When a comic publisher signs up a creator to an exclusive deal, meaning they can only work for them… or rather, not work for the direct competition, there is often a press release. A little bit of bragging. A certain “we’ve got them, and no one else has, nya nya nya nya nya”.
But when an exclusive contract is not renewed, there is very little mention. Sometimes people only find out months, years after the contract has ended. That’s the natural way of things.
But of late I’ve been aware of far more exclusive contracts ending than beginning. Both at Marvel and DC, the word has come from on high that the exclusive deal, guaranteeing a creator a guaranteed amount of work, at a negotiated high pay price along with employment perks, is to be – if not dropped – then reduced.
The move began last year when certain creators found that they were being moved onto books that would justify the extra expense of an exclusive contract more, leaving the books they actually wanted to draw, behind.
And now that extra expense is getting harder and harder to justify.
And for some creators, turning down other opportunities is getting harder to justify as well.
Shane Davis, the artist on the Superman Earth One books is no longer an exclusive. He was offered one, but turned it down. He still has plenty of work at DC, including the continuing Earth One books, but he can now seek work elsewhere. Such as a series of covers for Marvel, the first in June.
He joins a number of creators who people expect to be DC exclusives suddenly… not being. However, unlike Shane, that doesn’t seem to be their choice. Either way, the exclusive count is dropping significantly at both Marvel and DC.
This is not the death knell for the exclusive contract. DC and Marvel will sign up the very biggest names, and will no doubt try to grab them from their competition. In fact I understand DC may be doing something like that very publicly, very shortly. But the Pokemon style, gotta exclusive them all, is going away, fast.
One benefactor of that is Valiant, who has signed up a number of talent from Marvel and DC, the kind that once upon a time would have been favourites for exclusive contracts.
You might want to keep an eye on the like of Boom, Dark Horse and Dynamite as well…