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Creators' Tales of Comics Industry Use & Abuse #ComicsBrokeMe Part 2

There are more tales of industry woe in #ComicsBrokeMe Part Two. These stories are valuable and encourage others to share their own experiences.

Two days ago, I collated a selection of some of the #ComicsBrokeMe hashtag posts, trending in the light of the tragic death of comic creator Ian McGinty. We also ran a #ComicsBrokeMe DC Special follow-up highlighting DC Comics after Neil Gaiman quote-tweeted our original article. And today there are more for a #ComicsBrokeMe Part Two. We will get to advice given by many for what can be done, in articles. But these stories are valuable in their own right to be recorded, and to encourage others to share their own experiences.

Zac Thompson: "#comicsbrokeme when my Publisher took an entire 90K option deal for themselves and refused to share any of that money with the creative team. We had to fight for 2 years to even see the paperwork and at that point the money was long gone. F-ck it. This was Aftershock. How they managed to declare bankruptcy while also robbing creators blind is sincerely beyond me. The contract language they used to do this was carefully hidden in the fine print. They charge "overhead" fees to creative teams that are insanely high #'s that ensure books NEVER break even. They are under no obligation to be transparent about these overhead fees. I want to be crystal clear that if these terms were at least explained to us then I wouldn't be salty because I at least knew what I was getting into. They weren't. It was left purposely vague and it took them YEARS to explain themselves."

John Layman: "Same experience. Contract said expenses would be deducted from profits, failing to mention 7-10k per issue was automatically tacked on as "infrastructure expense." Huge option payment resulted in zero dollars. I've also had my life threatened, and my family's, by "fans" who got mad at, not something I said, but (nonexistent) subtext they imagined in one of my stories. Writing comics is not worth death threats.

Cullen Bunn: I'm not going to use Twitter to tell many of my #ComicsBrokeMe stories… but, believe me, I have a ton of them. I WILL be sharing them elsewhere, because I feel like they deserve to be told. If you are a creator, editor, publisher, you absolutely should check out the tag. And for those who did post their stories… I see you… I hear you… and, by God, I support you. I've been doing this for a while

Maarta Laiho: I was paid $25/pp for colors on an Eisner award winning series. I once colored a 200+pg gn in 2 months. It is on the NYT bestseller list. I had arm pain for months after. I do not get royalties for anything I've worked on. I love my job but I can't do this forever. There are many creators who do treat me well and I'm very grateful for them. I'm proud of my work. But when a major book publisher just this past year tried to offer me a coloring job at $28/per page, I know things are not going well in this industry. I do not blame any of the editors I've worked with. They're all just as passionate about comics. They love comics, and I know (the ones I've worked with) do as much as they can with the power they have. They're also just as tired. This broken system goes higher than them. Final thoughts (for now) is that despite all the pains, heartaches, and frustrations I'm still sitting hear dreaming about the stories I want to draw someday. There is one I want to finish this summer. I don't want to quit. I love comics and all the people here. I want to stay

Bernie Macross Plus: #ComicsBrokeMe because a bad and intentionally vague contract we signed nearly a decade ago, out of pure excitement at being published by *anyone*, means we might never get those rights back, despite the series being completed three and a half years ago. We know better now but just starting out, we didn't know any lawyers or agents to look over that contract with even simply a regular-toothed comb. We were enthralled with BEING PUBLISHED. An unfortunately common story in comics, yet we thought it'd be different for us.

Pat Brosseau: #ComicsBrokeMe well, almost broke me a few times but the worst was in the early 2000s. My freelance was pretty good up to that point but it all came crashing down around 2001. I had lost a major book at Dark Horse because of an annoying editor, DC had kicked me off of 2 books because new creators were coming on, I hadn't done any work for Marvel in a while because the top one I had was given to a digital lettering studio and other lettering work seemed difficult to find… All pleas to editors fell on mostly deaf ears–most seemed to not care that I had a house payment and could lose my house at some point… I realized then that this was happening to many freelancers at the time so why would my case be any different. I had to sell my house and eventually got a job on staff at DC in their newly formed lettering dept… I took that job mainly because my freelance had dried up. If I hadn't taken that job I probably would have left comics entirely so in a way it did save me. Comics came close to breaking me but I adapted and survived. #ComicsBrokeMe

Ryan Howe: Here's my #ComicsBrokeMe: rush 22 pages, $50/pp for pencils and inks for one of the bigger publishers. Invoice X days after publication (I know, I was young). Did it on schedule minus 3 pages I was told the writer was tweaking, and that there'd be updated script pages for. Days go by, weeks, communication with editor dries up. 9 months to a year later, I assume the project died (it was the last issue of a mini series), so I Google it to see if there's news, and lo and behold, the book came out, the trade has been released, and they just hired someone else to finish those three pages instead of contacting me. As me window to submit the invoice according to their terms had long expired, I emailed in a panic, and found out my editor was long gone. Thankfully I did get paid, so that was nice. I didn't get any comp copies either, I ended up buying my own copy of the trade from their booth at some con.

