Artists are the backbone of art. It’s that simple. No artists, no art. This doesn’t exclude anyone: fringe artists, trained artists, digital artists… Without artists, you have no art, and without art you have no comic books and finally, without comic books… NO NEW YORK COMIC CON!
When I started in the comic book biz, back in the 90s, I was an untrained fringe artist in my early 20s just drooling at all the amazing comic book illustrations. Back then I worked for a chain of comic book shops in New Jersey and got my geek on every week as new books shipped – it was like Christmas and my birthday combined.
I sat there pouring over issues of Superman, Batman, Daredevil, and of course the Indie boom was all over the place at that time. With Dark Horse arriving on the scene in 1986 to challenge the big boys, the publisher paved the way for more opportunities to reach audiences than the underground rags that circulated randomly whenever an artist had the means to print.
Indie comics like Everette Hartsoe’s Razor & Lady Death filled spots on shop shelves. The major publishers like D.C. and Marvel doubled their efforts to fill the market and push out the smaller firms, but then the rebels kicked it into gear with the launch of Image Comics.
It was an exciting time – and all of it happened because of artists. That's right: The face of the comics industry changed because artists got together and made it happen. I'm talking about real massive market shift, not just some social change and commentary like an R. Crumb print, but real market segmentation happened due to artists. And most of those artists were freelancers… independent artists with contract work – FREELANCERS.
Now, in 2016, we're seeing a new indie boom thanks to technology. Just walk around NY Comic Con this year and take notice - look at how many independent books are being presented… more than last year, more than the year before.
Indie artists are putting their work out there for your entertainment. They're not under contract with some big publisher – they're using new tools to share their work and get paid for it.
When I was working on some projects under the William Shatner imprint, Shatner Singularity, and attended the NY Comic Con for the panel discussion I was in awe of just how many unknown artists were sitting at booths selling their books, art, shirts and ideas. I walked around and looked at just how much of the space was filled with, well… US. I could see the struggle as well as the joy on the faces of these creatives; I could understand their efforts and passions as they bled this stuff.
Like most of us we work the jobs we have to work in order to do the things we love. I work as an art instructor, it’s not my passion but it pays the bills. Until I found the various organizations to back me, like the Freelancers Union, I always felt a bit alone. Artists struggle, it’s not like the 15th century where a rich family appointed you the court creative and paid you a handsome wage for your craft… no, today people ask why they have to pay you at all!
It’s been 20 years since my days at the the comic book shop, and I am still very much that geeky kid that gets excited to see new creations from artists. Comic Con is like a museum of creativity exploded all over a factory of illustration. It’s a feast for the spirit, the mind and the eyes and it's inspiring to see those of your ‘kind’ living the grind of their passion.
As artists, we have to unite and stay united in order to make sure that we’re valued at our worth. It’s important to support one another, as my 20 years in the business has taught me, hence my membership in the Freelancers Union (as well as several other supportive organizations).
To have a resource behind you as you venture forth and share your work is like having that massive gang, crew, team standing there backing you up when questioned… why do I have to pay you for your art? Imagine a thousand voices behind you answering in unison – “Because I can do what you can’t.”
Look around when you’re at the Con at all the smaller companies, the indie publishers, the single creators… they are all part of something big like you – they are artists! They are freelancers and when they come together under a family like the Freelancers Union, they become the voice of the creative. It’s okay to share the passions of your craft and be supported in doing so.
I’m trying to avoid sounding like a PBS membership drive here, but I can assure you that joining and engaging with a group like the Freelancers Union is worth every second of your time.
You may one day find yourself in that booth at the New York Comic Con and it may be you who sees your art has been ripped off or you might be the person trying to get payment from a less than honest publisher… you will need friends.
I will be at the Con as an artist. I live my passion; I get paid; I am the court appointed artisan. I am the backbone of comics. Why? Because I have talent, passion and freelancer friends to back me up.
Stand with me and the many artists at Comic Con – sign the petition to pass the Freelance Isn't Free Act.
Let’s go to the Con and get inspired.