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Your Career in Comics: What Are You Trying to Do?

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.

Since this is the first post, I’m going to start with an existential question:

Why do you want to make comics?

Before you start thinking about drawing, sales or social media, it is important to figure out exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and why. Making comics, like any artistic or business endeavor, involves substantial sacrifice and investment. If you’re going to make comics a part of your life beyond the Wednesday ritual of picking up your pull box, it makes sense to take a step back and look at the big picture.

To answer this question, I suggest you take yourself out for a cup of coffee or a cocktail (if you’re old enough, of course) and figure out the answers to the following questions. Keep in mind that the answers can and will change over time, so don’t be afraid to revisit these questions as your circumstances and the industry changes.

Goals (or What Do You Want to Do in Comics?): “I want to make comics” is a start, but there are different aspects to the industry, and figuring out where you want to be will help you make decisions on which opportunities to pursue and which ones to avoid. Maybe you want to make your own books and sell them at cons. Maybe you want to work for the Big Two. Maybe you want to be the next Stan Lee or Todd McFarlane. Maybe you want it all. You can have any goals you want. The purpose of goals isn’t to limit you. They just guide you on your path.

Reasons (or Why Do You Want a Career in Comics?): It’s one thing to know what you want to do. Knowing why is a different type of insight. Are you doing this because you have a story to tell, because you want to be a part of the comics community, or because you want more money than Tony Stark?

Like your goals, your reasons are personal. They don’t have to define you, but keeping them in mind can motivate you to overcome the inevitable setbacks and pitfalls. You can have any reason or motivation you want for getting into comics. There are opportunities for artistry, creativity, and profit at almost every level of the industry, but at the end of the day, a love of the art form will keep you going.  

Plan (or How Are You Going to Get into Comics?) After you understand your goals and your reasons for wanting those goals, you need to develop a plan to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. As you follow along with this blog and hopefully read my book, you can begin to figure out which path you want to adopt for your own purposes and take the appropriate steps.

Of course, no plan survives contact with reality. The industry is in a state of constant flux. The impact of changing trends will often be outside of your control. You’re going to need to modify your plan to adapt to new conditions, so the plan you make might not be the path you ultimately take. But you have to start somewhere and making your own comic is a good place to begin, no matter where you ultimately want to go.

Resources (or What Do You Have to Offer the Industry?) The secret to success in the comics business involves making consistent ritual sacrifices on the altar of the industry. What you get from comics is based in large part on what you put in. Your offering might be a creative vision, artistic skill, a network of eager professionals, or an investment of time and finances. In many cases, the creators who came before you had to offer all these things and more. Now is the time to figure out what you bring to the table and what you need to find in the community to make your goals real.

Milestones (or How Will You Track the Progress of Your Plan?) No one goes to sleep wanting a career in comics and wakes up where they want to be. Your development as a creator will grow in stages. You get to determine what those stages are and to a large extent, in what order you want them to happen. You can start with putting your first team together, getting your first issue online, or any other basis that’s right for you. You can decide whether your goals are books created, copies sold, or views on your website. Milestones give your goals concrete structure you can use to measure your efforts.

Motivation (or What Gets You Started and Keeps You Going?) Despite the view from the outside, the art and business of comics are not easy. It can be a long road from your initial inspiration to holding your book in your hands and the road isn’t a straight line. There will be obstacles and pressures to stop. This isn’t just true in comics. It’s true in life.

Even if you get your vision into the world, success (whatever your definition of it is) may not come quickly. It is not hyperbole to say some creators did not live long enough to see the characters they created become a fixture in mainstream culture.

So what is it about your comic that’s going to bring you back to the project month after month and year after year? What is going to pick you up when life knocks you down? What drives you might be very personal or it could be the universal desire for fame and fortune.

Yes, they’re movies, merchandise, and money to be made. Yes, comics are one of the driving forces in 21st-century pop culture. But the comics business is not a get rich quick industry. For every Walking Dead, there are thousands of other titles that lose money or never get off the ground. If you don’t love comics, it might not make sense to spend the time and effort of getting into the business.

In the next installment of Your Career in Comics, I plan to talk about the framework for an independent comics company and break down the process into manageable parts. If you’d like to read more about the business and legal aspects of making comics, like my Facebook page or sign up for my free newsletter.

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.  

