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4/24 – Curious Cat Asks…

I saw Roy Thomas make this argument, so I figured I’d ask you all – do you think it would be fair if the writer of a comic was given a certain amount of pages of original art per issue? Or do you think original art should only go to the artists of the issue?




April 24, 2008 at 6:07 am

I speak as a published writer AND artist when I say that the writer really has no “claim” to any of the art, BUT that if he and the artist are working well together, perhaps a cover, or a few pages (perhaps a favorite scene(s)) could go to the writer.

But, the writer doesn’t have any “right” to the art. A LOT of work goes into creating it.

However, a possible exception would be for where the writer (such as Alan Moore) gives copious amounts of specific details of what’s in each panel and panel/page layout (sometimes actually DRAWING thumbnails themselves).
In a case like THAT, the writer IS performing a very specific (and major) portion of the visual esthetic & storytelling dynamic.
Then, that writer could get a number of pages of art.
Still not a 50/50 split (or less, if there’s an inker involved), but some, certainly.


To your point, P-TOR, if a writer does provide thumbnails, then he or she has exclusive claim to said thumbnails, and can keep, or sell, those as original art as part of the process (Who wouldn’t want an Alan Moore original Watchmen thumbnail, after all?). However, I believe that this does not entitle them to the original, finished art.

Otherwise, I agree with the rest of your points, particularly how much work goes into completing a page. The writer can produce numerous scripts on multiple books to supplement their income, while most comic artist slog away to produce a single monthly issue. Look at the number of Brian Michael Bendis books are on the shelves any given month compared to the number of Stuart Immonen or Mark Bagley books there are. Both artists are workhorses with a fantastic work ethic, but their monthly output is limited by the backbreaking amount of labor required for each page.

I’m having trouble justifying the writer having a “right” to the art. I could see the writer working out a deal with the artist, but a right? I don’t think so.

I know the artists often sell the art to supplement their income, and it’s not like the writers can do the same with their scripts, but this can be offset by the fact that a lot of writers work on multiple books, something most artists can’t do.

The writer has a right to every single page of script that s/he has written, as well as any thumbnail sketches/layout pages s/he provided. Autograph ‘em and sell ‘em on ebay.

No. Flat no.


That artist depends on his portfolio to earn enough money to eat and pay rent. The artist gains and loses jobs based on his/her portfolio. The writer can go climb a tree.

There’s no “right” involved.

Sometimes I have given the original illustrations to the writer of the piece I’ve worked on after it was printed. Because it’s a nice thing to do if the writer’s a buddy. But that’s MY right, as the ARTIST. I’m not selling the publisher the art. I’m selling the first North American rights to print the art. Books and magazines are a lot more grown-up about it all.

Comics have a distorted perspective about this because so many of them are done work-made-for-hire on trademarked properties; but those distorted rights and permissions and pay scale still all pertain to publication, not the original art. Sometimes that distorted perspective actually infects creators like Roy Thomas who came up through the system in the bad old days, but that’s no excuse. They ought to know better.

As others indicate, there’s no one who can go and “give” an artist’s original art to the writer, except the artist themselves. The publisher can’t make the decision. Now, I suppose the writer could put it in their contract that they’ll only write if they get X percent of the original art produced, and then I suppose the publisher has to make sure that the artist they sign on agrees to give over that percentage…

But it seems a rather unethical thing to me, because I don’t in fact believe the writer (even Alan Moore) has any claim to the artistic production of the artist. The original art is an artist’s interpretation of the writer’s story and no matter how insanely detailed the panel breakdowns from the writer, what comes out on paper is still the artist’s interpretation. It’s all them, in that sense.

The interesting thing is that do you mean to give the writer pages that he can sell for added income or pages for keeping. If the former, then I say no. A writer makes a good enough page rate that he can write multiple books in the same time span as an artist can do one book.

