09-JUNE-2011 Yesterday I featured an emotional story about a new artist to the comics scene who feels that her work was unjustly manipulated by BLUEWATER PRODUCTIONS. When LAURA GUZZO was hired by Bluewater, she was off-the-charts excited to land a deal to create the cover for the POLITICAL POWER: HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON one-shot biographical comic. The shine slowly tarnished over the eight-month period between when Guzzo was hired and when the comic hit shelves. Bluewater representative JEROME MAIDA was informed that I had questions and we began emailing in the middle of the night to get those questions answered.
The conflict between newcomer artist and the relatively new publisher (founded in 2007) involves art integrity, deadlines, and reputation of all parties; but somehow, the conversations keep coming back to compensation.
Maida and other Bluewater employees have commented on yesterday’s AmberUnmasked story on my facebook or via email, and they have been primarily concerned with any misconceptions about payment to their artists. Guzzo herself clearly commented on popular news sites, her blog and in my interview with her that she was paid UPFRONT for her cover work. Since the company’s reputation was so sour regarding payment, contracts and backend deals, it’s not a surprise that’s where their responses focus. But despite the “new and improved” contracts that Bluewater is slowly working into their business practices, not all artists are feeling the impact. One current artist whose name is being withheld, confided that he has done multiple books for them and individual pinup illustrations but has never seen a single payment from Bluewater. In regards to payment, it appears that Guzzo was actually lucky.
When it comes to the issue of Guzzo’s art being manipulated when she was never told that there was anything wrong, the responses are sparse. Once again, take a look at the original work Guzzo submitted compared to what was actually published featuring the cover by Joe Phillips.
Maida has expressed repeatedly to me that he is deeply remorseful that the situation turned into such a disaster. I’m unaware if he shared these regrets with Guzzo:
“This whole mess is extremely disappointing to me because I am the one who recruited Laura. It was almost exactly one year ago, last year, at Wizard Philly, that her work caught my eye. I was looking for new artists and definitely wanted to give her a shot. I was very happy when I convinced Darren [Davis] to giver her the HILLARY project. He did always have reservations about her ‘water color paper’ style, but that to me is what made her unique.”
“Also, I want to point out that it has always been my intention to find a way to compensate our artists and writers more to a greater degree. So for Laura, Mark Sparacio and another artist I had hoped [to] land. So I decided to convince Darren [Davis] to have the cover artists be compensated with money up front, plus a percentage if the book sells over 10,000 copies. I felt this would prevent cover artists from pulling their hair out if they received the one-time fee upfront and saw the book sell one hundred thousand copies. They should be rooting for the book to do well.”
Maida went on to express his feelings about Guzzo’s statements when she said she felt like the upfront money was actually supposed to entice her to go on news sites and say positive things about Bluewater:
“She was being paid because I was making sure our policies were different from what they were before. I find it insulting and naive of her to claim that we would pay her simply to say nice things about us.
“So, no, her experience was not the norm for many of those who were bitching about Bluewater and the past. It had become the norm thanks to me, as Mark and the other artist received similar deals to Laura’s.
“This is what is so distressing. It seems Laura was excited to work for us until people starting whispering their complaints about Bluewater in her ear. That is why she originally stated she was not going to do the interior of the book. She actually told me on the phone it looked like we were paying her to say something nice about us. Really? She was a then-unknown artist. How much clout did she think what she said was going to have one way or the other. I just wanted to let people know through her that we were changing at least slightly some of our practices. Then I go on Newsarama and she deleted her comment even though what she said, ‘I got paid just fine,’ was 100% true.”
The interior page sequential art was another part of this controversy. Guzzo said she would have done the interiors but once the script was not received in a timely manner, she turned down the offer. In my communications with Maida, he said that the deadline would have been extended. I’m not sure how possible that is once a book is solicited; again, the solicitation appeared in Previews and the script was not even finished, but books are late all the time, especially by certain creators.
“But what really enraged Darren was when she decided she no longer wanted to do interiors on the HILLARY book after the solicitation in Diamond had her name on it. I let her know that she would have time to do the interiors and that, well, she was already listed as the artist on the book. She kept repeating she wanted to concentrate on covers.
Maida did take full responsibility for part of this dispute:
“In all fairness, the script being late was my fault. But we would have given her time to finish the book. She didn’t care at that point. Despite being paid upfront for three covers, she had gone from excited to work for us to leery. All because she listened to other people.
“If she had simply done the interiors, she would be getting more covers to do and we all would be a lot happier today.”
Maida specifically addressed Guzzo’s remark about other covers when she said, “After that, I did two more cover jobs for them, but started holding my artwork hostage until the money was safely stowed away in my paypal account.” While he attempts to rebut this, he only refers to the HILLARY cover not the other two covers Guzzo brings up.
“Again, ‘held hostage?’ She got paid for her HILLARY cover immediately. This is just really disappointing. I do want the books to have a different look. That’s why I recruited Laura in the first place. But she [l]ost Darren when she bailed on the interiors and as for the new cover, that was all Darren. I knew nothing about it. Right or wrong, that was his call. But this all could have been avoided of Laura could have been a bit less suspicious and done the interiors. You can’t pick which part of an agreement you want to accept. The world doesn’t work that way.”
“All I want to say in closing is Laura is obviously very talented and I wish her the best.”
There still don’t seem to be a lot of answers about why Guzzo’s cover was swiped by Phillips. You can comment here if it’s about the coverage of the controversy or go to the appropriate site to express your feelings to either party directly.