How Much Do You Get Paid Per Page?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

 

By Gamal Hennessy, Esq.

When you first start out in comics, there’s a lot of details about the business you need to understand. Everything from how to find work, to what to look for in a contract, to making sure you get paid are all things you have to take care of in addition to making great art. Not only do you have to digest a lot of information, but aspects of the comics industry change from publisher to publisher and from month to month. One of the most important and the most fluid aspects of freelance comics work is how much each publisher pays per page. I’d like to make the process of determining your page rate a little easier by talking about what a page rate is, what the common rates are and how you can keep track of changing rates in the future.

What is a Page Rate?

Different professions get paid according to different measurements. Lawyers get paid by the hour. Sales people get paid based on commissions. Freelance comic book artists (and some creator driven artists) get paid a page rate. The basic idea is for every page you’re hired to work on, you get a set fee. So if you get $100 per page and the book is 32 pages, then you get $3,200.

A page rate is a base number. It doesn’t take into account incentives like royalty pools, recoupment, back end participation or anything else that could muddy the waters. It’s a straight forward transaction; one page for one price. As long as you know what the price is, everything else is based on that.

What Were the Current Page Rates for 2016?

The confusing question is ‘what is the right page rate for you?’ Your page rate can and will vary based on your experience, skill level, established fan base, prior projects and the publisher you’re working with. While several factors are subjective and based on you as an individual, there are some baselines you should keep in mind. Thomas Crowell, author of the excellent book Pocket Lawyer for Comics Creators recently offered this snapshot of the industry at the 2016 New York Comic Con:

  • Writers:                              $25-$220 per page
  • Cover Artist:                      $200-$750 per cover
  • Pencils:                             $100-$250 per page
  • Inks:                                  $75-$200 per page
  • Coloring:                            $35-$150 per page
  • Flatting:                             $8-$20 per page
  • Lettering:                           $10-$50 per page

This list is not a guarantee. You might be offered less than the numbers above. You can always ask for more. This should just serve as a guideline to what you can expect when you deal with a publisher. Other factors will play a role, but this gives you somewhere to start from.

How Can I Keep Track of Page Rates?

As a freelance artist, you’ll get a sense of where the market is in terms of page rates as you spend time in the industry working on different projects. Publishers can alter their rates at will, so it pays to keep in touch with other artists in the field, pay attention to message boards and discussions and talk to your editors and publishers on a regular basis to find out their individual positions. There are also ongoing resources you can use and participate in to make page rates more transparent. The list above was derived from a site called Fair Page Rates that isn't perfect by any means, but it attempts to track rates for various US publishers in a system that is inherently subjective.

Once you understand what a page rate is, how you can figure out your page rate and who pays what, you have a lot of information to help you chart your freelance comics career. If you know how many pages you can do a month, you can calculate your maximum potential income. If you know how much you need per year to work on comics full time, you can figure out what page rate you need and how many books you need to work on to make freelancing a viable job. Then you can spend some time actually practicing your craft and making great comics.

Have fun.

Gamal

Related Articles:

Your Career in Comics: Freelance Artist

Your Career in Comics: Creator Driven Artist

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

Four Tips for Writing Your Comic

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

Being a comic writer has more in common with being a screenwriter than a novelist or a playwright. There needs to be a visual aspect to the writing and a certain willingness to surrender your story to another artist and trust them to deliver the finished product to the public.

There have been more than a few books about writing for comics, like Alan Moore's Writing for Comics, Words for Pictures and others listed in my recent post on comic creation books. Rachel Gluckstern recently distilled her own version of the comic writing craft into four handy tips to help get you on the same page as your artist so you can create your masterpiece.

Just remember to have a contract in place for every book you write. You don't want your masterpiece to make someone else rich.

Click Here to Read So You Want to Write a Comic Book

Have Fun.

Gamal Hennessy

Success in the comics industry requires an understanding of the business, creative, and legal aspects of the medium.

Sign up for The Professional Comics Creator to get monthly e-mail news, tips and advice on how to get the most from your characters and stories.

