September 2010


I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, because I think it’s a topic that a lot of creators in my position or around my level (getting projects together but still nowhere near a Bendis or Johns or Loeb level) would be interested in.  In a word: contracts.  Most projects in the comics world are collaborations between a team of creators – at minimum, a writer and an artist, but often that can expand to include a team of artists (penciler, inker and colorist), a letterer and sometimes a graphic designer/logo artist/layout person.  While some super-talented people can do all of that themselves, it’s more common to spread that work out among a group.

The issue with that approach is that once the finished work is created, there’s a question as to who owns it.  I see that as working in most cases in one of three ways:

1. Certain projects will have a project leader, so to speak, who hires everyone, pays all the money out of his or her own pocket and retains all the rights to any future profits that the book might generate (as miniscule as they inevitably may be.)  This seems to happen most often where you have a writer-driven project, where a writer’s hiring a team to put his vision together.

2. Other times, projects are done in a collaborative way, where people on the team all either work for free or for less than they would charge if they weren’t getting rights in the book’s future profits, and everyone gets a share of those profits, agreed upon in advance. (Say, writer gets 50%, penciler gets 35%, inker and colorist each get 7% and letterer gets 1% – I just made up those percentages, so don’t take them as gospel, and no angry emails from inkers, please.)

3. And sometimes, things are just done with out any of that being worked out in advance, in a total mess.  Maybe the penciler gets paid a little for their work, but the inker doesn’t, but the letterer does, and then the book gets picked up by a publisher, and then optioned for a movie, and everyone thinks they’re entitled to part of the option fee, but nothing’s on paper so no one really knows who owns the project… this happens all the time, much more often than it should.

The ideal situation to my mind is either (1) or (2) – no matter how you apportion the rights, pay and profits, they SHOULD be apportioned.  It doesn’t take much effort to put together a simple agreement to lay out the ownership on a project, and it can be crucial down the road.  One publisher I’ve worked with insists that all people who work on a book have a contract or agreement that clearly lays out where everyone stands before they’ll even consider moving forward.  Fortunately, I agree with that policy, and had all of that in place to provide to them.

I’m envisioning this as a multi-part series that will give the indie comics guys out there some guidance on how to put together agreements with other people they work with.  I happen to be fortunate (?) enough to have some pretty solid background in this area, so I hope I can help out a little bit.  Anyway, enough for the first installment, and more to come at some point soon.

So… just over a month from the release of my Image book 27, and things are kicking into gear somewhat.  I’ve done some interviews, I’ll be signing some promotional stuff at New York Comicon in a few weeks, and things look decent so far.  The few advance reviews I’ve gotten have been very positive – but really, none of that matters until and unless people buy the book and dig it.  From a career perspective, it also matters if they talk about it.  But those are things I have little control over – the book’s done, it looks great and reads as well as I was able to make it read, so that’s that.

The solicitation and cover for Issue 2 just came out.  I’m not sure whether I’ve posted this up here before, but here you go:

Spooky beautiful cover for 27 Issue #2, in stores December 8.

That, as is the case with the rest of the covers for the series, is the brilliant work of Scott Forbes.  As I mention above, this one will hit stores on December 8.  It’s the issue of the series I’m most nervous about, for reasons that I’ll discuss after it comes out.  I’m very proud of it, but it goes to some interesting places, and I hope readers go there with me.  It’s the setup for the ride that comes in Issues 3 and 4 – like the anticipatory haul up that first big hill on a roller coaster before the insanity to follow.

Speaking of music (27′s a music-related book, remember?), I had a gig last night with a few musicians I’ve been playing with for years and years.  One, my regular drummer, I’ve worked with for more than a decade, which is wild.  It was a jazz trio gig – me on guitar, along with bass and drums.  These are both musicians who have done almost everything a working musician in NYC can aspire to – they’ve toured on other people’s dime, played gigantic venues, made notable recordings, hung out with famous artists (myself not included), just about everything except being massively famous themselves.  It should go without saying that they’re also both amazing players.  I’m a little spoiled for musical talent living in New York City – there are musicians on every corner who would be the best player in their entire state if they lived almost anywhere else, who can sometimes go begging for work.  It’s wild and wonderful at the same time.

Anyway, I love working with these guys – we don’t have to think when we play, we just sort of follow each others’ leads – all the cliches, I know.  They certainly elevate my playing, without any doubt whatsoever.  It’s a blast.

But over the last few gigs, both guys mentioned to me separately that they’re thinking of either quitting music or scaling it back to a huge degree.  It was sort of an “I’m getting older, and gigging is starting to be a chore that I don’t want it to be” kind of sentiment.  That’s some sobering business right there, and I’m still trying to process it.  I love music – I’ve been playing it since I was three and writing it pretty seriously for more than fifteen years.  Music has brought immense amounts of joy to my life.  I haven’t done everything these guys I’m talking about have done, but I’ve done a lot – more than my share, even.  I can understand where my bandmates (and friends, of course) are coming from – dragging yourself out to some stupid party to play low-volume, accessible jazz isn’t always the best gig in the world – but it just bums me out a little.  Music is music, and the idea that one day I might not get from it what I get today bothers me.  Music seems like it should transcend typical barriers to enjoyment.  I might get sick of playing the same song over and over again, but there are always new songs, and new ways of playing them.  But if it can happen to these guys…

I’ll just keep playing shows and writing stories – we’ll see how it goes.

I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about this project in the future, but just to get things rolling, here’s a non-final version of the pitch cover for Strange Attractors, from the magnificent Dan Duncan:

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