Squiggles and Scribbles

The internet has once again been ablaze with conversations, thoughtful pieces and uncontrollable rage (OK, maybe not so much the last one) surrounding the idea of creators charging for signatures at conventions.  It’s been interesting seeing people’s varying opinions on this subject, while many have dropped blanket condemnations on those who do charge, others have taken a more sympathetic view depending on many potential situations and scenarios.  I thought I’d take a few minutes to give my opinion and drop down a few examples to help explain said opinion.

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First off, I think it’s incredibly important to look at a creators current situation, specifically their level of involvement in the creation of comics.  Nobody in their right mind can disagree with the fact that life as a comic creator, whether a writer, artist or in some cases both, is an easy life.  There’s a huge amount of work that goes into each and every issue and due to the high level of work, long hours and in some cases a level of pressure that can prove hazardous to health, it should come as no surprise that this industry can burn people out.  It’s happened before, and I can appreciate that towards the twilight of a career creators will want to cut down on the amount of work they’re doing, be it for health reasons or perhaps to be able to spend more time with family and loved ones.  The problem, of course, is that if a creator were to cut down to, say, one book a month then that one book may not be enough to pay essential bills, let alone be able to enjoy their lives.  In this instance, who’s to deny their right to supplement their now relatively small income by placing a charge on signing books, particularly after a long and colourful career of entertaining us.

Of course, there’s the mitigation of the speculator market too.  Some creators, Dan Slott being a good example, will charge people that arrive at his table with multiple copies of the same issue.  It’s plainly obvious these people are showing up at his table to get a quick signature then flip the books online for a tidy profit.  Maybe on of those copies are for themselves, maybe none of them are, but I have a relatively low opinion of people who do this since they’re both looking to profit of the back of someone else’s work without any real effort of their own and frankly they can be selfishly holding up the line for the genuine fans that may only have a couple of books they want signed.  I think this is totally reasonable, since they either get a cut of any potential profit unfairly made by these “flippers” or they stop them from doing it at all by killing any profit at all, which then gets the line moving again.

There is one more prime point to make with regards to writers charging for signatures at conventions, that being that artists have two very good points of income during shows; commissions and prints.  This is an option that I’d say most writers don’t have, since there are only a few in the industry that do both.  The more talented the artist, the higher the price of a commission (and rightly so) which means more profit.  I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with dropping cash on a talented artists table to get an awesome sketch, I’ve done so many times before and will continue to do so moving forward.  But for some writers, those who are maybe having a bit of a hard time making ends meet (it happens to the best of us) this is a great opportunity to make up for not being able to add to their income with something like a sketch list.

The other side of the argument has merit too, don’t get me wrong, but without knowing the exact personal and financial situation of any creator that is charging for signatures there isn’t a single one of us in any position to judge them for it.  All we have the right to do is decide whether we want that signature enough to pay or not.  We live in a capitalist society, we get to choose what we spend our hard earned money on outside of necessary things like food and bills, exercise that choice.  But try to be less judgemental about those you probably know less about than you think.

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