Francesco Francavilla: WALLY WOOD by Dan Clowes Seemed appropriate to #ComicsBrokeMe topic. We all have stories in this business & yes, it sucks that we all keep going – despite the difficulties, the hard times, & too many other things to list – because at the very heart of it we LOVE making comics.



Tim Seeley: I will say the worst moment of #ComicsBrokeMe I've had when I received a glancing blow of creepy fan ire after collaborating with a female writer. Weeks and weeks of review bombs, threats, emails…i felt terrible having brought her into this mess.

Tim Sheridan: Oh man do I feel this, Tim. #ComicsBrokeMe (nearly) when I was asked by my publisher to reestablish a relationship btwn 2 famous characters and tons of toxic shippers who rejected the pairing came out of the woodwork to attack me, vilify me and even threaten my life on socials. …or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Block."

John Reppion: You know, the #comicsbrokeme thing has made me realise that I might need to chase up some royalties…

David Lasky: #ComicsBrokeMe 10 years ago, my graphic novel WON the Eisner Award. Why have I not created a follow-up book? Well, after finishing our book, my co-author and I were broke. I went back to work for a bakery. My co-author was homeless for a while. Our GN didn't make us roylaties.We received $19,000 in advance money, for a 200 pp historical-based gn that took 3.5 years to complete. That figure is divided between two people, with the last couple of thousand going toward hiring background inkers so the book would be completed when the publisher wanted it. It was a dream project, and I'm glad we did it. I'm proud to have won an Eisner. But doing another book like that would destroy us. Even so, I started on another gn in 2017 and that effort fell apart in 2021. I don't know if I'll ever be foolish enough to try and finish it. What's been really satisfying in the past decade: making short comics, one-pagers, with no expectation of making money.

Chris Sotomayor: Just jumped in here and saw the #ComicsBrokeMe posts. Yeah, I got some stories too. Like when I was overworked and wound up in the hospital for 3 weeks. One of which was in a coma. When I got out, my editor fired me, even though I got my work in before I was hospitalized. Another time #ComicsBrokeMe was when my 4 y/o son was in the hospital, doctor telling us his organs were shutting down. 2 weeks in, they saved his life. My big client sent a care package to my son with toys and books to lift his spirits. 2 months later, they cut my rates. #ComicsBrokeMe (almost) because I was already reeling from the tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills that my private insurance didn't cover. Took me 11 years to pay that off.

Jon Moisan: "I've been extremely lucky to not have nearly as bad an experience as lots of other people in this industry, but #comicsbrokeme when I first started and was working for a major publisher for $13 an hour in NYC and couldn't afford to go home and see my dad as he was dying of cancer. The only time I saw him between his diagnosis and his death was when he came to NYC for Christmas. Even if I was paid more, I didn't have enough vacation time to go see him so it was an unwinnable situation no matter how you sliced. I remember every day felt like I was drowning. I still remember having to Facetime him in a conference room as they put him into a medically induced coma and then having to go back to work to tell everyone I needed to leave and also figure out who would watch my books while I was gone. It was the last time I spoke to him."

Jennifer de Guzman: "I can't say #ComicsBrokeMe, but I can say that I will never work for a comics publisher again. I spent fourteen years doing that, and it left me with a wrecked salary history and no conception of what a healthy workplace with professional human resources standards looks like. Working at SLG was the perfect working to pay for school kind of job, but I stayed there for ten years. I truly loved a lot about it, but I realized when my attempts assert more influence over the output and business model were always rejected that I'd hit a dead end. Image was…I just hope the union helps them improve their employee-management relationships. Very little communication, no training, no job descriptions. I returned after maternity leave to find I'd been moved to a newly created, mostly undefined position.An overly packed publishing schedule (bc Image makes its $ from creator fees) meant production was worked to exhaustion and PR and marketing couldn't possibly give enough attention to every title. I had to leave on time because I had kids in daycare, and I felt guilty every time. Yeah, about that publishing model: At least when I was there, creators paid Image. If the book makes money, creators get to keep all of it, but if it doesn't you can be out everything you paid Image. Great if you're Brian K. Vaughan. Dicey otherwise. Anyway, I'm lucky enough to have a spouse with a good income and I've been able to concentrate on cultivating my own writing career. Not in comics. I worked for fourteen years in the industry, and it won't say boo to me. And why would I want to? It's an industry where I endured sexual harassment and discrimination. Co-workers who didn't warn me about creeps and then laughed and said they'd been taking bets when I said I'd been creeped on. Who said my kids kept me from focusing on my work. So yeah… comics. Honestly, I mostly think, "What a waste of my youth and potential." My comics friends are the only reason it was worth my time at all."

