Comics Beat is one of my favorite sites. I check it everyday – but still feel like I don’t have time to take it all in. There is such a great history to the site. If you’re interested in Alan Moore, there’s a whole series about Alan Moore and the strange history of Marvel Man/Miracle Man.
Yesterday, I came across an article and a podcast featuring Sean Murphy. He’s becoming one of my favorite artists at the moment. (also very cool if you like Murphy’s style, is “Black Science’s own Matteo Scalera)
The whole article, along with a link to the podcast is here. In the article, Murphy talks candidly about money and numbers about the comic book industry. This article is another in a series of illuminating, albeit, depressing articles on the actual economics of comic books. The podcast and article are filled with quotes like:
“Comics doesn’t generate the capital to hire people who know what they’re talking about…we don’t have the capital in this industry to hire the PR people who really get it.”
It makes me think of the William Goldman quote: “nobody in Hollywood knows anything.”
Everyone in the industry, and outside of it, and getting into it – is just figuring all this out as they go. This is deflating to think that industry veterans don’t know what they are doing — but that’s always the case. Startups see a gap in business, and come up and innovate, and shake things up.
In regards to changing distribution models:
Comic Books seem to suffer some of the same ailments as music in some ways. Digital is changing the industry, and creators are having to figure out ways to make money. This is nothing new for the world of artists. I guess for a newcomer, this is an eye opening tale. You hear story after story of artists who never had benefits, being ripped off for the rights to their creations, and just a general lack of pay.
New models are coming around. Murphy mentions Brian K Vaughn’s “Private Eye” series. This is a “pay what you want” series that is finally coming to print.
Radiohead did this for one of their Albums, didn’t they?
Personally, I see all this as an opportunity. If someone isn’t getting it, that’s good for someone else. Opportunity in chaos. If it bleeds, it leads. I agree with the article – how long before we get digital only “issues” of the comic, and then only print the collected edition of all the digital issues as a trade paperback. This is something I’ll probably be doing with my webcomic.
Just another example of how business savvy artists need to be about contracts and revenue streams. This notion of “get a job, work there, stay there” couldn’t be more inaccurate.
So, what’s an artist to do?
I think going to work for someone else is going to provide a certain amount of stability (you get a page rate, even if it is small), but you’re only ever going to reap the rewards (from all the stories here) from creator-owned work. Lots of people have one job, then freelance at night until they build up enough revenue to “quit their day job.” Even if their day-job is working in comics.
The floppy comic (actual paper) won’t go away anymore than records or books will go away — they’ll always be around — somehow. But, things will be changing — soon. And it will affect readers, artists, and retailers — so we need to be thinking ahead of the curve.
I’ll be exploring more about the intersection of comics and tech and music and the ever-evolving business models of the comic world in posts to come.