|Posted: 26 July 2006 at 6:19pm | IP Logged | 6
A number of years ago I was invited up to DC to deliver one in a series of seminars that DC was holding at the time. Basically, the idea was to bring in freelancers to speak to some of the newer editors; to give them a peek into the freelancer life so maybe they would understand how their talents’ lives worked.
So, it was me and Klaus Jansen talking to the whole editorial staff all the way up to Paul Levitz. We opened with a few remarks and took questions. Don’t know if you’ve ever met Klaus but I can assure you he’s one of the more beloved guys working in comics. He’s sharp and articulate and funny in addition to being a triple-threat talent. So, everything was going smoothly until we were asked about our pet peeve.
I think the editors fully expected us to carp about something editorial or maybe late payments. Instead, Klaus and I both agreed that our biggest gripe was freelancers who didn’t make their deadlines. A writer, penciler or whatnot that doesn’t hit his mark makes things difficult for everyone. Jobs with once-sufficient deadlines now turn into nightmarish barnburners. Time is crunched. Paychecks are delayed. We explained that this was partly the fault of editorial because they’d cut slack for some hot talent who consistently ran late while inkers, colorists and letterers were the ones who caught hell. It made no sense to us that a deadline-blower would be coddled because the law of diminishing returns dictated that re-solicitations and missed printing dates hurt the bottom line. Books that might have been profitable because a “hot” talent was on them became loss-leaders because that talent caused the book to ship months late. Then the hot talent would go across the street at the first better offer or pet project that came his way. So there was no real long term reward for cutting slack to these ungrateful tyros.
An editor got into a hot debate with me over this. He wanted to know if we should just never use some of the slower guys and go only with artists and writers who could hit their due date regardless of quality. He used the example of Jorge Zaffino as a guy who was brilliant but could never hit a monthly deadline. A cheap shot since Jorge and I were good friends. I countered with Johnny Romita, who always had problems getting a book in on time but somehow Spidey shipped on time every month.
I disagreed about Jorge and made the point that some guys might just not be built for monthlies so why give them one? Things got uglier until a level-headed group editor broke it up by taking my side.
Years later and nothing has changed. I look at Previews each month and see names attached to monthlies and wonder what brand of crack they’re handing out at the big two. They HAVE to know they’ll never meet that schedule.
And every darned artist I know regularly complains that they’re left with only two weeks to pencil a book because the writer had a hard time finding his muse. (or were stuck in that wet paper bag they can never write their way out of)
And does this really have no impact on the book sale end of things? Not when they schedule print dates a year in advance for trades and whatnot. In recent years they’ve had to delay bookstore orders because the “monthly” book to be collected therein is a year behind schedule. Now, when the clown down at the Hobbit’s Cave doesn’t get the three copies of Underwear Patrol he ordered he might stamp his little feet and swear in Vulcan. But when Borders doesn’t get those three thousand copies of Underwear Patrol Vol 9 there will be hell to pay. Plus the penalties charged at the printers.
What I’ve heard in recent months is that these delays in getting this stuff to market is beginning to pile up and impact in a big way on the bottom line. That’s why you’re seeing more and more older, more reliable names pop up in credits on books. They gotta move some stuff to the printers. So, you figure they’re getting their act together and taking ship dates more seriously. Then you read that Adam Hughes is going to do a monthly