Journalista for March 22, 2010: Do no harm

Posted by on March 22nd, 2010 at 8:52 AM




“The interest for the drawings is pretty high. I have so far sold around 20 pieces.”


“Well, guys are usually impressed by any women in comics. We’re rare birds. Not so rare anymore, but still pretty rare. I try to keep it on the DL, though, because guys are usually intimidated by a woman in comics, or a woman in engineering. When they find out, they’re usually impressed, but I don’t put it out there. I don’t say, ‘Hey, I draw comics, you guys!'”


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So, with the new health-insurance regulation bill now the law of the land, questions immediately arise: How many freelancers will be forced to abandon their careers in cartooning because they can’t afford the individual mandate without the benefits that come with a salaried position? How quickly will the sort of exclusivity deals dangled in front of creators by Marvel and DC become the norm, rather than the exception, because of this? How much additional power does this put into the hands of employers when negotiating page rates and the like with creators? How will this affect smaller publishers? And how does the continued ban on selling insurance across state lines complicate the situation?

(Update: Conversation has begun in the comments. I promise to spare you the partisan horseshit if you’ll do the same — I have no interest in discussing the subject generally, but rather want to focus on how the comics industry might or might not have unique issues regarding the new health-insurance regime. Seriously, I have no answers to any of this, and would be very interested to hear yours.)


From one of Sergio Aragonés’ contributions to Simpsons Comics Presents Bart Simpson #50, ©2009 Bongo Entertainment, Inc.


Recently posted to our homepage:

And in the news…


Above the Fold


Life in interesting times

  • Simon Jones breaks the news that the Checker Book Publishing Group has severed all ties with Diamond:

    Publisher Mark Thompson, in strongly-worded posts to a private industry forum (Thompson has indicated the information is free for repost), cited 1 1/2-year-long fulfillment, warehousing, and invoicing issues as causes for the breakup. Thompson was critical of Diamond’s adoption of a more stringent re-list policy, which it viewed as biased, and raised questions about Diamond’s ability to collect debt from accounts on behalf of publishers (which is confusing to me, as that does not seem to be the typical arrangement at Diamond.)

    According to Jones, Checker will distribute its wares to bookstores through Ingram, and is encouraging retailers to use Haven to buy their books in the Direct Market.


  • Colleen LaRose has pled not guilty to charges of conspiring to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, over a drawing that put the head of Muhammed on the body of a dog. Another person accused of participating in the alleged conspiracy, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, was released from custody. Three other people are still being held by Irish authorities.

  • In other “kill the Muhammed cartoonists” news, David Headley has pled guilty to conspiring to murder Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, among other things.

  • Tokyo may have decided to hold off on banning “kiddyporn comics,” but according to Sankaku Complex, Osaka is still considering just such a law.

  • Rich Johnston observes that what looks like a major link in the online comics-piracy chain was taken down last Thursday.

  • Karen Raugust reports on a potential fix to the controversial CPSIA regulations, which restrict the sale of items untested for lead, that could save the legal resale of books and comics.

  • Also at Publishers Weekly, Jim Milliot passes along a warning from the Authors Guild on e-book royalties.

  • The New York Times looks into the Kirby/Marvel/Disney dispute.

  • “Kids don’t read comics,” huh? According to ICv2, Scholastic has set the print run for The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen From the Future, the first of four YA graphic novels by Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey, at one million copies.

  • Alan Gardner notes that nine cartoonists will be traveling to Germany on a tour sponsored by the USO.

  • Johanna Draper Carlson presents 2009 sales figures for Archie Comics.

  • Brian Hibbs asks: Are publishers trying to kill the periodical comic?

  • Jeff Jarvis notes a recent Pew study, which has troubling news for newspapers looking to survive long enough to be functioning 21st-century companies.


Format WarsTM hardware minute… ticktock!

  • “The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) on Friday reported U.S. wholesale ebook sales for January, 2010 were $31.9 million, up 261 percent from the same month a year earlier,” reports Mark Coker.

  • “Apple Inc. is still trying to secure media content for the iPad with just weeks to go before the tablet computer’s release, said people familiar with the matter, as the company tempers some of its initial ambitions for the much-hyped device.”

    (Link via Eric Slivka.)


