The Ian Gibson column: the trouble with private commissions

Comics legend Ian Gibson talks about undertaking private commissions, and the problems that lie therein...

A genuine British comics legend: Ian Gibson

There are quite possibly a few people mad at me right now. In fact, they might have been mad at me for some time… not years exactly; but for a few months at least.

These aren’t necessarily the folks at MySpace, angry that I don’t think their site is really worth the effort. Though I’m not alone in that opinion. No. These are people who are more frustrated than really angry, disappointed and maybe even confused.

I’m thinking more of the nice folk who were fond enough of my work to write (e-mail) to ask for a private commission from the drawing board of yours truly. I had made a list of the ones most easily handled, like Halo and Toby, Judge Dredd with Anderson facing down the Dark Judges, plus one of all the Droids from the Verdus Sam Slade story. There were others that required some research, such as the demand for Doctor Strange, master of Mystery and one of Archie the Android (that was a bit of a ‘head-scratcher’. Why would anyone want me to illustrate Archie?)

Just because I draw comics doesn’t mean that I draw all comics! Some characters I would be and am offended to be asked for: Spider-man for one. I’m not too fond of Superman either. So, when I was asked to work on an image of Miracleman and, more importantly, Miracle Woman, it was only the fellow’s insistence that persuaded me. I’d never actually seen the characters. And definitely never heard of Miracle Woman. So my heart really wasn’t in it. And it must have shown. As the chap didn’t write back to comment on the piece!

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I can understand personal ones asking for likenesses of loved ones, which makes a lot more sense, even if it is a lot more work for me. Some of these I’ve made a start on, like Dave M’s daughters and of course the Halo and Toby.

The unfortunate situation is that I can’t really devote a lot of time to finishing any of the ones I recall, as I’ve lost all the contact information for the folks who asked for them. So, even if I finish anything, I won’t know where to send it!

What a quandry!

I did have, what I thought was the foresight to print out some of the e-mails. But, sadly, my machine didn’t print the return addresses – only the names. But I didn’t notice that until my pewter crashed and trashed the data! Grrr!

So I’m in the ridiculous situation of having lots of commissions but no way of contacting the commissioners! So much for modern technology! In the old days of letter writing, my house would have to burn down (tempting fate there in this area of town!) to leave me in a similar circumstance.

Maybe, once my website is rebuilt, there will be some who try to contact me again to ask ‘where the hell is my artwork?’. And I still have some old disks to try to wrangle some shreds of information from, though that isn’t going well so far!

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But, possibly it is a sign of the hard economic times that no one is chasing me up (?). The truth could be that they can’t afford the luxury of original artwork anymore, and are relieved that I haven’t presented them with designs that will stretch their budget.

I’d hate to think that, as I don’t believe that my art is so overpriced. In fact, I’m sure that I underprice everything, considering the amount of time and effort I put into private commissions.

Ah, well. I guess it’s a matter of playing the ‘waiting game’ to see if anyone does get impatient enough to ask for a progress report on their request. Meanwhile I can check on these old drives for missing data.

Now, where did I put that screwdriver?

Read Ian Gibson’s previous column for Den of Geek here.