I may write more about this in the future but I want to put something down about it now.
In a nut shell, the politics in any group endeavor is present but especially in the will-nilly-silly world of entertainment; it is pernicious, petty and persisting. The egos are small and brittle and without reprieve, merciless once excited. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of falling-outs in comics and have, to my recollection, never seen one patched up. Once injured, they never get over it.
Think of it as High School with ashtrays and legal beer, or the 13th grade. “Who’s Hot, Who’s Not.”
Marvel and DC are private parties. By invitation only. In unguarded moments they’ll even put it in those terms. Talent, how hard you work, deadlines missed or made, all of it, aren’t the most important thing. It’s the connection with some one who can/will invite you to the party. If I listed the top (and I mean top) people who can’t work at one or the other of Marvel or DC you wouldn’t believe it. Top talent. Think of the best guys you’d like to see on titles but haven’t for some times years. The reason probably is something like I’m describing. In the future I may go ahead and list some of them.
In comics, between Marvel and DC, there’ve only been about 30 people give or take who can authorize a living wage for working mainstream artists. That is if your goal is to work high profile with broad promotion for the project and your work. At any time, most freelancers have only 1 or 2 of these people in his corner to send them work. And God help them if they ever get 1 or 2 of these people on their neck over something real or percieved. It can poison the well for them at both companies.
To anyone coming into this business of comics, stay out of the offices as often as possible. Don’t move to New York, Los Angeles, San Diego or anywhere else for the work. If your stuff is up to quality you can make it right from the town you live in, the farm in East Jesus or any other place where your best interests lay. Keep your house, your spouse and children where they are. The cities mentioned offer nothing that will add to your work or your chances.
Also, move cautiously at conventions if you choose to attend. When you do attend (I still do myself, though rarely) stick with people you already know and those you percieve to be at what you guess to be your own level of accomplishment, for the most part. Status is relative and all of perception in the business. Without trying, offense is imputed or percieved sometimes merely by seeking to make acquaintances above your station.
I haven’t attended cons with any frequency in most of the last 20 years. They can be fun and enthusing, especially the fans. The pit falls of the offices are lessened here but still present.
When I started in this business, it was still recommended to move to New York. When I did, it was exciting and the city is wonderful but the trade off is the contempt of the office-goers that your familiarity can breed. This doesn’t always happen. Accept what I write merely as a cautionary.
I’m not alone in this experience of the “community.” In recent interviews where I lay out some detail on the matter I’ve later been contacted by artists from the same 10 years or so when I started work and they’ve confirmed and encouraged the description of things then as I have said. Some of them were contracted with the companies and did quite well under the Shooter reign and others. Nevertheless, they agreed with me as to the treacherous environment.
Things and persons have no doubt altered since that time. But my small contact with Marvel and DC in the last 10 years have not deminished my wariness of the liablities.
It’s the best job I or any one else could ever have. But it’s a lousy business at the staff level.
For a more about this see this interview completed recently. There are a couple of more coming out shortly: