Creator of British sci-fi weekly 2000AD and co-creator of Judge Dredd, Pat Mills, has been posting his current issues with the current owners of 2000AD, Rebellion. And how they revolve around royalty payments, incentive payments, whatever it is the lawyers care to call them, and just how much the creators – and the publisher – gets from your cold hard shekels.
In a post entitled What Price The Crown Jewels?, he talked about how he will be elaborating on all this in a new edition of his book, Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History.
He is starting a new sci-fi anthology comic, Space Warp, which intends to provide a better deal for creators, including some very specific aims.
First, to encourage new talent and second, to prove the viability of a proper copyright deal based on the French comics industry standard (the best in the world). As opposed to the archaic British 'all rights' model, which has nearly destroyed British adventure comics and continues to harm the industry by not attracting or retaining top talent, or encouraging creators to give of their very best.
And he is now also able to break down some of the royalty deals coming his way. Specifically on his classic barbarian series Sláine: The Horned God by Pat Mills and Simon Bisley. And how it was the first volume in the Hachette 2000AD partwork series of hardcover collections. Mills writes,
In its latest reprinting, The Horned God also launched the recent Ultimate 2000AD newsstand collection series from Hachette, priced at £1.99. At the time of the launch, I raised my concern with Rebellion that this full colour, deluxe hard back was being sold for a low launch price as a 'loss leader'
I totally get the sales logic of this. It's a real bargain!
However… in effect, our hit story would be the 'fall guy' for the series as Simon Bisley and I could not possibly benefit financially, given the low price.
But later creators on strong, popular but a little less commercial series (including myself) would benefit, as their subsequent books would sell for the full price: £9.99
Of course, Rebellion would still benefit greatly financially either way through their financial arrangement – license fee or similar – with Hachette and the later full price books.
And he quotes Ben Smith, Head of Rebellion books' assurances made at the time of his enquiries.
'There's definitely no sense of HG subsiding the other books. Rather it's leading the charge with the Crown Jewels. The low price on the first book ensure that it sells in substantially greater quantities than any other subsequent issue. (By a large factor of difference, up to ten or more as I recall it being explained to me)… There's no disadvantaging [of you and Simon] by being first out of the gate, quite the reverse.'
And so, with such assurances, Mills publicised the series and waited for said royalties.
And then the royalties statement arrived last December and – curiously – there were no unit sales on the Ultimate series (unlike on other Rebellion books). The total fee due to me (and the same for Simon) on Horned God was… £129!
That's almost the same as a later Nemesis book in the same Ultimate series … £126.
I politely and patiently raised the issue twice with Ben in February and March this year, requesting information and clarification. I received none.
So Pat has sent him another letter – and made it public.
I think £129 for a 'crown jewels' story that launched a successful book series and made Rebellion a lot of money is poor, unfair and thus does not respect creators. In the past you have insisted that Rebellion do show creators respect. I think this is one example – and there are others, as you well know – where this is not the case. HG was not worth my time publicizing for that kind of money. It's also disappointing that the number of units sold of the Horned God has been deliberately withheld . I feel as the co-creator of HG I have a right to know this information, which Rebellion will be aware of. I've tried number-crunching and comparing the figures which is almost impossible without units sold, but it would appear that Horned God did not sell anywhere remotely like 'by a factor of ten" as you predicted. Yet you still state below that the series performed well! That seems like a clear contradiction to me. The only conclusion I can come to is that it performed well for Rebellion, but not for any of its contributors. At the very least I have been misled.
There are two possible ways to calculate my loss of income on The Horned God. As the Nemesis book listed is 5 times more expensive, it could be 5 x£129 = £645. Or if it was ten-fold the money made on Nemesis, as Ben predicted, it could be £1260. And the same amounts would be due to Simon.
But these projections are hardly definitive, because the number of units sold have been withheld.
He got a response and made that public as well.
Today, I received a response from Ben to my third email. He has very little to say on these specific issues.
In summary, his response amounted to 'Well, that's the way it is.'
As per his usual technique, he talked instead, very positively, about future publishing plans for Sláine: The Horned God.
There was no acknowledgement that I was absolutely correct in my concerns. Namely that later Ultimate books made more money than 'the crown jewels'.
As he concludes,
So this is what happens when you sell all rights to your creation and unfair anomalies occur.
He's also been able to take the royalty statements and do some number crunching of his own.
Rebellion take 90% of profits. And pass on just 5% to writer, 5% to artist. On all their print books. (I have yet to check on merchandising and digital.) Thus Rebellion's revenue on Ultimate Edition Horned God (from Hachette) is listed as £2587.30 And due to Simon and myself a total of £258 (10%). £129 each.
As opposed to in France where the industry standard is:
50% to publisher. 25% to writer. 25% to artist.
Rebellion revenue received £1941.50.
Total royalty to creators £194.
So I received £97.00 as the writer. And the artists on that book would have shared a further £97.
So Pat has written to Ben about this as well.
In the past, you have confidently stated that Rebellion paid similar percentages to past publishers. So let me correct you here. These figures show it is not the case. Egmont and Maxwell percentages were definitely higher. They were far closer to industry standard which is – as you know – 50% to publisher. 25% to writer. 25% to artist.
Not 5% to writer. 5% to artist.