However, I think a classy artist should always offer one page to the writer per story arc and the writer should get his pick of any page no matter how awesome and how much money it can make the artist/inker.

I don’t care one way or another what they do with the original art, with one exception. They all make WAY more money than I ever will, so let them fight it out over the spoils.

The one exception if Liefeld art—it should all be burnt.

You got a link to Roy’s argument?

This just feels like flat-out bullshit to me. How did he go about making this case?

This reminds me of Stan Lee claiming that the person who has the original basic idea for a character should get the sole credit for that character, regardless of how much that basic idea was realised by an artist.

I was under the impression that the publishing house is essentially commissioning the artist(s) to produce the work. Upon payment to the artist(s), the art became the property of the publishing house. Of couse, there can easily be stipulations and contract negotiations to the contrary, but I thought this is the way it is.

Bottom line: The owner can do what they please with it. They can give it away, disperse it to the creative team, sell it on eBay, or send it to the recycling bin. That’s their right as owner. I WOULD think, however, that penciler and inker deserve equal ammounts of the art.

Avengers63, I believe (and I could be wrong here) that at least for the big two, the company nominally owns the rights to the original art since it was produce as work-for-hire, but they return the the art to the artists as a favor to them. I think they started doing this to avoid artists unionizing or suing or something like that. My memory is a little fuzzy of the details

It’d certainly be NICE of an artist to send off a page of the art to the writer, and maybe one to the editor. Same way if the writer got a novel publsihed, he/she could be a pal and send a gratis copy to his/her frequent coworkers. But it’s the artist’s art, right? He/she can do what they want with it.

I think authors should sell autographed limited edition copies of their scripts. I bought some off of Marv Wolfman once and found them to be useful.

Wouldn’t you pay a little bit of cash for an autographed script from Moore, Morrison, Miller, Moench or Milligan? Certainly not the $200 you pay for a cover, but I could see spending $5 to look behind the scenes of some of my favorite comics….

I believe (and I could be wrong here) that at least for the big two, the company nominally owns the rights to the original art since it was produce as work-for-hire, but they return the the art to the artists as a favor to them.

No. Not so. This was the linchpin of the argument about Marvel holding on to Jack Kirby’s originals when they had no business doing so. And all the brouhaha surrounding that pretty well blew this position out of the water.

See, here’s the thing — the companies own the negatives that are used to create the printing plates. And one assumes they own the intellectual properties depicted on the negatives and plates, unless the contract stipulates otherwise. But the artwork the negatives are shot from has always belonged to the artist, unless — big unless here — the artist created the work as part of his duties as a salaried staff person.

Most artists don’t work on staff. They work freelance. Freelancers keep the ownership of their originals.

The reason there is so much confusion around this is because illustration, particularly comics, is the only area of commercial printing where anyone GIVES a damn about those originals. Most printers are after the NEGATIVES. That’s what they file away for years. Original art was often discarded after the negs were shot… often enough that you could say it was routine. Even book and magazine illustrations were regarded as relatively disposable, though the artists usually got their originals back.

So it’s not surprising that it took a long time for the artists THEMSELVES to start taking an interest in the artwork. I think it was Neal Adams that started the ball rolling on this by demanding his originals back, long before there was anything like the current market for page originals in comics. I can believe that Roy Thomas might make the argument; back when he started, he was probably one of the few people working in the business that gave a damn about what happened to page art after it was shot. Though I am wondering if he made it back in the late 70’s or early 80’s, before we all got our consciousness raised on the matter.

I can understand why Roy has the position he has. If one’s view is that the comic story which consists of the art and script together is a collaboration, then both parties in the collaboration could reasonably expect to get to divide the finished work.

It is also reasonable to say that the artist created and sold the images only, and the physical artwork should remain his property.

I don’t see anything wrong with either position, as long as it’s made clear upfront that it’s a condition of the collaboration. What’s wrong is when someone unilaterally decides to change the terms.