  • A German company presents its iPad alternative:

    The Neofonie WePad has similar form and function as the wet dreams of our Crunchgear editors, but facts are that the German Android device has a bigger multitouch screen and a faster CPU than the iPad. Also it runs Flash, has USB ports, an inbuilt card reader and expandable memory. Additionally it allows complete multitasking and has a webcam. Beat that baby.


  • Finally, Tuan Nguyen offers five reasons why tablet devices suck and you aren’t going to buy one.




  • Sage Stossel on Jules Feiffer

    The renowned cartoonist discusses his career.


  • Paul Gravett on Amruta Patil

    From “Noah and the Ship of Fools,” ©2010 Amruta Patil.


    A conversation with India’s first female graphic novelist.






  • David Carr on Backing into Forward: A Memoir

    “Reading Feiffer, you know where the truth lies because it is there on every page — resonant, self-­lacerating and frequently hilarious. How else to explain Feif­fer’s frank admissions that he could not stand his mother, even dead; that he coveted the success of peers; that he reflexively courted fame and the famous; and that the mysterious Woody Allen was not really so mysterious to him? “


  • Tanya Lee Stone on Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean

    “Engaging and appealing? Absolutely. Nonfiction? Not exactly.”






  • Lew Stringer: A tribute to Tom Browne


    “Tom Browne was possibly the most important artist in British comics. He died 100 years ago this week, on March 16th 1910, aged just 39, yet his influence on comic strips was considerable.”


  • Stephen Bissette (five, six, seven and eight): Forgotten Comics Wars, cont’d

    The noted Swamp Thing/Tyrant cartoonist continues his look back at the turbulent events of the late 1980s.




Business and Craft


  • Howard Cruse: The problem with Dr. Martin’s fluorescent dyes

    They fade with extended exposure to light, it turns out — something Cruse wishes he knew decades ago.




Comics and Art


  • Doug Wheeler (one, two, three and four): Florence Anne Claxton’s The Adventures of a Woman in Search of Her Rights

    Cover to the British edition of the book.


    Adventures of a Woman was published first in Britain, by the Graphotyping Company, Limited, in London. An American edition soon followed, published by Lee & Shepherd, of Boston and New York. Both the British and American publications are undated, and various sources guess at various dates, but the fashions shown in the work would date it to between the late 1860s and early 1870s. Reference to Brigham Young, who died in 1877, as still alive, establishes an upper boundary.”


  • John Kricfalusi: Gratuitous cartoon violence by popular request

    Detail ©2010 John Kricfalusi.


    The Ren and Stimpy creator does what he does best.






  • YouTube: Rob Rogers lecture


    The award-winning editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette presents a talk entitled, “How a Cartoonist’s Brain Works.”


Comics Culture


  • Harry Lee Green: The Rocket’s Blast Special #7

    “William Parente takes a nostalgic look at the EC Comics of the early 1950s in this slim fanzine from 1967.”




  • Your Not-Comics Link of the Day:

    Where the hell does Warren Ellis find this shit?



Events Calendar


This Week:


  • March 23 (Amherst, MA): The Punchbuggy Tour, featuring Ken Dahl, Liz Baillie and M.K. Reed, stops at Hampshire College’s West Lecture Hall, beginning at 7PM. Details here.
  • March 24 (New York City, NY): An opening reception for an exhibit of Phoebe Gloeckner’s art for The Diary of a Teenage Girl takes place at the 3LD Art & Technology Center on Greenwich Street, beginning at 6PM. Details here.
  • March 24 (Providence, RI): The Punchbuggy Tour, featuring Ken Dahl, Liz Baillie and M.K. Reed, stops at Ada Books on Westminster Street, beginning at 7PM. Details here.
  • March 25 (Toronto, Ontario): Gary Panter will give a free presentation in the Ontario College of Art & Design Auditorium on McCaul Street, beginning at 6:30PM. Details here.
  • March 25 (Somerville, MA): The Punchbuggy Tour, featuring Ken Dahl, Liz Baillie and M.K. Reed, stops at Hub Comics on Bow Street, beginning at 7PM. Details here.
  • March 26-27 (Gainesville, FL): The eighth annual UF Comics Conference will be held in Room 1A of Smathers (Library East) on the University of Florida campus. Details here.
  • March 26 (New York City, NY): An opening reception for a new Blab! exhibit takes place at the Society of Illustrators on 63rd Street, from 6-9PM. Details here.
  • March 26 (Montreal, Quebec): The Punchbuggy Tour, featuring Ken Dahl, Liz Baillie and M.K. Reed, stops at the Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on Bernard, beginning at 7PM. Details here.
  • March 27-28 (Inverness, Scotland): Hi-Ex, the Highlands International Comic Expo, takes place at Eden Court. Details here.
  • March 27 (London, England): The UK Web & Mini Comix Thing happens in the Great Hall at Queen Mary University on Mile End Road, from 10AM-4PM. Details here.
  • March 27 (London, England): Schmurgencon 4 inexplicably takes place at the New Globe Pub on Mile End Road, beginning at 4PM. Details here.