Heather Antos: "It's why a LOT of folks do work in Video Games vs. comics. I once edited a 10 page comic for Destiny and got paid 5k. Literally 1/6th of what Marvel paid me a year while I worked on Star Wars and Deadpool. For 10 pages of work."

Peter Krause: my page rate went DOWN between my first (the Eisner-nominated DAREDEVIL: ROAD WARRIOR) and second job at Marvel–down nearly 20%. Ahoy Comics pays me better than Marvel.

Jerry Ordway: Early 2000s a person I know was short of work,offered a job that he said paid $7 a page pencils and inks. Small publisher but known to most. I was stunned, and said I would pay him 7$ a page NOT to take the job! There was no reprint, re-use payment or equity. Writer owned 100%. I mean, it is dangerous because it shows any publisher that there are people desperate enough to work for peanuts. That drives everyone's pay down, little by little. And I am not judging someone for taking the rate, because everyone has their own needs. I think he did the job.

Nolapfu: "I just took a job as a housekeeper in a care facility. Don't get me wrong, it's good work and I'm glad to have it, but. I have three Eisners to my name. I can't even get an *interview* for a comics job."

Justin Peniston: "Here's the thing, #ComicsBrokeMe more than once. In 2015, I decided that it wasn't happening and started pursuing a career in restaurant management — but it turns out that's also a job that will underpay and underappreciate you. I came to a frightening conclusion: I'd rather fail as a writer than succeed in hospitality. But #comics are HARD. So I've been pursuing #animation more diligently. One gig, #SonicPrime, paid me more than my entire comics career thus far. I've had #comics gigs that never paid and there are companies that I'll never work for again. I've had companies expect me to produce an entire comic on spec before even considering a project. Every time, #ComicsBrokeMe again.
I've never thrown my heart, soul, and health into #comics the way some others have. I have a wife. We have aging mothers. We have a kid. I could never sacrifice for love of the medium the way so many have. It kind of feels like the only way for me to consider pursuing comics is as a self-publisher — but I NEVER aspired to be a publisher. What do I know about marketing, branding, printing, and distribution? Why isn't it enough to understand character, plot, pacing, and theme? Why isn't being a good writer enough? (There are tons of reasons for this and I know lots of them. This is rhetoric, not confusion. I also know that it's not my place to decide that I'm a "good writer.") #ComicsBrokeMe, multiple times, and I keep on putting myself back together. I'm trying RIGHT NOW to find whatever it is I need inside of myself to build a company, to raise the money, to be the boss. But really, I just want to make comics."

Ashley Maczko: "Reading the #comicsbrokeme posts on Twitter gives you a pretty good idea of how exploitive and predatory the comic industry is. Ian McGinty died at 38, leaving people to speculate this was due to the nature of being overworked and underpaid. I myself turned 38 last month and handed in most likely my last professional comic cover. I simply can't afford to work for these companies the way things are. …and I don't want to. Not anymore."

Rick Veitch: "I'm not on twitter but I've been reading some of the reporting about the #ComicsBrokeMe controversy. My heart goes out to all those comics creators who've been exploited, duped, ghosted, taken advantage of, underpaid, paid late, never paid, overworked, abused, had ideas stolen etc etc. I'm proud of all those who've had the courage to stand up and publicly name names and reveal rates. Bravo! Let's hope it leads to a new understanding on the part of readers, who unwittingly fund the whole rotten scheme by buying books published by bad actors. The best I can say about those who perpetrate the kind of greedy inhuman behavior that is the norm in comics, is that I try to have compassion. They must be really broken inside, themselves. After 45 years in the comics industry, I've had my share of ridiculous working conditions and FUBAR business situations. But I like to think none of them broke me. In a way they made me stronger and more determined to find ways to practice my chosen art form, comics, on my own terms."

Anthony Fowler Jr: "My first major credited work–Dresden Files: Wild Card #3–I wasn't paid by Dynamite. The penciler (who now works for Marvel and requested me specifically) paid me $50/page out of his rate. The deadline was brutal (20 pages in about 6 days), so I didn't sleep for a week. Here's the crazy part: at the time I had an ant problem, and I literally couldn't stop to address it. Even as ants marched up my legs. Just had to swipe them away and keep inking.  Didn't get comps either, though I'm not sure why I was expecting them. I had to buy that issue. At the very least, I did get credited in the comic for inks, so there's that."

And the Spanish Art, Entertainment and Information Union, SEGAP posted the following, translated into English, saying "When we do not specify it means that what that price is intended to cover is both the script and the drawing of the page."

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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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