Monday, 11 April 2016

Creators Rights: 'Free Movement'

Journey #1 (March 1983)
Art by William Messner-Loebs

William Messner-Loebs was the writer/artist of Journey, a comic book featuring Wolverine MacAlistaire and frontier life in Michigan in the 19th century. First published by Aardvark-Vanaheim in 1983, after fourteen issues the series moved to Fantagraphics until issue 27 in 1986. A sequel to the original series Journey: Wardrums was planned as a six-issue mini-series, but only two issues were published by Fantagraphics. IDW Publishing reprinted the entire 27-issue run of Journey in two volumes in 2008/9.
(from Note From The President, Cerebus #144, March 1991)
...On the subject of Bill Loebs picking up Journey and taking it to Fantagraphics.

In the case of an artist getting a cash advance to produce, say, a fifty-page comic story; well, if you're stupid enough to take money in advance for creative work, you should produce that work. That was not the case with Bill. We solicited orders for Journey, printed the books, shipped them, got paid by the distributors, deducted the printing costs and an office fee from the revenues and split the remaining profits seventy-five per cent for the artist and twenty-five per cent for A-V. At one point Bill and I met for several hours at a convention and he expressed a number of reservations about the way things were going. He wanted more advertising and promotion among other things. I pointed out that we publish all the books on the same basis we did Cerebus; bare bones. Solicit the book, print the book, ship the book, bill the distributors. I pointed out that he had more than twice the circulation Cerebus had at the equivalent issue (number eighteen or nineteen, I think). Bill acknowledged my views in his very gentlemanly way, but remained obviously unconvinced and very, very worried. A couple of weeks later, we got a phone call from Kim Preney (Hi Kim) saying Bill had walked in and taken back the original art for the issue currently in production. It seemed pointless to force some kind of confrontation or another round of negotiation. On the issue of advertising and promotion, alone, we had an irresolvable conflict. I knew that any publisher he took Journey to would do more advertising than we had done.

Obviously in the course of doing Journey for Fantagraphics, Bill discovered that he could not make enough money doing Journey, period, and that a lack of advertising and promotion was not the problem. Now he works just about full time for DC/Piranha and I would assume he parted company with Fantagraphics with no hard feelings on either side.

To me, that confirms that free movement works. Bill wasn't satisfied at A-V; went to Fantagraphics and wasn't satisfied there and went to DC and was satisfied. No lawyers, no lawsuits, no heated confrontations.

Free Movement.

Rah rah.


Dave Philpott said...

I wonder what Would have happened with Journey if it stayed at A-V. It really changed with the move to fantagraphics.
I think Bill was at his best for the first part of the series. Never cared much for the New Hope storyline.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

I've never been a fan of the "office fee" some publishers charge. It just seems like a scam to steal first-dollar income from the creator. If a creator and a publisher take a chance on each other, and the creator is being paid on a royalties-only basis, it seems only ethical that the publisher should be paid likewise.

I also remember that Cerebus had a full-page ad in every issue of The Comics Journal during the "High Society" era. So Bill's request for advertising was not unprecedented.

-- Damian