I can understand why Roy has the position he has. If one’s view is that the comic story which consists of the art and script together is a collaboration, then both parties in the collaboration could reasonably expect to get to divide the finished work.

Yeah, that’s it, exactly, Scott. Thomas feels that since the original art is most likely additional income for the artists, that the writer should get some nominal cut of this additional income, because the art produced was due to the joint efforts of the writer and artist.

I read about it in a fairly recent issue of Alter Ego, I’m afraid I can’t find an online link where he says it, though.


April 24, 2008 at 6:39 pm

I may be wrong, but I’m sensing that some of you have read into my comments (incorrectly) that I would give “rights” of artwork ownership to the writer (and as a sample, such writers as ALAN MOORE who provide detailed thumbnails).

That is not the case.

If you read my comments closely, I always state that there is NO such “right” for the writer, but if he and the artist are working closely together and a good working relationship (and/or friendship) is understood, then a deal could be made for the writer to receive some art.

But, it would be completely based upon the good will and graces of the artist to agree to this.

I just wanted to clear that up, in case there was any misconception.
My original comment stands as my personal view. No “rights” to art, unless the artist is OK with it (especially if the writer is participating actively in the conceptual process of the art).




April 24, 2008 at 6:44 pm

As for how the writer can make extra cash, as a case in point, I’ve purchased original scripts (photocopies, anyway) of comics BY and FROM their original writers.

The prices aren’t all that high, but with an autograph, can be sold for even more.

AND as an added bonus, since a script can be reproduced ad infinitum, they can make some serious scratch by selling them.
An artist only has ONE copy of original art.


AND as an added bonus, since a script can be reproduced ad infinitum, they can make some serious scratch by selling them. An artist only has ONE copy of original art.

What would a John Ostrander _Suicide Squad_ script go for, $10? What would a page of Jan Duresma art go for, $500?

Economies of scale…

Additionally, the writer’s contribution to the collaboration could be a key factor in the value of certain pages. I would imagine that original art from the Watchmen would be worth more than the original art from a routine mid-70’s issue of Action Comics.

So I would agree that once all the elements are brought together, the finished page is a collaboration and not just solely artwork.

HATCHER: I don’t understand why this is. If I contract an artist and pay him for a comissioned work, they give it to me and I’m the owner. How is this different from a publisher hiring an artist to draw 22 pages of art? The artist is freelancing in either scenario, so why does ownership transfer upon delivery of the completed work in one but not the other?

If I pay an artist for a piece of work, I can do whatever I like with the work. If I want to post the pics on my website or publish the image in my book, that’s my right as owner. I’m not touching credits here, just rights of usage. By the same respect, the publishing house would have the right to print the art in a comic, on a poster, on a t-shirt, or whatever.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for giving the artist(s) their work back. I just don’t understand why the contracting party would be legally bound to do so in one instance but not another.


April 25, 2008 at 4:31 pm


If YOU (as an individual) commission a “generic” piece of custom art and pay to OWN the artwork, then you could probably do what you wish with it (but you should, of course, give proper CREDIT to the artist).
HOWEVER, if you were a PUBLISHER, you’re traditionally only paying for 1st U.S. Print rights.

ANY further print usage (2nd printings, trade paperbacks, T-shirts, posters, etc…) would have to pay an ADDITIONAL fee for that new usage. Usually this is all laid out in advance (with fee percentages) when you sign your work contract.

Under NO uncertain terms (as dictated by many applicable laws – usually enforced by such artist “agencies” as the Graphic Artists Guild – since they do not accept many such instances of implied “work for hire”) does the publisher obtain the rights to the PHYSICAL artwork.
Comics (and in early years, some disreputable magazine publishers) are the only market which seems to have confusion in that regard.

Original artwork ALWAYS goes back to the artist.
Comics, as I mentioned, are one of the only venues where they seem to think that they can keep it, or that it should be split between all participants.