 

What the Valiant Movie Deal Means for Comics, Movies and You

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

One of the bigger pieces of entertainment industry news this week focused on the deal between Valiant Comics and a Chinese based company called DMG. The details of the deal haven’t been made clear, but the initial reports suggest DMG has pledged to invest “a nine figure sum” in creating a film and TV universe for Valiant properties. (See Valiant Entertainment Gets Nine Figure Funding for Movie Division)

Paying the Money

In any licensing or production deal, there are at least two sides to the story. On one hand, you have DMG who appears to be trying to get a slice of the lucrative shared universe pie, but it is hard to understand their motives at this point. Why would a Chinese company, with access to potentially billions of creative minds invest so much effort into intellectual property with limited cache? Why not create an original shared universe with less baggage, complications and cost? I understand properties like Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t have mainstream cache before their films came out, but Marvel focused on those properties because they already owned the rights to them. They didn’t have to shell out big money to a third party and then dump more money into bringing them to the big screen. DMG appears to have overpaid to join the connected universe wars.

It could be DMG is using Valiant as a future landing spot for talent it plans to lure away from Disney/Marvel and Warner/DC. Once the established creators see a former minor player as a new deep pocket, they might be willing to jump at the chance to join Valiant’s roster. A move along those lines could shift the balance of power away from Marvel’s dominance in film and DC’s leadership on TV and make the entire industry more competitive.

Getting the Money

No matter what DMG plans to do, the other side of the story is the important piece for producers, writers and creative people of all types. This deal, to the extent it comes to fruition, elevates an unknown independent comic publisher into an international entertainment force. But this transformation didn’t happen overnight. Valiant has been publishing since 1989. Its titles and roster have changed over the years, but their story is a classic example of three concepts I tell all my clients:

Of course, the DMG/ Valiant deal could be a complete disaster. It might be the beginning of the end of the golden age of comic book based entertainment (See Can We Have Too Many Comic Book Movies?) But I don’t think so. Film, television, books and interactive media can all share in the windfall of increased interest in new properties. You can get a piece of the pie too, but only if you’re rights are protected.

Have fun.

Gamal

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

Is the New Marvel Universe a Secret War on Fox Super Hero Films?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

 

by Gamal Hennessy

In the comics industry, the death and resurrection of characters is a fairly common occurrence. Marvel killed Wolverine a few months ago and ended Fantastic Four as an ongoing series a couple months later. DC recently killed Robin and we’re now in his rebirth phase. The death of characters is an accepted element of post-industrial mythology and the business of creativity.  Every so often, something has to be taken away so it can come back with renewed energy.

Killing a comic character is common, but Marvel is doing something a bit more daring with today’s announcement of Secret Wars (See The Marvel Universe is Ending). In essence, Marvel is dismantling all of its various continuities to create a single overarching narrative. This event appears to be in the same creative vein as other universe destroying events like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Heroes Reborn and the New 52. Rather than shake things up with a reimagined world like the Ultimate Universe I saw launch when I was at Marvel, the stakes are being raised, or at least the goal posts are being moved.

But how much of this is the product of business as opposed to art? There’s already been plenty of speculation about the impact Marvel’s recent creative moves in comics will have on the superhero movie industry. Marvel has poured more creative and marketing energy towards the movie properties it owns (Avengers, Guardians, etc.) and has downplayed, muddled or destroyed  properties licensed out to other studios (X-Men, Spider-Man, Punisher). Conspiracy theorists suggest Marvel of using the tail to help wag the dog.

If the comics are the root of the money making movie tree, killing the root might weaken the tree. When any licensed product becomes more trouble than its worth, a movie studio might decide they’re better off giving up the rights. When Marvel reacquired the movie rights to titles like Daredevil and Hulk, the conspiracy theorists saw this as a Marvel’s success. The recent rumors of Spider-Man appearing in the Civil War film also fuels the conspiracy fire. The death of Wolverine and the cancelation of Fantastic Four could be considered a more aggressive move, designed to lower the potential success of the upcoming films, assuming other factors remain constant.

So what will the industry impact be of reconfiguring the entire Marvel mythology? It could be nothing or it may be everything. It all depends on which titles and characters emerge from Secret Wars. If most (or none) of the Fox or Sony characters survive the slaughter, I’d say there was a strong case for the conspiracy theory. But I doubt Marvel will be so blatant. A lot of factors go into the success or failure of a film franchise. Killing off a character in the comics isn’t a magic bullet, Kryptonite or a mystic hammer, but it can provide insight into the mind of the character’s owner.

