Business of Cartooning Steve Bissette

Work for Hire – The Fallout

2013: Man of Steel - Budget alone: $225 Million
2013: Man of Steel – Budget alone: $225 Million
1938: $130 check from DC to Siegel &  Shuster signing over  the exclusive rights to Superman.
1938: $130 check from DC to Siegel & Shuster signing over the exclusive rights to Superman.

For more on that check (which recently sold at auction for $160,000), see Andy Khouri’s piece on the Comics Alliance blog.

From the Graphic Artist Guild:

Work For Hire:
For copyright purposes, “work for hire” or similar expressions such as “done-for-hire” or “for-hire” signify that the commissioning party is the owner of the copyright of the artwork as if the commissioning party has, in fact, been the artist. Work for hire strips you not only of the rights but of authorship; the buyer is the author under the law.

The Graphic Artists Guild is unalterably opposed to work for hire contracts.


For most of my professional career I have worked under work for hire contracts. When you work on a character that a company owns all the rights to – like DC, Marvel, King Features – that’s the deal.

Having gone to the Kubert School, Joe Kubert’s advice was to go in with your eyes wide open – understand what you’re signing and use the recognition of working on an established character as a foot in the door for other work. Unfortunately, understanding what you’re signing does not take away from how one-sided these contracts are.

Former National Cartoonist Society president and Mad Magazine artist, Tom Richmond has an in-depth blog post on the subject in which he states:

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 Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing, Tyrant, Taboo, and current instructor at The Center for Cartoon Studies) a picture is worth a thousand words.

Click on the cartoon to read more of Bissette’s thoughts on the subject.


With the current crop of movies being released, there’s been a steady stream of properties owned by DC (Time Warner) and Marvel (Disney) making record profits. The Avengers global box office alone has been over one billion dollars.

The Avengers - $1 Billion In Global Box Office Grosses.

Under work for hire, the artists who created these characters don’t receive a penny.

Steve Bissette and James Sturm’s response to this unfair practice, in particular to how comics legend Jack Kirby was treated, is to stop rewarding the corporations that do this by boycotting their products.

Update: In September of 2014 a Settlement was reached between Marvel and the Jack Kirby Estate.

The following is a list of cautionary tales, from the creators of Superman on down…

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

More Artists/Creators

And last but not least…

The take away from all this as a freelancer? Know your rights and know your options. If you want to work in this profession you have to learn the business side of the industry so as not to be taken advantage of.



For more info – including contracts, self-publishing and other resources – you can check out my previous post: The Business of Cartooning.

Al Williamson Business of Cartooning Sally Forth

Homage or Swipe?

Okay, here’s the deal from my vantage point – and a heads up to newcomers in the field.

If you are copying or lifting a drawing from another artist and not giving that artist credit, that’s a swipe. If you do give them credit it’s an homage.

And giving credit is a very simple thing to do. Just write the word, “after” – then the artist’s name.

Here’s an example. On the left is Al Williamson’s original drawing – and on the right my drawing with the accompanying credit line.


Here’s another one. Mark Schultz using a mirror image of a Williamson pose – then putting the credit line in reverse as well.


Last but not least, Joe Jusko after John Buscema.


A credit line is a tip of the hat to the hard work another artist has done which you are standing on the shoulders of. And generally speaking, artists get enough crap without getting ripped off by other artists (see Rob Granito). Give credit where credit is due.

And speaking of credit…

The Schultz image I grabbed off the blogspot ilovecomiccovers. There are lots more side by side comparisons to be had there – go check them out.

And for more of Jusko’s work, check out

Business of Cartooning Conventions

Convention Prep – AHHHHH!!!


Here’s some quick tips and reference links in regards to working a comic convention.

Working the Floor

  • You are there to promote yourself, so have business cards and submission samples on hand. Business cards should have a web address to pages with an online portfolio, not a site where you reblog other people’s stuff.
  • Remember that your primary goal is making contacts, not soliciting work. Publishers are primarily there to hawk their wares so they may not necessarily even have anyone on hand to look at portfolios. Have a mailer/submissions package ready to drop off if they don’t and try to get contact info regarding their submissions editor.
  • Understand that “cold calling” publishers at their booth can be very hit or miss. Research the publishers that are on hand. Do your submissions suit the kind of work they publish? If not, don’t waste their time or yours.
  • Keep it professional, upbeat and friendly. Also, be prepared to be talking to people working the floor who are of no help – take it in stride and move on to the next person who possibly could be of help. The more prepared you are for the realities of working the floor (which can be very draining), the less chance the experience will take the wind out of your sails.
  • Research the artists in Artists Alley before the con as a lot of time can be wasted wandering aimlessly – hunt out artists who have a style or area of business that you have an interest in. Understand that there’s usually more time for shop talk in Artists Alley than a signing booth. Also don’t expect an artist to be on your schedule – if there’s a long line and she/he is busy, you may have to circle back.

Working Artists Alley:

  • Do a dry run where you set up your table beforehand at home to make sure it works for you and you have everything you need. The webcomics reality game show Strip Search had an episode where they had contestants set up a convention table and then critiqued them – some good points were driven home.
    Thanks to Mandie Brasington for the heads up on Strip Search.
  • I like to use a big suitcase with wheels on it instead of lugging my stuff around long distances – you end up WAY too sweaty before you’ve even started otherwise.
  • Bring some cash so you can give people change.
    I also recommend picking up the Square which accept credits cards with your iPhone, Android or iPad. If there’s internet access, having a laptop and letting the customer use Paypal is an option as well (but a little more cumbersome).
  • Bring stuff so you can sketch and when you’re sketching make it visable to attendees if possible – this is just good showmanship.
  • Don’t have all the merchandise on your table lying flat so no one can see what you have unless they’re right on top of you. Office supply stores have some sturdy plastic display stands – check out dollar stores & discount stores for display stands as well.
  • Bring a water bottle and healthy snacks – any food sold by vendors near the con is usually WAY overpriced.

In regards to display stands: They can get a little expensive, but you can save money by improvising and being creative.

Below are some odds and ends – an old office supply paper holder, some models I have, and clipboards and small display stands bought at the dollar store.


Now here they are set up to display the Comics Revues I have for sale.


Next up are a couple plastic display stands. The one on the left was a little over $10, the other is an 8″ x 10″ photo holder from the dollar store.


And here they are set up. The larger prints are off my Canon Workforce inkjet printer on photo paper. The 4″x 6″ cards are artwork I created and printed up for only 12 cents a piece as photos at Walgreens. And of course all artwork I printed has my website listed so people can find me if interested.


What you have to be careful of when trying to go cheap is not to make it LOOK cheap. Spend the money where needed – the last thing you want is to look unprofessional.

And speaking of which, pay attention to your personal appearance and hygiene. Take a shower – wear some clean clothes.


I had a table next to an artist once (no one I’m connected to here on Facebook) that literally REEKED. If you’re trying to network and you smell like you’ve been doing your laundry in the restroom at the Port Authority in New York it may not bode well for you…

Last but not least, here’s a couple informative blogs recommended by Heidi MacDonald of The Beat. plus a post of my own.

First Time Con Set-Up notes – David Petersen

Working a Show – Arnie Fenner

Networking and the High Cost of Conventions – Jim Keefe

All for now. Hoping the preceding was of help and wishing you all the best on your ventures!

-Jim Keefe