Creative Contract Consulting

Are Independent Comics Worth Making If Marvel Stops Publishing?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

by Gamal Hennessy

An aspiring creator sent me this direct message on LinkedIn in the wake of the Marvel SXSW panel:

Q: I just read that DC and Marvel might be shutting down their comic book lines and cease all publications. In your opinion, what does that mean for the indie folks? Is it worth doing comics?

The rumor wasn't surprising. Variations on the same story pop up on the internet from time to time as part of the persistent “comics are doomed” rumor.

The denial from Joe Quesada isn't surprising. Neither is the refusal of some websites to accept that denial. Websites need traffic, after all.

The creator's first question also made sense to me. When Waldenbooks disappeared, authors wonder how the book market would change. The same thing happened to people in the music industry when major record stores like Tower and Virgin shut down.

The analogy between Marvel and independent creators isn’t the same as the relationship of authors and musicians to their former distribution outlets, but the broad idea is similar. Seismic changes in any entertainment industry will have a ripple effect on everyone from the biggest players to the struggling artist.

But it was the second question that threw me off. It’s grounded in the idea that The Big Two are synonymous with the comic book industry. So if one of them (or both of them) stop publishing comics, then independent comics aren’t worth publishing. As if the creativity, inspiration and passion of thousands of creators might become irrelevant if new issues of Spider-Man and X-Men stopped coming out.

Yes, the Big Two account for the vast majority of monthly sales in America. Outside of the comic book business, their characters and stories define what a comic book is. If they stopped publishing, distributors like Diamond and retailers in the direct market would have to rapidly adjust if they were going to survive.

But that has nothing to do with independent comics as a worthwhile endeavor.

This was my response to the young man. Please let me know if you agree:

A: I highly doubt Marvel is shutting down it's publishing business, but if you want to publish your own comics, then it doesn't matter if Marvel shuts down or not.


You'll still have stories to tell. There will still be people who want to read the type of story you're telling. There will still be ways to get your story to your readers and get paid for it.

If Marvel stops publishing, the industry will go through a major change, but you should keep publishing your comics either way.

Have fun

Gamal

If you have questions about the business or legal aspects of your comic book publishing and you'd like a free consultation, please contact me and we can set something up that fits in with your schedule.


PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR ATTORNEY OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

What is Comic Book Law?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

     By Gamal Hennessy

Lawyers are similar to doctors in terms of specialization. While some of us have a general practice, most of us focus on a particular area. These areas of expertise allow for greater focus and better results for our clients. That’s why you wouldn’t let your podiatrist perform brain surgery on you and you wouldn’t trust your criminal case to your real estate lawyer. Unique industries require unique professionals.

            I refer myself as a comic book lawyer, but this isn’t an official area of law. Unlike corporate or constitutional law, you can’t study comic book law in any law school that I know of. It is debatable if there is such a field. This post is my explanation of what comic book law is and why it is important for both creators and the industry. I’ll also offer up the names of three other comic book attorneys who are helping to protect the business and financial elements of this art form.

A Hybrid Legal Specialty

What I refer to as comic book law is a focused form of publishing law that also deals with broader aspects of entertainment law. Comic book law shares similar issues as other types of publishing, including copyright law, contracts, and first amendment issues. Where it differs is in aspects of production before the book is made and associated products after the books are released.

A Cooperative Legal Specialty

Most novels and poems are written by a single individual. Most comics are created by a team of at least two and as many as seven people. Some independent comics are published as the joint effort of a dozen or more professionals (See You Need Two Teams to Publish a Successful Comic). The collaborative nature of comics means that like other cooperative forms of art, contractual relationships between the artists are as important as the agreements between the artists and the distributors. (See All For One: Artist Collaboration Agreements). Whether you’re talking about work for hire contracts, joint ownership agreements or something in between, the ownership of every comic requires a unique type of contract (See What Kind of Contracts Do You Need for Your Comic?). Children’s book publishing also has aspects of collaboration between the illustrator and the author, but the variation of relationships between comic book creators is more varied and complex.

