Why I will not draw your comic for free

Sorry tumblrs, I didn’t know you couldn’t reblog questions, and also it’s probably mean of me, exposing that girl’s question like that (question removed). So here’s the whole blog post in reblogging format. 

Long story short, someone (politely) inquired if I would do character design for them, and then draw their comic. No mention of payment. The following is my response:

I appreciate that you like my work, but I cannot draw characters or comics for you for free.

This is an issue many cartoonists before me have addressed in ways much more humourous and eloquent, so I’ll try and keep it short: I cannot draw your comic for free because I write and draw comics for a living. I pay my rent with comics. I eat because I make comics, and what you are asking me to do is put aside my paying work, and do something for you that probably will not pay. 

 You may have the best idea in the world and be the most awesomest writer in the world, but unless you have a legitimate relationship with a publisher who can pay the artist who is going to draw your comic, I cannot draw your comic because I cannot work for free. 

There’s also another question I get asked a lot lately, even more than the “will you draw my comic for free?” question, and I want to address it.

“I’d like to pay you to draw a comic proposal. What are your rates? Then I’m going to pitch it to Image/Oni/whoever.”

For me, this is not a paying job. Thank you for offering to pay me for my time while I draw your comic pitch, but right now due to being busy I am not available for these jobs. Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate your offer of payment! But at this point I don’t have the time to invest into a proposal that may go nowhere. This includes inquiries about me drawing your minicomic, a comic for your girlfriend, etc. To me these requests are commissions, and at this point, I’m extremely busy and can’t do commissions. But if you would like a drawing of Supergirl, I’ll be happy to do so at a comic convention. Comic conventions are the only time I’m able to take commissions.

At this point, I’ve had five graphic novels published (Zombies Calling, War at Ellsmere, Brain Camp, Friends With Boys, Bigfoot Boy v1, and #6 is on the way in May 2013), and I’ve written and drawn three online comics (Demonology 101, Ice and The Adventures of Superhero Girl). Of these eight projects, I have worked with a writer for TWO of them. For both of those projects the writers were long established professionals with many credits to their name, AND they were already hooked in with publishers who could pay me a (semi) living wage for my months of work. These publishers were legitimate publishers with distribution in place and markets to sell to. They ensured my hard work on the projects I did for them did not go down the drain.

I am a cartoonist with my own stories to tell, and I want to work with people who respect me as a professional and a collaborator. I have been very fortunate that all the people I have worked with till this point have treated me well and paid me (decently, this IS comics) for my time. I have chosen projects that I have liked, and I have created my own comics. Six of my eight projects of the last 12 years have been written and drawn by me. I very much like the writing part of comics, and for me to give that up, the project must be very special.

… and I must be paid. 

So. I hope that answers your question, and all the questions I will ever get in the future about drawing comics for free, or getting paid to draw proposals that have little to no chance of ever being published. 

PS. If you are a writer with a history of published projects, feel free to contact me! That’s how I got hooked up with J.Torres and First Second when I drew Bigfoot Boy and Brain Camp, respectively. 

Edit: Enough people have objected to the way I have phrased this blog post that I have edited some of the language, as I feel my message of ‘very busy, choosy about comic projects, must be paid’ is not getting through. It was not my intention to be confrontive, and I did not feel angry when I wrote this post, but apparently I came off that way.