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Thanks for the ideas everyone! Here's the post many of you requested...

Here's a sample of responses I've heard from some editors over the years when I've raised practical business concerns regarding comic book publishing:

"No, we don't know exactly what books you'll be doing, but we're (insert name of big publisher) Comics, so sign exclusive with us and not (insert name of competing publisher who has titles ready for you)!"

"This is a (insert name of big writer) book! I know he's late, but just think of how many people would love to be in your shoes!"

"The page rate isn't good, but at least you'll be getting to work with (name of big superhero whom you're supposed to be a fan of)!"

"We won't fly you out or put you into a hotel, but you should come so you can sign at the booth for us! Who doesn't love signing autographs?"

What do these statements have in common? They're emotional arguments made to sidestep your  legitimate professional concerns--and they only work if you're in "awe" of comics. Being a comic creator is fun because you get to pick up your proverbial toys again. But there's a danger in being too in "awe" of the medium where you might end up wearing blinders, increasing your chances of being affected by bad business practices.

For example, a publisher is offering you a title, but the page rate stinks. When you ask about getting your normal rate, the publisher politely reminds you that it's a Teen Titans book, hoping to play off your emotional love for Cyborg to allow him to ignore the normal business practice: maintaining your page rate.

Emotional arguments don't have any real use in the business world--the world where it's all about the bottom line and what's written down on contracts. Imagine that you're buying a car, but you want only want to pay 50% of the sticker price. The salesman asks why you think you should get that price, and you explain that your mother just died, hoping that the salesman (who likely has a mother of his own) will empathize and agree to let you have the car for less. In other words, you're asking him to ignore normal business practices because of the emotional charge of your predicament. And while he might empathize with you, there's no way he'd allow you to take advantage like that.

I ran into an emotional argument with myself over Batman once. I'm a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series. My love of Batman is fueled by my emotional attachment to him as a kid. Last year I was offered a 6 page fill-in on a Batman story--there were delays and they needed someone quick. The emotional argument in my head was this: I love Batman, how cool would it be to do a Batman story in my current style? But I turned it down because the professional argument was stronger: it's better for me to wait on a bigger Batman project, not one that's just a fill-in, but one that really showcases my art. No one looks good on a fill-in (I also had PRJ in the works and other reasons for turning it down).

You could argue (as my friends did) that another professional argument is this: doing the fill-in could get you onto other Batman gigs! And you're right--that's a good argument. But whichever decision you make, we can agree that the stronger argument is usually made professionally, not emotionally.

The runaway "awe" factor in comics is something professionals do to themselves, I feel. We're all in love with the medium, and we're all thrilled to be making a living. And the shakier it gets out there, the more thankful we are to get any job offer, I know. But the more we allow ourselves to think as "fans" and not "professionals,"  the easier it is for editors can play off our "awe".

To be clear, there a lot of great editors who don't work this way. They treat you as a professional and take the industry seriously. The writers, artists, and editors whom I consider most trustworthy and helpful are the ones whom are very low on the "awe" factor. And when you see them at conventions, they're not usually big on meet-and-greets or at crowded bars where back-slapping runs rampant.

What are some other ways being in "awe" might hurt you? Maybe a huge writer wants to do a book with you, and you're so thrilled to be teamed up with him, you shy away from asking for a bigger cut of the profits. Or maybe you're a writer who's head-over-heals for Superman, and now that you're calling some of the shots, you're too afraid to take any real chances with the character.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not suggesting you not be excited about getting work. You've just got a call that you'll be taking over X-Men? Good for you--hit the pub with your friends and go get hammered. But as soon as your hangover clears up, time to act like a pro and do your best to separate yourself from the little kid inside. Yes, you'll dip into being a little kid again, but hopefully not at those moments when an editor asks you to keep working even though your last paycheck is a week late.

