Cartooning & Comic Art
Boston Comic Con & the Cartooning Industry: A Conversation with Mark Slater
Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 21, 2017
New England Regional Representative Mark W. Slater took it upon himself to be the face of the Guild at Boston's Comic Con this year. It was a way for him to combine two of his passions: comic books (of course!), and advocating for artists and the arts. Mark’s enthusiasm made a great impression – if the comments posted to our social media feeds are any indication! — so we decided to interview Slater to ask him about his impressions of the experience.
Q: Why did you decide to take a table for the Guild at Boston Comic Con?
I’ve been taking tables in Artist Alley since 2009. It’s an opportunity for me to hobnob with artists I admire and I crave that vibe that I haven't had since the last Con (new and old faces alike). I’ve always set aside a corner for Guild materials. This year I wasn’t as prepared with personal work – I’ve been tied up with taking care of our baby boy — but I felt it was important to have a presence there. So I decided instead to make my table a Guild table. This happened only after having had gone through the appropriate channels, I was given the go-ahead to do this event under the Guild's banner via our Executive Committee.
Q: Why is it important for the Guild to have a presence at Comic Cons?
I’ve been really shocked over the years by the level of infringement that the artists in Artist Alley are engaging in. About a third of the people showing work were showing original artwork, a third were showing work they’d created for major publishers, studios and companies, and the rest were selling knick-knacks — t-shirts and trinkets — with branded characters and artwork copied from other artists on them. Most of those people seem to be unaware or unconcerned that they’re infringing trademarks and copyrights, when in fact what they are doing is blatant infringement.
What I find disheartening is that those individual artists are not being driven to create their own work(s); they’re stuck in fan art. If we could educate those artists who are profiting off of creating knock-offs, there would be a whole new level of originality.
Q: So the Comic Con artists are selling what is essentially fan art. What would you tell them if they asked you what’s wrong with that?
They can make money off of their knock-offs, but Marvel/Disney, DC/Warner Brothers, Image etc. could come by and shut them down at any moment and ask for receipts, reimbursement, and god knows what else. For now those giants of the industry see it as free advertisement. What I find disheartening is that those individual artists are not being driven to create their own work(s); they’re stuck in fan art. If we could educate those artists who are profiting off of creating knock-offs, there would be a whole new level of originality. The earlier we can make art students and young artists aware of what they're doing, the better chance we have of changing the paradigm in the US and the industry as a whole.
Q: Do you create fan art yourself?
When I was a child and teenager, I was a fan of comic books and I copied them — that was what helped lead me on my path to becoming a professional artist. But for me, recycling someone else’s stories and characters now as an adult isn’t as compelling. Keep in mind graphic novels and comics are treated differently in Asia and Europe; they’re not as tied to stock superhero characters, plot lines, and artistic "house styles." They’re also more likely to use other book formats and can at times use the graphic novel format for nonfiction stories. The page count is higher and it gives the reader more substance to digest. It’s an approach I find more interesting and inspiring.
Q: How did people react to the Guild booth?
I ran a raffle for The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines, and it was very well received. Every artist that got the Handbook looked so grateful — one recipient started to read it page-by-page. I think it’s important for the Guild to have a presence at these types of pop culture events. Advocacy for artists is going to pop in a good way — there are fewer and fewer organizations that are actively doing Advocacy work for the arts and I feel the Guild should be right up front doing positive "grassroots campaigning" like this.
Q: How has the Comic Con – and the comics industry — changed over the years?
Boston Comic Con has grown a lot — you see it in how the city reacts, and in the number of attendees. The industry has changed a lot too, as the Web and social media constantly change and mutate the formulas as to how we consume and make content. I’m alarmed at how the next generation expects creative work to be free. But I’m also intrigued by new platforms such as Patreon. It seems possible that public interest is shifting from wanting to purchase licensed artwork to wanting to support artists and have access to the artwork instead. It will be interesting to see where things go
Below: Setting up early – Slater at his booth.
