The comic book industry holds a deep place in my heart. It has kept generations of people throughout the country and the world, not only entertained but has served to educate and expand artistic horizons.
Initially considered to be only a children’s hobby, the average age of American comic book buyers ranges from 18-45 years old; with a growing demographic of young, female readership. The Industry is growing in both content and audience which should be something that companies, as well as the fandom, should and deserve to celebrate.
However, there is a concern amongst various creators; the talented artists and writers that work so diligently to produce comics- both independently and in the mainstream- that their compensation should reflect all the hard work they put into their comic books.
Freelance comic book artists and writers work hours upon hours to make comics. They are paid based on an agreed-upon page rate with a company or individual people that want a comic book published. Page rates can range from the double digits to the triple, (and rarely the quadruple), digits.
In my experience as a publisher, due to the higher standard of living, American page rates are higher than their overseas counterparts, which often prices out up and coming artists and writers as contenders for jobs throughout the industry for both independent and mainstream companies. From a business standpoint, due to set budgets, companies have every right to get a bang for their buck when it comes to whatever services they need.
Nevertheless, there are many artists and writers throughout the country that are taking pay cuts, working net 90, and agreeing to contracts that are sometimes not to their benefit; all because they need the work. There are also instances of non-payment and worries of being replaceable in an industry where there are thousands of Artists and Writers hungry for work. A healthy dose of competition doesn’t hurt anyone- until competitors are continually asked to lower their page rates in order to determine who will be hired for a job.
As the Founder and Coordinator of Women in Comics Collective International, helping female creators is my focus. Women across all industries make less than their male counterparts and with that in mind, our members are encouraged to propel themselves forward by taking an overview of their basic and most important financial needs and apply that to their current or desired page rate. Many of them have families and responsibilities on top of more responsibilities; an increase in wage would be beyond beneficial; as the price of living grows, it’s now necessary.
Some of our members find themselves juggling multiple, large projects in order to make ends meet in addition to working a regular 9 to 5 job. I both admire and worry about them. For those members, their hearts are with comics, but their households still need food on the table. It can be quite a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be.
The power is in our hands; as colleagues and industry hiring professionals we can help change the way our Artists and Writers are paid so that it benefits everyone involved. Instead of page rates perhaps a set hourly wage or annual salary/stipend can be given to artists and writers who are contracted to be on call, or a standard page rate for both new hires and industry veterans for each company based on size, revenue, and budgets.
There are plenty of ideas that can be brought to the table on how we can increase wages while still keeping comic books affordable and companies in the black. Happy employees make happy companies and in an industry whose history is based in entertainment, we shouldn’t expect anything less.
Support better payment practices: Sign the petition to pass the Freelance Isn’t Free Act.