In the SBCU Update 2003
In his dreams Alan Donald is a multi-award
winning writer of comic books, animation, theme park shows and rides, children’s
books, novels, television, internet animation and more.
In real life Alan writes this column,
which has been described as more than a lifestyle than a weekly column.
He used to write SBC's All The Rage.
and welcome to the first Panel. The Panel started life as a feature in
The Final Draft but such was its popularity that it has taken on a life
of its own. The Panel has expanded considerably from its original line-up.
is the Panel? The Panel gathers movers and shakers from across the industry
all brought together to answer your questions!
miss out on your chance ask the big guns a question or two, send them in
now to: [email protected].
of the Panelists should be known to you but if not, don't panic I have
a few details on them at the end of the column.
week's question comes from Karen Kingsley on the back of DC signing
up a whole slew of talent to exclusive contracts yet it came in a few weeks
ago, perhaps on the back of Andy Diggle and Jock signing up to DC. The
do you think the pros and cons are of creators signing exclusive deals
with one publisher? Do you believe that it is in anyway beneficial to comic
Dawson: "I think on one hand it can be great to know that your favorite
creator is going to be sticking around your favorite company for a while
but if they are signed exclusive to a company you don't care for then obviously
that's not so good. It can be great to have a creator spend some time with
a particular universe and get to know the characters in a way that they
might not if they only did a few issues. The down side is of that is the
potential for things to get a bit stale. So I guess it's just really down
to the talents involved whether or not things work out for the best, but
as I said before, just hope they are signed to your favorite company!"
Rick: "I believe it's beneficial to the comic book industry to have
creators on exclusive contracts. Deals like this assure the talent a set
amount of work per month for however long they're contracted, so they don't
have to stress over where to find their next job next month or which project
they should work on next. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did some great Marvel
books, but there's even more heart in their DC work and I look forward
to seeing a bunch of great DC projects over the next few years because
of their recent exclusives.
that Geoff Johns won't be wasting his talent writing Witchblade or Tomb
Raider stories for the next three years assures me that he's going to write
characters that will progress the DCU for years to come. And that as a
whole benefits me both as a fan and a retailer. I had plenty of customers
who really enjoyed Teen Titans # 1. Luckily I can safely show even the
younger readers Flash, Hawkman, or JSA when they tell me they enjoyed the
writing in Titans. I believe it strengthens each book to have some level
of consistency that we wouldn't otherwise see if he were writing four different
books for four companies. I'm all for these exclusive contracts."
David: "It's pretty self-evident. The pro are that the creators are
guaranteed work which, in the current environment, is a good thing. The
con is the creator can't work for any other publishers, narrowing their
opportunities and precluding them from working on other characters or perhaps
seeking better deals elsewhere as the market changes. I don't think it's
particularly beneficial for the fans, but to some degree it's one of those
things that really isn't the fans' business. Individual creators have to
do what they feel is right for them and their career."
Grayson: "I know from the freelancer's end, signing an exclusive is
one of the very few ways in this industry to get assistance with medical
coverage. That may not sound like such a big deal, but many of us have
families or ongoing health concerns (I'm a type one diabetic, for instance),
and to have to negotiate for medical benefits alone as a "small business
owner" ("How many in your company, miss?" -- "Um...just me...") can be
sometimes there's a natural flow to our work that makes an exclusive highly
practical. When I signed mine, I was dying to do more work on the X-Men,
but the X-Men: Evolution comic had just been canceled and two of the editors
I was planning other X-projects with were fired or left. I had ongoing
and time-consuming projects already in progress at DC and Wildstorm, and
a pitch that was perfect Vertigo material, so signing with DC for a year
made a lot of sense. I do sometimes miss having the opportunity to work
on non-DC projects, but overall, DC has always felt like family to me,
and I think being in a position where I know, for a while at least, where
my next paycheck is coming from has let me relax and concentrate on the
work. In this particular instance, I feel grateful for DC's vote of confidence
and support and very pleased with the deal."