The insight independent creators should have for their own characters is the same no matter how Secret Wars plays out. You need to treat your characters and stories as business assets. Make your decisions and focus your energy on the properties that work for you. If they don’t, consider shaking things up, even if some of your babies have to die. (See Treat Your Art Like an Investment)

Have fun.
Gamal

You Signed the Contract, But Do You Know What It Says?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

            Every writer, artist and musician knows they should read and understand a contract before they sign it. You don’t need to hear the horror stories of rookies and veterans who lost the rights to a lucrative project because they didn’t know what they were signing. The advice is so universal, it often feels insulting to bring it up.

            But the reality is many creative people don’t read what they sign. There are a lot of reasons why this happens, including:

  • Time pressure by the other side (If I waste time reading this, they’re going to give the deal to someone else)
  • A perceived lack of experience (I won’t understand it so why should I waste time reading it?),
  • A perceived lack of leverage (I won’t be able to change anything so why should I bother to ask?) (See Negotiating Power in Creative Contracts)
  • A general faith in the decency of their business partners (Bob is my friend. Bob would never screw me with a bad contract, so why do I need to worry about it?)

            In some instances, an unread contract is signed and the world does not end. But information is power, even after the contract is executed. Creative people of all types can benefit from a thoughtful analysis of their existing contracts for three reasons.

  1. Managing expectations: It is normal for an artist who gets a deal to expect to see a revenue stream begin to come in when his work gets released to the market. But the structure, timing and amount of payment can be controlled by different provisions of the agreement. Many contracts limit (or in some cases eliminate) your ability to get paid. If you understand this after the contract is signed, you’ll know when and if to expect some payment and you won’t put yourself in a financial hole waiting for money that might not come. (See Artistic Fantasy vs. Financial Reality)
  2. Managing usage of the property: You may have created your story or song, but you might not have control over it depending on what the contract says. In addition, you might have signed away the underlying elements of the work, giving your business partner control over any sequels, spin offs and other derivative works. If you understand what you do and don’t control, you’ll know if you should focus your efforts on building that particular property or creating something else that you have more control over. (See Treat Your Art Like an Investment)
  3. Understanding the process: Just because you sign one bad contract doesn’t mean you have to agree to the same detrimental terms with every project you do. If you use your bad contract as an educational experience, you can be better prepared to make a more lucrative deal for your next property. But you can’t avoid bad contract language if you don’t know what it is. Sitting down and coming to grips with your current deal will make you a better professional in the long run.

            I counsel my clients to understand all their contracts before they are signed, while they still have the ability to accept or reject the deal (See How to Turn Down a Bad Contract) , but there is value in understanding an existing agreement, even if you’re not in a position to change it. The worst thing you can do is make a bad situation worse by sticking your head in the sand. (See Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late)

Have fun.

Gamal

P.S. On a completely different note, I’d like to share my own creative work with my clients and potential clients. You can get free samples of my Crime and Passion stories by visiting http://nightlifepublishing.nyc

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

Recommended Professional Panels for NY Comic Con 2014

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

If you work in comics (or you just enjoy comic culture) then events like New York Comic Con one of the high points of the year. It’s a place where professionals get a chance to network, connect with their fans, sell their work, be inspired, geek out and spend too much money on comics, toys, t-shirts and other random paraphernalia.

Cons are also a good source of information when it comes to managing and understanding your career. If you take advantage of the professional panels at NYCC, you have a chance to learn from people who can help you avoid mistakes and have more success. 

This is a list of the most interesting panels I've seen on the schedule at this point. There are a lot more than last year, which proves the growing popularity of professional panels at the Con. I can't vouch for the speakers or the quality of the presentations, but you might learn something at these panels to help your career and your ideas. My own willingness to attend these meetings and not stand on line to play FarCry 4 has to count for some type of endorsement.

Thursday October 9th

  • 1:15 pm: Selling Your Comics to Hollywood
  • 6:00 pm: Comixology Submit: The Future of Self-Publishing
  • 7:15 pm: How to Succeed in Self-Publishing

Friday, October 10th

  • 11:15 am: Landing a Publisher and Negotiating Publishing Deals
  • 7:00 pm Make Comics Like a Pro: Breaking into the Industry

Saturday, October 11th

  • 4:15 pm: Copyrights, Contracts and Comic Book Creators
  • 7:15 pm : Collaborating in Comics

Sunday, October 12th

  • 1:15 pm: Successfully Crowdfund Your Comic
  • 5:00 pm: Protecting Your Ideas

I plan to write an essay about what Iearn at Comic Con, but nothing beats being there yourself if you can. If any of you are planning on attending NYCC and you'd like a meeting to discuss the rights of your book, please send an email and we can set something up. Also, I plan to be in Artist Alley on Thursday afternoon. If any of you have a booth, please let me know the number so I can try to stop by.

