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Please stop e-mailing me about DJ Coffman and “Heroes by Night”

Based, presumably, on the fact I referred to DJ Coffman in this post about why self-publishing isn’t a panacea, and the still wildly popular trio of posts about the TokyoPop pilot (the inciting incident, ensuing brough-ha, and third thing where Zuda gets dragged into the morass) people are seeming to take DJ’s post from yesterday that all is not well in his ongoing efforts to regain his “Hero by Night” rights as some kind of absolute sign from the heavens that I must renounce everything I wrote therein.

So here’s why I’m not going to do that.
For starters, in anything I wrote above I only ever mentioned Plantinum’s comic book challenge in an unfavourable light compared to the object of discussion (the TokyoPop Manga Pilot program). In fact the twice I referred to them at all was once as a “contest farm”, and once referring to them as “the old switcharoo”… neither are likely to show up as pull quotes for their 2009 circular.

Despite how some have read my earlier posts, I’m not a corporate apologist, I do not necessarily always take a contrarian viewpoint, and I have personally long held the Platinum contract up as the high-water mark for “contracts I would not be comfortable signing (or having others sign)”.

I also feel really bad for DJ. As mentioned previously – he taught me how to play the ukulele… and I owe him for that, big time. I hope it works out for him, but I also know he’s a creative enough mofo that if he has to cut his losses and move on he’s going to come out alright in the end (or at least in the interim I might get a couple new instalments of Yirmumah! or Uke Club.

If anything watching this story develop and seeing the various reactions to it just strengthens what I feel about my previous writing – especially some of the areas where I felt the TP deal was a preferential choice to creators (like the automatic reversion of the rights to the creators under certain situations).

The only thing that has ever got my back up in this broader debate is framing this issue (as Kris and Scott) often do) as the poster-child, de-facto, proof that self-publishing is the sole recourse for creators who aren’t idiots ™. I don’t disagree that it’s a tremendously appealing option, with maximum protection for rights for many creators – but that doesn’t mean it’s a miracle cure-all. There is never a miracle cure.

There is no “one-size-fits-all model”. There are good deals for individual creators and bad deals for individuals creators. And often these deals and approaches are as varied as the creators themselves. The Platinum Comic Book Challenge – I’ve always felt was a “bad deal”, however – I suspect that if we sat down and talked about it, DJ would still disagree with me on that. It clearly gave him something he found appealing at a certain point in his career – and even though the resolution may be unfortunate, I don’t for a second think he wasn’t sharp enough to know the risks and the rewards going in to the deal two years ago.

  • Self-publishing is really hard. It’s like DJ wrote in his latest blog. The most you can do is go in with your eyes open. There are times when I think it wouldn’t be so bad to get paid in the neighborhood of $10,000 for three months of work. But I would actually rather go in as work-for-hire for something I DIDN’T create, rather than the auspices of a contest or “this is YOUR comic!” even though I’m technically work-for-hire on a property I signed away. It’s all in the presentation. If Marvel wanted me to draw an Iron Man Annual backup, I’m not going to be sad that I don’t get to keep Iron Man.

  • Brad

    Hey Kris – With Platinum I couldn’t agree more. In fact I think it should be mandatory homework for any aspiring cartoonist to research Lowell Cunningham as an example of how badly such deals can turn out for creators.

    However some combination of money/control/future profit sharing at which any deal can be a “good” deal for a creator. What’s important is that they know what’s the most important to them in determining that.

    Clearly with your and Scott work – “Control” (creative and business) and “Future Profits” are the most important issues to you as creators – and so from that viewpoint self-publishing your own work is the only solution – but those aren’t necessarily the same values every other creator is going to bring to the table.

    Contrast (to hammer a big geek point) Alan Moore with Garth Ennis. Both are “superstar mainstream comics creators” (whatever that means), but both bring very different values to how they interact with “the Man”, what types of properties they work on, and how they work on them.

  • Hey Brad– thanks for the email.

    Regarding my situation, yeah one of the reasons I initially went toe to toe with Kurtz and Kris over rights stuff was that, well, I have a good deal. I got paid a great deal of money, and even crafted a seperate deal. I’ll stay connected and making money no matter what they do with Hero By Night from here on out if they did so without me, but they’ll likely sit on it, and thats fine too. I count myself very lucky because I have other things that are “not for sale” (like Yirmumah)

    I do think about the other creators now, some of I’ve talked with personally, and how they don’t have it so good, or didn’t have it so good. I’d hear Lowell’s name brought up a lot, never got a chance to talk to him, and I tried seeking out his information from day one when I heard “the rumors” , but I always wondered why if he was done wrong, or he felt disgruntled about it, why he never made a public comment on his deal. I’d encourage other creators (I think like Kris said) to shout it from the rooftops the minute things start to go sour, especially if the company is giving you no clear answers.

    Sometimes there are NO clear answers that can be given, but that can be an answer in itself in good communicative companies that don’t wait for the shit to hit the fan before addressing something. And in a case with ANY company, if they’re trying to play a game they don’t actually have the money to play, and if they’re doing it as a public company, but telling creators who aren’t being paid to “be quiet” , that is a real ethical problem for the creators. Did anyone take any basic ethics courses or have those at a job?

    I’ll take my lumps now, because ultimately it doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. But at least future creators who might be searching online for information about a bad situation like this, can clearly find it, and it’s not a rumor, it’s just the plain truth.

  • JimN

    “I’d encourage other creators (I think like Kris said) to shout it from the rooftops the minute things start to go sour, especially if the company is giving you no clear answers.”

    It’s funny you say that when your posts on a comixtalk webpage say otherwise.