THE TRUTH: HOW MUCH DO MARVEL AND DC ARTISTS GET PAID?

THE TRUTH: HOW MUCH DO MARVEL AND DC ARTISTS GET PAID?



oh hey welcome to comic artist Pro secrets my name is Ethan Van Sciver I am an artist for DC Comics for nearly 20 years I think actually 20 years at this point and yeah I'm just a humble man of ink and superhero you can call me your uncle Ethan if you want to many people do have many many nieces and nephews already I'm gonna sit here and work on this page from an upcoming issue of Hal Jordan the Green Lantern Corps and I'm going to talk to you guys I want to sit down and give you a little bit of info I think a lot of you are wondering about breaking into comics and you have questions and one of the big questions that you're probably mostly wondering about but are afraid to ask and you should never be afraid to ask go ahead and ask how much do comic book artists make and particularly Marvel or DC at the big two you know if you're not a Marvel or DC if you're an indie company the the pay scale is going to vary widely from nothing to very little so you know that's the thing I did my first issue of cyber frog for Hall of Heroes back in 1993 and I was promised five hundred dollars for it and a case of the books and really all I wanted were the books I didn't want the five hundred dollars but it didn't matter because I didn't get the five hundred dollars anyway and that's part of working in Indies you know sometimes it's going to be it's going to be a little bit fly-by-night and people get ripped off all the time for a lot of hard work and you can you can kind of almost expect that if you're going to be working for an independent publisher drawing their work or you know even getting your own work done through an indie publisher you can kind of expect it's likely you are going to get jacked and that's why you want to work for Marvel or DC because the likelihood that you are going to get jacked is not probable it's not likely alright so Europe let's just say that you're in off the street you you've done your own little indie for a little while or you're a brand new penciler with little to no experience but you're a promising talent and marvel let's just stick with DC DC Comics is going to take a chance on you you can expect as a penciler to get somewhere between now let's say a hundred and fifty dollars and two hundred dollars a page just to pencil your work anchors anchors generally can expect to make a fraction of what pencil errs make I mean if you're if you're a a legendary anchor like you know some of the some of the big ones like Danny Mickey or Scott Williams obviously that is not going to apply to you you are going to command an impressive inking rate that might be comparable to what a penciler makes but I know that you know starting penciler rates will go anywhere from 150 dollars to the ceiling which is $300 at least it was back when I was a young penciler I don't think things have changed that much they might have gone up a little bit but really that's if you're if you're in there and you're making two hundred and fifty dollars a page two pencil a comic book at DC you are probably about average and I think the same kind of rates apply at that Marvel Comics as well I remember being on impulse going to draw impulse for DC and making somewhere in there and I remember approaching the $300 level and I'm saying that's the ceiling that's the very top of the ladder right there's $300 a page and I was like really okay well how do I make more than that well there is a way to make more than that and once you get to a certain level as a pun slur oh and by the way before you do that if I were you I advise this of like all kind of young pencil errs learn to ink because if you can ank your own stuff you are going to suddenly like look at what I'm doing right now I mean this is basically just rough rough rough outline I'm doing my pencil kind of drawing like this is what I'm doing now is the equivalent of penciling but I'm just doing it with a pen and I'm cleaning it up I'm making it look nice but really this is just all one process it's one step it's one quick like you know find that find the drawing in pencil and then actually do the work with a pen if you can do that if you can learn how to do that you will see obviously that you're making a pencil and ink rate together which will be will place you head and shoulders above just regular pencil errs so I always tell young pencil errs to learn how to draw with a pen and some people can't do it I mean they literally can't do it all they know how to do all they've trained to do is draw with a pencil but if you can if you can ink yourself that's what you need to do so let's say that you are let's say you you have a really nice egg crate so you're making 150 dollars to ink your a you're at the ceiling in terms of penciling you're making four hundred and fifty dollars a page now to pencil an ink a comic book well the next step is to sign a contract with DC Comics if they offer you one sign an exclusive contract with them and suddenly you will get one of two things you can either get a signed a book rate which will prorate your page to a much much much higher degree or just being exclusive in and of yourself in and of itself will bump you up past that ceiling you know DC wants to have a commitment from you they really do I mean you know exclusive contracts are in everybody's best interest DC Comics wants to be able to have a commitment that you're only going to be producing work from that for them they want to be your only client and the thing about being a comic book artist is you have to understand we're not working for them I mean we're independent companies and we have clients if you hire me to do a commission for you you are one of my clients and DC Comics is my biggest client I have an exclusive contract with DC which means I only produce published comic book work for DC Comics and nobody else I don't work for them any more than if you hire a caterer for your wedding the caterer works for you they're just you happen to be one of their clients so that's that's kind of the business business arrangement but they want to be your only client they want you to devote all of your energy to them not to Marvel if Marvel hires you they want you to only work for them and