Comics Creators

The Artist and Writer Relationship


Hey, so I was wondering about a few things today. I saw an artist on twitter deservedly upset that a writer had taken her character designs without payment. This is, of course, egregious behavior and I’m just wondering how often this happens. I always thought that comic book creating was a collaborative effort on the part of both the writer and artist. Of course, the artist does a ton of the work considering they bring the books to life. But this sort of behavior must set precedence right?

My questions are:
How can the comic book community build a trust among collaborators? Especially at the beginning stages that I’m sure you and I share.

What is appropriate to ask of an artist when you really don’t a lot of funds? What offers can be made to an artist other than money?

How can one establish a sense of commitment to an artist, so they don’t think you’ll just run off with their work?

Also, I’d love hear people’s experience with this sort of stuff because I find it super interesting.

These are just a few initial questions because I’ve been seeing a lot more artists talking about being used and it’s bummer to see when you’re a guy like me who wants to genuinely collaborate.


From what I’ve seen as an outsider and not a collaborator, the difficult thing to manage on both sides of the equation (writer and artist) is expectations. The other slippery thing is that expectations change with the success of the project. All you have to do is look through the history of even professional comics to see where conflicts have arisen.


Expectations in terms of writing, art, or schedule? Could you elaborate a bit on that? Or even point in the direction to see those things.

I always wonder about those things especially since I’m approaching such a naive stand point of, “I love comics and I’d really like to make one!” The business and marketing aspect of it also extremely important. I believe the latter to be hugely important especially when you hear the stories that Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane tell about wanting to start something like Image comics up.


Yes and more. As noted in your first post, payment and ownership can be big ones. Converse to the situation you posted, I’ve known situations (not connected to anyone here) where all of the upfront costs were covered by the writer at their risk and when the project seemed to be more successful than originally planned only then did the artist want to share in the risk/reward. I’m not trying to vilify one side or the other. I’m just saying that a lot of it is just going to be down to interpersonal relationships.

A lot of it is “inside baseball” that you kind of have to piece together from verbal accounts. One book that shows some of these situations and how they played out in the professional comics world is Marvel: The Untold Story. It’s a great read for getting a sense of some of this stuff or are just interested in comic history.


Yeah, that’s true! And such a bummer! I always wonder about those type of things because I’m always trying to pitch a project to an artist and telling them that I’d love to share half of whatever is made with them especially since I’m broke. While offering the little payment that I can. I always wonder about writers and how expendable they seem because at the end of the day people aren’t reading scripts. I wonder how many artists are pursuing writers in comparison to the other way around.

And yes! I’ve been dying to check that out. Can’t afford it though! And it’s so cheap! When I’m not at school or at work, I tend to head over to library to catch up on comics. Completely forgot about that! Definitely will have to see if my library has it and check it out.


I think that is one of the drivers for some of these things. A lot of collaborators start off less than financially stable. Sometimes one and not the other becomes successful leading to hard feelings (sometimes justified, sometimes not) between them.

It’s not something that happens just in comic either. I haven’t seen the film but my wife knew the guy who Timothy Olyphant’s character in the film Rock Star was loosely based on. I know some people who knew the guy Mark Wahlberg’s character was (once again loosely) based on. Depending on who’s side you take, it’s possible that the first guy got screwed over pretty bad. It’s something he still struggles with.


I can see that for sure, but I don’t think because one person shines that it takes away from the other collaborator. I guess, I’m just a naive cockbag then haha

But true! I wish people weren’t so jaded! Then again, I’m just trying to start this up, so maybe I just lack the proper experience to acting that way.

Any artists in here willing to give some advice on these subjects? Really would love to see how creators feel and why.


Forgive me if someone addressed this already or anything (I’m at work and didn’t get a chance to read all the replies) but Declan Shalvey talks about this from time to time on his Twitter feed. He talks about how to be respectful to the artist and build a good relationship and how to approach creator owned projects.

I’m sure if you can’t find it, he’d be more than happy to answer a question about it as he’s very pro trying to help people learn how to be considerate and respectful towards their artists.


Shalvey was a regular in the Millarworld creative area once upon a time.


Ahhh that’s amazing! I’ve been a lurker here for a while and trying to be a tad more active so I definitely didn’t know that but I know he’s very active about creative relationships and such on Twitter.


I’ve always wanted to talk to him about this because he talks about ArtCred. I really want to talk to him. You’re right! I should totally reach out. Thanks for that!

there is a huge problem in the comic industry that gives most if not all its credit to writers. Super strange! Especially because artists breath life into a a comic book. It’s weird how brands come up and even if it is a marketing ploy, then it’s still not cool! Artists deserve as much of the acclaim.


I think that fluctuates from era to era. During the 90’s, the artists likely had more power. Image was founded by a bunch of artists after all, not writers.


Declan and colourist Jordie Bellaire do a lot to help raise attention to the unsung folks in the comic bizz.

They is good people like that.


I pay the artists I work with and have a contract. I’m not sure how it would work without that. If you’re serious about doing something assume that it can be successful from the start. It’s still a complete collaboration but the expectations of all parties are up front and in writing.


Its not the biggest thing in the world, my dude. You find out your artists rate, let them know, how many pages you want done, let them do their job and not get in the way, and pay them when they’re done. Easy.


I think it’s fans and journalists a lot too. I think is has been accelerated by more frequent shipping and rotating artists so people tend to refer to ‘Tom King’s Batman run’ rather than the “King/Finch/Janin/Gerards Batman run”. A lot of writers and artists have been picking up on that and trying to correct people. A few Image comics recently have started reversing or rotating which name comes first such as on Saga:

Strictly speaking in the industry typically the artist shares equal royalties and a much higher page rate (reflecting how much longer it usually takes them) so in the respect they aren’t really favouring the writers. They are guilty sometimes in the marketing, editions like this have been pulled up and criticised quite strongly:

While I see the economic argument that Melzer is the big name that’ll sell more copies it is pretty unjust when it is a collaborative effort and Morales put in as much work if not more (and I’m sure Melzer and other writers given similar treatment would agree to be fair, trade dress isn’t up to them).


Yes, there was a bit of a trend especially in the 2000s to issue covers that were more saleable to the mainstream book market, and which heavily emphasised the writer’s name as a result (especially if they were known outside comics).

They did it with Whedon’s X-Men run too.

And with Huston’s Moon Knight:

In fairness though they were usually variant covers, there was usually an alternate cover that emphasised the art a bit more and gave a slightly more equal billing, like these for the Whedon books:

And this for Identity Crisis:

And this for Moon Knight:,204,203,200.jpg


The other issue is that I think these trends are cyclical, look at the ‘90s for example and the artists were the stars and the books were often sold on their name (especially when you look at something like Image). Anecdotally I feel like we’re starting to see a bit of a trend back towards that, with the mid-to-late 2000s perhaps being the high point for writers’ prominence.


Huston gets a bigger typeface than the book title? :open_mouth: That’s usually reserved for people on Stephen King’s level. Is Huston really that big a name (no pun intended)?


I think he’s a pretty popular crime writer in the US, although I haven’t read any of his non-comics stuff.