First and foremost, if your reason for making comics is to get rich quick, get prepared for a big disappointment! Making comics is an art and, like most art forms, there is a long line of practitioners aspiring to emulate the success of a limited few. Those that have attained riches from making comics are a rare breed and thanks to unscrupulous publishing practices that have been the norm of the industry for decades many deserving comic artist have been deprived of fame and fortune.
I remember reading a list of the top ten grossing entertainers in the world sometime during the 1980’s. Two on the list were comic artists, PEANUTS creator Charles Schulz and GARLIELD creator, Jim Davis. They were right up there with entertainment titans, Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby! That was when I first realized the full fiscal potential of making comics. Schulz and Davis were both syndicated comic strip artists proving that there was commercial power to mixing words and pictures on the page.
This type of economic success was not available to comic book creators at the time for one key reason, Work for Hire. Most comic strip artists maintained ownership of their characters but in the comic book industry the publishers owned the characters and creators only received a page rate for their services with no ability to share in the success of the work through royalties.
This all began to change in the 80’s as the industry pushed for creator’s rights and independent publishers sprang up, willing to publish creator owned work. The newly devised Direct Market made it possible for these new publishers to explore the potential of sharing profits with creators. It also made it possible for creators to self publish their work.
This was our motivation when we created Comico. We knew that the best option for profiting from comics was to work for ourselves rather than be just another cog in the works of industry giants. As this same notion began to proliferate throughout the industry, comic artists did begin to realize the wealth that was possible. Two major examples of the earning potential of comics can be attributed TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and SPAWN creator Todd McFarlane who all made millions from their creations.
So, if you want to get rich making comics there are a few things to know.
Creating a successful comic or character is like winning the lottery. The odds are so great. It gets even more depressing when you see the long list of incredible talent that are the competition but no one can guess what will strike the nerve of the market. Like the lottery, you cannot win if you do not play, so jump in and create!
Do what you love and love what you do! Many will tell you this is the key to success. Bullshit!
But this will make the struggles a hell of a lot more bearable. Creating comics needs to be your passion. Make them because you want to and love doing it. Create characters that you know and love and need to share with the reader. Your ability to bring those characters to life is what will make them desirable to readers. Passion is infectious when it is executed with skill.
NEVER GIVE UP THE RIGHTS TO YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY!!! Own your characters, never sell them unless the price is so unimaginably mind-boggling that you can’t say, ” no”. If you do sell your characters, don’t look back, it is time to reap what you have sown.
YOU WILL NEVER GET RICH JUST BY MAKING COMICS! This could change if the digital market takes off but there is just not a big enough comic reading market today to make you filthy, stinking rich. You may get pretty comfortable but not uber-loaded. Creators make the big bucks through licensing and merchandising. The comics are the launch pad for your property, where the character comes to life and proves it has legs but from there it is time to go to market and make movies, toys, pop tarts, you name it. That is where the money is.
What’s that? Your a comic artist not a salesperson? Then get a publisher that will do the work for you or get yourself an agent or a marketing agency. Go find Jerry Maguire and start yelling, “SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!” Video game developer, David Perry, does a great job explaining the need to merchandise here in one of his lectures.
It’s an awesome read and though it’s about licensing video games, you can easily see how it relates to comics because his point is that characters drive licensing and merchandising more than anything else.
See you at the bank!
Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!