A Commercial Legal Specialty

            Comics are also a unique form of publishing based on the life that the characters and stories enjoy off the page. Crossover media, merchandise and derivative products have been part of the comic book business since their infancy (See Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle). Very few novels or prose works generate substantial collectibles or merchandise, unless it’s a children’s book or the book is licensed to become a film. Comic characters generate merchandise as a natural by-product of publication (See Making Comics Isn’t Really About Making Comics Anymore).

From a business and legal standpoint, this means that comic book law needs to consider the intellectual property implications of both copyright and trademark law (See Image and Story: The Role of Copyright and Trademark in Comics), film, television, and video game licensing (See Comics are Thriving in TV and Movies) as well as business formation for new publishers in the market (See The Benefits of Forming an LLC for Your Independent Comic). In many cases, the business and financial impact of the secondary market is more complex and more lucrative than the book itself.

An Established Legal Specialty

            Comics have been a staple in international entertainment for decades (See In France, Comic Books Are Serious Business), but like comics in America, comic book law isn’t given the same deference as other areas of law.  But this viewpoint ignores the importance of comics as an industry and the ongoing work of a host of legal professionals.

In 2017, comics were a two billion dollar industry not counting movies, merchandise or related products (See Comic Book Sales by Year). There are more than three hundred active comic book publishers in America (See List of Comic Book Publishers) and many of them have comic book lawyers on staff or as outside counsel. Specifically, these three gentlemen have been practicing and/or writing about comic book law for several years.

Comic book law is not as respected or well known as corporate law or criminal law. It is an adaptive and complex field that requires specific expertise and understanding about the industry. Every comic creator and publisher needs to find the right lawyer to protect the rights and revenue for their work. A unique industry requires unique professionals.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

How Do You Register a Copyright for Your Comic?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

If you don’t see your comic as a viable commercial concept or if you think it is viable but for whatever reason you prefer to you are comfortable with the characters and story being used freely by anyone and everyone, then registration might not make sense for you. But if you plan to invest time, money and energy into your idea and you want a better chance to benefit from your investment, the benefits of registration will be helpful to you

Read More

What is the Structure of Independent Comic Book Publishing?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The structure I came up with is largely borrowed from the production and distribution of the most complex and expensive narrative art forms, namely film, television and video games. The overall structure has three stages, each stage has several elements within it, and several of the elements can happen at the same time. The structure has several moving parts, but each one is set up to maximize the commercial potential of your comic.

Read More

Positioning Your Book for the Coming Content War

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Comic creators need to make comics because they love comics, not because they're searching for a Netflix deal. The vast majority of books will never cross over into mass media, even in this golden age of comic book entertainment. 

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep your eyes open for opportunities and create the business and legal structure to maximize your potential. As Rob Salkowitz of ICV2 writes, the streaming digital content wars will need the type of content comics have perfected. 

 "No one can afford to go into this battle like that half-committed.  Anyone who wants to play needs to go all in to sign up any content, any creators, and any licenses that might help them win – even if it’s only to keep certain projects and properties out of the hands of competitors."

Could your book benefit from the streaming content feeding frenzy? Maybe, but only if you finish your book, get it out into the world, and take the right steps to protect it . 

Have fun. 

G

 PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Cinedigm, ComicBlitz and Your Independent Comic

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The world of comics distribution is in a constant state of flux. The tides of change recently shifted again when over the top (OTT) content provider Cinedigm signed a deal to acquire ComicBlitz.

“ComicBlitz gives readers access to 10,000 digital comic books from publishers including IDW, Valiant, Dynamite, Zenescope and Lion Forge. The service is priced at $7.99 per month for unlimited access and is available in 133 countries.” While it’s not on par with Comixology at this point, an influx of cash from an OTT network can expand the potential reach of every book in the service to new readers in new markets.