Comic Artist Turned Away at US Border for Carrying Work in Progress
Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 24, 2017
On April 20th, Canadian Marvel comic book artist Gisele Lagace posted to her Facebook page that she had been denied entry to the United States when attempting to cross the border to attend Chicago’s C2E2 comic convention. According to her post. she was refused entry by US Customs and Border Patrol because she was planning to complete some commissions while in the US; the unfinished works were in her car. Additionally, she was carrying about $700 worth of comics, which she had intended to sell while at the convention. That put her in violation of US immigration law, which prohibits visitors from working in the US without a proper visa.
Her post generated sympathy among colleagues, and was shared several hundred times. The Hollywood Reporter picked the story, and documented the sympathetic response from fellow comic book creators. They cited Australian comic writer Tom Taylor’s Twitter account, in which he commented that he has pulled out of US conventions since he no longer feels safe or welcome here, and that he knows of many colleagues who feel the same.
Despite the unease generated by the recent increased vigilance of US border patrols, artists have been turned away in the past for bringing work with them to comic cons. CBR reported in 2012 that Canadian artist Craig Wilson was turned away when work he had hoped to sell in Phoenix Comicon’s Artist Alley was discovered by board guards. Marvel writer Charles Soule (who also happens to be an immigration attorney) responded to Legace’s situation by cautioning comic artists to consult with an attorney before coming to the US for trade shows.
Everyone is well-intentioned, but the immigration landscape is changing daily. Things that were cool last year get you turned around now.— Charles Soule (@CharlesSoule) April 21, 2017
Artists intending to exhibit at a trade show or comic con in the US can also check the US Customs and Border Protection’s FAQ sheet for tradeshow attendees.
For Legace, a seasoned pro who has traveled frequently to the US, the ordeal was unexpected: “Was asked if I was the only one doing this as I looked surprised to be refused entry. I said no, many artists from around the world attend these to promote themselves. I don't think they cared.” Her experience was made all the more excruciating by the discovery of two unidentified white pills in her wallet (most likely acetaminophen), which precipitated a body search. She’s decided she’s not reattempting entry into the US until she’s “absolutely certain this won’t happen again.”
Below: The Detroit-Windsor border crossing between the US and Canada.
Photo: public domain.
Adobe Design Achievement Awards Student Competition is Open
Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 15, 2017
The annual Adobe Design Achievement Awards global student competition is again open. Students 18 years and older, and registered (or recent graduates from) accredited institutions of higher education, are encouraged to submit their existing student work. Students can enter up to three unique projects in the broad categories of Fine Arts, Commercial, and Social Impact. The breadth of subcategories covers the range of disciplines studied by visual arts students, from photography, illustration, and package and graphic design, to animation/motion design and video editing and production, to web, app, and game design. This year, students working in virtual or augmented reality, 360-degree technology, and other new media will be considered for an “Excellence in New Media” Special Designation.
As in previous years, all entrants will receive a subscription to 99U career tips, will have their entries reviewed by the international panel of judges, and can choose to be considered for a mentorship with a creative professional, coordinated through ADAA partner ico-D. The full complement of prizes supports the ADAA’s mission of “Launching Student Careers,” and includes participation in Adobe Bootcamps, meetings with industry leaders, creative residencies, and subscriptions to Creative Cloud.
There is no charge for entering the competition, and submissions are accepted through June 12th. Students who submit work by May 2nd will have their work considered for early bird semifinalist. Entries can be viewed in real time on the ADAA website as they are uploaded. Students who want to see what their peers are entering can visit the “Entries” page and filter by category, region, country, school, and (once judging begins) status.
International Women’s Day Yields Treasure Troves of Work by Women
Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 13, 2017
Perhaps because of the increased coverage of women’s issues (and the political movements spearheaded by women), International Women’s Day was marked by a number of blogs and websites with comprehensive reviews of work by women visual artists: designers, illustrators, cartoonists, and others. Three in particular stood out: the UK media platform It’s Nice That, the publication Creative Review (also out of the UK), and the Cartoonist Alliance.
