Friday, 13 July 2012

Walking The Tightrope

Marvel Fanfare #25 (Marvel Comics, 1986)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Note From The President in Cerebus #172, July 1993)
A lot of people have misinterpreted my anti-company stance, thinking that what I am saying is that they should not work for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Valiant, Mirage, Rob Liefield, etc, etc, under any circumstances. There can be nothing more beneficial on many occasions than going for a cool relaxing dip in a swimming pool. Likewise with the companies. A dip in their pool can be very relaxing, lucrative and prestigious. But you should get in and get out within a certain time frame. You don't want to live in a swimming pool no matter how cool and refreshing it is, do you? I’ve talked to too many friends in the business who started freelancing for the companies as a temporary measure who are still just freelancing twelve years later. When they finally walk away (or are thrown away), they will have nothing to show for those years apart from whatever is left of their advances, page rates, and royalties. I had a nice chat with a fellow at Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina (great con, by the way. Highly recommended.) who had just attracted the interest of Richard and Wendy Pini for their company-owned Elfquest line. Never had anything published before. As he explained it to me, he had been on cloud nine (naturally enough) at the prospect of becoming a Pro. Then he read the Pro-Con speech and was more than a little unsettled by it and wanted my advice. The best advice I could give was to decide what it was that he wanted. Did he want to be drawing someone else's characters ten years from now?, Well, no, he didn't want that. Five years from now? Two years from now? I told him that whatever length of time he decided he wanted to work on someone else’s characters, he should have that period set firmly in his mind at all times. That he should measure that length of time from the initial overture (Richard and Wendy had expressed interest a few weeks before). Always include the negotiating process in the length of time you are allotting for working on material you don't own. You might not see a script or a contract for three months. That’s three month of your 'career' that shouldn’t be discounted; three months of treading water. As I mentioned in the Pro Con speech (and I probably should have emphasized it a little more), you should always be working on material that you won and control while you are working on material that you don't own and control... If you want to walk the tightrope between work-made-for-hire and self-publishing you should always be aware of the calendar pages flipping past and which of the two is consuming most of your time both in the short term and long term scheme of things. No one can tell you what balance is right for you. Each creator has to decide the balance for him or herself.

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