As you develop and publish your own comics, deals like this should remind you to keep your options open when it comes to marketing, distribution, and sales. What worked in the past might not work today. What works now might not work tomorrow. Take advantage of the shifting sands and technologies. Use them to get your books to your market.

Have fun.

G

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Independent Comic Publishers Need Independent Bookstores

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Experts thought the rise of Amazon meant the death of bookstores. We saw Kindle as the book killer and Comixology dealing a similar fate to print comics. But experts are often wrong.

Amazon has been instrumental in the demise of Waldenbooks and the crippling of Barnes and Noble, but recent economic reports show growth in the independent book market over the past few years (See  Small Bookstores Are Booming). The sense of community and the serendipity of wandering the shelves is something Amazon can't replicate...yet.

But what does this mean for independent comic publishers? It won't eliminate Amazon from most long term distribution models, but it can be another avenue for you to expand your audience beyond the comic book shop and build a stronger fan base. You'll have to do some research on the bookstores in your area to find the shop that works with your stories and your business model, but there are worse ways to do research than wandering the shelves of a bookstore. 

If you want to read more about the business and legal aspects of independent comic book publishing,sign up for my free monthly newsletter today.

Have fun.

G

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

 

Silence May Not Be Golden for Freelance Comic Creators

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Companies are trying to prevent freelancers who work for them from disclosing what they get paid. This creates an advantage for the publishers , but it is dangerous for freelancers who lack the information to negotiate their deals in a thoughtful manner

Read More

Why Are Comics Better Than Movies (and books, and plays, and video games) for Telling Stories?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

In spite of the newfound popular acceptance, the masses still fail to see comics as a superior storytelling method, with both an artistic and popular appeal that elevates it above all other narrative art.

Read More

Why am I Qualified to Write a Book about Independent Comics Publishing?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The Independent Comic Book Publishing book is being built on a foundation that includes 40 years of experience in the industry, extensive research, and a wide range of interviews.

Read More

What Is Your Business and Legal Guide to Independent Comic Book Publishing?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Three years ago, I decided to write a book about the business and legal aspects of the comic book industry (See Your Career in Comics: An Introduction). My original idea was to create a comprehensive book that covered what I saw as the four major aspects of the creative comic book industry:

  1. Publishing independent comics (See the Creator Owned Path)

  2. Working as a freelance comic artist (See the Work for Hire Path)

  3. Getting creator owned deals with publishers of all sizes (See the Creator Driven Path)

  4. Moving your story off the page and onto screens and into merchandise (See the Transmedia Path)

As the research, interviews, and casual discussions among colleagues began to accumulate, two ideas became very clear:

  • Smaller is better: An all-inclusive book about the four major paths in comics is too big for someone with my limited intellect to tackle at once. It makes more sense to start with one aspect of the industry.

  • To Have a Career in Comics Publishing, It Helps to Publish Some Comics: Publishing independent comics is the foundation for understanding and entering the industry. While there are a lot of ways to get into comics, making and publishing comics gives you experience on both the creative and the business side of the process.

Armed with these two insights, my experience in the industry, and a thick folder of notes, it’s time for me to write Your Business and Legal Guide to Independent Comic Book Publishing.

I’m planning to document the growth of the book in this blog, so if you have any questions or comments along the way, please let me know.

Have fun.

G

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Vault Comics Launches a New YA Brand

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The young adult segment of the comic book industry has seen growth in recent years. Gains have been seen in library, book stores and direct market shops.

Independent publisher Vault Comics recently announced a new imprint called  Myriad to cater to this market. 

"The new middle grade and YA imprint will offer original graphic novels and serialized graphic works as well as a lineup of new and established authors and artists. The initial list of titles and creators will be announced in November 2018." (Publishers Weekly)

Myriad can open doors for emerging creators interested in YA comics and signal to other independent publishers that growth can still be found outside the superhero genre.  

Have fun. 