not for DC so if you will make that commitment you will find that DC and Marvel will both start giving you better projects that is the kind of reward for being exclusive you will get bigger projects maybe event books things like that things that are going to sell better and you will get your page rate bumped up how high real high you can do very very well as an exclusive artist for DC or marvel much higher than $300 a page much higher than the 450 combined it really depends on how much they like you and how how long you've been working for them the value that you've established for yourself I mean if you start turning out hit books and you you know you're interacting with your fans and they love you and and you know you can eat your name sells books or is this something that they can promote you will find that they will pay you more money so that's just your page right if you're working hard it's pretty easy in this business once you get to a certain point to make six figures it's pretty easy it takes a while but again I have to tell you I was starving when I was drawing impulse I put all of my energy into those pages I wanted to impress them I wasn't getting paid nearly enough for the work I was putting in but I was anticipating that eventually that kind of hard work would pay off and it has so all right so there's that after that you have other things to consider when you do a page of original art for DC or marble and it didn't always used to be this way but a new arrangement was set up where you now as the creator of the art get re gifted the original art back that's how they choose to look at it they're returning your art as a gift that was back when there used to be art returns I mean 10 years ago you had to turn in your original pages very few people had scanners maybe this was like more like 15 years ago 12 years ago very few people had scanners so you would do a page and you had DC Comics or Marvel Comics FedEx number their account number and you would have to box up your work as soon as it was done and send it in to DC Comics the actual physical artwork and they would send it off to the inker they would scan it they would send it to the colorist and then all of your work would sit in a big stack in a big room for a long time and they had someone who actually worked in infarct returns who would eventually and I mean eventually but six eight months sometimes a year they would go through the art returns and they would gift you your original artwork back so you get a creative original art and that's great because you could sell it but people would always kind of say hey I want to buy this page from you do you have it yet and you'd have to say our returns hasn't returned it to me and I'm really sorry just stay in touch I'll let you know when it comes back well now because of scanners you know you can just do the page you can scan it you can send it in to DC Comics and keep the original art at home the second that the book sees print and it's on the stands you may saw the original artwork which is what I do I take all of my original pages I don't I don't really keep anything and I put them up on eBay I try to put them up the week that the book is on the stand so it's all fresh and you know people have just seen it and it seems like the best time for people to actually want to buy original artwork from a book that they've just read and that that will do very well for you I think if you if you're able to sell all of your work an average comic book page from me just on average just a regular page where there are people talking about 300 dollars that's what they sell for they can sell for much much less if they're not that interesting and much much more if they're very interesting but on average let's just say about 300 dollars so there's that and then there's the royalties now a DC and Marvel they have a benchmark set up so that once a book that you're working on you know just a monthly floppy book reaches that certain sales point which I believe is 40,000 copies then every copy after that you are entitled to a percentage of of the cover and again you're not when I say entitled that maybe how you feel DC Comics calls these incentives in other words they're not really royalties that are owed to you they are another gift from DC Comics which could which is given to you out of the goodness of their heart they want to share profits with you as a reward as an incentive for creating sellable work so we have to even though you know it's almost like at this point you expect royalties you know you're not supposed to expect them they are incentive payments on average and I figured this out because I got a royalty statement recently and because of digital books now like digital copies every book that I've done for DC Comics going all the way back to the 1990s is available on digitally so now I'm receiving royalties for books that came out so long ago that I don't even remember and because they're so old you know it's people aren't buying them in large amounts so that one book that I did Jil question mark Justice League's number one whatever it was I got there was actually one copy sold digitally a book came out in 2001 so somebody decided they wanted to buy a digital copy of that book and they bought one copy and so when I got my royalty statement back it actually said justice leaks number one one copy sold and you could actually see as a penciler for a 22 page book how much money I received in royalties for that one book and you know how much it was a nickel so I'll put that up on the screen as proof there okay so five cents so basically once you reach the threshold of a book you know meeting its profit margin then every book after that I think they're maybe I don't know if this is exactly true but it seems to be true about five cents so once I've sold 40,000 and one copies of a book I've made five cents in royalties and that adds up pretty quickly especially when you've been working in comics for a long time and you have a large catalogue of you know a back issue work and a trade paperback work I'm not exactly sure how much you get for a trade paperback let's say that a trade paperback contains six issues of work by you that you've done pencils and inks for how much do you get per trade paperback I don't know but