Watch out for emotional arguments! And not just in comics but everywhere--especially in entertainment based jobs where being in "awe" can be a detriment.
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
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barksodaverne Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2012
You once asked us ideas of topics you could tackle. I think one thing that could be interesting, besides what you do when the phone doesn't ring, is tell us if you think one could manage to have a part-job and to draw at the same time. Especially when the phone doesn't ring.
I know what it looks like, it looks like someone trying to draw a compromise between his passion (=drawing) and what would be real life (= get a job) but I think/ hope it remains interesting.
This leads me to another thing you tackled frequently: the use of comics. I think that there's a discrepancy between "real life" and drawing. I started to write a very long stuff about it, but as I don't want to troll here I think I'd rather develop on my page. But in short, I tend to believe that even if all kinds of story-tellers seem to have a minor place in society, they are important in so far as they relieve/ entertain and inspire all the other parts of society.
MatiasSoto Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Have you ever read Kandinsky's book "Concerning the Spiritual in Art"? It touched upon the responsabilities of the artist to his society, you might find it interesting if you haven't read it.
barksodaverne Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2012
I haven't, but I will have a look at it! thank you for the tip! it's always interesting to find new sources of reflexion about art!
MatiasSoto Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
You're welcome, mate! The artistic community has to be open in order for us all to grow :thumbsup::)
barksodaverne Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012
it's nice to see someone that shares such opinions!
MatiasSoto Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Right on mate :ahoy:
TrevorBLewis Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Tough for newbies like me not to fall for that crap, but after reading your page here I'll be more prepared. Thanks for sharing those thoughts.
NoirZone Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Really thanks man
BringerOfStorms Featured By Owner May 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I think I already responded to this with my thanks, but just saw it again and thought that title would make for a pretty great Rock Bank name.

Live from London! DETRIMENTAL AWE!


JusticePunk Featured By Owner May 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for this journal entry. Very eye opening. Looking forward to PRJ.
Jason-Pedersen Featured By Owner May 28, 2012
Great thoughts on this. I'm finding this something I'm hitting just WORKING in comics. I'm so green, that the sheer idea of it is tempting cheap work. I know from my illustration side though that I can't let that rule, or it hurts the entire industry.
BaranyaTamas Featured By Owner May 25, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Very helpful, but I think it's more like the description of bad clients in general. And even if you know these things, you'll still have to go through some humiliating situations until you really learn to say NO. I think people can only learn from experience. Remember when our parents used to say smart things and we did the stupid things anyway :)?
surprisedbyjoy Featured By Owner May 24, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great thoughts, I appreciate your willingness to share your experiences and perspectives through your DA journal, please keep it up!

This reminds me a lot of a documentary (whose name I have of course forgotten) from about ten years ago about the recording industry and how they exploited young and talented musicians who were so excited to be signed to a label that they didn't bother looking at how much money per album was going their way.

I think this is a huge problem in the Entertainment industry in general, and it's unlikely to go away completely. The more talented people we can get to stand up for themselves and gag their inner child long enough to negotiate a contract or press a publisher for payment, the better things will go for us in the future. If I ever get good enough to end up in that group of talented people, I hope I can remember this lesson.
Allysonsattic Featured By Owner May 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I thought I was an "Awe" sell out... until... an editor told me to change a pg-13 story to a G. I so...wanted... to get this story published. It's been picked up and put down three times already...damn it.:[]

Tried to convence myself that it was only a tweek or two, its not going to hurt that much. I thought "If I turn them down, what if they get mad and don't take another story I've written?"

In then end...I just couldn't butcher it for the sake of getting it published... or... for the sake of getting blackballed. It wouldn't be the same story and I love that story. So I gave a polite decline to have it published.

With the "Awe" guys...I totally understand...It's the love of the medium and the excitment of getting published and...
don't forget it's easy to say, "Turn down the Awe jobs" but when your unsure if you get that chance again, its not that easy to do.
CharlieKirchoff Featured By Owner May 22, 2012
I totally agree that you have to think of the bottom line when offered gigs. Though, I never thought of it as an editor trying to take advantage of me when they offer me an "awe" job with low pay. It's usually a situation where the editor know I'm interested in the property or creator (and it seems less like work when you enjoy the project and the people you're working with). When I turn it down because the money is bad, the editor is understanding and I feel good that they thought to offer it to me first.

