Cartoon and Illustration

Let’s talk Wolverine for a minute…

New Mutants Sample page

New Mutants Sample page

Okay, a week or so back I blogged about X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the present situation with Marvel film properties at studios other than Disney/Marvel. I can’t claim to be on the inside on any of this stuff, but I have had the opportunity to do some sample pages in hopes of getting work at Marvel.

That is, a few years back I managed to get the okay to send samples from one of their new talent editors. Then a year or so of sending samples and they sent me some partial scripts to do samples using their characters. The previous post and this post have pages from those samples I did.

I am of the opinion that I “choked” on this assignment. Not unlike The Chicago Cubs do whenever they get to the World Series. I’m still a Cubbies man, and Marvel still speaks to me–but let’s face it, if they’d thought these pages were amazing I would have been cashing Marvel checks by now. As it is, they still respond to my submissions and say encouraging things–some day I’ll get there.

But I promised to talk about Wolverine. You may recall in my previous post there was a comment about how Wolverine seems to appear in nearly every X-Men story. That may have sounded kind of snarky–wasn’t meant to be. But I did notice that when Marvel sent me the sample scripts that every one of them DID include Wolverine. That was about the time I really started noticing that he seems to get around, at least in X-Men titles.

This sort of thing is not unusual in comics. Historically any given publisher will put their “money” character on the front of as many comics as they can. For example Superman was the first major DC Comics character, and as such soon began appearing on any number of DC Titles beyond his own. This kept up well into the 1980s and still happens pretty often. Superman, Action, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, World’s Finest, Justice League of America all regularly had Superman front and center. He’d often make guest appearances in other comics as well (here I am thinking of books like Forever People. Can’t just rely on the fact that Jack Kirby had left Marvel to work for DC! Better get Supes on the cover too!)

For a brief period in the 1960s Batman got a lot of guest spots as well, due to the popularity of the Adam West TV series. So for a while Batman was front and center on Justice League of America (though Superman was usually there too). This quickly died out and Batman was left to his own titles, though he was the regular star of The Brave and The Bold along with others of the DC stable.

In the 1980s things got a little more even when Superman was given the leadership of Justice League and Batman took the helm of The Outsiders. Soon after the success of The Dark Knight Returns Batman became DC’s go-to cover boy.

Of course Marvel did much the same thing with Spider-Man. After the Fantastic Four was brought in to help him out with a cameo on one of his early issues, the tables quickly turned and he became the flagship character of the Marvel Universe. He got featured on a lot of covers and made cameos in all sorts of titles. Possibly most jarring was his appearance in an issue of Howard the Duck where Howard dreams that Spidey has just written a book called “When I say ‘No’ I feel Guilty.”

The landscape at Marvel seems to have shifted as well in recent years. Sure Spider-Man is still popular, but the X-Men kind of took over beginning in the 1980s. And now Wolverine is top choice for cover model.

So what if he seems to be in every X-Title? In Tokyo at one moment and London the next! Sure, why not? It’s not unusual at all to see this sort of thing in a comic book, or a line of comic books.

Did anyone gripe about how many covers Richie Rich was on at Harvey? Nope. Just more of the same.

If you’ve got a hot character you use him (or her) to promote your other books.

So that’s my opinion. Use Wolverine to sell the titles until people get tired of seeing him. If we judge this based on the previous examples of Superman at DC and Spider-Man at Marvel–we’ve probably got about 20 more years to go with Wolverine. So we might as well get used to it.

And when Wolverine has had his day, maybe Howard the Duck will be back in vogue–or on the cover of Vogue!

Cartoon and Illustration

Some tips for comic book “clients”

With all the positive promotion that’s been going on in my career over the past couple of weeks you’d think I’d leave well enough alone, right?  Well, I’d like to–but that’s really not me, now is it?


Not trying to cause problems, but I would like to address an issue that seems to be pervasive when it comes to dealing with clients…or rather “clients”, because these are hypothetical clients, not actual, real clients.


Actual, real clients negotiate pay with you and then pay it.  Hypothetical clients are the ones that talk about hiring you, but then balk at what it will cost.


Lately I’ve been applying for various freelance jobs at an online site called “”.  Not putting down at all, they’ve proven to be much better than my previous online freelance job listing site, both in cost to me and in returns (which is to say my first job from them has paid for their services for a year and then some).  I won’t name the former service that never earned me a penny–let’s call them “Mud”.

