Over the years I’ve reported a number of payment issues people have had with the comic industry. From Josh Hoopes to Rick Olney, Pat Lee to Roger Kee, CrossGen to Speakeasy, Devil’s Due to Zenescope, Chaos Comics to The Dabel Brothers. Late payments, partial payments, no payments, it can be a bit rubbish out there for a young, penniless freelances. And while exposing such problems can produce a lot of publicity, often it just doesn’t get those payments made. This is an attempt to try and not only present problems but solve them.
First up, a well known indie comics creator and comics prize winner. But a claim made, not against a deadbeat publisher, but against the creator himself. Kel Nuttall writes;
Four years ago I was hired to letter a miniseries. He had me sign a very “official” contract, I completed the work but was never paid. I was given the excuse that the book didn’t make any money, which should not have had any impact on my payment which was NOT a back-end deal.
The amount he owes me, just shy of $1,000 without any kind of fees or interest, which I’d surely be entitled to, isn’t huge compared to many of the others you’ve helped but I find it very unlikely I’m the only one.
Many projects, especially creator-owned titles, produced on the back end, the hope is that eventual profits will pay those concerned. But usually that covers the writer and artist, colourists and letterers are normally not on profit share or own any of the property and so its expected to pay them either upfront, or after the project has been published and any revenue received.
In my case, with Holed Up, Avatar paid the artist and letterer, but as I was on back end and owned the property, revenue was such that I received nothing. For Flying Friar, I again received nothing, neither did the artist Thomas Nachlik or the letterer/editor Thomas Mauer (he has a profit share on the book). With Civil Wardrobe, there were profits all round, $900 shared between me, the many artists and letterers (Mauer and Nachlik finally getting a pay cheque from me, however small) and with Watchmensch, Simon Rohrmuller and I split the $2000 we received).
But considering your original agreement which was not reliant on a back end deal, it seems you have been very understanding and patient. Over the four years repeated promises of payments were broken and you say that the creator claimed that he had no money and the all of his many projects were being drawn, colored and lettered by people who were working on back-end payments and that for one reason or another the projects didn’t make money.
But he does seem to have had a run of successful-ish books of late and was in receipt of a publishing prize.
He tells you he has not paid any other creator for their services, that you would be first in line if he could, and that any revenue goes to support his family. Something I can understand, but he should have paid some percentage of such an outstanding contractual debt over the four years.
You contacted the creator again recently, and he asked for a new invoice which you provided, but without an idea do when you’d get paid. After hearing of his win, you again inquired as to the situation to be told that he wanted to spend time with his family over the weekend and he’d get back to you the next week. Which he did not do.
Bleeding Cool contacted the creator to be told that he was now dealing with you and indeed he suddenly offered you $20 a month over four years. You aren’t happy with that, as you’ve already waited four years, but at least it is an offer and the creator has said he will increase it as and when circumstances allow. And I have decided not to name the creator at this point. If further payments aren’t forthcoming, that may change.
If you have a similar story, please contact Rich Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t guarantee to take on your case, or to arrive as a resolution you find satisfactory. I am not a lawyer, nor acting as one, and am no replacement for legal advice.
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