After my comic series, BLACK, was optioned for feature film, I had to learn about Hollywood—fast. I discovered the Writers Guild of America (WGA), an organization that, among other things, sets a "schedule of minimums," i.e., the LOWEST amount of money WGA members are paid for their work.
For “reasons,” such standards don't exist in the comic book industry, but IDGAF— they're all tired.
No standard page rates make creators crabs in a barrel. Famous creators don't want their high page rates known, new creators want to work on high-profile projects, and publishers exploit this to lowball everyone.
All of this needs to change.
WGA should support comics creators since they mine our work for TV and cinema. But no one is coming to save us, so we must unite and standardize fair rates.
2. Publish digitally first
I love the comics medium—trees don't.
Making a single sheet of paper takes 2–13 liters of water. Deforestation, printing, transportation, storage, and disposal of unsold goods harm the environment.
Digital publishing minimizes paper waste, saves money, and can reach readers who cannot buy print but have a smartphone.
It's hard to believe that over two decades into social media, periodicals have yet to shift entirely to digital.
What about comic book shops?
Comic shops make more money selling trade paperbacks and graphic novels than periodicals. Fight me.
Graphic novels have a higher price point per unit than periodicals, ergo, more profits.
Graphic novels have a longer shelf life than periodicals. Years after release, shops can still generate revenue from them.
Graphic novels attract more fans than periodicals. Shops can reach a more diverse customer base, increasing sales and profits.
The digital strategy is proven: build an engaged audience with consistent, low-entry content, then offer premium products on-demand, like trades.
3. Embrace web3 technology
How are print periodicals different than NFTs? Variant art schemas, speculative value, collectibility, enthusiast hype—oh, right—environmental impact.
Ethereum reduced energy use by 99.95%. Less than streaming Netflix. A critical problem for conscientious creators was solved. Yet few indie comics are on the blockchain.
Tech aversion has helped slow comics' advancement, from Wacom tablets to digital comics to AI art. Publishers feign caution only to dominate revenue streams once monetization is proven. Meanwhile, indie NFT artists are thriving where comic creators should.
DC Comics' NFT partnership with Palm is over a year old, and Marvel sells AR NFT comics on VeVe. If creators get royalties from those smart contracts—that's news.
Web3's core components, data ownership, transparency, and democratization all benefit comic book creators. Simply put, it can provide more control over digital works.
Imagine not just built-in ownership and royalties on digital files but access, license, and governance.
Pencils that only unlock for a publisher once they pay you. Transparency if the cover art is used outside digital term sheets. Automatic enforcement of payment when an original idea or story appears in films.
Web3 lets indie creators gratify their audiences instantly. Creators earn perpetual revenue. Holders can resell assets or get clout, privileges, and experiences for ownership. Unlike traditional comics, it’s an ecosystem where creators don't rely on a few publishers or have to make frequent trips to the post office to grow.
This will only become a reality if creators embrace the opportunities and engage in the space collectively.
Despite the media hype, the good news is that we're barely in the early adoption phase of web3.
Let's make 2023 the year that comics creators secure the bag.