Want to see your comics-related event listed here? Email a link to and let me know. Please include an online link to which I can send people for more information. No sales-only events, please — it’s nice that you’ve marked things down at your store or website, but I won’t be listing it here.


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16 Responses to “Journalista for March 22, 2010: Do no harm”

  1. MrJM says:

    So, with the new health-insurance regulation bill now the law of the land, questions immediately arise: How many freelancers won’t be forced to abandon their careers in cartooning because they weren’t bankrupted by medical costs? How many comics-related obituaries will we be delayed because of early-detection and treatment of illnesses? How many comics collection fire-sales will never take place because complete personal liquidation isn’t necessary to pay for health care? Has the comic book benefit been driven to extinction by Obama care? And how does the continued ban on selling insurance across state lines like credit cards and cable television complicate the situation?

    So many questions…

  2. Dirk Deppey says:

    I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I don’t think you need to pimp for Obamacare any more. Chill, dude.

    My suspicion is that most freelancers fall between the barstools — many earn too much for health-care subsidies (have you looked at how far down the scale the poverty line actually rests?) but not enough for insurance not to be a problem. And it seems clear that this bill takes full-time employment for granted among health-care consumers, which simply isn’t the case for most cartoonists.

    I would of course be delighted for my concerns to be proven unfounded.

  3. Dirk Deppey says:

    Oh, almost forgot about your last question: You DO know that many cartoonists don’t live in New York state, right? And possession of credit cards and cable-TV hasn’t been declared mandatory by the Federal government, so I have no idea what you’re talking about, here.

    Hey, for all I know, Obamacare will be a great thing for the US — I’m no expert on the subject, so I couldn’t tell you. But as someone who covers funnybooks for a living, I wonder at how it’s going to affect an industry that lives largely on advances, royalty statements, and work-for-hire contracts.

  4. MrJM says:

    Mr. Deppey,

    I appreciate, your “suspicions” “concerns” and “wondering” a lot more than I your calling me a “pimp.” I thought that the comment box at the bottom of the page was an invitation for readers to participate. (I’m sure you deal with all kinds of abusive assholes, but try to remember that MOST of us wouldn’t even visit this site, much less care enough to comment, if we didn’t respect you and enjoy your work.)

    And I’m not trying to be a dick when I say, I truly have no idea what you’re talking about when you asked about New York state. (I suspect it’s intended to reveal me as some manner of dip-shit, but I’m afraid I’m too dumb to get it.)

    My point with regard to cable and credit card companies is merely that, contrary to the tales from the anti-health care reform chorus, corporations are not driven to improve their customer service or lower their prices and fees when they are unyoked from state regulations. In fact, it would be fiduciary negligence if insurance corporations didn’t follow the lead of credit card companies and race to the state with the most lax regulatory scheme. Credit card companies didn’t relocate their billing centers to Sioux Falls because they enjoy the South Dakota’s weather.

    As someone who covers funnybooks (and those who love them) for a living, you might want to run the numbers at this “Health Reform Subsidy Calculator” from the Kaiser Family Foundation:

    I have no idea what comics freelancers make, so I don’t know if it will alleviate or exacerbate your concerns about creators falling between the barstools. (I admit I don’t know if the Kaiser Family Foundation is another cog in the Obamacare pimping machine. If so, I imagine their calculations are quite dismiss-able.)

