Thursday, 31 July 2014
MYTH-BUSTERS! FACT, FICTION OR FABLE? NOW IT CAN BE TOLD...
A few posts back, I said I'd turn my attention to a couple of myths perpetuated about me. True to my word, here's the first one.
What's your working environment like? Do you get on with all of your colleagues, or do some of them really get on your t*ts? What about the manager? Nice guy or total @rsehole, with a bad attitude and a face you'd never get tired of punching? If you think it's any different in the wonderful world of comics then think again, Charlie! Unlike the MARVEL BULLPEN image created by STAN LEE (and replicated by ALF, BART & COS for the ODHAMS GARRETT), not everyone is loveable, or honourable - or even, believe it or not, the best person suited for the position in which they're employed.
There are some great people as well, of course; not only good at their jobs, but also really nice, decent, human beings. I won't embarrass anyone by naming them (from either category), but there are some folk in comics who really make it a sheer pleasure to work with or for them. Unfortunately, however, there is also the usual contingent of idiots who don't have a scooby, and are unpleasant, surly, spiteful, resentful - and don't really deserve to be on the planet, never mind in their jobs.
Let me now illustrate just what I mean by relating a true story of the type that many comics creators will be all too familiar with. I once freelanced for a company that was terrible at paying their contributors in a timely fashion. (They hadn't always been, but things had deteriorated.) So tardy were they, that they actually sent out letters of apology (which I still have) and increased the page rates by way of compensation. However, as they never managed to improve the speed at which they paid, it resulted only in contributors having to wait just as long for higher amounts than previously.
It eventually got so bad that my reliability in meeting deadlines was put at risk. For the first time in my life, I had to get overdrafts from the bank - not to eat or pay the rent, but just, on the odd occasion, to return jobs on the date required by. Although the company was supposed to pay within 30 days, I often found myself waiting two or three months to be paid the full amount for several strips from a single week's work. I wasn't the only one of course, but I probably found it more difficult because, having no other source of income (like a partner's wages) coming into the house apart from my freelance commissions,, if I wasn't paid within a reasonable time, I simply had little or no money to meet the demands of having to send large packages to London on a regular basis.
To paint a clearer picture, if I earned, say, four or five hundred quid in a week for a few strips for the same company, I might get paid for one strip in a month's time (usually took about six weeks in fact), but I wouldn't get paid for another strip (returned on the same day) for another four to six weeks after that - and this would be repeated for each job until I was paid in full. In theory, I was earning a fortune, but because I was being paid in instalments, it took ages to get my hands on the complete amount. (Even when the company later changed from cheques to a direct transfer system, it only seemed to make things worse.)
It eventually got to the point where my bank wouldn't give me an overdraft because every time I'd assured them that money would be in my account on a certain day, it never was, despite me having been assured that it would be. On one occasion, I even had to ask an editor to 'phone my bank and convince them that a cheque was on its way, so that they'd advance me cash to return a job. (As well as the post, I sometimes used RED STAR, which could be costly.)
And now, having set the scene, let me finally come to the point. An overdue cheque I'd been waiting on (this was before the transfer system had been adopted ) had still not turned up. I needed the money to return a job for which the deadline was looming in a few days. (It was all wrapped up and ready to send.) I 'phoned the editor and asked him if he would chase up my cheque for me, because if it failed to arrive, I just didn't know how I was going to be able to return it on time. As it turned out, the cheque arrived either the very next morning or the day after (having already been in transit), and I was able to return the job a day or two before deadline with no fuss.
Guess what though? I later learned that this @rsehole of an editor (a smug b*st*rd who wasn't well-liked - either by colleagues or freelancers) was spreading it about that not only had I threatened to withhold the job 'til I was paid, but had actually done so. I think I first learned of this when I was at a comic mart in Glasgow, and whilst chatting with a group of contributors to various publications, was asked about this apparently well-known (though not by me) 'legend' that had been doing the rounds in the comics community. Now, remember, not only had I never threatened to withhold the work (expressing a concern over being able to is quite a different thing), but it had been returned well before deadline and hadn't been delayed for a second.
I may well still have a copy of the letter I sent to him in which I expressed my opinion about his disregard for the facts - should I ever find it, I'll post it here. I was once told that whenever a particular group of former staff meet up, he isn't invited. When I asked why, the answer was "Because he's a c**t!" That's not a word I like or even use, but even I have to admit that it sums him up perfectly.
So, there you have it! Despite any notions you may have about how great it would be to work in the comics industry, it's really no different than any other job when it comes to the people you'll meet and 'rub shoulders' with. If you ever make it, you'll find out for yourself, sure enough. Try not to be put off!
But don't go into it thinking it's going to be a bed of roses either.
Posted by Kid at Thursday, July 31, 2014