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Manga Before Flowers — News Flash: Corporations Suck!

Okay, so the fact corporations suck is not surprising…but since I just spent this morning giving both fans and U.S. media corporations a fair shake, as it were, in my column, I’m feeling rather chagrined when I blog-hop this afternoon and find that Lea Hernandez is reporting on the latest (& truly hideous) Tokyopop contract with creators here.  Christopher Butcher weighs in here, and Bryan Lee O’Malley takes a stand here.

The long and short of it is that Tokyopop wants to swindle young, impressionable comic-book creators out of their creative property and also manages to insult the French for having IDEAS.  You know, ideas that influenced modern jurisprudence.  Dear lord.

I don’t like to be negative, in general, in this forum, but man.  This whole thing just reeks.


Thanks for getting the word out. Doing that is not negative!

Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

I would differ on one slight, minor point – poorly written contracts are a slight aid for the party that did not write them, for ambiguity almost always goes AGAINST the party who constructed the contract (as just a matter of natural fairness – if you write a crappy contract, you can’t get the benefit of possibly misleading the other party due to your poor writing).

But yeah, it’s a joke of a deal. Very lame, and also, yes, fairly unsurprising, too.

Work for hire is not exactly uncommon in comics either. Is getting payed per page of pitch usual? i’ve not heard of it, and rates for finished scripts for beginners are usually appauling.

Danielle Leigh

May 27, 2008 at 5:43 pm

hi Baron — I’ll be honest and note I’m not sure about this but wonder if most comic book companies / publisher distinguish between “work for hire” and “original creative work”? (i.e. hiring someone to ink some else’s creative vision versus hiring someone to create from scratch an entire work? Or, in this case, buying a work created independently, but only if it is judged to have some kind of merit / sale-ability.)

Or am I missing some thing vital about what it means to produce creative work for a corporation?

I’m not being snarky, by the way, I just see T’pop’s notion of a “contract” here insanely unfair and am trying to figure out how bad it really is if we look at real world expectations of what comic book creators should receive….

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 27, 2008 at 5:59 pm

I’m mostly a Dark Horse manga fan kind of a guy.

Tho’, I kinda like DEATH NOTE.

Comic book companies don’t need to distinguish between work for hire and original work. The law does it for them. Well, actually, they distinguish between work-for-hire and creator-owned work. Working on pre-established characters versus creating new ones is something else entirely, and not really a legal matter.

In fact, hiring someone to ink someone else’s work and hiring someone to create something completely new out of whole cloth can both be work-for-hire, depending on the arrangement between the artist and the company.

Moral rights, schmoral rights! You don’t need those at Tokyopop, where your BFF’s!


Let’s put this in plain words—that contract sucks. It’s crap.

That the contract is written with a slant toward, “Hey, we’re your buddies here. Them French sure had funny ideas, didn’t they?” is just so obviously fake in tone that most of us who read it will see it as a scam-type offering. But it is the young hopefuls who will read it and get taken in.

“We’ll sell this car to you at a loss and make up for it in volume!”

“Want to make a thousand dollars a week working from home?”

It has been reported elsewhere that the contract pays $750 for a completed comic book. That’s roughly $31 a page for 24 pages. A completed comic, not just the writing. Good luck finding any artist who will draw and ink and color an entire comic for that kind of money. A whole month’s worth of work for $750 is $9000 a year. You can easily make that much working in the fast food business.

Danielle Leigh

May 28, 2008 at 1:00 pm

hi Alan,

The sad part is that some of these young artists *still* think it is a good idea to sign with Tokyopop after being exposed to more experienced commentary about the contract (i.e. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s dissection of the entire thing).

See their comments on page 12 and 13 of TP Pilot Program thread: http://messageboard.tokyopop.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11709&page=12

It is their decision in the end but I’m so amazed how they think it will turn out differently for them than it did for the majority of TP’s first wave OEL creators.

[…] Here, here, here, here, here and here. And Lea Hernandez has even more […]

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