Mark Millar Suggests Radical Plan To Save The Comic Book Industry
Mark Millar has been jolting the comic book industry and trying to wake them up from their stupor over the last several months while it’s been slowly dying.
Retail shops have been closing in record numbers, other stores are voicing their frustrations that Marvel and DC don’t even seem to care about their products anymore, and Millar has been out on the front lines voicing his ideas to save mainstream comics.
In an X thread this Thursday, Millar expanded upon points he’d already brought up while on the interview circuit earlier this year on YouTube channels like Thinking Critical, laying out the business realities.
“I don’t have any skin in this game as I’ve worked elsewhere for a long time, but I’ve got a lot of pals at Marvel and DC & hate to see them struggling like this,” Millar prefaced.
He added, “I offer this advice in good faith in a bid to help super-charge both freelance deals & the corporations themselves…”
“It’s crass to talk money, but it’s also shocking that the people writing and drawing the top books are earning a FRACTION of what my peers and I earned on those titles 15 years ago,” he went on, noting, “I made $1,000 a page plus royalties, but I’m hearing from guys on $90 a page and that’s criminal.”
Millar proceeded to point out, “Now the comic market has collapsed in the past 5 years and these companies have less money to pay staff and freelancers, but what I’m proposing is really simple economics and could massively help them both get in the black again. Are you ready?”
“They don’t have the money at the moment to jack up their page rates, but it would cost them literally zero if they revolutionised their royalty deals,” he explained.
“Given that just a handful of Marvel and DC books sell over 50,000 copies a month this means almost no royalties are paid out,” the comic book writer asserted. “The number is almost abstract and as sales decline this seems to be a race to the bottom in terms of talent they can afford.”
Millar would then proceed to lay out a series of ideas that could potentially help get the comic book industry back on track, proposing, “My suggestion is that if ONE of these companies swaps that 2% royalty for a FIFTY-FIFTY split with the creative team on all sales over, say, 60,000 copies they will send a bolt of electricity through the industry and bring in the most commercial freelancers in the biz again.”
“A creator can make decent money on even a modestly selling creator owned book, but it would be absolutely dwarfed by a 50% split on X-Men or Spider-Man with sales taken into the stratosphere,” he explained.
Millar added, “They could make literally millions per year again for both both company and talent.”
“The beauty of this is that it would cost the Big 2 nothing as it’s zero fiscal outlay upfront,” the comic book writer added. “The double-win is that they’re getting 50% of a potentially HUGE number instead of a spiral to the depths where they are right now.”
“Freelancers, of course, would be delighted as their earning potential would spike overnight and as the companies balance the books again they could start to invest in proper page rate and much-needed new talent,” Millar hypothesized.
“As is, I think the direct market is a couple of years away from complete collapse,” Millar warned. “American-made comics are 9% of the American market, which is insane. It needs radical surgery to fix it and this would cost nothing.”
He went on, “All the indie companies are hurting because nobody’s coming in for Marvel or DC books anymore,” adding, “Every day we hear about more stores closing.”
Giving creators skin in the game seems like a very sensible idea. It doesn’t cost the companies anything up front, and top creators are incentivized to provide their best work when they can gain more off the process.
As it stands now with the page rate system, even the best creators are known to phone in a lot of their work because they aren’t going to get anything on the back end with work for hire.
In an effort to get the attention from the Big Two, Millar went further and tagged C.B. Cebulski and Jim Lee; Marvel’s Editor-in-chief and DC’s Chief creative officer, respectively.
“Interesting thread for ya [Jim Lee] & [C.B. Cebulski]! You know I love you both, but whoever does this first is going to see a talent migration like never before,” Millar wrote on X.
He then encouraged, “This would be MASSIVE and cost WB and Disney literally zero! Be the first!!!”
This is why you see writers like Jonathan Hickman craft such beautiful stories when he works on his creator-owned property “East Of West” as opposed to, in comparison, leaving X-Men a complete mess without even finishing the storyline when he works for Marvel.
Fans are left in the dust when these sorts of situations arise with their beloved characters — making customers leave comic shops for good each time a poor job is done on Spider-Man, Batman, or any of the major brands, because they feel like the characters have been irreparably destroyed.
Millar might be barking up the wrong tree in thinking that these giant corporations that own Marvel and DC even care about the current comics, or have any incentive to save the direct market, as most of their revenue seems to be coming from film and video games these days anyway.
The direct market floppy comics are a dying relic of a lost age of entertainment.