Rosemann: "For certain creators, going exclusive with one publisher
can be very beneficial. A regular paycheck. health insurance and other
benefits are a wonderful thing...that's why we offer them to creators here
at CrossGen! And if a creator receives the support they need from their
employer, then that means they can concentrate on their work and create
a regular stream of comics...and that means more good reading for fans!"
Collins: "Exclusive contracts are more a way of companies thumbing
their noses at each other- a kind of 'yaa-boo, we've got'im, you can't
have him!'. Exclusives have been around forever, it's just that their profile
has been raised in these more publicity-conscious times. Having Grant Morrison
signing exclusive for DC is meant to make you think more about DC than
specifically what he'll do. Same with Bryan Hitch at Marvel- Marvel is
cool because they've got Big Bry, DC because of getting Grant.
I can imagine things are different for writers, and you'll be getting opinions
from them, but here's my thoughts:
an artist, doing more than one book a month isn't a realistic proposition
(with several honourable exceptions). If you've got a contract to work
on a book, it might as well be exclusive. During the 90s, I was on contract
with DC for the books I worked on but never went exclusive-- at the time
the advantages were medical and dental which would only have benefited
me if I'd caught a plane to NYC. I was able to do painting and illustrating
work on the side, so long as it didn't mess with my schedule. But that
stuff is all outside comics and wouldn't affect comics fans.
it beneficial to the fans? Again, Hot-Shot Artist X will only be drawing
that one book, so does it really matter if there's a 'lock-down' contract
on him? I know from the creative side, that there's a certain comfort to
knowing you're guaranteed an income for a year. In this business, the uncertainty
of where the next cheque is coming from prays on your mind. (and your bank
I was offered an exclusive, would I take it? Hell, yes!."
Chapman: "I guess that from a publisher's point of view, exclusive
deals make a lot of sense because of the sheer number of comics fans whose
loyalty lies with individual creators rather than characters. If you're
the only publisher putting out these creators' works, then you're the only
game in town, which no doubt boosts sales. Setting up exclusive deals is
also a good publicity angle which can be used to bring attention to a publisher's
deals aren't quite such a good thing for smaller publishers, as they cut
down the available pool of talent and rule out the opportunity to publish
niche projects that the mainstream publishers wouldn't touch. However this
does encourage smaller publishers to devote more time to nurturing new
and upcoming talent, maintaining a steady flow of new creators into the
industry, which can't be a bad thing.
to whether exclusive contracts are beneficial to the fans, it really depends
on what the fans are into. Assuming the average creator's workrate doesn't
drop when they get a deal, there will still be the same amount of material
available, so fans of a certain creator's art or writing style specifically
should be well catered for. The fans that will lose out are the ones who
are into characters created for other publishers, which will necessarily
be on hiatus until the contract expires, if not indefinitely.
impossible to state categorically that exclusive deals are a good or a
bad thing - they just seem to be the way the industry is going."
Jemas: "Many people work best in an environment where they can focus
on their work without worrying about/shopping for their next job. Writer
and artists in this frame of mind, may gravitate toward an exclusive deal
in which they give ups certain freedom and flexibility (that they may not
want anyway) in exchange for a steady work and "employee-style" benefits
like insurance coverage.
people work best in an environment that presents a stream of challenges
coupled with the promise of larger rewards for success. Creators who lean
in this direction strive for non-exclusive deals with relatively large
have not noticed any patterns that would indicate that the preference for
security or challenge is in any way related to the quality or type of work
that the creator produces. Some of us become more aggressive creatively
when we have our butts covered by an airtight contract - others become
somewhat complacent. Some of us grow timid when we get that "freelancer
in the wilderness" feeling - others are energized by the independence.
job is to make books that our fans love to read. This means that we have
to accommodate the legitimate desires of our creators for either kind of
people work best in an environment where they can focus on their work without
Grant: "Main advantage to the creator is that, on signing an exclusivity
contract, he/she receives a signing-on bonus, usually around $10--20,000.