Gamal

 PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

 

Can Freelance Comic Creators Form a Union?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Unionization among comic creators isn’t impossible or is ultimately bad for the industry. But until the obstacles are overcome, freelance creators need to negotiate the best contracts they can and be flexible enough to withstand the rapid changes inherent to the industry. 

Read More

Fighting the Demons of Independent Comics Publishing

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Publishing your own comics, like any type of independent creative endeavor, can be an exciting journey of achievement. It can also be a descent into poor health, isolation, and financial stress. Creators who can balance the love for their book with their long term well being have a better chance of enjoying the experience

Jessica Bruder wrote a thoughtful piece in Inc. Magazine called "The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship." While publishing an independent comic isn't the same as launching a Fortune 500 company, there are simple lessons in this post creators can learn like:

  • Make time for friends and family

  • Ask for help if depression or hopelessness sets in

  • Take care of your body (sleep, exercise, etc.)

  • Don't bankrupt yourself to make your book

  • Don't define yourself only by your book

Publishing independent comics can feel like being a superhero with a secret identity. Both your passion project and your alter ego need to be protected. Neglecting either one can create an imbalance that destroys both.

 PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

 

My Interview with On the Reel

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Last night Mr. Stephen Johnson and the gentlemen of the R-Square Network show On the Reel invited me to discuss my recent article The Politics of Comics (http://bit.ly/2pQcqOl).  

The discussion touched on Chuck Wendig's firing, Comicsgate, the Trumpocalypse and the potential impact on commercial artistic expression.

What's your opinion?

Have fun.

Gamal

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

The Politics of Making Comics

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Comics, like other forms of popular art, have always been influenced by the political climate of the period they are created in. From the mythical stories of Kirby ready to face down nazi sympathizers who threatened him for his work in Captain America, to Seduction of the Innocent and the subsequent congressional hearings, to Comicsgate, politics have always been a part of making comics.

            Against that backdrop, the termination of Chuck Wendig last week is disturbing, but not surprising. I’ve written about the contractual tools parties can use to dictate the private activities of their business partners in earlier posts (See Avoiding the Trump Effect in Your Creative Contracts) and even a company like Marvel, who has been the target of Comicsgate because of their diversity efforts (See Is Diversity Killing Marvel Comics) can feel the reactionary pressure to pull away from an artist they see as too controversial for their IP. The deeper question is what kind of impact this move will have on comic book artists in the future.

            Will this create a chilling effect on emerging artists who rely on the Big Two as their main source of income?  Will it push away established artist who cherish their right to be vocal about their beliefs outside of their professional work? Will fans of fired artists drift away from publishers? Will aggressive elements on any side of a political issue see this as a signal to force more creators to be harassed, censored, or fired?

            What do you think the Wendig fallout will be, and how will it affect the way you make and read comics?

Have fun.

Gamal

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.   

So Where Was Captain Marvel?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Marvel Studios dropped the new Captain Marvel trailer this morning to deflect attention away from the "leaked" Joker image.

As an initial trailer, this sets up a mystery providing more questions than answers, but as a film set in the 80's (made clear in the Blockbuster reference) the most obvious question for me is where was this powerhouse hero when Loki was trying to take over the Earth and Ultron tried to drop a country on Europe?

Have fun.

G

 PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

You Need Two Teams to Publish a Successful Comic

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

I’m in the process of writing a book about the business and legal aspects of making independent comics (See Your Career in Comics). As the book develops, I plan to share parts of it here for your reaction and feedback.

About a month ago, I began the process by asking why you want to make comics in the first place (See What Are You Trying to Do?). Now I’d like to look at who you need to have on your team to have a successful publishing program.

One Book, Two Teams

Independent comic creators often put a lot of time and effort into building the team for their books. They reach out to friends in their circles who make comics. They visit artist’s alley in conventions, pour over Deviant Art pages, explore the overseas options, and ask for referrals on social media. Sometimes, it takes years for them to find the right artists for their project.

But too many creators start their book with only half a team.

If comics are a form of commercial art, then the development of the art requires both business and creative support. Focusing on only one side limits the potential of the project.

