On the day-to-day practical side of creating comics, the editors are often the only contact the writers and artists have with a company. They are the company faces, the talents’ guiding lights, often the sole connection to their livelihoods.
Yet when money questions/problems arise — and they do, at every company large and small — all too often editorial shrugs off responsibility to Accounting. “I’ll ask Accounting and get back to you” becomes a refrain that leads an artist to write again in three weeks, “Did you confirm when my payment went out?” Hearing some form of “I’ll ask again” tells the talent that the editor didn’t lock down an answer or make sure the money went out. Payments may stretch days, weeks, months past the pay deadline with no warning, no word from his editor or from Accounting.
And in the meantime, the editor expects the artist to turn in the work on time even as the artist blows through his car payment, misses his mortgage, and is borrowing $50 from his Mom on Social Security for groceries.
What are the editors’ real-life responsibilities to the artists who entrust them with their livelihoods? Does it end with, “I’ll ask Accounting” and that’s it? Do the editors have any legitimate right to demand the artwork be turned in on time when the payments for previous issues are late? How do you as editor deal with such problems in real-life situations?
Here are two real-world examples worth consideration:
* A long-established professional artist signs on to a series project with a mid-sized company. The budget is HALF what the artist usually gets, but he likes the editor and the project and has the time on his hands to handle it. As weeks wear on, the artist meets his deadlines but payments stretch later and later. At two months late receiving payments, the artist informs the editor he’s accepting another, better job at his full rate so he can catch up on bills. The editor insists he cannot do this; they signed a contract the artist must honor. So he soldiers on. Payments are now three months late, so the artist writes the editor almost daily asking for his money. After several weeks of no answer, the editor finally writes Accounting, who responds that money is tight, receivables are late, and so on. So now money is four months behind, no payment date guaranteed, yet the editor still expects the art on time each issue. Was the editor right to pressure him into honoring this (one-way?) contract at two months late? At three? At four? At what point should concern for the company become concern for the human being who did the favor of taking a job at half rate only to be burned for months on the payments?
* A long-established professional writer is contracted to pen a series of books. Payments and script deadlines (six issues across nine months) are clearly spelled out in the contract, “payment 30 days after receipt and acceptance of the script.” The editor tells him tales of woe of the previous series’ writer, who blew past every deadline; this writer assures her that he works fast and deadlines are not a problem. The writer dives into the first issue, delivering it in a week. The editor reads it quickly and is thrilled, asking for only a panel or two of revision before it goes off to the artist. Bouyed, the writer dives in and finishes the remaining five issues in as many weeks. More than a month later, his check for the first one arrives. Six weeks after that, his check for the second one arrives. And so on. When he questions the lateness, the editor informs him it’s “after receipt and ACCEPTANCE,” and she does not read and accept the scripts until they are ready to put it in production. Clearly, this is to accommodate their internal cash flow. The writer feels that he did a favor for the editor, turning the scripts in way early so she wouldn’t experience any “tales of woe” about his delivery. He believes the script should have been reviewed and approved in just as timely a fashion as hs delivery. Ultimately, for his good deed of early delivery, he waited eight months to get paid for his final issue. The editor says she lived up to the letter of the contract, that it was the writer’s decision to turn in the work “too early.” The writer thought he was being professional, allaying her fears and getting scripts in early so his editor wouldn’t worry about the deadlines.