I offered to help a friend who had sahn's hand (note: sahn is a neutral pronoun used to cover all genders) by helping sahn's comicbook duties. To be more accurate, I offered to help sahn offload some of sahn's drawing duties. I was therefore quite surprised when the editor and writer of one of these comics congratulated me on becomming the new 'primary artist'.
Now, I have never done sequential art before, let alone for a published comic with real deadlines and requirements. At first it seemed that the publisher was reasonable -- giving me part of an issue instead of an entire issue for my first foray -- but I was still uncomfortable about how fast the pages needed to be drawn. I was never given a real date when the pages needed to be finished. Talking to friends I have in the business, I get a guestimate on time, and work with that. When the request came to draw a cover ASAP, I stopped working on the pencils and whipped up a cover, then returned to the issue at hand. I was a little slow, but that's to be expected. I was much faster doing the computer lettering, and having my coug'r doing the inks was nice. Meanwhile I kept getting little notes asking my status, which I answered truthfully about. I even placed scanned images in a private directory so the publisher can stay appraised of my progress. It felt like I was working without a net, but in the end the coug'r and I finished our pages, prepped files with the inks and the lettering, and burned CDs to be sent out to the printer. So far so good.
A request came in for a cover for the next issue, which I started to work on immediately but ran into some problems. Meanwhile I had been waiting for the next batch of layouts, thinking that since the last issue was a rush job, the publishers were just a bit behind and would send me the layouts early to get the next issue out on time. Then my ADD got the better of me and I forgot about the comic and concentrated on the cover. After 4 bad attempts, I finally got the piece finished the way I wanted it.
So, I was quite surprised when an overnight package arrived near the end of October containing 25 pages of layouts... and followed by an email asking how far I've gotten drawing them. Blink? Even a professional cannot be expected to pencil 25 pages of comics in 7 days, let alone get them inked and lettered, and yet I was being leaned on to complete the impossible for a title that was supposed to have been on the shelves the month I received the layouts! Email suddenly seemed to dissapear, I got no answers for questions and instead only get pressure to finish in an unimaginably short time. Most of the email I read talked about getting extensions and trying to finish the pages in under 30 days as the issue was supposed to have been out on the shelves in October...
To make matters more stressful, I got the approval to enter into the Culinary Institute of America, and papers started arriving that needed to be filled out including a full medical physical and the search for financing. My entry date is set, so the paperwork couldn not wait.
Back to grinding my fingers at the art table, and with horror I realize that it's now January, I've only gotten half the pages done (and lettered... using the scans of my pencils as a guide) and my California con was fast approaching with nothing new for me to sell at my dealers's table. So, I relay this bad news to the publishers. They ask me to send the rest of the layouts to another artist, along with copies of whatever I finished. I feel really bad about not getting the 25 pages done, even when I know it was an unreasonable timeline for a professional let alone a rank beginner as I am. So I bundle up all the layouts, along with printouts from Illustrator of the pencils and lettering together, and even add a few extra pages of model sheets (I whipped them up so I had some scale references) and even the new model sheet of the character I was asked to design, and express mailed it off to the other artist.
I managed to throw together one new print and a few new button designs for the con, and left the finished pencils with my coug'r to ink while I was on the other coast. I got a browbeating at the con by the publisher, which I accepted without complaint (after all, I did let them down by not having the issue completed) and was told I would not receive anything more from them. Which is fine with me as it's obvious that while my skill may be good enough for comics, my speed isn't. Certainly not the speed this publisher needed to cover their extraordinary deadlines.
While at the con, I ran into another acquaintance who was also in the comic business, and had a long talk with sahn. That's when I found out that I'm not the first artist to have been given this kind of treatment by that particular publisher. That there were ways the publisher could have resubmitted an issue without penalty to the distributor so that an issue could be completed with a level of quality instead of scrambling to toss a slipshod effort to the printer. *sigh* Okay, I still feel bad, but not as guilty as I felt before this chat. I was not alone in being the reason for the issue's delay or the publisher's predicament.
Post-convention, I spent an extra week with my old housemates and enjoyed some quality California time. This also meant that I was away from my email for 2 weeks. (I'll do a con report in another journal entry). When I returned home, I was fighting a bronchitis attack and wandering around in a daze from an eye infection and codeine cough syrup. So it wasn't until this Friday that I was actually able to check my email, and I find frantic messages from the publishers asking about the directories I kept my files in that they could access. They also annoyed a housemate by sending him frantic emails to have me contact them (note, the housemate was also in Cali with me at the con, so he had not had access to email any better than I had). When I sent the directory names to them, I figured that ended my obligation. Instead they asked again for the directory names, specifically for the inked pages so they could shunt them out to the printer. Well, I'm not the inker, they knew I wasn't the inker, and I was a little frustrated that they didn't talk to my coug'r directly, so I gave them his email address on the assumption the publisher didn't have it.
Apparently, the inker's response to the publishers' query did not go over well, as tonight I received a rather long email to both the inker and myself, in which the publisher details the entire sad and sorted state of affairs to explain why this issue is so important. No where was it mentioned that having the writer and publisher unable to work because of medical problems caused a lot of this delay, or that the publisher worked with the distributor to reduce the impact the medical emergencies had on the line of comics to be produced by this publisher.
So in the end, it looks like this issue will be going out 5 months late and in an unfinished state, with a change of artist and inker halfway through the story, and looking every bit as slipshod as the process surrounding it had been. Instead of being given a 6 month to 1 year leadtime per story for the artist and inker and letterer to do a quality job on, like a professional house would do, the entire experience felt more like a cross between a sweatshop and con game. I shouldn't be feeling guilty for volunteering to help and then get dipped in fire and buried in unreasonable demands. I won't even be paid what the effort was worth, although to be honest I never expected to be given a liveable wage for my work. After all, I was helping a friend, not doing this for the fame and fortune.