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Sunday, 25 March 2012

It’s A Sunny (but cold) Sunday Item On The Comics Industry

It’s 1154 hours on Sunday, 25th March, 2012 and I’ve just been doing a little drawing.  Drawing, not done that in a while but the smudge of pencil and ink…I love the smell of drawing ink first thing in the morning. I’d sooner draw than edit and publish but what you going to do when you need to make money to eat?

That brings me to a point I have wanted to make for a while. Jack Kirby and other old time artists –in the US and UK- used to have to work non-stop at their drawing boards to complete 5-11 pages a day.  Seriously. I used to draw about 10 a day but did show off once and draw 12!  I think that was Ben Dilworth’s fault, though.  A challenge I believe.  That is pencilling and inking the pages from scratch.

I wish I’d had enough money to hire an assistant!

But the point is this: those creators were not doing the work for fun or enjoyment of any type. They loved drawing, yes, but there was the deadline –something that seems to hardly exist these days.  You completed your work, handed in your pages and got on with the next batch while waiting for the payment cheque (if you were in dire straights and the editor knew you and had approved the work your cheque might get to you a lot quicker).

Comics were drawn, just as they were published for money. You sell your art to the company and get money and the company puts your art in comics to sell and make back money.

I cannot speak for Europe but the comic industry in the UK and US tended to be crooked from the top to bottom with the creators often being the ones getting the bad end of the deal.  In the 1980s I was a loudmouth on Creators Rights and was happy when that took hold in the UK.  Even then I’d be a bigger pain by pestering publishers to get original artwork back or even “Hey, I just noticed ‘Phil’ has had his work from Battle Day published in Germany –I guess he’s seen this and been paid by now…?”

Now we have certain creators, who are brown-nosing to bosses who are both incompetent and show them no respect, attacking me with comments such as “Who needs creators rights –I never asked for them!”  I do not even respond to that now, though the temptation is to batter the idiot(s) in question.

Who needed Creators Rights?

The poor bastards who struggled to pay rent because of late or non-appearing pay cheques.  The same poor bastards who ended up living in alleys or under bridges.  The poor bastards who had to go without food for a week because they were ripped off by a publisher (my record for no food was six days but let me tell you: when you do then eat go slowly! Your stomach will have its vengeance).  I’ve seen one artist who had worked straight for 74 hours with no real meal start passing out –getting him some hot food and a cup of tea worked wonders.

Oh, and, of course, the poor bastards who have families to support and have to work solidly and some times take a job shelf-filling at a supermarket. These are the same poor bastards who have their artwork stolen by editors who keep a hold of it until they think it is safe to sell (mainly online these days).  That is the same artwork “lost due to water damage” –and when I mentioned this excuse to the top man at one UK company he told me that “could never, ever happen” because the storage warehouse they used could not get those problems.  Interestingly, it was after this that editors were not allowed access to the art storage warehouse.

When Trident Comics took art but did not pay creators not one was willing to speak out or take any action.  They just sat there not wishing to rock the boat.  All except Paul Brown who had worked on a comic.  He took action in the Small Claims Court and got his money.  Even then other creators just…just…well, took it up the ass from crooks who had ripped them off.  And if they take your work and do not return it or pay you but keep it or even have it seized by printers who have not been paid then the publisher is a crook.

It was interesting that some creators knew Trident had not paid printers and that printers had seized art but never once passed the word along until it was too late. It’s a bit more scary that knowing this they carried on producing work for the company.

Let’s not forget the £5000+ that Fleetway/Egmont owed me for work but never paid but cited how “Maxwell left the company in a mess” –Robert Maxwell had been dead a few years by then so go figure.

You think the image below is a joke?  It is not.

Just as I disapprove of Vanity Publishing in comics –where a publisher tells you that your work is great and he’ll publish it but needs 60% of the printing costs from you (for a print on demand book!!)— I approve strongly of people publishing their own comics.  Whether as a proper US sized or A4 format or as a Small Press comic that is photocopied, hand folded and stapled and sold by the creator at Small Press events or comic conventions.  It’s done for fun and enjoyment with no big dreams (well, maybe a small one on days when no one seems to want to come near your table) of huge amounts of cash being made.

I look at some of the Small Pressers and they are like cute, fluffy bunnies innocent in the ways of the “big comics”!

When I told people I needed to buy stock to sell I got blank responses.  “Stock?”  I pointed out that this meant copies of my books to sell –stock.  They were dumbfounded but although I enjoy drawing comics I am not in it to scrape through poverty; I’m here to sell books and make money.

Please…don’t think any less of me….:-/

Remember, we have people in the UK, talented creators such as David (The British Manara) Gordon who have to scrape out a living because he cannot get the recognition or work from a publisher that he should.   I’d also like to mention Paul Brown who really should be getting his work published by a proper publisher and earning a living from it rather than be in a job dragging him down.

I have not mentioned myself.  Do I need to?  My incredible otherworldly talent speaks for itself.  J
We are in the year 2012 and the industry has not improved.  Certainly, in the UK, it’s dead.  D. C. Thomson can no longer call itself a player in the industry.  The Small Press and Alternative scene is getting bigger thanks to the work of insane human power-houses like Jimi Gherkin.  Independent Comics seem to be almost private clubs with regular followers buying their comics and they can also usually be their Face Book pals.  It’s a dalliance rather than a serious attempt to make money and become an established business –which some of them could be.  Again, in it for fun is fair enough.

The –the- highest points in British comics in the last ten years have come in the shape of Classical Comics, brainchild of Clive Bryant using UK creators, who have shown that we can compete with European BD.  Then we have Cinebook The 9th Art, the company headed by the human super dynamo Olivier Cadic.  Produce high quality Franco-Belgian comic albums in English and…sell them in the UK?  How they laughed.  No laughing now as Cinebook is without doubt the UKs largest comics publisher with sales improving all the time.

Of course, I have to mention Dalen which is a Welsh company headed by Alun Ceri Jones.  Franco-Belgian material translated into Welsh/English –Tintin, Lucky Luke, Druids and others.

Check out Dalen!
Check Out Cinebook!
Check Out Classical Comics!

But also check out those Smaller Pressers or companies such as Time Bomb Comics. It’s a hard business selling comics and as the UKs largest publisher of Independent black and white comics I should know.

Remember: a person has to write and draw that comic you read.

I’m sure that I’ve annoyed enough people by now and I crave the smell of drawing ink…and it’s now 1300 hours!

Happy Sunny Day!

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