Otherwise, you can probably find me at the FarCry booth.

Have fun.
Gamal

Can We Have Too Many Comic Book Movies?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

by Gamal Hennessy

Last week was typical in the new normal of comics based entertainment. The latest news from the new seasons of Agents of Shield, Arrow, Flash, and Gotham leaked across the internet. Hints about the new Daredevil Netflix series competed with news about the Powers, Lucifer and Supergirl TV shows (See Superhero TV Roundup). Deadpool got a launch date for his film and a plot synopsis was leaked for Age of Ultron. New comic news comes out almost every day in 2014. Where does it end, and what does this new world mean for the creators of this work?

The Reality TV Link

There was a time before the current “golden age” of television where unscripted or “reality” TV dominated the pop culture landscape. It began with experimental shows like MTV’s Real World and then expanded into things like Road Rules. A few years later, shows like Survivor, the Bachelor and American Idol became prime time staples. That prompted a flood of reality programming. The category got so big it had to develop subgenres to create differentiation. They had makeover shows, celebrity shows, and competition shows. Every network felt the need to jump into the category. Networks like the History Channel and Food Network created shows having little or nothing to do with the channel’s original purpose. The phenomenon became so big MTV itself morphed into a reality TV station. For all intents and purposes it abandoned music videos altogether.

The Tail That Wags the Dog

Consider the evolution of comics based entertainment over the past twenty five years. The success of films like Batman in 1989, Spider-Man in 2002 and the Avengers franchise in 2013 have made this genre of film one of the most financially successful genres in the history of movies. (See IMDB Highest Grossing Films of All Time). When you add the success of TV series like Smallville and Arrow to the equation, not to mention animated series like TMNT, Batman, Justice League and X-Men and you have a content avalanche that’s only gaining momentum. We’ve reached the point now where some universities are devoting college classes just to the comic book movie phenomenon (See New College Course for the Marvel Universe). The industry has come a long way from the sad days of films like Howard the Duck and Spawn.

But how far can this momentum take us? Consider this:

  • Unlike reality TV, it will take more than a box office flop (or even a series of flops) to stop it. Green Lantern, Punisher and Ghost Rider taught us that.
  • It won’t come from a lack of “A  List” characters. Iron Man wasn’t a household name before RDJ got to it and no one knew who Guardians were before last year.
  • It’s not just a game for Marvel and DC, since Wanted, Sin City, Kick Ass and Walking Dead have shown independents can take their titles to the screen too.

Will comic film and television get their own awards category at some point? Which network will abandon its original mandate and become a comic entertainment channel? The questions seemed silly ten years ago. Now it doesn’t seem so farfetched. In the world of comic entertainment, comics are becoming the bottom priority, not the top (See Making Comics Isn’t Really about Comics Anymore)

Forward Thinking

What does all this mean for the aspiring writers and artists? I think there are three takeaways anyone in the industry should keep in mind as they build their careers:

  • Opportunities beyond traditional comics are continuing to grow not just in terms of TV and film, but in the areas of video games, streaming video and other forms of entertainment
  • While the chances of translating any given property into a mainstream market release is still rare, it is essential for creators to know and protect the rights they have in the comics they create
  • The amount of quality entertainment coming into the marketplace can raise the bar across the industry and drive innovation in art and story quality.

We might be living in the golden age of comic entertainment, but it will take creative expansion and prudent business choices to keep the momentum going.

Have fun.

Gamal

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

Losing Control and Loving It

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

Reading isn’t the main media for storytelling in the 21st century. Film and TV have replaced the written word as the primary source of entertainment. This means if a writer wants to reach the widest audience possible, the best thing she can do is have her story optioned for adaptation into a movie or TV series. Stephen King, Frank Miller, J.K. Rowling and Joss Whedon are just a few authors who ascended to the next plateau of success by jumping from the page to the screen.

