Ted’s Dad Dies

A little behind the scenes on today’s Sally Forth strip.

First, Francesco Marciuliano’s script for this strip.

Scene: ONE PANEL. Interior, Hospital Hallway. Same Day. Long shot down the Palliative Wing Hallway. In the distance we see Ted and his mom hugging. They are crying but we don’t see really see their faces or any cartoon tears.

Original art.

Dot screen and lettering done digitally in Photoshop.

Color specification mirror inks.

The decision for the halo of light around Ted and his Mother was decided on as I had already done a hallway scene on October 22 where I tried to convey how you can feel all alone in a crowded hallway.

For the November 6th strip with Ted and his Mom I didn’t want to show the hallway completely empty (hospitals never are), but at the same time how the rest of the world goes away at that moment.

Hopefully it read that way for the readers as well.

Francesco has given me a lot of leeway on how to portray these scenes throughout.
I appreciate the trust he has in me in doing so, and hope the decisions I made in the illustrations did the story he beautifully crafted justice.

-Jim Keefe

Posted in Francesco Marciuliano, Sally Forth | Tagged | Leave a comment

Comics – Pricing your Work


Scrooge McDuck by Carl Barks

I get asked a lot what’s a decent page rate for comic book work.

First off, it’s hard for me to price a project blind without knowing the specifics. It’s like a building contractor making an estimate before coming out to see the work site, or figuring out a fair price on a used car without looking under the hood.

Generally, if it’s a small press publisher that is printing limited copies the page rate will be low. If it’s a bigger publisher with a larger circulation the page rate should reflect that. There is no standard in that regard.

To cut to the chase, here’s what the Graphic Artist Guild currently lists.

Writing (Plot & Script) $75-120
Painted Art $200-750
Pencil Art $100-400
Ink Art $75-300
Lettering $40-50
Coloring $100-150

Then there’s this list from Time.com.

CEO – high end
Isaac Perlmutter (Marvel Entertainment’s CEO) worth $3.9 billion
Diane Nelson (President of DC Entertainment) worth $16.6 million.

Comic Book Creator  – high end
Stan Lee (Marvel Comics) worth $40 million
Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead) worth $20 million

Associate Editor at Marvel Comics: $38,000-$41,000 a year.
A more senior editor at DC Comics can make up to $84,000 a year.

Salaried gig: $55,000
On a project basis:
Script outline $20 and $100 at the bigger publishers.
Script/dialogue $80 and $100 at the bigger publishers.

Comic Book Artist
The median comic book artist salary is $36,500

Starting rates at Marvel and DC: $160 to $260 per page.

$75 to $100 per page.

$20 and $121 per page

$10 and $25 per page


Now for the long answer…

The best way to move forward is to be as informed as possible.
A starting point is the Graphic Artist Guild’s Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.

The Graphic Artists Guild also has a handy website with Tools & Resources that offer a wealth of valuable information, such as…

The Letter of Agreement
Writing Your Own Contract: Pre-Contract Checklist
Negotiate That Contract

Remember your bedrock is a good contract, as the following video will attest.
Mike MonteiroF*ck you, Pay me

Now… if you’re new to the business and just starting out, you’re chomping at the bit just to get published – Do not undervalue yourself. If you’re not careful you’ll set a precedent and never get paid what you’re worth.

Here’s some advice from the grumpy old man to a certain type of client…


Remember that part of negotiating a contract is breaking down for the client what the work entails and your worth and ability in providing this. You want to be in a position that the client knows he’s making a good investment for what he’s paying.

Tom Richmond (past NCS president and Mad Magazine artist) gave the following advice to an MCAD class I was teaching.

You’re not pricing your work based on the time you spent on it, but the rights you’re giving away. And if someone wants you to work for free claiming the work they are offering will be “good exposure” – remember, people die from exposure.

And from Nick Ubels: When to Say No to Unpaid Gigs

The balance between the value of exposure and compensation, experience and pay is contested in every creative field. For those of us who want to make it in journalism, we’re asked to commit time and energy to unpaid internships and supposedly career-advancing “opportunities” that are to our benefit. And frankly, unpaid labour is hugely beneficial to the companies providing said opportunities.

This is nothing new. To some extent, internships and volunteer experience have always been a part of these freelance-driven industries. But there comes a point at which an exchange of money for services needs to enter the equation.

What you always have in your corner when negotiating a contract is the power to decline and walk away – especially if the payment is inadequate. This should be done professionally with your “business hat” on so you don’t burn bridges – not your “artist hat” that wants to punch those bastards (who want something for nothing) in the face.

Recommended Link: 15 Ways to Negotiate Better Rates of Pay – by Jim Thacker.

Along those lines, here’s Harlan Ellison with a few choice words…


Work for Hire

A lot of comic book freelance is working on established characters under a Work for Hire contract where the artists rights are signed away and the client becomes the legal owner and author of the work.

Once again, Tom Richmond

Illustration groups like the Graphic Artists Guild and the Society of Illustrators rightly disdain WFH agreements and widely suggest illustrators refuse to work under WFH agreements. That makes sense in a perfect world, but sometimes in the real world a WFH agreement is a necessary evil.

I think you have to realistically assess the amount of risk you are taking in doing a WFH job compared to not doing it.

For much more info on Work for Hire, check out Work for Hire – The Fallout.

