Sean Murphy recently posted about his decision to discontinue using licensed characters in prints, sketchbooks, or convention sketches/commissions. Most people into comics have heard about Marvel successfully countersuing Gary Friedrich and getting $17000 out of a man without those kinds of funds.
There have recently been articles like on Bleeding Cool concerning worries that this is the tip of the iceberg, and Marvel and DC will decide to go after convention exhibitors for using unlicensed depictions of their copyrighted characters.
Convention sketches, commissions, prints, and sketchbooks have been a part of the industry forever. It’s been an unspoken means of artists avoiding side jobs and padding their yearly income. The comic industry pays TERRIBLY. Few artists get exclusive contracts, and even at the ‘Big Two’ artists don’t see very good benefits, profit sharing, or retirement plans. The plan is normally ‘don’t spend much money, save a bit, and pray you don’t get sick.’
Commissions have saved many artists, look at Steve Rude, other artists who need to pay for their hospital bills, etc. Comic artists live on a deadline, and the stress, lack of good eating, and sitting in one places for 18 hour days of working take their toll quickly.
Sean Murphy had printed copies of his ABC Wolverine book last year. When I was at Heroes Convention he got the orders to close shop on that. Which is a shame. But I understand the legal reasoning. I know I can’t make an unlicensed Muppets book, or anything Disney, so in many ways the comic industry has cut a lot of slack.
The only guys I’ve ever really heard before all this hoopla getting in any trouble was Adam Hughes having to stop selling litho prints.
I’m in the ‘wait and see how things play out’ mode. I’m not saying things won’t get bad, but I’m hesitant to say if they will just continue how they’ve been going. Like Sean Murphy said it’s a gamble. You can continue to do it, and if you’re the one who gets caught…sucks to be you!
I’ve gone through an unwinnable situation in the past year, so I’m inclined to shorten my convention schedule and watch my step. That’s my PERSONAL choice. For one thing, I haven’t been making enough money at most conventions to make them even worthwhile, another thing is I have to work hard for every dollar I make now. I really can’t throw it away.
Life is tough for most of us right now. It’s a sad truth. I’d love to be making comics, but the pay isn’t worth the stress to make ends meet to be completely honest.
That’s what’s at the heart of this issue. IF the companies were to start clamping down on conventions for unlicensed use of their characters, they’d be taking out a MAJOR source of income for their own stable of artists, as well as many others. For a lot of male and female artists, convention money is as close to health insurance as they have. There would be few people able to afford to make comics, and support themselves, LET ALONE complete families.
Normally I’d say this is sensationalist thinking, airing on paranoid level caution. But the comic industry is dangerous, they’ve shown recently they are willing to cut off their nose to spite their face. Without the ability to draw major characters as sketches at conventions, why would people want to come to conventions? How would that affect the overall numbers? Would conventions fall apart? Would this affect the industry as a whole? Conventions are one of the last tools to gain any sort of interest for casual readers. Getting to meet the artists that make the books, or getting to have them make a sketch of a character they’ll never get to work on. That’s what creates the joy in convention art.
I’d like to think Marvel and DC would gather enough sense to drop the issue. But as we’ve seen with other corporations such as the movie industry, antiquated business practices have led these ‘giants’ to cling desperately onto what ‘once was,’ rather than adapting to what is ‘now.’ The movie industry, rather than making better products, relies on new laws to protect their income. I guess ultimately time will tell on how this matter resolves itself. But it’s always good to understand the law and know how to protect yourself if you do decide to continue convention sketches.
Yeah, me and interpunkt were talking about this last night.
The comic book industry can crack down on people doing this when they pay their artists a livable wage and provide things like health care.
Most comic book artists do not get paid what you’re supposed to be getting paid for their freelance work. They work ridiculous hours with heinous deadlines and placed in situations that are tenuous month to month with little support. They are freelance so the little that they make is also freakishly over taxed under self-employment.
Ever wonder why you see an artist you really like, that’s really awesome and suddenly they drop off the face of the planet? It’s not surprising that savvy artists end up moving into other industries that pay better (graphic design, video games, movies, advertising, cartoons).
Have a lot of thoughts on this, but on deadlines right now (see reference above about ridiculous amount of time comics take to make). Filing away for later commenting/appropriate research, but the knee-jerk reaction is—I wonder if the counter-lawsuit was to set an example, rather than stop everyone ever from drawing licensed characters at conventions?… Just in case people were wondering how the power balance works in the industry >_>;;