I'll bet it's like a dollar but it's it's somewhere around the dollar for that issues sold it's a fifteen if the cover price is $15 and that obviously all of that work the reason why it's usually pretty much all gravy is because by the time it sees trade paperback it's going to be all profit from there they've already paid for all the work you know now they're just paying for the printing cost and distribution pretty much every penny of that $15 for DC Comics is going to be profit and you get a much more generous cut about fifteen dollars in royalties so that really does all add up on top of that so again the longer you work let's say that you're working at DC Comics for ten years and you have done probably in that time close to a hundred books a hundred like comic books and in that time maybe you've got like ten really nice trade paperbacks out there those trade paperbacks stay in circulation they stay in print they're always there they're always on bookshelves for the most part those those trades not the hard covers but the trades will always stay in print and they will always be earning you royalties so every royalty statement your Superman trade paperback that you did back in 2005 is going to be selling a few copies still to this day and it is going to be earning you money it is your incentive then to continue producing work which can be turned into a trade paperback which will stay in print and keep earning your royalties so that once you get your quarterly royalty statement you will be pleased your royalty check will get bigger and bigger and bigger as you become more and more established in comics at DC on top of that there is something called character equity so let's say you are working on Wonder Woman and you create a new character for Wonder Woman could be a hero could be a villain if that character is brand new like if you create Wonder Woman Junior okay and that character probably they're not going to give that character to you equity they're not gonna give you equity in that character because it's just so derivative of a character they already own but let's say you create a character called Dragon Slayer sorry having a drink talk a lot and lose my voice so you create a character called dragon slender for Wonder Woman and she and she is like an awesome villain and it's clear to DC Comics that this character is gonna have legs is gonna you know maybe appear in more comics maybe they're gonna make an action figure might even appear in a TV show or movie they will give you equity in that character they will sign it you'll sign a contract saying that you are sharing an ownership not ownership equity I should say in that character it's another gift that DC comics gives to their creators to kind of correct the way business was done many many many years ago when you know if you created Batman you kind of give Batman completely over to the company and then basically get nothing but your page right now you are incentivized to create new properties for DC Comics to own I have a portfolio of creations that I created many many of them are with geoff johns that appear in movies toys video games TV and twice a year you receive a character equity check and it's oftentimes substantial especially if that character here's in a video game or TV show and many of mine have so and like I said those checks are substantial you need to get yourself to a point in this business where you have created characters for DC Comics that people like and DC Comics and Warner Brothers certainly have the ability to mass market those ideas and get them out you know so that more and more people can see them and appreciate them it's a little bit easier you know for DC Comics to make your characters famous than it is for you to do it by yourself independently very few independent characters and comics actually become big hits as you know so that's that's everything and like I said I mean once you know how to how to make money in this business it becomes very very profitable but you know it is a good business to go into you can and you you probably will after being in this business for a little while working for Marvel or DC you will makes six figures there are a few people who even make seven figures and you could do that too who knows who knows but what I would want you to do is I would want you to start out sharpening your skills I want you to become a good comic book artist a comic book artist that has a style that is appealing and could see itself utilized on any title the DC publishers like you want to be a guy who could draw a Wonder Woman or a horror book or a kids book or anything I mean if you could develop a style like that and I always use John Byrne as the example John Byrne could have drawn absolutely any book at Marvel or DC and people would be happy to see him there he would have fit in just fine on any title he's got a you know just a very pleasing style that works on anything so do that and then I want you to learn how to Inc yourself and you will be on your way be agreeable be excited about your work whatever they offer you if if Marvel or DC offers you some book that well it wasn't what you wanted to do necessarily but this is your this is your book this is your offer this is your chance I want you to get excited about it use your imagination think of new ideas think of ways to make this book as good as it could possibly be that would be your book now it's your chance to shine and make it great be that kind of a creator be excited be helpful beyond time definitely try to meet your deadlines and you will be successful and wealthy a comic book artist I know you can do it so this was comic artist Pro secrets if you guys have any questions feel free to post them below in the comments and you know tell me what you think this video tell me what you think of the information I just gave you if you liked this video hit like and you know if you haven't subscribed yet please subscribe this channel has all kinds of content on it I just think you know every now and then it's good to do a little conversational video like this so tell me what you think and I will talk to you guys later I'm gonna have a how to draw another how to draw Dawnbreaker video up and then we're gonna do murder machine later on tonight ok see you guys later