Back End Deals

Another popular tactic to pay the artist very little (or even get the work for free) is the bait of a possibility of money on the back end through royalties, licensing and merchandise.

From Colleen Doran in regards to “back end” deals.

You’re gambling that your work will be popular enough to pay for things the publisher does not pay up front. Most of the time, that’s a losing bet.

I have accepted work like this myself in the past and it has never panned out favorably. Looking back, I also feel I ended up producing less than stellar work – partly because I couldn’t devote the time I would have liked (as paying work had to take precedence) – but also because psychologically it ended up getting under my skin that my work was not valued enough by the client that he deemed it worth payment.

If you do decide to accept work like this, see it for the gamble it is. It’s never anything to bank on.

And keep the following in mind…



If you’re looking for more info and resources for cartoonists, check out my previous post, the Business of Cartooning

All for now – deadlines looming…


Posted in Business of Cartooning, Tom Richmond | Leave a comment

Inktober 2017: Week 2

“Every October, artists all over the world take on the Inktober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month.”
Jake Parker

Just did a couple this week. Hope to do better next week…
(click on images to see larger.)

October 9, 2017

Black Cat for Halloween (courtesy of King Features Editor Ealish Waddell). Pro White on whisker touch ups and the like. Listened to some Krzysztof Penderecki while inking (on Katherine Blodgett’s recommendation).


October 10, 2017

Mike Ploog inspired Man-Thing. Strathmore sketch paper. Inked with a Isabey Red Sable Round Brush, size 2. Touch ups with white opaque watercolor.


October 15, 2017

This one wasn’t drawn on October 15th, instead it’s a panel from the Sally Forth 10/15 Sunday page. For the full Sunday page, check out SallyForth.com.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d like to “refrain from posting any sequential art from Sally Forth for Inktober.” Well, I threw that rule under the bus pretty quick.

I find a crow quill nib is best for small details like this. And for secondary characters it’s always whatever randomly pops into my head. Like the guy right in front of Ted is loosely based on actor Anthony Anderson.

I must have just watched Black-ish.

All for this week’s inktober – hope you stay tuned for more!

-Jim Keefe

Posted in Ramblings & Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Inking Sally Forth

Video of a sketchbook drawing I did that was a giveaway prize at Doc Schaefer’s 24-hour comics day challenge 2017.

Posted in Ramblings & Reviews, Sally Forth | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Inktober 2017: Week 1

“Every October, artists all over the world take on the Inktober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month.”
Jake Parker

I didn’t do one every day, but here’s a few I’ve done so far…
(click on images to see larger.)

October 1, 2017

Using fashion shots off Pinterest for reference. Surface is Strathmore sketch paper. Inked with a Isabey Red Sable Round Brush, size 2.

October 2, 2017

Strathmore sketch paper. Inked with a Isabey Red Sable Round Brush, size 2. Lightboxed the face as I wanted to spend my time on the inking (especially the hair). Many thanks to Olivia Johnson for letting me use her as reference!

October 4, 2017

Howard the Duck. Strathmore sketch paper. Inked with a Isabey Red Sable Round Brush, size 2. A little Presto correction pen white out for touch-ups.

October 6, 2017

I’m going to refrain from posting any sequential art from Sally Forth for Inktober – but here’s the drop panel for an upcoming Sally Forth Sunday page (the space on the top I left blank for the Sally Forth title lettering). It’s an establishing shot of the Forth household. The house is mostly inked with rapidographs with the trees done with a crow quill pen nib, then a brush for larger black areas.

October 7, 2017

1930s Superman flying over a 2017 Minneapolis skyline. Strathmore sketch paper. Inked with a Isabey Red Sable Round Brush, size 2. Details on the eyes with a crow quill pen point. Rapidograph and brush for buildings.

October 8, 2017

The Joker (1930s version). Brush and crow quill – finishes with a razor blade (naturally). To get in the mood, had the following background music…
30 Minutes of Dark Suspense Scary Creepy Horror Music

All for now – hope you stay tuned for more!

-Jim Keefe

Posted in Ramblings & Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Southwest Journal Interview

Here’s an interview I did recently for our neighborhood paper the Southwest Journal focusing on how I reference local locations for use in the Sally Forth strip.
On the Comics Page, Scenes from Minneapolis

For the blog post where I used Digs Studio for reference, check out:
Scouting Locations – Small Wonders Gift Shop

For Comic College check out:
Comic Book College is Moving

Other locations around Minneapolis I’ve used include…

Hillary’s school – based on Washburn High School

Augsburg College’s Campus

The Riverview Theater

Uptown – right where Magers and Quinn is located.

That’s all the locations I could think of off the top of my head. If I remember more I’ll be sure to post them.


Unabashed plug time!

If Sally Forth isn’t in your local paper you can check it out online at…


A yearlong subscription to all of King Features’ comics (new and vintage) plus ten years worth of archives for every single strip is a pittance at $19.99 a year. Unsure? Try a 7 day trial subscription for free.

Posted in Sally Forth | Tagged | Leave a comment

Inktober Sketch 10/1/2017

Using fashion shots off Pinterest for reference.
The drawing surface is Strathmore Sketch paper.
Inked with a Isabey Red Sable Round Brush, size 2.

Posted in Ramblings & Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment