To Charge or not to Charge
The hot topic of the week seems to be centered around the convention circuit, specifically on whether creators should or should not charge for autographs. Big names such as Neal Adams and Marv Wolfman have weighed in on the matter and it seems to have become a trending topic. With sides ranging from “It’s a source of income for the creator to justify attending the convention” to “The person has already purchased the comic, the least we as creators can do is ‘thank them’ by signing it”, it’s not as cut and dry as it would appear on the surface.
Personally, I don’t think creators should charge and the simple reason for that is it brings and ugly thing like money into an innocent thing such as fandom. Now before I’m flooded with comments over that last statement, allow me to explain. Of course Fan boys and girls have a reputation for being, shall we say, outspoken. But it is only their love of the characters in its most open form that brought these conventions into existence in the first place. A lot of their obsessions began when they were kids, and their parents took them into the comic or toy store and got them their favorite item based on their love of the character that was printed on it. The child in all likelihood spent no money of their own on it or did no chores to earn going there. Certainly when they were older that came into play but by that time, their imaginative minds were accustomed to getting excited about going to the toy or comic store for the same reason. Okay, enough of that. End rant. Another comment I keep seeing is that actors and actresses charge for their autographs so why shouldn’t comic creators. To that I have no answer other than that I don’t feel that they should either for the same reasons I just stated about bringing money into the situation.
Having all that said, I realize that we live in the real world and that while love may make the world go ‘round it’s money that greases the wheels. Sure a creator has to make a living and I will never begrudge a man or woman trying to do that and I accept that the hobby I grew up with is first and foremost a business and each creator needs to be compensated for their time and effort because the life of a free lancer is hardly glamorous. Every minute spent at a convention weekend is a minute that creator could be looking for a new job or working towards a deadline to ensure he or she gets paid for the privilege of working in the field that they love. Hell, even contract guys have to balance their workload with convention time because if they keep missing deadlines, I don’t imagine their contracts will be in effect for much longer. The problem with creators charging for autographs is in the perception. The general consensus, be it accurate or inaccurate, is that the general fan assumes that since you work on a high profile book or even a small independent title is that you make truck loads of money and the fact that you have the balls to ask me to pay you to jot down some illegible hen scratchings is an affront to God and all things holy. The solution to this problem, as with most things in life stands on the foundations of communication.
We live in a world of the Internet and social media. There are very few outlets that the average convention goer can’t go to where they can’t get information about the convention or which specific creator they are interested in. If charging for autographs is to be the norm, and it looks as if it’s going to be, I think the more informed the convention-goer is, the better they can plan their trip, have an overall pleasurable experience and want to come back to meet said creator multiple times. As a con-goer myself, I can attest to getting to a con, finding out a creator was charging a good deal more money for a sketch (my general weakness) than I had planned on spending or had brought with me which A) depress me B) Piss me off or worse case scenario C) put me in a mood and just take the wind out of my sails for the whole con depending on the height of the pedestal I had put them on when attending the show. A lot of that frustration can be alleviated by a simple posting on the convention page on what each artist or writer intends to charge or even a simple post from said creator on their various social media. Most of them post their location on the convention floor so fans can meet and greet them already. A few more lines on pricing aren’t going to hurt anyone in the long run.
On the other end of the spectrum, I had met Amanda Conner at a show who was very kind and had put me on a sketch list for the day but for whatever reason she ran out of time or it was the last day of the con, she was unable to get to my sketch. I had paid her no money up front but asked me when the next con I was thinking of attending and we agreed, that for that convention I would be first on her list. We agreed on a price and over the next couple of months I saved up specifically for that sketch and when the day came, not only was I first on her list but also she had also already completed it! And she gave me another sketch for free. Needless to say I have nothing but kind words for Amanda Conner. I think the general message I’m trying to convey here, is that communication and kindness will go along way when it comes to any situation.
Of course there are situations that announcing their prices won’t necessarily be in the hands of the creators before the show such as charity events such as the Hero Initiative for the simple fact that the creator may not know all the specifics before they arrive at the con, or even if they are partaking in the event. But usually these events are located at giant booths and have proper signage to explain everything in detail. The other situation being is that I understand that some creators are beginning to charge ‘flippers’ for their autographs. Ultimately I find this practice to be a bit hilarious but I do think it lends itself to some problems of it’s own. Mainly how do you tell if something is being signed just to be turned around and resold? Sure you have the people simply asking for a signature with no personalization but I have hundreds of comics with just the creator’s name and no personalization and I have never gotten an autograph to be sold off. I got them because I loved the work. I suppose someone getting multiple copies of a ‘rare’ book or shop exclusive is a dead giveaway but I suppose that is one the creators will have to figure out for themselves. Sorry guys I’m just giving my opinion here, I’m not running for Jesus.
In closing I’d just like to say that I have always been able to see things from different points of view and while I have never usually been able to give a definitive answer, I do think I make some valid points from the point of view of the creator and the con-goer but ultimately it’s just advice. Keep the focus on the fun and the rest will fall into place.
Some additional reading