But even though has been doing a good job at offering me listings for jobs that might actually fit my specialties–as well as giving me a good platform to show my portfolio, many of their clients still don’t seem to have a clue what creative artwork is worth!

Very often a listing will be something like this:  “Need artist for graphic novel.  I have created a story for a graphic novel and need a qualified artist to bring it to life, preferably in DC or Marvel style.”

So far so good.  That’s what I do.  But then the listing may continue with:

“Am willing to pay a one time payment of $2000 for services.  Story is 90 pages.  No royalties as I will be paying you for your services when pages are completely penciled, inked, colored and lettered.”

Seriously?  You think $2000 is going to get you a complete DC or Marvel style book of 90 pages?  That’s $22 per page!

If this sounds like I’m just being lazy or full of myself, I’d like to point out that I can draw around two pages of pencils per day. I can also ink around two pages a day, possibly color up to four if I’m really pushed, and letter maybe six to ten (if they aren’t too heavily dialogued).  The point is that a complete page of competent comic book or graphic novel artwork will take me at least three days from start to finish.  For $22 dollars?

Does this “client” really expect me to live on $7 a day?  And that doesn’t even begin to pay for paper, ink, computer, electricity and all the other things that make a studio run.

If I were doing this as a hobby, okay–$22 for a page might be okay, it would possibly pay for my paper and ink.  But not my time, not even close.

So I’m sort of losing my patience with this sort of thing.

Other “clients” will continue their listing thus:

“This is a great start up business!  No up front payment, but you will have your graphic novel in every comic shop in the country, and you’ll receive royalties when our book starts to sell!  Please, serious inquiries only.”

Again, are they kidding?  I’ve had my comics in comic shops.  For the past thirty years I’ve had comics I’ve worked on in comic shops, and while I’m honored that people have purchased those titles such recognition does not pay the bills.

This does not mean that I have never done work on a speculative basis.  I’m constantly talking with friends in the industry about doing work with them that may force me to take on some work that will remain unpaid until the project is completed.  But these are people with proven track records–published authors, screen-writers, producers, etc.  Not some guy who thinks his idea is pure gold because his Mom likes it!

Sorry, that sounds really harsh.  Just venting.  

What are the chances that any of the would-be “clients” I’m dealing with on will ever read this and think twice before posting a job like the above examples?  Slim at best.

But actual clients should know what the costs are going in.  Any legitimate client should know that $60-125 per page of pencils is barely getting by for a professional artist.  Not because we’re driving around in Rolls Royce automobiles, and have butlers and pool cleaners to pay–just so we can put bread on the table.

Let me break this down a bit.  If I get $125 per page of pencils and inks (my go-to rate at this point) and assume it takes one day to pencil and one day to ink that page, that comes to $62.50 a day.  Now I CAN work faster than that, and often have–but it requires my total commitment to do so.  I can’t be taking time off to go to the bank, do my laundry, write blogs, or even answer the telephone most of the time.  So that page-a-day rate of production requires as much time as a regular full-time job, anything faster and we’re looking at 12 hour days, and long weekends.

$62.50 per day equals $375 a week if I work Saturday too–and I usually do.  With that, I’ve got to pay for electricity, phone bill, equipment, supplies, shipping (or file transfer), as well as help pay the household bills that my wife also works to pay for.

Or to put it another way $375 per week is $19,500 per year.  No Rolls Royce in my driveway!  So I try to supplement my income by selling original artwork, licensing artwork out to other people, taking on advertising jobs that pay way better than most comic book or graphic novels ever could.

But people don’t seem to appreciate these facts.

My wife, Karin, and I have marveled at the following:  people will pay her to come play harp or violin at their wedding for several hundred dollars an hour.  As soon as the notes are played that’s it.  There’s no reproduction rights to the music she’s played for them!  Whereas in my case I’m often asked to sell the reproduction rights to my work–in perpetuity–for $20 per page!

People make a big deal about the raw deal that Siegel and Shuster got on Superman.  $130 for 13 interior pages (did they even get anything for the cover?) is ten dollars a page.  Now, seventy-four years later, people are offering twenty dollars a page for the same sort of thing.  I bet you not one of them gets the irony.

So, the title promised some tips for comic book clients.  

1)  If you really want to get a competent professional for your comic book or graphic novel–at least be willing to pay them a living wage.

2) I don’t care how great your concept is, it is not going to sell itself.  Never has, never will.  Just getting your book into comic shops is an uphill battle at this point–having a run-away success will require a lot of hard work after the product is made.

