Last week artist Rantz Hoseley, who edited the Eisner and Harvey Award winning anthology graphic novel Comic Book Tattoo and founded LongBox Digital, sent out a broadcast email to comic creators outlining the potential creation of an American Sequential Arts Guild to address the concerns and issues that have plagued an industry, which is still divided by disputes over creators’ rights and compensation. Hoselely doesn’t see his Guild concept as a final product, rather as a point of departure for a discussion that he feels needs to occur for the good of the entire industry including creators, publishers, and consumers.
In a statement that was reprinted on Bleeding Cool, Hoseley begins by pointing out that there have been previous attempts over the past decades to unionize comic book creators (Neal Adams and others have proposed various union-like arrangements in the past), but that these efforts have always failed because there is always a willing supply of artists and writers who will work for less in order get "a break" and get established in the industry. The situation is much the same in popular music--folks who want to "make it" will work for far less than a living wage in order to get that big break.
While Hoseley admits that formation of powerful union of comic book creators is unlikely, he still maintains that "creators in the comic book industry might benefit from having a professional guild." Hoseley proposes an organization for comic creators that would have a voluntary membership--no one would be forced to join--and, while the Guild might have annual dues, it would not exact of percentage of the fees paid to artists, writers, and inkers.
Since the Guild would not be a union, it wouldn’t set rates, though Hoseley sees value in the organization defining "Guild Minimum Rates" for projects executed on a Work-for-Hire basis. Hoseley feels that the rates will have to be modified to reflect the different resources of small, medium, and large publishers. Publishers would not be required to follow the Guild Minimum Rates, nor would creators be prohibited from working for publishers who do not pay the Guild Minimums. Hoseley sees the Guild’s role not as driving rates up, but to clearly define the rates and provide transparency in an industry that provides creators with precious little information about what their contemporaries are earning.
Hoseley also feels that the Guild could aid the industry immensely with an apprenticeship program that would provide a boost to both newcomers and established artists. The Guild would also provide creators with networking opportunities as well as providing a means to deliver health insurance to freelance creators. Finally by conducting anonymous surveys the Guild could provide a real window into things like page rates that remain shrouded in secrecy.