Business of Cartooning Tom Richmond

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

There’s also a list that breaks it down to what the different publishers pay at

Then there’s this list from

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…


Artists - Cartoonists Business of Cartooning Mike Wolfer Tom Richmond

Mike Wolfer on Fan art/Homage art

The following is good advice from fellow Kubert School alum Mike Wolfer.
Originally posted on his Facebook page.


I’ve seen seeing quite a few stories and posts concerning “fan art/ homage art” and the legality of selling works featuring characters created by others. To all of the artists out there who have a talent for drawing and are thinking of setting up a booth at comic conventions (or on eBay, or Etsy, or Redbubble, or anywhere else), here’s some easy rules of thumb:

1. If you’re a comic pro and are selling prints of your art featuring a company-owned character, and you’ve made arrangements with or have the approval of that publisher to sell your prints, you’re good.

2. If the above applies, except you do not have the publisher’s approval, you may one day be faced with a lawsuit, as Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich experienced.

3. If you’re a “fan artist” and are creating original works, from your own layouts, of characters owned by others, and you’re doing commissions (i.e. you draw a single piece and sell that single, original piece to a collector), that’s generally okay.

4. If the above applies but you’re reproducing that art and selling art prints in quantity, you’re looking for trouble.

5. If you’re a “fan artist” and you’re directly tracing/swiping/lightboxing others’ work, right down to duplicating their unique and recognizable styles, and you’re hiding being the despicable dodge that it’s an “homage” and that it’s an original piece of art because you changed a few colors here or there… If I can walk up to your booth and look at your art prints featuring the work of others and easily detect 20 different artists’ works, then you need to close up shop. In fact, convention organizers should not even allow you to purchase a booth in which you’re selling mass-produced forgeries. If you’re selling these prints on eBay, Etsy, Redbubble, etc., then you need to be reported, and I would heartily encourage anyone and everyone to do so.

As an artist, if I saw my original work copied and reproduced by someone else as art prints on display at their booth, and if they were taking credit for the work that I created and were making money from it- Let’s just say that there would be immediate and quite public consequences.

I hope that clears things up.

-Mike Wolfer



When it rains, it pours…
A recent post on Scott Shaw’s Facebook page.

I’ve been attending fan conventions since the World Science Fiction Con (WorldCon) in Berkeley, CA in 1968, so I’ve seen a lot of ’em. Lately, I’ve been noticing that at least 25% of the retailers’ floorspace at fan shows seems to be devoted to artists selling prints (for $5 to $20) of their work using countless famous characters that they don’t own and have never drawn professionally.

In an age where TeeFury can steal the concepts of others and sell T-shirts bearing immediately recognizable characters while using a loophole that keeps them out of court), I’d feel unethical selling prints of characters I’d never worked on. However, drawing prints featuring characters I have drawn professionally is merely self-promotion.

Commissions are original drawings for collectors and priced accordingly. But looking around the events I’ve been attending lately, I’m getting kinda sick of seeing vein-necked super-thugs, “sexy” female characters traced from porn photos and ADVENTURE TIME rip-offs. We get enough of those in mainstream comics drawn by professionals…which just shows how the lines of demarcation have become blurred like never before.

For more on the subject, check out former National Cartoonists Society President Tom Richmond’s take on this on his blog – Comic Con Print Hustlers.


Also his follow up, Parody and Copyright and Prints?

Artists - Cartoonists Tom Richmond

The Mad Art of Caricature

I’ve always admired people who can pull off caricatures. When done in public it’s performance art that could go horribly wrong if you exaggerate a person’s features to the point of insult. Just a couple weeks ago recent MCAD grad Kirsten Bonafield did an exceptional job of it at her table at SpringCon.

Kirsten Bonafield at SpringCon 2012

One of the masters of caricature is Tom Richmond – so much so in fact that Tom was recently voted Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist Society.

Tom Richmond in his studio giving a talk to my MCAD Pro Practice class.

If you haven’t picked it up yet I recommend Tom’s latest book, The Mad Art of Caricature. If you’re on the fence – here’s a preview…