3) Don’t act all insulted when you get artists passing on your project.  The story may very well sound great to them, but they have to make a living.

Oh, and for those of you who may be reading this and thinking, “why not get it financed through crowd-funding?”  Yeah, why not?  I’ve heard that a lot lately–and it’s not as easy as it sounds.  And it’s not inexpensive either.  

I recently pitched a graphic novel project on Kickstarter along with published YA author, Shane Berryhill.  He’s got credits, I’ve got credits…we’ve both got published work in bookstores across the country.  We offered a complete, self-contained first chapter of the story FREE to everyone we knew on FaceBook. We got a film maker friend to shoot a promotional video for the KS at Heroes Convention and offered all sorts of incentives to comics fans who’d back the project.  We even had a couple of publishers lined up offering to put the book out once we got the funding!

Guess what?  It didn’t make.  We didn’t get 10% of what we were asking to complete the other three chapters.  All we were asking was enough for me to complete the interior artwork at a reasonable rate of speed and a reasonable rate of pay so that the bills could get paid while I devoted 6 months to the project.

So, for those who are thinking crowd-funding is the answer to all creative cost issues–think again.

I still keep a positive attitude.  I still approach potential clients in a friendly manner and am very straight forward about what I normally charge for my services.  But I seldom hear back from these folks, and I’ve been examining postings for such work a lot more carefully lately.

If you know of anyone planning such a project, you might point them in this direction.  Let them see what is truly required to make their graphic novel a reality.






Cartoon and Illustration

Finally–following up on San Diego Comic-Con

My apologies for not having posted something sooner about my trip to San Diego Comic-Con in mid-July.  But things have been very (very) busy around here since my return and I’ve had to deal with commissions, new assignments, and family stuff since then–besides attempting to catch up on some sleep (not too successfully, actually, but I’ll get there eventually).

Rather than giving a day-by-day account of what I went through at SDCC, I think I’ll stick to what has become the common thread of conversation with almost everyone I’ve spoken to about SDCC since returning home.

I.e. the first question everyone seems to ask is:

“Did you go in costume?”

The answer to this is a resigned sigh, followed by, “No, I went to find work.”

Then I have to explain this to Mr. or Mrs. average citizen who has seen Comic-Con mentioned on Big Bang Theory or some similar media outlet.  Going in costume is a big part of Comic-Con, but that’s for those who are going to amuse themselves (in most cases).  While I’d love to be part of that craziness, my path lies elsewhere and as a professional illustrator and cartoonist for the past 30 years I’ve had to forget about cos-play as something I partake in.

Begging everyone’s pardon, but can you imagine someone showing up for a job interview in swim fins and a snorkel?  That’s about the reaction one would get showing up for professional freelance interviews at Comic-Con.  It may be fun and games for the fans, but for pros it’s hard work.

Admittedly some don’t get this dichotomy.  There were more than a few female fan/pros at the portfolio review who were in costume.  But as for us guys, we looked like a bunch of guys on casual Friday at the very least, and I even saw a suit or two in the crowd.

But I may be getting ahead of myself.

As stated, my purpose in visiting Comic-Con was to secure more freelance art jobs for myself.  At the urging of more than one of my working professional friends (some of whom have worked on stuff you’ve actually seen!) I have been working towards attendance as a pro at SDCC for the past year.  Putting my wife and myself in hock up to our eyeballs to pay for airfare and hotel in order to get there and meet editors, publishers, and art directors for various companies that publish comic books, graphic novels, or serve similar industries with creative artwork.

So after a semi-eventful flight and partial night’s sleep my buddies, Chris, Spike and caught a shuttle running to the Convention Center and in about 20 minutes I found myself in front of the entrance hall I needed to go to in order to get my pro-pass.

(Yes, the shuttle was filled with folks in costume.  I sat next to a large fellow named Shawn, who was dressed as a butterfly.  Many of you may have seen the picture of me and Shawn on Facebook.  In front of the Convention Center there were teeming multitudes of people dressed as Daleks, Doctor Who, Tardises, Lego Darth Vader, Lego Boba Fett, regular Princess Leia, Harley Quinn, Joker, etc.)

But these people were not going to the same show as I was–not really.  My path took me through pro registration–which took about 2 seconds as I showed them my pre-printed UPC code (which I’d had in my possession since sometime in February if memory serves).  Then I headed upstairs to the Sails Pavilion to sign in for my chance to meet representatives from various people in hiring positions.

