Boy Nat, you sure are having fun with my semantics... But I shall attempt to clarify as much as I can.
No, I am NOT saying or implying that comic artists are being "unprofessional" by not taking advantage of the GAG or AIGA by joining them. I am not advocating that all or even ANY comic artists should join one of these organizations.
I do believe that comic creators of all types are, on the whole, being unprofessional by not insisting on being treated as legitimate skilled professionals by the publishing companies who either hire them to create comics or whom they solicit to publish their own creations.
I mentioned GAG and AIGA as examples of professional artists banding together to do just that, to insist on professional treatment and professional business dealings. Both organizations provide business-related support to their memberships in terms of things like standardized contract boilerplates, legal information, copyright advocacy/protection, group health/life insurance and all sorts of other "artists' advocate" types of services -- methods and services that help pro artists & designers do business and be successful. They are not labor unions, they have no collective bargaining or anything like that, nor (IMHO) should they. The GAG even makes most of their information publicly available in it's "Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines" -- so anyone who would like to learn how professional artists should do business and protect themselves can go buy the book and find out. I own the book; I'm NOT a member of GAG or AIGA. I use the contract boilerplates within to protect myself, and I use their established guidelines for "job process" to smooth out my work and keep my client relations cordial, businesslike, and well-communicated -- all essential to successful business.
Therefore, one need not JOIN these organizations to reap the BENEFITS of their collective work and advocacy. However, I will put forth the opinion that it is possible that joining such a group (whether for artists or writers) and using its guidelines and services MIGHT help comic creators to BECOME more professional in their dealings with those who publish us, EDUCATE us in effective business practices, and just generally improve the public perception of our little fringe group of very-hard-working creatives. But there is no necessity to "join the club."
Eric's interpretation of my statement is quite accurate, thanks mon! "Why don't comic artists consider themselves 'professional illustrators,when that's what they do?" is a very, very good question.
Comic creators, on the whole, are obviously NOT protecting themselves, NOT insisting on professional, fairly-negotiated business relationships with their clients/publishers, and NOT asking for nor demonstrating that they are worthy of respect as creators or even as people. Therefore, when I hear them pissing and moaning about how they don't get treated and compensated professionally, it annoys me -- how can they expect otherwise?
This is of course leaving out unprofessionalism on the part of publishers... which we can't necessarily do anything about directly. However, as I've said about four times already in this thread and others, if each of us individually refuses to do business in an unprofessional manner -- i.e., NONE of us individually agrees to unfair contracts with dishonest unscrupulous publishers, and NONE of us work without contracts -- THEY MAY be forced to deal with each us individually in a more professional manner and offer us terms that are fair and equitable (or at least more so than they've been).
So, we don't have to all join some club, guild, or union and say to the publishers "Well, I'm a member of the Comics Guild and we don't work that way and we demand that you give us a contract that conforms to our requirements and blah blah blah..." That's no way to create a good client/artist relationship, it makes you adversaries.
What we need to do is, when we are approached by a publisher to write/draw someone else's ideas/comics for them, or when we approach them with our own creations, we must individually insist that a fair and equitable business contract must be negotiated, be very firm as far as our work process, compensation, payment terms, ownership/copyright and royalty (if any) requirements, and NOT DO ANY WORK WITHOUT SUCH A CONTRACT.
In other words, if you can't get the contract you want (within reasonable limits of flexibility), DON'T DO THE WORK or DON'T PUBLISH THROUGH THAT PUBLISHER. Even if that means you don't work or you don't publish. Don't be afraid to turn work down if the terms are not fair to you.
If we all did that, the publishers would have nothing to publish, which would be their worst nightmare. However, if creators continue to debase themselves out of some pathetic inner need for mass approval, the situation will never change.
I say again, if you never want to do anything else but create comics for a living, and you violently reject any other method of making a living out of some misguided idea of "artistic purity," then you are setting yourself up to be expoited. You want *something* so bad that you will take whatever bone they throw you just to get in there. You are putting yourself in a weak, highly disadvantaged position by doing so, because you will look at the publisher as doing you a favor by publishing your work. You will not be able to ever negotiate an equitable work agreement -- one where everyone makes money at a satisfying level -- if you have no self-respect. And worse, by doing so you make it impossible for others to negotiate equitable business relationships, because you've allowed the publisher to dictate the terms of the agreement, which they can point to and say "well, this guy agreed to it, it's our standard contract."
So we all need to up our level of business professionalism to match the established norms of regular business. JUST LIKE ALL THE OTHER PROFESSIONALS OUT THERE WHO DO BUSINESS BY SUCH STANDARDS.
I see no reason why being cranky and cantakerous should remove our rights to be treated like business professionals, nor how it prevents us from ACTING like same in a business sense. After all, graphic designers and illustrators are just as weird as we are... and THEY seem to be able to do pro business on the whole and handle copyright issues effectively.
Stop wanting to be famous. Start wanting to be respected. These are not the same, and the former doesn't guarantee the latter.
Stop wanting to get rich quick. Start wanting to be a successful person. These are not the same, since "rich" and "successful" are not synonymous.
Our current problems with copyright ownership are DIRECTLY RELATED to this. Unprofessional business relationships have weighted ownership of OUR work away from us, the creators. I repeat my assertion that the destruction of copyright law by easy digital reproduction HAS THE POTENTIAL to bring absolute control over ownership and copyright back into our hands -- but we're going to have to do business in a businesslike fashion.
[edited for a typo]
Pagan City Comics www.pagancity.com
[This message has been edited by Jeff Zugale (edited 11-01-2000).]