The Ian Gibson column: causing offence

Ian's in a bit of a grumpy mood again. Here, he explains what it's really like to be a comic book artist - bad scripts, short deadlines, and late payments. Oh dear.

In my time, I think I’ve managed to insult or alienate most of the comic editors on the planet. The ones I’ve had contact with anyway. It’s not so much that I’m difficult to work with; I just like ‘pushing the envelope’. And if that means telling an editor that he’s not doing his job, because the scripts that arrive are full of logical discrepancies or just plain bad writing, then I tend to ‘advise’ them of the situation.

I have also been known to tell publishers that they should be ashamed of themselves for insulting their readers by producing vast amounts of pap. And that doesn’t make me too many friends in the industry either!

Quite surprising that I’ve survived at all, when I think about it. The gods must favour me, despite myself.

In my youth, I was fast! There was a time when I was the ‘go to guy’ for editors who had artwork missing in the post and a deadline looming ominously! The myth that I can produce five pencilled pages in a day is only partly true. Just did it once to amaze an ‘apprentice’. Now that I am older, but no wiser, I am deliberately slow!

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I can understand that editors are bound by deadlines for getting their product to the distributors in time to catch the maximum market. But when they keep an artist hanging on for a script that hasn’t been written yet and still expect him to be up and ready as soon as they call, that means that they, who have a guaranteed salary from their publishing bosses, have no concept of what it’s like to see the bills mounting up with no sign of payment on the horizon!

If the scripts aren’t arriving, one has to go elsewhere to make the pennies and this means alternative commitments that have their own deadlines. So it is difficult to be able to turn around as soon as an editor says ‘Here’s that script you’ve been waiting x months for. Oh, and by the way – I need it by next Friday!’

I also have little sympathy for certain publishers who only pay you when they feel like it. I am not impressed by the ‘our accounts dept is on holiday/sick/in a bad mood’ excuses. It may have taken me several weeks to produce the art but, in reality, it takes mere seconds to write a cheque or, nowadays, press a computer key. So, where is the ‘justice’ in delaying payment at all?

Yes. I’m back to my old grumpy mood. Can’t you tell? But this tirade has merely been to show you, dear reader, that the life of an artist isn’t all ‘rosey and jim’ or whatever you thought it was. I have known very talented artists who have given up and gone off to do regular jobs because of these frustrations. But publishers and editors don’t seem to care. There are always young hopefuls waiting in the wings, eager to find glory in being ‘published’.

May I wish them the best of luck. And I mean it too! 😉