Note From The President, Cerebus 141, December 1990

Copyright 1990 Dave Sim

We're printing a Cerebus Preview of Scott McCloud's 24 hour comic in this issue. Seems like a perfect opportunity to air some of the differences between Scott and myself regarding the Bill of Rights, especially in light of the interview he and Steve Bissette did with Gary Groth on the subject of Creator's Rights.

Gary asked very early on in the interview about the right "to free movement of ourselves and our work between publishers." Scott quickly volunteered the opinion that this didn't mean that artists had the right to unilaterally break a contract.

On the contrary, I believe we have exactly that right. This particular exchange wouldn't have bothered me so much if it wasn't for the fact that Bill Loebs had taken Journey and gone to Gary Groth's Fantagraphics in mid-issue some years ago. As I said in my Comics Journal interview, I contacted our lawyer (Hi, Wilf) at that time and was informed of several courses of action we could take against Bill (and, not incidentally, against Fantagraphics) based on the contract we had with Bill. In considering it, however, I realized it was more important to me, 'Journey' and (most importantly) to Bill that he be happy with his publishing circumstances. If he didn't want Aardvark-Vanaheim publishing Journey, there was nothing to be served in taking corrective legal action (forcing him to do the book at AV) or punitive legal action (punishing him for "jumping" his contract). Legally it was an open and shut case and Bill was in the wrong. Morally and artistically (I believe) he was in the right. He had to decide what was best for Journey and himself. . .and did so.

I find it amusing (in a black, humourous sort of way) that Gary, who is so adamant about "his" artists fulfilling their contracts, found Bill Loebs jumping his AV contract quite witrnn the boundaries of proper behavior. My assumption is that if Los Bros or Peter Bagge or Daniel Clowes ever decided they would be better served by, say, Tundra or Dark Horse, mid-way through production of an issue (already solicited for under the Fantagraphics banner) that Gary would agree they had the right to "free movement". If he doesn't believe that, bearing in mind the Journey situation as precedent, I would be interested in hearing his reasons in his 'Opening Shots' column.

There is altogether too much mis-placed loyalty in this field on the part of artists and writers (I believe). If you are thirsty and go into a convenience store and buy a Coke and drink it, that is the end of the transaction. The next time you are thirsty, do you feel 'guilty' because you went into another convenience store or bought something other than a Coke? It was Scott himself who came up with the right to offer a proposal to more than one publisher at a time. What could make more sense? Does Scott's current publisher get just one quote from one printer and then feel that they must give that printer all of their business because of some mis-placed sense of loyalty? No! They shop around for the best printer at the best price. All printers are not the same. All publishers are not the same. As a freelance artist your unemployment isn't covered, nor your medical insurance. Your taxes aren't deducted. You have no tenure or job security.

You are employed for the duration of a given project and after that you start over again at square one. And yet just about every freelancer feels he "owes" 1he company who publishes his work loyalty for all time; first refusal on any new project or idea; a percentage of all merchandising and ancillary rights.

Well, Scott. Let me say this about that.

It is one thing to write down "our rights as we conceive them to be and intend to preserve them." But if, having put all those things down on paper, you continue to function as an exclusive employee of a single company without even contacting the other companies (look at what Dark Horse has done with Frank Miller's work, offering him a deal so generous that Frank had to insist that they take a larger cut of his action) then I think you let down the next generation of comic book creator by saying one thing and doing another; creating the impression that Creator's Rights amount to mouthing high-minded platitudes and then conducting "business as usual" because some company gave you your "first break". Companies don't give artists their 'first break" out of some happy philanthropic instinct, Scott. They do so because they think what you do can be profitable. And what you do is profitable. And prestigious. And a critical success. Any of the companies is always looking for those three things.

This is an honest disagreement between creators. If the "free movement" issue had not been addressed by Scott I would have been happy to leave the clause to speak for itself. As it is, I am glad to have an opportunity to define 'free movement" as I see it.

I have the greatest respect for Scott and his considerable achievements in the comics field. I am not 'attacking' him here - just clarifying our disagreements for the benefit of those who are attempting to define their own beliefs relative to the Bill of Rights.


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