STARLIGHT #6 CONTEST HALTED
AMBER LOVE 08-SEPT-2014 Today, comic industry legend Mark Millar announced on his Millarworld forum that he was canceling the contest for unknown artists to get the chance to provide the variant cover art for STARLIGHT #6. Enough artists accused Millar of taking advantage of newbie artists to work for free. Millar is probably best known to non-comics audiences as one of the creators of WANTED which had a movie starring Angelina Jolie.
CONTESTS ARE VALID
Contests are perfectly valid opportunities for people looking to break into the industry. In fact, it’s valid as a way to break into any industry. We live in a world of AMERICAN IDOL and AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL. Those are contests disguised as reality TV. In the end, the highest placing winners get some contracts and endorsements out of it. Every year, Hollywood gives us yet another contest like PROJECT GREENLIGHT for filmmakers and PROJECT RUNWAY for fashion designers. There are makeup and special effect competitions like FACE/OFF and CREATURE SHOP. On a smaller comic book scale, the two-season competition show, WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO? produced by Stan Lee, was similar: contestants created characters and had to live as them for several weeks; the winners got some prizes in the end like seeing their characters in comics (Season 1) and being sent on tour as their characters.
There are also comic writing contests every year such as TOP COW’S talent search and Pilot Seasons. Several of my friends have submitted to those. Writing contests outside of comics are rather common. Pros will warn those looking to break in to be wary of certain circumstances such as high entrance fees and making sure it’s not to be mistaken for a vanity press.
In 2013, creative duo Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner ran a contest for their HARLEY QUINN series published by DC Comics. They asked people to submit their own take on a single scripted page of HARLEY QUINN they provided. That contest ran amok with controversy for completely different reasons such as glamorizing suicide but never for asking artists to work for free as part of the contest.
It’s disappointing that anyone could be bullied out of running a contest that would have given someone exposure (500 copies by a best selling writer) and a $300 for the winning cover. Artists deserve to be paid; no one argues that. But artists also have the right to chose if a free gig is something they may be interested in. The burden of cost being on writers is why new comics only get made through Kickstarter since publishers no longer take on financial burden for indie books.
COMICS ARE COLLABORATIVE
Comics is a (usually) a collaborative medium. Not everyone is Erika Moen and Jeff Smith. There’s usually a team involved for every aspect of making a comic: writing, penciling, inking, coloring, lettering, graphic design, cover art, and editing (a step further is publishing which you would hope would include promotions). If a writer births the idea, it’s become their responsibility to get a team together and see how to fairly come to terms with everyone to actually get the comic produced. In some cases, everyone is willing to work for free to see the book get out there and into the readers’ hands which is the goal in the first place. That only happens if people on the team support each other’s endeavors. The finished books can be used by everyone as portfolio samples to hopefully get some paying work if that’s what their personal ambitions are.
INDUSTRY PRESSURE ISN’T ALWAYS RIGHT
I think it’s a shame that industry bullying pressured Millar into canceling his STARLIGHT contest. Plenty of people would have appreciated the opportunity to draw for a science fiction comic written by someone with Millar’s clout in both comics and Hollywood. STARLIGHT is described as the Millar version of popular franchises like BUCK ROGERS and FLASH GORDON. Millar knows sci-fi well. I haven’t read STARLIGHT but I gave JUPITER’S LEGACY (his series with Frank Quitely) a try and can see why he’s garnered the fanbase he has. I was never impressed with the gratuitous violence of KICK-ASS but I actually loved the premise of a regular guy getting into the superhero game where the consequences were not fleeting blips glossed over. My own criticisms of Millar’s work comes down to “it’s not for me” most of the time but that’s nothing against how he makes his books. If you’re going to complain about something, talk about the delays. Since I binge read now, delays rarely register to me anymore but it was something I noticed with certain creators like Millar when I was pulling the subscription books at Comic Fusion. How do we remedy industry peer pressure?