This may have taken another 10 minutes all told.  And then I sat down to wait with all the other freelance artists looking for their chance to impress someone with their drawing and storytelling talents.  The estimated crowd for Comic-Con is around 150,000 for the whole weekend.  The number of those creating comics artwork appearing at SDCC (at least in the Illustrators section) numbers around 150 (my guess) so about 1 in 1000 attendees has some sort of professional credit.  Those sitting in the portfolio review, wearing pro-passes was probably another 50 on Thursday.

Don’t misunderstand.  Many of the people who had space downstairs in the illustrators section of the exhibition hall were also spending time upstairs at the portfolio review.  Because (as one or more of my friends mentioned at the show), “we all need to look for work.”

The sign up lists were randomized by computer and placed on display in front of cubicles provided for the various publishers, etc.  We, the artists, sat in a section of chairs that could accomodate maybe 150 of us at any given time.  The restrooms were close and not too heavily used.  There was a water fountain where many of us refilled our bottles several times during the day, as we occasionally dug into our backpacks and bags to dig out yet another granola bar to tide us over while we waited.

We talked.  We met with old friends and made new acquaintances.  We shared our portfolios with one another and passed along tips to one another.  

“Antarctic Press is supposedly reviewing samples down at their booth!  Says so in the program guide.”

“Have you worked with (name witheld)?  Do they pay?  I’ve heard they’re kind of slow.”

That kind of stuff.  We gave one another tips on art, software, which editors were open to submissions–got info on other friends who were downstairs (that is, their location on the floor).

I talked to a couple of up-and-coming artists.  Gave them some tips on what they should be showing in their portfolios.  Hey, I don’t pretend to know it all, but there are somethings that I DO know, and I’m happy to pass that info along.

Some of these artists were students in college.  Their portfolios were obviously student portfolios–and it was probably better to hear that from me than to get bawled out by some editor who was going to complain they were wasting his time.  Nobody is a waste of time–but sometimes we all could use a little streamlining of our “pitch”.

Anyway, I met with 3 or 4 potential clients on Thursday (and more on Friday).

But I had made arrangements to be down at the National Cartoonists Society booth from 1-3 on Thursday and so had to leave the portfolio review area to make that date.

Here’s where most asked question number 2 comes in:

“Did you get to see a lot of famous people?” (Meaning, TV and movie stars).

Again, that isn’t the show I went to.  It may be in the same building, but the TV and Movie scene is not what I was there for.  Admittedly I did see Mira Furlan’s autograph area from a distance of maybe 100 yards.

My big Hollywood moment came when I was down at the NCS booth doing a sketch of Captain America for someone when the buzz went around the table that Jack Black was on his way there.  Seems that Jack is buddies with one of the animators from Kung Fu Panda and offered to come by the NCS table and sign autographs.

The thing is, my “shift” was over at 3 and Jack wouldn’t be coming in until 4.  But my name was on the same greaseboard as JB’s for the entire day.

As insular and pampered as the Hollywood types seemed to be at SDCC–whisked in from LA in limos, surrounded by bodyguards, relegated to “Hall H” (at least the presently big names) it was kind of cool to know that Jack Black was willing to sit around with a bunch of cartoonists and sign stuff for fans.

I already liked Jack Black’s movies, generally speaking, but my opinion of him as a person has been very much improved by this action on his part.

The irony of this is it was COMIC-CON.  I was sitting at the NCS table with Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine), Greg Evans (Luanne), and The Keane Brothers (Family Circus)–and people ask me did I see anyone famous?

Yes.  I saw famous cartoonists!  I shook hands with Klaus Janson for pete’s sake!  Russ Manning was so close I could have thrown a granola bar at him.  I actually touched a page of Superman artwork by Jerry Siegel.  So yes, I saw famous people–but I guess there’s fame and then there’s fame.

Didn’t bother me that much at the show.  I was riding high.  Not one negative comment about my samples from anyone.  I handed books to editors all day Friday and had any number of them give me their cards and ask for follow ups.

Follow ups is mostly what I’ve been doing since.

And now, in the past few hours I’ve gotten offered a new job for Zenescope.  So I’d better got attend to that.  I have around 20 days to get it done.  So if I don’t post for a while, you’ll know why.


reeveSupes6613I’ll be donating this to the Heroes Convention auction this weekend. Another of my color pencil pieces (yes, it’s color pencil–but done both sides of a sheet of polyester drafting media). If you’re going to be there, be sure to bid!

Cartoon and Illustration

Chris Reeve Superman (with X-Ray vision)