Since the pandemic, rumors have been circulating about the mainstream comic industry being in its final death throes. Several prominent comic book shops closed during the lockdowns, leading to a shakeup with distribution where both Marvel and DC Comics pulled out of their agreements with the monopolistic Diamond Distribution.
Two years later, it appears as if comic companies are having trouble paying for their contract labor.
Several midlist comic creators have taken to Twitter to complain about the current industry conditions, as many people have felt the pinch of inflation this year along with the current recession making it difficult to make ends meet.
One such creator is Marvel and DC creator Will Robson. He took to Twitter to complain about current employment conditions, stating, “Has it become industry standard to pay creators ridiculously late for their work? I’ve struggled ALL year with ALL the large companies I work for to get paid on the agreed time.”
He added, “I’m talking MONTHS late… it’s sad how nervous I am to even talk about this publicly in fear of being blacklisted for future work. But I’ve heard so many horror stories from other freelance creators recently about fighting for their paycheque and I need to vent this all out and hopefully raise some awareness to make serious change.”
He continues on a multi-tweet rant where he makes it clear it isn’t easy to survive as an artist in current-day conditions.
As he winds his tweet thread down he writes, “I work hard. I hit my deadlines. Pay me.” He then urges others to tell their stories of non-payment in the comic book industry before asking if comic book creators can unionize.
He tweets, “Does anyone actually know if comic creators can unionise? Would love some input from somebody who is educated in the subject. A union (much like the screen actors guild) would really put an end to all this and make this industry a lot safer to work in.”
Joe Quinones, who worked on Batman and Spider-Man, quote tweeted Robson, stating, “Waited recently over a full year on one publisher before getting paid and currently still awaiting payment, running on six months now from a second prominent publisher who has largely ghosted me relating to two separate cover I crafted for them last summer.”
Quinones would specifically call out Valiant Comics writing in a follow-up tweet, “The first publisher I won’t name because I believe it was an honest mistake. The second publisher is Valiant. Bloodshot & Archer & Armstrong covers I did just over six months ago. No payment. Largely no correspondence except to kick the can down the road. ‘We’re working on this’”.
Alex Garner, a character designer for Marvel Studios, also claims that Valiant “stiffed” him.
He wrote, “Valiant stiffed me too. Did a Bloodshot cover and they didn’t pay. Ignored all my follow up emails. Deadbeat publisher.”
Tara Phillips, whose clients include Disney and Lucasfilm, claimed, “I’ve been waiting months for a publishing company to pay me for two cover licenses (one payment going back as early as August).”
Delany King claims it happened to her for decades. She tweeted, “I am now pay in advance because of decades of this shit. You book my time and skills, you put down the money. Momma needs to eat.”
Shannon Wright also tweeted, “You’re unfortunately not alone. Currently dealing with this with an illustration job I did back in September where they just…didn’t process my payment. We shouldn’t have to hunt down the money we’re owed.”
Similar to Delaney King, Eoin Marron indicated this problem is systemic.
He tweeted, “Publishers dragging their feet on payments is a systemic problem in comics and I’m f***ing sick of it. I’ve had to take on some seasonal work in retail because of the financial lurch a book’s payment issues has left me in – just before Christmas, too, of all the times to do it.”
Erica Schultz also tweeted, “I’ve had issues with payment from publishers large and small. And, yes, the fact that you’re speaking out is harrowing. We all have that fear of, ‘What do I do?! I have bills to pay,’ etc. It’s important to get out there.”
Nathan Kempf claimed one publisher owes him $4,000.
He tweeted, “A specific publisher that I may not name owes me $1500, some of it is more than 60 days late. This time next week, they’ll be late on close to $4000. I’ve had to take on way more work than I can handle to try to make up financially, it’s a real struggle right now.”
Zayas also claimed he’s owed money. He tweeted, “I am right now in the same exact situation. Even considered recently quiting comics cause I cannot memtally continue like this. Still waiting to be paid for a 50 Page book I finished drawing un mid september for a medium/big publisher.”
Bleeding Cool also reports Zac Thompson in a now-deleted tweet wrote, “I’ve had two books completely fall apart this year because of late payments. One of which took me over a year of dedicated research to even script. Said publisher then optioned one of my books (without telling me or the team at the time) and still said they couldn’t pay. It’s December and a lot of creators are heading into Christmas with thousands owed to them and no real recourse to get paid for their work. It’s disgusting. It’s clear to me that our industry is in a state of huge transition and a lot of smaller publishers may not make it to the other side.”
Butch Mapa claims he’s dealt with late payments as well, “but nothing ridiculous.” He also praised IDW Publishing, Tapas, and Archie Comics.
This could be an indicator of the downfall of the comic book industry, which has been predicted over the past couple of years. With all of the other indicators showing struggles for the comic shop model, with the talent not getting paid in a timely manner, it causes massive credibility problems for comic publishers.
In 2020, definitive Green Lantern artist Ethan Van Sciver posited the comic industry would be dying very soon. “Comic books themselves have fallen into the hands of extremely irresponsible people in editorial and in publishing who have taken comics and turned them from a good, fun pastime, escapist fantasy into identity, political, evil, poisonous pamphlets that insult their own readers,” Van Sciver said at the time.
He added, “AT&T fired a BIG portion of their editorial staff in April and just this week they fired the rest of them, essentially. We understand from sources at this point that there are no editors at DC Comics anymore. There are the people who just used to get coffee, interns, people who aren’t making very much, people who are going to be running the company until it ends.”
With David Zaslav making even bigger cuts at Warner Brothers and DC Comics being a subsidiary of the company, bigger shakeups seem likely on the horizon. Still, the companies impacted most are those like IDW Publishing and Dynamite Entertainment, where they have to pay licensing fees for their properties on top of paying the creative talent.
If these companies are struggling financially to the point where they can’t make their payments on time, we could see a major industry-wide collapse in the near future.
What do you think of comic publishers not paying their talent? Leave a comment and let us know!