Sorry tumblrs, I didn’t know you couldn’t reblog questions, and also it’s probably mean of me, exposing that girl’s question like that. So here’s the whole blog post in reblogging format.
Long story short, someone (politely) inquired if I would do character design for them, and then draw their comic. No mention of payment. The following is my response:
No. I will not draw characters or comics for you. I will especially not do it for free.
This is an issue many cartoonists before me have addressed in ways much more humourous and eloquent, so I’ll try and keep it short: No, I will not draw your comic for free because I write and draw comics for a living. I pay my rent with comics. I eat because I make comics, and what you are asking me to do is put aside my paying work, and do something for you that probably will not pay. Why should I do that?
Seriously, I’m genuinely curious why I get these requests. I’m assuming most have some familiarity with my work, and that I make a living from it. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they just saw a pretty picture on tumblr and thought ‘hai, that artwork looks perfect for this idea I had, guess I’ll just ask this person to draw it.’ I’m always a little impressed by the delusion.
Nope. Not gonna draw your comic for free. Sorry! You may have the best idea in the world and be the most awesomest writer in the world, but unless you have a legitimate relationship with a publisher who can pay the artist who is going to draw your comic, I’m not interested.
There’s also another question I get asked a lot lately, even more than the “will you draw my comic for free?” question, and I want to address it.
“I’d like to pay you to draw a comic proposal. What are your rates? Then I’m going to pitch it to Image/Oni/whoever.”
For me, this is not a paying job. Thank you for offering to pay me for my time while I draw your comic pitch, but I am not interested in these jobs either. These are not real paying comic jobs. They do not come attached to a publisher who can pay me to produce the whole book, they are simply stabs in the dark and I am asked to invest time into a proposal that may go nowhere, and will pay me very low dividends. Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate your offer of payment! But I do not want to draw your proposal, your minicomic, your comic for your girlfriend, I do not want to do it. In short, this request is a commission, and at this point, I’m extremely busy and don’t do commissions. But if you would like a drawing of Supergirl, I’ll be happy to do so at a comic convention.
At this point, I’ve had five graphic novels published (Zombies Calling, War at Ellsmere, Brain Camp, Friends With Boys, Bigfoot Boy v1, and #6 is on the way in May 2013), and I’ve written and drawn three online comics (Demonology 101, Ice and The Adventures of Superhero Girl). Of these eight projects, I have worked with a writer for TWO of them. For both of those projects the writers were long established professionals with many credits to their name, AND they were already hooked in with publishers who could pay me a (semi) living wage for my months of work. These publishers were legitimate publishers with distribution in place and markets to sell to. They ensured my hard work on the projects I did for them did not go down the drain.
Here is something I feel I need to say. I do not mean it to be aggressive or mean, but I don’t know how else to say it:
I am not a tool to be used to bring your dream project to life.
I am a cartoonist with my own stories to tell, and I want to work with people who respect me as a professional and a collaborator. I have been very fortunate that all the people I have worked with till this point have treated me well and paid me (decently, this IS comics) for my time. I have chosen projects that I have liked, and I have created my own comics. Did you notice that? I mean, that’s the thing that kind of boggles my mind: don’t you see I write my own stuff too? Six of my eight projects of the last 12 years have been written and drawn by me. I very much like the writing part of comics, and for me to give that up, the project must be very special.
… and I must be paid.
So. I hope that answers your question, and all the questions I will ever get in the future about drawing comics for free, or getting paid to draw proposals that have little to no chance of ever being published.
PS. If you are a writer with a history of published projects, feel free to contact me! That’s how I got hooked up with J.Torres and First Second when I drew Bigfoot Boy and Brain Camp, respectively.