Saturday, May 08, 2010

Color Artists & Royalties

There was quite the discussion on Twitter last night. I took a small part in it.

The topic? Whether color artists deserve to be include in royalty payments for their work.

Erik Larsen asserted that they do not. While writers and pencil artists generate sales, color artists do not.

I'll probably put together a blog of highlights of some of the biggest contradictions from Larsen and best points from the cast of characters opposing him (Kurt Busiek, Dave McCaig, Alex Sinclair, Chris Sotomayor and more).

One of the problems with Larsen's position, from my point of view, that he keeps referring to art when he's only means the work of the pencil artist. He'll say that readers only care that the art looks good, without seeming to acknowledge that the color work plays a part in how good the art looks.

I asked: "Do you not agree that there are some high profile artists that rely a lot on the colorist's work? (w/o naming names)"

He responded: absolutely--BUT I think that rates a bigger page rate.

That seems to acknowledge that color artists sure make a really important contribution to the art that "moves the needle". For some reason, it justifies up-front payment, but not royalties.

Larsen at times "cries poor" for the hypothetical publisher, which I don't get. The up-front rate is completely out of the publisher's pocket, regardless of results. The royalties only pay out after a profit is made. Seems like it would be difficult for royalties to ever be the reason a publisher goes under.

He, also, uses a movie analogy that the artist (he means pencil artist) is the director while the colorist (color artist) is the lighting. Couldn't imagine a more insulting analogy, personally.


  1. Beyond the erroneous statements he has made by slighting colorists (often they fight the "artist's" intention with made-up light sources, they are just hacks with computers, etc.) Larsen's biggest crime is suggesting that colorist should just get more pay for gigs when they become better known. If he knew anything about what he was debating, he would know that, in a direct inversion to the growth in responsibilities colorists have to the art, their page rates are on the decline.
    DC has a tiered system, Marvel has A and B rates, and both use these options to pay the lowest they can to colorists. Even small publishers like Boom! will lament that they cannot pay the top rates of the big two or three, but Boom! has been known to pay a cover artist much more for that single image than the interior colorist gets for the entire book.
    Colorists who have been in the business for years and are requested by pencilers - it's nice to use their role and not blanket "artist" on them as if they are the be-all-end-all - never get raises unless one of two things happen. Either they have to be go exclusive or be asked to do the biggest of the biggest books. Since both of these options are rare, the only way to get better pay as a colorist is to do less rendering, work faster, and take on more books.
    And that's what it comes down to, Larsen - and other pencilers - are mad that some colorists make more than them. Well, a lot of colorists probably make more than Larsen with his poorly selling book. But the envy is there, and they do not think a colorist should be paid more for enhancing what they create. This is wrong for two reasons. Colorists often create more than inkers these days, and there is no secondary market for colorists. A big penciler like Ivan Reis can turn around and sell the page he was paid heavily for for publishing for thousands of dollars at a convention or online, but if a colorist sells a print of the favorite cover they did, they often get cease and desist orders.
    So, hopefully, with a lot of creators like Busiek and others jumping on him to say how wrong he is, Larsen will admit he is wrong. But when more people read your tweets than your book, stupid statements cannot go unchallenged.

  2. "He, also, uses a movie analogy that the artist (he means pencil artist) is the director while the colorist (color artist) is the lighting."

    Sorry to toss this into the world but I hate when people confuse film jobs. Maybe because I have studied this for years.

    I think for the most part the artist would be the cinematographer while the writer often directs what is happening from panel to panel. Inkers control depth and light shading so that would be lighting. Colorist & letterers are the post production adding in visual effects and what have you.

    Summer block busters rely heavily on post production so why cant comics give them their due? Imagine Blackest Night put out with old style colors used in the 90's.

  3. Hey Hux, didja see that Valerie shut her blog down rather out-of-the-bluely?

  4. the bottom line (and this comes from a colorist) there are more good colorists that are out there than good pencilers, thus making what we do easier to downgrade in pay simply because if one guy wont do it for less than 60 a page there are numerous guys with comprable talent that will do it for 30,40 a page even less


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