It’s Nice That introduced their offering with a splash. An exuberant illustration by artist Kate Prior (upraised fists hoisting an IWD banner) festoons the top of the page. The illustration celebrates the act of protest, and references the suffragette movement. Below, It’s Nice That showcases 18 articles they solicited from women contributors: illustrators, photographers, designers, and artists. There is even an article on Deep Throat Choir, a group of 35 all-female singers that transforms the work of well-known artists such as Bjork into multi-layered, intricate interpretations. The collection of articles doesn’t shy away from controversial topics. For example, in response to the fetishization of her compatriots, Brazilian photographer June Canedo asserts, “Women of colour need to be the ones photographing other women of colour.” In another article, Muslim American artist Amna Asghar asks “What if Warhol were Pakastani?,” exploring her own identity through a series of montages of popular culture images and brightly painted panels.
Rather than soliciting articles specifically for IWD 2017, Creative Review chose to curate a collection of articles that have appeared in the publication throughout the years. Dedicated readers will recognize some past gems, such as “Women + Laughing + Alone + With Salad,” a delicious take-down of cheesy microstock photography from 2011. The curated articles cover a range of topics, from typography (sexist emoji), to fashion (older women appearing in fashion ads) to workplace and leadership (retaining working mothers in the creative industries). Creative Review has also curated a selection of Works, projects submitted to the publication for review. One favorite is Woman Interrupted, an app created by Brazilian firm BETC, which monitors the user’s conversation and calculates how often the she is interrupted by a man’s voice.
The Cartoonist Alliance article was originally published in 2015 and promoted for IWD2018. “What’s The Best Comic About Women By Women?” is less comprehensive than the previous posts, and covers only seven women graphic novelists selected by CA staff as their favorites. Having said that, the collection is interesting and somewhat surprising. While Marjane Sartrapi’s Persepolis has a well-deserved place on the list, Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi was unexpected. The article makes a good case for the addition though: “Sailor Moon was the game changer, the comic that effectively launched the magical girl genre. Sailor Moon isn’t just the reason why I’m here; it’s the reason why you’re here.” The only quibble with CA’s article is that it predates Errin Ferris’ tour-de-force, My Favorite Thing is Monsters (an aching story beautifully illustrated in ball-point-pen) wasn’t included.
But there’s always next year. We’ll be stalking these three websites to see what they conjure up for IWD 2018.
The Guild Signs on to Comment Letter on Group Registration of Photographs
Posted by Advocacy Liaison on January 31, 2017
In conjunction with the Coalition of Visual Artists, the Graphic Artists Guild has signed on to a comment letter in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, “Group Registration of Photographs,” issued by the Copyright Office. In the Notice, the Copyright Office asked for feedback on proposed changes to the group registration of photographs. The letter submitted on behalf of the Coalition applauds the Copyright Office’s initiative in encouraging greater participation in the registration system by photographers, but raised concerns with some of the proposed changes. Of particular concern to Guild members, the letter raised issue with the exclusion of graphic artists from the group registration option.
In drafting the changes to the group registration of photographs, the Copyright Office is seeking to encourage copyright registration among photographers, streamline the registration process, and improve the recording of works by requiring digital deposits. However, graphic artists such as designers and illustrators are excluded from this option, despite the fact that these artists create works such as comps, sketches, and revisions that are delivered to clients and are ripe for infringement. The comment letter urges the Copyright Office to “offer a group registration category to all visual works.” It also points out that many visual works are mixed media, and that limiting the registration to still photography does not address how many artists work.
The comment letter addresses a number of other concerns with the proposed rulemaking, such as the limit of 750 photographs for the group registration (problematic for photographers, who often outstrip that number in the course of a single shoot), and the separate registration requirements for published and unpublished works.
The letter was submitted to the Copyright Office by Lisa Shaftel of Shaftel & Schmeltzer on behalf of the Coalition of Visual Artists. Signees to the letter include American Photographic Artists, American Society of Media Photographers, Digital Media Licensing Association, Graphic Artists Guild, National Press Photographers Association, North American Nature Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, PLUS Coalition, Shaftel & Schmeltzer, and Doniger / BurroughsNext Page
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