Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

February 27, 2014

The Sound You Hear Is Comics Professionals Leaning In Over Their Coffee And Saying "Appearance Fee?"


Jim McLauchlin writes openly for Newsarama about conventions paying comics professionals appearance fees for attending shows, one of those things that hasn't been discussed a bunch because a) comics people don't have a lot of money so there are massive hang-ups about it, b) there are vast differences in strategy about this kind of thing across the board if you see it -- and I think you should -- as not just its own thing but as part of the inducements for getting people to attend one show over another in a crowded field. In other words, it's complicated, but I suspect there's no shutting the door on the conversation any time soon, and I'd be shocked if there weren't some raised eyebrows this morning in front of some computer screens.

I think it's a fair subject to broach because if certain cons are doing well there's every reason to ask why money can't be going into the hands of comics professionals in the way it seems in some cases to be going into the hands of co-founders or foundations, even as those shows also provide an independent opportunity for people to make money by exhibiting or charging for specific services or generally increasing their profile and doing PR work on behalf of their projects and/or themselves. You could actually say that's the oddest stepchild of that hideous Ed Kramer case, it becoming public knowledge that some of these people were making midwestern lawyer-salary money from their successful pop-culture show. Of course, not every show does well that way, and some aren't intended to.

It's also true that as money continues to get tighter in terms of the actual making of comics for all sorts of reasons, shows have become really important for a lot of people and seeking to maximize those opportunities seems like a natural thing that people would want to do. Not having the show be a stress-inducing risk would be a wonderful thing for a lot of creators, too, of the class that may not have to worry about survival but have the same kinds of money pressures that all people do. I also think that the rise of a self-publishing school via webcomics and the ideas that became part of the way we talked about comics a quarter-century ago with the creators rights movement has made a certain group of cartoonists across two generations skeptical of business constructs.

So I hope this kind of thing continues where we think in terms of what those attending a show get from the experience, and be openly curious about where the money goes if there's money in evidence. I also hope that leaves plenty of room for a variety of valuations, and not just the usual comics binary of "I made this much money"/"this person is a pal and thus worth maybe not making the required amount of money." Seeing something like a convention experience solely in terms of maximizing a bottom line across the board or setting that aside for one's friends means a very different comics culture than the one we have now, just as it would if all readers, publishers, publications, museums, schools and comics shops operated 100 percent that way. I don't think it's a necessary or even desirable step beyond becoming another option. But it's there, and an article talking openly about something creators were considered brave to float as a possibility just a few years ago seems to me a step from which there's no easy walk-back.
posted 1:55 am PST | Permalink

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