But there is often an inverse relationship between commercial success and creative control. While some creators have enough leverage in TV and film to have a major impact on the transformation of their stories, many don’t. Even the authors who do get to write the screenplay or act as producers give up much of the control over their story’s direction. This occurs for several reasons:

  • Collaboration: Writing is often a solitary art. TV and film almost always have various layers of artists, each with their own talents and vision for your story. When screenwriters, directors, actors, editors and dozens of other people put their stamp on your story, what comes out on the screen will be very different from the image you created sitting alone at your desk.
  • Transference: Different media lend themselves to different types of conflict in a story. (See What is the Best Media Outlet for Your Writing) Prose has a superior ability to explore internal conflict. Theater has a strong emphasis on interpersonal conflict and film has the ability to render extra-personal conflict to an amazing degree. When your book becomes a film, the story has to be adapted to fit the new medium.
  • Time: Your book might take a reader hours, days or weeks to finish. You could write one hundred or two hundred thousand words and fill your story with flashbacks, subplots and other tangential elements that work perfectly on the page. But even a long movie is less than three hours. A TV series might only be fifteen episodes. A lot of material from your book might have to be discarded to fit the time constraints of the screen. Your story might need to be altered yet again to create a logical connection between the remaining elements. Readers of the book will, and often should, see a different story on the screen than they did on the page.
  • Cost: Ideas are free. Words are almost free. You can imagine and write about any scenario, setting or creature you want without worrying about cost. But locations, special effects and actors are not free. The things you imagine might cost millions to translate onto the screen. Production budgets rise with each new summer movie season, but your story can and will change to fit the budget constraints of film production.

There are, of course, extremes on both sides of this experience. Frank Miller’s stories are known for their dogmatic adherence to the source material. Watching Sin City or 300 is really just watching the graphic novel in motion. But authors like Barry Eisler have a different experience. Although he’s been a best-selling author for more than a decade, he doesn’t expect to have much input on the adaptation of his John Rain series by Keanu Reeves. In his own words “If they think my involvement will be useful, I’m sure I’ll be involved. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to making popcorn and enjoying the show like everyone else. Either way, I’ll be happy.”   

Keep in mind, it is rare for an author to get their book optioned for a screenplay or TV series in the first place. There are thousands of screenwriters pitching work created specifically for the screen and they often take precedence over novels. Most books don’t translate well enough into the mainstream to justify the financial risk, so often only the runaway bestsellers (or books made in the same style) find their way to movies. For the thousands of authors who never find financial success in books, there are thousands of profitable book authors who never make it to the screen. And authors who navigate those hurdles will often lose much, if not all, of the creative control over their work. But in this scenario, popularity and revenue can replace creative control. Just be sure your contract gives you enough compensation for you to sit back and enjoy your work on screen with everyone else.

Have fun.
Gamal

Words for Pictures: A Book Review

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

As a child, the first book I recall getting my hands on about the comic book industry was How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. After I got out of law school, I got my hands on Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. The first book exposed me to comics as a technical skill and not just a bunch of cool pictures. The second book reintroduced me to comics as an art form and not just a childish obsession. Words for Pictures is a book on the same level. It describes the creative and practical aspects of comics as a business and belongs on the radar of anyone with any interest in the medium.

Brian Michael Bendis is an award winning writer who has worked on seminal franchises including Spider-Man, X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s also had success with his own original titles including Powers, Torso and Scarlet. Bendis brings years of experience to Words, walking an aspiring creator through major aspects of the writing business including:

  • The motivations for writing
  • The form and function of the script
  • Collaboration with editors and artists and;
  • Protecting your business interests

Bendis doesn’t just rely on his own perspective for this book. He adds the insights from dozens of top writers, artists and editors to create a behind the scenes look into the business that is now driving the blockbuster movie industry. One of the most important lessons in the book gets a chapter to itself. Bendis advises anyone and everyone who gets into comics on any level to protect their creative investment by seeking out and listening to lawyers and accountants when it comes to handling their career.

Even if you’re not interesting in writing comic books, Words for Pictures still has value. If you’re a writer on any level, the advice he offers transcends the comic book page and extends out to novelists, playwrights and screenwriters. If you simply love iconic artwork, Words is filled with art from some of the top comic book artists of the past and present. In the same way you don’t have to read comics to enjoy comic book movies, you can enjoy Words for Pictures without trying to be the next Walt Simonson of Brian Michael Bendis.

Have fun.

Gamal