Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Obsolete Inkers, Fading Away & Jason Pearson

You know, we've talked about this before, and asked all these questions before: what do comics owe us? Do they owe us a living? Do we bleed hours and talent and fingers onto the page that is glanced at, and then discarded with nary a backward glance?

Why, yes, yes we do.

The post by Jason Pearson on Facebook about his financial and personal situation highlights the difficulties in being an artist, especially a work for hire artist, in these difficult times. I don't know Jason, we've simply never crossed paths at conventions or anything like that, but I do know where he is. I've been to that place. Mid-90's, comics going into freefall like its 1954 all over again.

And what makes it worse? Watching lesser lights, people you know who aren't as good as you still churning out monthly work, and you know that they're submitting vouchers for it and getting paid. While you're not. And you're running out of food. And rent. And the salt in the wound? Jason tried to do creator owned work, tried to create the property that could have been something really big, except that... for all the varied reasons in the world, it didn't get the movie money. Didn't hit the brass ring. Jason didn't just depend on the thinking that he could stay on the monthly treadmill forever and that Marvel and DC would continue to send him work, he tried to do more.

And yet here he is, an exceptionally talented and uniquely styled individual in a precarious situation with seemingly no way out. And it is awful to to read that.

I don't know Jason, but I find his work inspired and original and while his Facebook post reads like a suicide note, I fervently hope that its not and that others can show him the revenue stream to get out of his trap. If he had a Kickstarter project, I'd contribute now, and clearly so would a hell of a lot of others.

Artist Gerry Alanguilan was inspired to write about the future of comics and inkers in particular, and wondering just who and when it all becomes obsolete and we end up in situations like Jason. I was right there in 2000, finishing off the biggest project in my comic career, a Batman series with Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy, two of my idols, and I walked away. I had finally gotten my career to the point where I was working with "A" list pencillers, so i didn't have editors blaming my inks for construction problems that the penciller couldn't solve. Except that digital inking was looking and I could see pencillers being angled to doing such complete work that they wouldn't need inkers. I realized that sooner rather than later inking and inkers would be made, on the mid-end level, obsolete, and to continue to rely on that was stupid. Sean Godron Murphy has his thoughts on it as well, and I agree with him. My analogy is the same as his: for years I said that it was like wanting to design buggys for horses to pull at the dawn of the automotive age. You may make the best buggys ever, but if the world is pulling against you, then you're going down. Better to diversify as much as you can and not get locked into a support position. When the people you support get laid off, you're getting laid off first.

The only thing that Sean talks about: if they don't want to pay for inking, he'll raise his pencilling rate. Perhaps we should be asking why, given that Marvel and DC should be rolling in money from their recent movie successes, they're laying off people right and left. If what they want are properties to cherry pick, why kill off the people creating the properties? I'm glad that Sean has the DC direct work, but why is DC struggling? Even if the publishing arm isn't moving units, its putting butts into seats at $12 a pop for a 3-D movie.

Why did Kick-Ass get made into a movie and Body Bags didn't? No one knows.

When are us artists going to get better about living in the real world and making a living instead of living inside of these cool worlds inside of our heads?

Answer: Never.

We gotta take care of each other and ourselves. Diversify people, make friends, make connections, make sure you got more than one skill.

Get lucky.

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