That being said, I have taken lower paying gigs from people I'm more friendly with in the industry as a favor.
adultbraces Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
These are wise words. Wise indeed.
IAmAir Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Student General Artist
Thanks for the helpful info dude. Every bit helps.
Freeezz Featured By Owner May 21, 2012
Wow!! I'm not even in or going into the comic biz but you information is interesting non-the-less. Thanks for sharing.
holtn01 Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
As an artist and graphic designer I've witnessed first hand how most clients do not value the time and talent it takes to create good art. At some point people decided that art should be like fast food, cheap, quick and good.
HowdyCapitan Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Professional General Artist
thanks for the insight, mang.
leilasedai Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Professional Artist
As usual, an excellent post. Fearless and educational, validating opinions I already have about freelancing. I'll be forwarding to people I know who often fall for "emotional arguments."
epic364 Featured By Owner May 19, 2012   Traditional Artist
-slow clap-
DrummerboyDomo Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for that man, I think the "awe" factor not only hurts single artists, but it hurts the overall population of artists as well. ESPECIALLY ones like me just breaking in the industry.

I used to go to SCAD as well (one of Shawn's students) and in an interview the editor says to me

"you're extremely talented, and I can see you going very far in this business. If I offered you a pencil/ink job with a page rate of (insert insanely low amount) would you work on one of our titles?"

I say "no, because with time it takes for me to do that amount of work I'd barely, if even, be making minimum wage." I brought up a rate that I think is still pretty modest but reasonable and they proceed to tell me:

"Look kid, you ARE talented, but there's a million people out there who would take that job and do it for FREE, JUST to not only have a chance at drawing the character, but to have the opportunity of being published."

Obviously referring to those artists working in "awe" who take any job at any rate (even if there is no rate) just to say "they made it". At the end of the day it makes editors (especially the ones who are familiar with the awe factor) think they can cut corners by taking advantage of artists, which sucks because they artists just buy right into it...
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
Yeah it's a tough argument: asking for more money at a time when some many people would do it for free or cheaper. At the very least, he could have said something like, "I know it's low, but it's the best we can do right now. I'd love to offer you more when you make a name for yourself." Not sure it's any better, but at least it doesn't play on the awe factor.
DrummerboyDomo Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
EXACTLY! In the end, feeling offended, I turned them down in the nicest way possible even still, but then was open and got the Deadpool Family gig for Marvel! So I believe it worked out for the better :D
marciotakara Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Professional Artist
fantastic post again, Sean. specially for someone still new to the industry like me. so, thanks.
Pythiadelphie Featured By Owner May 19, 2012   General Artist
Nice post. Very interesting and informative.

I think you can extend this "awe" argumentation to get people to agree to sub- standard pay rates not only to many parts of the creative industry but also to the realm of science. I work in this field and there are, amazingly, a lot of people playing off awe for their status as PhD/professor or the love for science and discovery.
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
I don't like hearing that about the science field. I can see how it might happen, but science is supposed to be free of that stuff. I guess we're all only primates.
Pythiadelphie Featured By Owner May 27, 2012   General Artist
As you described it is not neccessarily the norm and I agree deep down we're all primates.
RobertGill Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
Well said, man. I think I'm falling into the "awe" category a bit with things right now, so this entry couldn't have come at a better time to help snap me out of it. Looking forward to more of your journaling wisdom.
Angilram Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
That was worth it. ^^
There's a line between amateur and professional, and it's not just about the artistic level. Being professional doesn't mean you don't love your job crazy, it just means you try not to let anybody take advantage of your love of it. (And by "you" I don't mean you specifically)
On top of everything, you'll get more respect acting professionally than like a fan. People tend to disrespect anybody they believe gullible. And on the long run, that'll make you bitter.
The sweet thing is you can be BOTH. There's nothing better than an enthusiastic professional.^^
diecast75 Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
dude you are one of the smartest, freshest, and most fearless voices in comics today. keep it up :)
queensarwa Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
The posts you write really make me think about sides on the industry I had never considered before and as an aspiring comic artist, I am so glad I take the time to read these! Thanks!
giadrosich Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I agree whole-heartedly. Of course, as you mentioned in the last paragraph, this can happen in any industry. I see this argument at work quite a bit in the illustration and gaming sectors. Lots of artists get "taken in" by the promise of "future benefits," which never materialize, or turn out to be less than beneficial.

