Comic Book Publishers Not Paying Comic Book Creators

Comic book publishers? Read on. Will Robson, comic book artist on Great Lakes Avengers, Big Trouble In Little China, Spider-Man/Deadpool. Spider-Ham, Secret Warriors, Spawn Kills Everyone, Fantastic Four and more talked about some issues they are having with some publishers… and being shared in social media. Even if there are lots of names being left out…

Comic Book Publishers Not Paying Comic Book Creators
Photo by Jericho, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Will Robson: "Has it become industry standard to pay creators ridiculously late for their work? I've struggled ALL year with ALL the large companies I work for to get paid on the agreed time. I'm talking MONTHS late… it's sad how nervous I am to even talk about this publicly in fear of being blacklisted for future work. But I've heard so many horror stories from other freelance creators recently about fighting for their paycheque and I need to vent this all out and hopefully raise some awareness to make serious change."

"Here's how it works. You're hired to write or draw a book. The deal usually is you have to complete 5-10 pages first & then you will receive a payment for that work a few weeks after completing it. This means that when you start a new project, it's not guaranteed when exactly you'll see your first payment because depending on the difficulty of the work (team book, locations, crowd scenes etc) the length of time it takes to create enough pages of work is always fluid. Usually if you're a pro you can gamble that your first payment will be 4-5 weeks upon taking on the work. So you're already looking at each project you take on as a month plus minimum expectancy of payment for half or a quarter of the issue you're working on. Now, this can be annoying as if you're constantly hopping from title to title, these payments can stagger between each other and you can find yourself in some financial jams. But recently I've had (what I thought) was a stroke of bad luck with getting paid on that agreed amount of time after finishing work. And I'm not talking a week late, I'm talking 5-10 WEEKS late. These delays have caused me and my family so much stress it's unbelievable. I've dealt with delayed payments in the past working with smaller companies but the biggest companies in the business are now delaying payments regularly and I've really have had enough. A project I've worked on recently still hasn't paid me. I was expecting payment for it in mid November. Remember that 4-5 week window of expected first pay I talked about? That means I started the book in October! How do these companies expected me to pay my bills and afford the Holidays? I've been constantly living in a state of survival mode all year with barely affording to get by due to these delays. I just find it ridiculous that I'm a trained and skilled worker who works 10-15 hour shifts 5-7 days of the week to hit these ridiculous industry standard deadlines that already take you away from having any sense of a normal family / social life to then have to worry about paying your bills or feeding your family. I mean, I get to draw these iconic characters owned by these large corporations who are making millions off of adapting freelancers like myself's art & creativity. But when you're drawing these characters & internally stressing over wether or not you can afford to buy your family Christmas presents this year due to payment delays then enough is enough."

"I work hard. I hit my deadlines. Pay me. And to clarify I'm not talking about editors being the issue. My editors are wonderful and fight with me to get paid. But that itself is a bonkers thing to say that an employee of a company fights WITH me to get paid by the same company that they work for… Please. If you're like me and have had these / are having these issues with the comic industry and these large corporations POST YOUR STORY BELOW! I know I'm not the only one struggling. Let's make some real change!"

And it kicked off all manner of responses with a similar theme.

Zac Thompson: "I've had two books completely fall apart this year because of late payments. One of which took me over a year of dedicated research to even script. Said publisher then optioned one of my books (without telling me or the team at the time) and still said they couldn't pay. It's December and a lot of creators are heading into Christmas with thousands owed to them and no real recourse to get paid for their work. It's disgusting. It's clear to me that our industry is in a state of huge transition and a lot of smaller publishers may not make it to the other side."

Joe Quinones: "Waited recently over a full year on one publisher before getting paid and currently still awaiting payment, running on six months now from a second prominent publisher who has largely ghosted me relating to two separate cover I crafted for them last summer. Know of another artist who's drawn several full issues & covers for a miniseries they were working on, without even one paycheck. Yet their publisher will come knocking for the next cover, the next issue, then threaten to move on to another artist if not replied back w/expedience"

Will Robson: "That's disgusting. Absolutely DISGUSTING! we're all playing coy with the names of these companies currently but hopefully we can light enough fire under the subject to reflect that we've all have ENOUGH and we won't be afraid to name them when united! Getting gigs isn't the problem, getting PAID on time is. There are much bigger horror stories than mine as Joe has just shared!"

Joe Quinones: "The first publisher I won't name because I believe it was an honest mistake. The second publisher is Valiant. Bloodshot & Archer & Armstrong covers I did just over six months ago. No payment. Largely no correspondence except to kick the can down the road. 'We're working on this'"

Bleeding Cool reached out to Valiant representatives, who did not reply to us either. It may be noted that other creators having payment issues with Valiant include Joshua Dysart, Brett Booth, Clay Mann, Jim Shooter and David Lapham. But there are others sharing their stories..

Tara Phillips: "I've been waiting months for a publishing company to pay me for two cover licenses (one payment going back as early as August)."

Shannon Wright: "You're unfortunately not alone. Currently dealing with this with an illustration job I did back in September where they just…didn't process my payment. We shouldn't have to hunt down the money we're owed."

Zayas: "I am right now in the same exact situation. Even considered recently quitting comics cause I cannot mentally continue like this. Still waiting to be paid for a 50 Page book I finished drawing in mid September for a medium/big publisher."

Eoin Marron: "Publishers dragging their feet on payments is a systemic problem in comics and I'm fucking sick of it. I've had to take on some seasonal work in retail because of the financial lurch a book's payment issues has left me in – just before Christmas, too, of all the times to do it."

Erica Schultz: "I've had issues with payment from publishers large and small. And, yes, the fact that you're speaking out is harrowing. We all have that fear of, "What do I do?! I have bills to pay," etc. It's important to get out there."

Nathan Kempf: "A specific publisher that I may not name owes me $1500, some of it is more than 60 days late. This time next week, they'll be late on close to $4000. I've had to take on way more work than I can handle to try to make up financially, it's a real struggle right now."

Marco Finnegan: "This right here is why I cannot stress how important it is to have an agent. We (freelancers) are usually running and gunning from gig to gig and the time we would lose chasing down payments is well worth the agent percentage."

Any more stories to tell? Feels like breaking open the dam…


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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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