Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Great Independent Comic Market Survey

If you went to SDCC (or to any major convention) you know that merchandise is a major factor in the mystique of comics (See Making Comics Isn’t Really About making Comics Anymore). This is true because the lure of comics creates fans hungry for increased identification and connection to the characters they love (See The Magic in a Batman T-Shirt) Readers of this page know that I think independent comic creators deserve their own merchandise lines, just like the major players (See Do you Want Merchandise for your Comics). I think I'm close to a solution, but I need to find out if it makes sense for creators to get involved in the business.

That's where you come in.

I've developed a short survey to study the sales patterns of independent comics to test the viability of my model. It's short and sweet and if you take five minutes to answer the questions, there's a free gift in it for you.

Readers of my other page (See http://gamalhennessy.com/) know that I am also a published author. If you take the independent comic survey, I'll send you a free digital copy of my short story A Special Request as a thank you. Just send me an email after you finish the survey and I'll send it to you.

The survey is designed to benefit you and the book will (hopefully) be a classic one day so you win coming and going. I plan to keep the voting opened until August 20th. Make your voice heard.

Thanks in advance.

Have fun.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Deal with the Devil (How Comic Creators Get Their Rights Stolen)

When I started consulting private clients about licensing issues (See Client List), I thought it was going to be a low impact, secondary service. I planned to explain the finer details of contract language, so artists and writers could make informed decisions about selling the rights to their work. Now that I've been doing this for a few years, I can see that I was wrong. Some contracts that I've seen are prudent actions by publishers trying to protect their investment. But too many of these agreements are nothing more than blatant attempt to hijack intellectual property from unsuspecting artists.

The Double Edged Sword

Signing a contract with a publisher can start an artist down the road to professional recognition and lucrative opportunities far beyond comics. It can also strip you of everything you have worked so hard to create. There are a lot of potential pitfalls in creator owned contracts, but the major ones are:

Of course, not every contract is written this way. Not every publisher is a demon attempting to steal your life's work. Some relationships between creators and publishers are much more balanced and fair in reality than they appear in the contract. But the history of comics is littered with famous stories of iconic characters being given away by their creators for little or no money. The current litigation concerning Ghost Rider is simply the latest chapter in a long line of cases. But the answer isn't to avoid all contracts all the time. The key is to understand what you are signing and what you are and are not willing to give away.

Reality Check

It is obviously self-serving for me to make dire claims about the dangers of creator owned contracts. The more you are concerned about this legal problem, the more likely it is you will become my client and pay my fee. It is also clear that many creators feel compelled to sign away their ideas to get their foot into whatever door they have found into the ultra-competitive comic book industry (See David and Goliath: Negotiating Comic Contracts). Both of those concepts are true. I get it.

Here is my response to those facts; if you don't want to use me to review your contract, I respect that. By all means, use someone else with a background in contracts, IP or entertainment law, just don't do it yourself. This is not an insult to your intelligence or business savvy. It is recognition of your specialization. You are an artist or a writer. You probably didn't waste a lot of time in law school learning about contracts (if you did, sorry about the loans). It is unrealistic for you to be expected to understand the implications of contract language. Many of the most successful businessmen have several lawyers explaining things to them when they need to make a major decision. You should too.

And even if you do find yourself in a position where you “have to” sign a bad deal, do it with your eyes opened. Know what you are getting into, so you don't wake up one day without any claim or credit for what you worked so hard to create.

Have fun.