Any disbursement to a writer should come as either:
a) via a contract, pre-agreed upon by ALL parties
b) by the good graces of the artist.

A writer can sell their scripts, many times over, so in theory, if enough fans REALIZED this (and wanted the original script) would have the POTENTIAL to be able to surpass the extra income that an artist may make by selling artwork from an issue.

Of course, that’s a long-shot, as many art pages are highly sought after and command nice amounts of cash.
But, by comparison, there ARE many pages that go unsold or for VERY LOW prices (depending on what the issue was, who the artist was, how GOOD (relatively speaking) the art was, and such variables as “is it a fan-favorite or *important* issue”?).

A hot writer COULD conceivably sell scripts for one price, SIGNED scripts for a higher price, SIGNED scripts WITH a sketch/doodle for an even higher price, and (if they provided thumbnails for that issue for the artist to use as reference) copies of the THUMBNAILS as well for an even HIGHER price.

That COULD be a nice suppliment to the income.
ADDED to the already acknowledged fact that a writer can juggle multiple books (and rake in a nice salary) while nearly all artists can only draw one (or two) issues a month and only sell their artwork ONCE.

Of course, in THIS day and age of “digital artwork” (where the artist is photoshopping over photos and other reference materials with NO drawn originals whatsoever) their IS NO artwork to be returned OR sold. It’s all pixels on a harddrive.

As I wrote in my first comment; I’ve been published as a writer AND an artist (sometimes as both for one publication). For the times where I was “ONLY” the writer, I had no “rights” to any of the artwork (nor would I expect it). If I desired a piece of art, I would politely ask the artist OR pay for it.

As an artists, I received ALL of my artwork and would expect the writer to comport themselves the same way that I would as a writer in regards to ownership of artwork.

And for the few times that my artwork was kept by a publisher, I contacted a lawyer that specialized in art law (most of them can be obtained free of charge, since many artists in tat situation are “poor” enough to qualify), and had them get the work back via litigation.

That said, IF an artist is “green” enough to NOT know any better, and they accept payment that has some implied stipulation of ownership of the final artwork in the contract (sometimes on the back of the check itself), then that young artist has just learned one of the most important lessons of their career.


I can see what Roy is getting at (the comic is produced in collaboration, therefore the profits of it should be split in collaboration. Since original art is a profit source, it should be split.) However, it neglects the fact that writers can write faster than artists can draw, and so writers can supplement their income by taking on additional work, while artists supplement their income by selling original art. (All of which isn’t particularly original, and has been said by other posters in this thread.)

And continuing in that vein, I’d say that no, the writer has no right to demand such pieces, but that a classy artist probably could and should let the writer have at least some of the art as a gesture of respect to their collaboration. However, they are by no means required to do so, nor should they be.

P-TOR: Now I understand. I was under the false impression that the publisher was basically commissioning the work. Perhaps in the most vague sense, they are, but that’s not the real story. They’re actually paying for the rights to print the art and sell the comics on the stands & comic shops. Any subsequent usages of the art must come with royalties or other fees to the artist(s) in question.

I get it now. Thanks!


April 25, 2008 at 9:03 pm

I say they have no right to it, unless they worked out a contract with the artist prior to the work starting.

The finished book is the outcome of the collaboration, the art just a part of it, and as such, the artist should be allowed to keep it, just like the writer is entitled to do whatever he wants with his notebooks and anything else he used for his part of the collaboration.

If the artist’s original art is selling for high amounts, then most likely the book sold a lot as well, and the writer can supplement his income with the royalties he received.
Or, as others have pointed out, he could write more books, or even take on non-comic writing work in advertising, text book writing etc.

I have bought some artwork off ebay from some comic writers. So the practice of the writer sometimes getting art is not totally unheard of. Of course, the art was usually from very tightly collaborated series and at least one is from a property that the writer and artist co-owned.
So I think Roy might want to get an agreement from an artist or make better friends with his artists…

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