Rumour--which has never been confirmed to me--is that one top creator received
a million-dollar bonus, only to find his hot new book cancelled within
the first year because of lack of sales.
offered me an exclusive contract a couple of times. Despite the allure
of the bonus, I never signed. Stupid as it might seem, my reason for turning
down the money was that it meant I'd no longer be able to write Judge Anderson
for 2000AD/Judge Dredd Megazine. Although I have no rights in Judge Anderson,
I really like the character.
advantage for the publisher is that an exclusive deal keeps a valued creator
from working for the opposition. However, it doesn't mean that the creator's
work for the exclusive publisher will ever see print. I know of at least
a couple of freelances who signed up for exclusive contracts, received
their bonuses, then found they were being paid (for up to a year) for not
writing/drawing anything at all.
don't think the system has any benefits at all for comic readers. It might
guarantee a favourite writer/artist on a favourite title for a certain
period--but the creators would probably have done it anyway, without the
exclusive contract. At the end of the day, it's the readers who--via hikes
to the cover price, extra adverts, loss of letters pages--pay for exclusive
Naso: "I think exclusive deals are extremely beneficial to fans and
to creators. I always hear all this bitching about how freelancers got
no job security; got no benefits. With contracts creators can score some
peace of mind for years. Depending on what's been agreed upon, they may
be able to get health insurance, finally put that down payment on the house
and partake in some 401fuckingK. And they deserve it.
comic fans the exclusive contract is a God send. When Grant Morrison signs
on that DC dotted line, he won't be able to Frank Quitely his next project
just because he suddenly gets an itch to do a Shatterstar and Rictor: Lost
Years mini for Marvel. Most comic creators are professionals and don't
jump ship in the middle of the story arc. But just in case, a contract
ensures they finish what they start.
only downside to contracts is that newly signed creators may have to suddenly
leave their current titles for other publishers, like Grant Morrison on
New X-Men and Greg Rucka on Wolvie. But as I mentioned, most creators are
professionals. Rucka had a verbal deal with Marvel to do 18 issues of the
'ol canucklehead and that's what he's gonna do. Hopefully fans appreciate
that kind of commitment and integrity. I know I do."
Alonso: "Exclusive contracts provide security for the publisher, and
security and gobs of cash for the talent, who agree, essentially, to limit
their options. They don't benefit fans -- unless, of course, those fans
are more obsessed with the 'politics' of the business than the work itself."
Moore: "I don't see exclusive contracts as anything new. I've always
thought of the business that way, probably because I just associated past
icons as being with a certain company, like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby with
Marvel, Curt Swan with DC, etc. The fans can benefit from creators who
can concentrate on their work with some job security, as opposed to hot
creators jumping titles every 6 issues to stay on some sort of new book
buzz. Honestly, it should be about the book, not about the creator. We
don't need creator stars, we need great books, and it takes more than 6
issues to get that. If getting a star to settle in at a company and crank
out work for a few years can get you that, why not?"
Buckingham: "Some Comic Creators adore exclusive deals. It can be a
really positive experience, with both creator and publisher making a solid
commitment to each other and fans can take comfort in seeing their favourite
team on a book for a long run. They can, however, be very restrictive creatively.
I personally have always been something of a restless spirit and constantly
wrestle with my need to experiment and evolve as an Artist. This means
that I can sometimes find my self-moving in a direction which feels inappropriate
for the title (or sometimes even publisher) to which I am currently attached.
At moments like that it is reassuring to know you have the freedom to move
quickly to a new home for your work. It has also worked well for me in
the past to work on two very different projects for different publishers
simultaneously in order to develop other aspects of my art, as well as
expand my repertoire in the business. I also think its a terrible shame
if a popular artist finds it impossible to even do a pin-up for another
company. The two page Alan Moore tribute strip I did with Neil Gaiman earlier
this year has profoundly affected my current attitude and approach to my
work, which in turn inspired a major leap in quality and artistic expression
on my regular Fables book. This would not have happened if i had been restricted
by an exclusive deal. In the end it all just boils down to security verses
artistic freedom. And as a comic reader I would rather see my favourite
writers and artists moving on to different projects and publishers if it
keeps them inspired and their work fresh."