When all is said and done, this is a business, and it helps tremendously when everyone acts professionally.

As always, excellent journal, providing sumptuous food for thought. Keep up the fine work! :D
wisp Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional General Artist
I love your journals and am grateful that you take the time to write them. Thank you.
carnivalofsins00 Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
I really enjoy these pieces from you, Sean.
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
:salute: Much appreciated. Thanks for laying it all out.
dfridolfs Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
So many great points. It's always good to know or prepare for this when making a career out of it.

I like to think the awe factor lessens the longer you work in the industry. It's probably always at its worst, when you've finally made a name for yourself, and then projects start coming your way from all directions. You can be more choosy with what you work on, but it's always when you're the most vulnerable as well.

It really comes down to finding the right balance. Concentrate only on earning a steady rate, and you might suffer drawing a majority of work you're not interested in. Concentrate only on fun gigs, and you might get stuck working on too many passion projects that don't pay.
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
Great point as well Derek. I should have added that.
AngelTovar Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional Artist
what if you dont have any friends to hit up the bar with? :(
shaotemp Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I also call it, dangling the carrot.
Spacefriend-KRUNK Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional Artist
first off, salesmen don't have mothers. they are spawned in hell with demon seed.

as for the page rate arguments, you know where i stand and how we differ - so i won't retread that tire. i think you left out an entire divergent counter argument in this essay, but it's still very solid. i just worry that some young people will overpolish their professional outlook too early and suffocate their spark (whatever that fucking is).

you can make a lot of these decisions because you aren't an idiot and you are capable of objective introspection. most people can't. it's like teaching high level math to a monkey. or someone from Mississippi...
deviantART muro drawing Comment Drawing
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
Look who figured out how to doodle on day.
Spacefriend-KRUNK Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional Artist
doodle?! that's a fucking masterpiece, my friend.
Stephen-Green Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
Hey Zach, don't diss Southerners, that chaps my ass. I know a lot of the people down here are fuckers, but not everyone. I know you're only joking, but I always buy your comics and when people make (southerners are stupid, racist, anti-science, etc) jokes, it makes me feel like shit.
Spacefriend-KRUNK Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Professional Artist
well, i have absolutely no problem apologizing for offending you, dude. however, i did live in Mississippi for 5 horrible years and fuck that place. of course there are good and bad people everywhere you go. but, i also feel that anyone and everyone can be given a ribbing - i don't care where you are from and what you do. nothing is sacred. and i feel, through experience, that Mississippi has far more bad than good there. the only place worse than Mississippi is Hawaii.

so please don't take this as a personal attack. laugh it off or ignore it. i really appreciate you buying my books, i'm honored, but i will always make fun of everything. including myself. the world is piss and making fun of it makes it a bit more tolerable. hopefully you can empathize with me a bit and we can move on.
Stephen-Green Featured By Owner May 20, 2012
Accepted, dude! Sorry if I derailed the conversation, by the way. I know you were just saying something in passing to a friend, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the back-and-forth between you guys for quite some time. I don't want to sound like a fucker who butts in and tries to police things that weren't even my business.

To retract my defensiveness a bit, a little ridicule from time to time isn't completely out of order, especially if you've spent time in the place. Knowing a place/people first hand does entitle criticism to a degree. I don't even think you were out of line, necessarily, I've just got a sore spot about that shit no doubt because of my own insecurities.
Spacefriend-KRUNK Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Professional Artist
don't sweat it. let's move on and make fun of fat people! ;)
oICEMANo Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional General Artist
Wheres the "Like" button!!
Cetriya Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional General Artist
I'd see how it really all depends on 'why' you do something vs 'what' you do.
Even if I was in 'awe' I'd ware out after the first hit.
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