The Creative Team

            This side of the equation is basic to the creation of any comic. As with plays, films, and television shows, one or more individuals come together to turn a vision into a reality. Some roles overlap, but the common structure of a comic book creative team includes:

  1. The writer who creates the overall plot of the book and the script in both the caption boxes and the character dialogue.

  2. The artist creates the fundamental images on each page. They may also create the basic character designs, settings, logos and the cover for the overall book

  3. The inker enhances the images created by the artist, altering the tone and weight of the story by emphasizing some visual aspects over others.

  4. The letterer inserts all the words in the book including dialogue, captions and “sound effects” in a way that guides the reader’s eye in a natural progression from one image to another.

  5. The flatter prepares the inked images for the colorist to enhance the color rendering process.

  6. The colorist adds moods, energy, and texture to the images to give them more impact to the eye

  7. The editor oversees the entire process to ensure that the best possible finished product is created on time and under budget.

The Business Team

The creative side of comics is intense and time-consuming, but it is only part of the process. Professional comic creators publish books with one of the goals being the creation of profit. Without someone (and more often several people) running the business side of things, even the best comics will not sell. The elements of the business team vary from book to book, but every book needs to answer these questions as part of the process:

  1. Accounting: Who is collecting the money? Who is paying the bills?

  2. Advertising: Who is in charge of informing the public about the book?

  3. Distribution: Who is handling the relationships with Diamond and the direct market shops for the print book? Who is in charge of managing the online distribution on the website, Comixology, and the emerging distribution channels?

  4. Legal: Who is protecting the intellectual property of the book? Who is handling the internal and external contract negotiations?

  5. Management: Who is in charge of the overall creative and financial success of the book?

  6. Marketing: Who is in charge of creating the website, maintaining the social media presence, running the crowdfunding campaign, and handling the interactions with the comic book press,

  7. Printing: Who is in charge of managing the printing process? (If the book is being printed)

  8. Sales: Who is in charge of using the book to generate money?

Juggling Jobs

Every independent comic does not have fifteen people working on it. Some established publishing companies don’t have fifteen people working on the books. Creating independent comics is a startup experience. It means members of the creative team often take roles in the business team. It can mean members of the business team can fulfill multiple roles within that team. It also means that some jobs will not be done, or they won’t be done with the same time and attention as if someone only worked on that piece of the project. Some creators decide to give up some of their rights and sign up with creator-driven publishers like Image or AfterShock to take advantage of their pre-existing business teams.

As a comic creator, you have the power to decide which aspects of the process will and won’t get done. This power works better when you make conscious decisions at the outset of the project. It does you no good to spend two years making a book to sell and then realizing no one is prepared to sell it or collect the money.

The Cost of Teamwork

No matter how you decide to divide the tasks of publishing your comic, everyone who works on the book is going to have to be compensated at some point. Very few people are willing to work for free, even on something they love, so part of independent publishing is finding a way to pay everyone involved.

There are several different compensation methods available depending on the level of participation of each person, your resources, and the short and long-term interests of everyone involved. Increased involvement often includes increased compensation. Different compensation can be mixed and matched to give each person both a short and long-term stake in the project. Just don’t give away more than you have.

Compensation methods include:

  1. Upfront payment

  2. Revenue sharing based on units sold, ad revenue generated, sponsorships, etc.

  3. Ownership interests in the underlying property

  4. Credit on the underlying work

Better Odds

When creating a comic, the chances of success are greater if all jobs are assigned, everyone agrees on the terms, and the schedules for production, marketing, sales, and payment are established before making the book. All this preparation does not guarantee a hit book. The Big Two have dozens of people involved in each book and some of them still fail. But publishing comics involves a lot of individual tasks to make the machine run. If some tasks don’t get done on the business or creative side, then the machine breaks down fast.

Next month I’ll talk about creating a term sheet for the members of your team and the relationship between the term sheet and the contract.

Have fun with your comic...

Gamal  

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.