Lemon: "Benefits to creators along the lines of job security, medical
insurance, a bit of stability...pretty good. Downside is that beyond the
standard contracted work (for writers, usually two books per month), there
is no guarantee of anything additional - until the time comes for you to
sign an extension, and if they want to keep you, you suddenly get a prestige
book, or a hardcover, or something (as related by more than one DC-exclusive
creator at Comics 2003 in Bristol)...the publishers do not have to deliver
on any pre-contract promises, the creators could, in theory, quickly get
into the mindset of it just being hackwork - saving their best ideas for
when the contract ends and they place a book elsewhere.
exclusivity promote the best work from a creator? Security does make one
lazy, that's for sure, maybe knowing where one's next pay cheque is coming
from lessens one's hunger? One stops taking risks? On the other hand, maybe
enforcing a strict monthly deadline forces the creator to produce the goods,
instead of working and reworking and reworking ad infinitum...it guarantees
monthly shipping to one's adoring public... Or maybe once a creator doesn't
have to worry about which book s/he will be working on for the next year,
they can concentrate on producing their best work?
it's horses for courses - it purely depends on the terms of the contract
and the sensibilities of the creator."
Donald: "The pros are obvious your favourite creators get guaranteed
pay and almost certainly you'll get to see their stuff regularly. And a
happy creator is a productive creator. If you like the stuff they're signed
up to do then it's a HUGE deal and very cool. Another big advantage is
that some creators take on too much work (for whatever reason) and miss
deadlines. On an exclusive contract with a regular wage a creator will
tend to work within their means and we won't have to wait months for things
that are running late.
cons…put it this way I'm a fan of the Batman Universe, I was a huge fan
of Chuck Dixon's work in the Bat Universe; I'm a 2000AD fan, I loved Jock's
and Andy Diggle's work in 2000AD; and I love what Grant Morrison did on
the New X-Men. Have I made my point? I'm not putting down the work they've
done or will do for other companies but f**k me I'm gonna miss what they
used to do."
Most of the Panel seem to think that exclusive contracts are a good deal
for creators as they bring stability, good pay, health deals etc. The Panel
is divided on what the benefits are for fans however.
Week's Panel: Mark Buckingham (Fables, Peter Parker: Spider-Man),
Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise), Axel Alonso (Editor, Marvel),
Alan Grant (Batman, Jude Dredd), Mark Chapman (Rebellion), Bill
Jemas (Marvel), Markisan (the current writer of All the Rage), Mike
Collins (Star Trek, 2000AD), Bill Rosemann (Publicist, Crossgen), Dave
Gibbons (The Watchmen, Martha Washington), Devin Grayson (Gotham Knights,
Nightwing), Peter David (Captain Marvel, Supergirl), Joe Quesada
(Editor in Chief, Marvel), Rick Shea (Manager of Famous Faces and Funnies
an enormous comic book retailer), Lee Dawson (publicist, Dark Horse),
Shawna Ervin-Gore (an editor at Dark Horse), Craig Lemon (Senior
Editor for Silver Bullet Comics, second in command for the site) and
Alan Donald (Columnist, SBC).
Week's Question: "Is Batman gay? Do you agree with people imposing
their own 'readings' on established characters?"
Shout: The Panel need your questions so email them into me at: [email protected].
to Come: Keep an eye on the message-board over the next week I'm going
to put up a list of every question the Panel has faced so far (neatly linked
to the column it appeared in) so you know what to avoid.
reserves the right to edit questions for reasons of consistency and inclusivity.
Have the Panel
gotten it right?
say on the hot topics of the day at the Panelology
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