Miller route.

  9. Personally, I prefer to work on Creator owned content, Doing My own work is more often than not quite satisfying because it is MY work, My Characters, My story. As much as it would be awesome to do WFH, Starting off with Creator Owned gives you the chance to make mistakes, and correct them to the point where folks will notice the improvement, see your style develop and eventually you create your own opportunity, where as work for hire expects you to be at a certain level of proficiency.
    IMNSHO: If you are a Creator just starting out, it is A lot better to start with Web-comics and work your way from there since you can eventually generate your own buzz, eventually getting the big boys to notice you. It also helps to strengthen your work ethic and learn to work with deadlines since YOU set them yourself.
    You also start creating a fan base that you will eventually bring with you once you do get an opportunity for WFH as opposed to trying to win over the fans of an already established series.

  10. There’s no one way or best way anymore. For every example there’s another example over there.

    At some point it’s probably good to own stuff if you want to be in the business of selling stuff.

  11. “At some point it’s probably good to own stuff if you want to be in the business of selling stuff. ”

    Or if you don’t want your stuff sold at all. Don’t do your autobiography WFH.

  12. The best way to go is to do both.

    Also, if might intrude and divvy about unsolicited “wisdom”– never create with Hollywood in mind. Never pander. You’ll just make a lousy comic.