    In closing, I did not intend to offend (or even to be a dick — I’m really much dickier when I’m trying) but just to mirror your bleak questions regarding HCR with questions that reflect the awful situation in which uninsured artists and freelancers (cartoonists, musicians, grass-roots organizers, etc.) have lived to date.

    Anyhoo… sorry if I made yr day shittier than necessary.

    All the best, etc.,
    — MrJM

  5. Dirk Deppey says:

    Likewise, my apologies if I came across as overly snarky.

    “And I’m not trying to be a dick when I say, I truly have no idea what you’re talking about when you asked about New York state. (I suspect it’s intended to reveal me as some manner of dip-shit, but I’m afraid I’m too dumb to get it.)”

    What I mean: Companies in one state cannot simply “buy coverage” for all employees from a single source if they have full-time workers in several states — said coverage must be negotiated separately in each state. This isn’t so much of a problem for larger companies, which I’m assuming is why people like Ed Brubaker have health insurance from Marvel, despite the fact that they’re in New York and he’s in Seattle — but for smaller companies like, say, Top Shelf, Dynamite or Fantagraphics, attempting to provide insurance for cartoonists in other states is almost certainly going to prove costly and difficult, since you won’t be able to spread the risk across a big pool of employees.

    I appreciate that you want to see health-care coverage improved in this country, and I freely acknowledge that I’m in no way qualified to tell you whether or not this legislation will do that generally. But the comics industry (like publishing in general) isn’t like most other forms of business, and I heard next-to-nothing throughout the debate as to how this will shake out for an industry of freelancers. I suspect that there may be problems. I could well be wrong.

    And don’t worry about my feelings, please: Fantagraphics pays me to be The Goat, you know?

  6. MrJM says:

    Mr. D.,

    For what it’s worth, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post wrote the following to explain who will remain uninsured after “Obamacare” becomes the law of the land:

    “There are some folks who have incomes below the individual mandate threshold. Under the terms of the individual mandate, if coverage would cost more than 8 percent of their monthly income, they can skip it. Other people will decide to pay the individual mandate’s $750 penalty rather than purchase insurance.”

    So if Mr. K is right — and Google seems to confirm his number — a freelancer determined to go without insurance would be dinged $750 per year.

    That would suck, but would it be enough to drive someone away from making comics? Or to keep ’em from even starting? Again, I’m not close enough to the funnybooks biz to even begin to venture a guess.

    Your “small businesses who have employees who live in other states” question(s) is something I’ve not seen covered, but you’ve got me curious and I’ll let you know if I stumble across something that addresses it.

    — MrJM

  7. Dirk Deppey says:

    I’m having difficulty believing the $750 figure, not because I believe that Ezra Klien Is A Lying Liar Who Lies A Lot but because that’s figure simply feels far, far too low — without a massive pool of people in the system, none of this sounds like it’ll work, and at $750, it’s a guilded invitation to cut corners. Did Congress purposely write the bill to fail, then?

    I suppose I have no factual basis on which to object (health-care law isn’t exactly my particular interest), but holy shit, does that ever sound wrong.

  8. Dirk Deppey says:

    In all fairness, a search led me to the libertarian-leaning Reason blog, where the number that Klein cites would seem to be confirmed — along with the sheer incomprehensibility of the logic involved, of course. What the hell?

  9. Leon says:

    Hey, Dirk –

    If this makes you feel any better (and it should, really), Julia Wertz (according to her age and her income disclosed in her interview and the terms of the current law) will pay $323 for health insurance. That’s per year – even in the state of New York and even with a chronic illness like lupus. I’m sure she’s pretty into that idea, too. She’ll have to wait until 2014, though.

  10. Rick Veitch says:

    : “How quickly will the sort of exclusivity deals dangled in front of creators by Marvel and DC become the norm, rather than the exception, because of this?”

    A creator used to have to earn a minimum amount from a company (like $20 grand or so) to qualify for their plans. About five years ago Marvel and DC changed the requirements so creators had to sign exclusive contracts to stay on the plan.

    So the new law will take that leverage away from the companies. I think the exchanges and subsidies will prove to be a boon for freelancers in comics and artists everywhere.

  11. patford says:

    The topic is easy to research online.
    This is a reasonable attempt by the Christian Science Monitor to explain clearly and simply what the bill does, without the partisan hysterics.

  12. Dirk Deppey says:

    Thanks, Pat. This actually goes a little way towards explaining what looks (to a single person like myself) like a massive hole in the plan. The big penalties drop down on families, it turns out:

    “If you ignore this mandate and don’t get health insurance, you’ll have to pay a tax penalty to the federal government, beginning in 2014. This fine starts fairly small, but by the time it is fully phased in, in 2016, it is substantial.

    “An insurance-less person would have to pony up whichever is greater: $695 for each uninsured family member, up to a maximum of $2,085; or 2.5 percent of household income.”

    The logic still seems to run afoul of human nature, but no longer grievously so. The people least likely to need insurance, but that (according to all concerned) the system most needs to be insured in order for all this to work, are exactly the single young people most likely to choose the penalty instead. Ezra Klein claims that 1% of the population would remain without insurance once this bill came into full effect, and this strikes me as utterly absurd: Figure out what percentage of the population is single, childless, healthy, under 40 and not receiving insurance from an employer, and assume that at least 60-70% will choose the IRS penalty and laugh while doing so, and you’re probably closer to the truth. If you’re an uninsured family, on the other hand, you’re basically fucked.

    So will said families be enough to pay for it all? Who knows? I suspect the answer may well be no, but that’s a totally uninformed guess on my part. For all I know, the math adds up just fine.

    My apologies for discussing the bill generally rather than keeping the topic industry-specific, but this is all fairly new to me… and I never could resist the opportunity to say “Thank God I’m gay.” And holy shit, am I ever glad to be gay and childless right now. If I find myself unemployed and reduced to part-time or contracted work in the next few years, I’ll take something of a hit on the IRS penalty, but nothing close to that suffered by some poor bastard in the same boat with a stay-at-home spouse and child.

    Two thousand dollars! Hell, at this point, you guys can keep the whole marriage thing for yourselves.

  13. patford says:

    I don’t want to give the impression I like this bill.
    It’s a weak bill, which Republican pundit and former Bush speech writer David Frum described as not much different from what the Republicans countered the Clinton health care proposals with 16 years ago.
    My personal view is Single Payer is the only logical solution.
    There are things in bill which are really very
    strongly in favor of families, as well as subsidies for people with lower incomes. Subsidies start for individuals who earn 44k or less, it’s much higher (88k) for families.
    Remember very few families are uninsured. In almost every instance the children will be insured. Most states already offer free or heavily subsidized insurance for children even for families making over twice the poverty level. In addition there are far fewer women who will go without insurance than there are men, so in most instances families as a whole will see substantial savings.
    Again from The CSM two links.
    Families and children.

  14. […] Journalista kicks off a thread on the likely effects of the law on freelance cartoonists. Unfortunately, it starts off a bit […]

  15. MrJM says:

    Let me second PatFord: I too am a proponent of a Single Payer system and am not a big fan of this insurance-centric bill.

    — MrJM

  16. Stuart Moore says:

    I agree that this bill isn’t all it could be, and the mandates are a tricky part of it. But you’re ignoring a number of obvious benefits to cartoonists, including a new network of community health centers; a national high-risk pool for otherwise uninsurable people; and the fact that, effective TODAY, no one can be dropped from an insurance plan because of a preexisting condition. The best summary I’ve seen is here: .

    Here in New York, preexisting conditions are already generally forbidden by law as an exclusionary factor. (It’s a little more complicated than that, but we’re a generally progressive state in that regard.) The drawback is that our insurance tends to be expensive, even by the national standard. I’m constantly shocked at the number of local comics industry people — prominent names — who feel they just can’t afford insurance. The advantage to us will be largely the exchanges, IF they can provide lower rates to sole proprietors and very small companies. It’s not yet clear how, or how well, they’ll work.

    I really don’t think your argument about exclusives holds water. The high cost of insurance is a big part of what’s made these deals attractive, yes. But most of the people who do without aren’t the people whose doors DC and Marvel are beating down. If you’re in demand enough to be a Marvel exclusive, you’re probably getting enough work to afford some type of health insurance. And, of course, if freelancers’ insurance rates come down — which is part of the goal here — and if those freelancers become less worried about being bankrupted by a broken leg, that only gives them more leverage with large companies, not less. If you really want to avoid “partisan bullshit,” don’t focus on one narrow part of the issue.