33 Comments

  • necro easy says:

    That was awesome i thank you for the information it was well delivered and easy to understand. And i believe it or not i am an artist that i feel just recently got good at drawing I'm on Instagram under Bimaelw

  • DogFaced Boy says:

    You know what really impressed me? How you made the darker line under his chin, from 0:00 to about 4:00, just as a PART of drawing the longer lines – saving a step. Paid by the page, you are in CHARGE of the hourly rate. At fist I thuoght you werte just scribbling to get the pen going, but then those (vertical) lines began to show the purpose.

  • fox b5 says:

    Hey Ethan I plane on being a colourist for comics how do I break in

  • Justice Comics says:

    Will definitely be checking out this book

  • Duncan Walden says:

    Way more than I expected actually. You, my friend, have a new subscriber.

  • sajjad ali says:

    awesome video very helpful thanks 🙂

  • Fabryx Weirdo says:

    Thank you so much for all infos, really interesting!

  • Aaron Jones says:

    Was this Kyle Rainer or Superman that you are drawing, sir?
    Very nice info and tone from this video as well. Great channel.

  • Brett Grossmann says:

    I hope current inkers are using digital….god…draw that in your computer or on a cintiq.

  • Antony Drossos says:

    I had to zap myself out of a stupor to remember to comment. Watching you work is mesmerizing!
    Thank you for the pointers and advice. For THIS level of detail, they BETTER be paying you $300 per page!

  • Jose Javier says:

    What is the right age to get into comics [drawing]

  • Tim Z says:

    Talk about getting ripped off as an artist. F*** comic book companies. $200 for a fairly large piece of artwork is such an insult to the talent.

  • mrzack888 says:

    Put playback speed to 1.75

  • Downswing Player says:

    At the moment I have a phone contract.

  • Civilized says:

    So Jim Lee sold 8million copies for the Uncanny X-Men comic and he got paid $150-$300 a page? yikes…

  • Anthony Emrick says:

    How much do colorists usually make per page?

  • Mathew Duncan says:

    What about just doing covers?

  • Vaughan Howard says:

    I heard an interview with Todd Mcfarlane once and he said back in the late 1980's when books were still selling a couple of million copies each, he was making about 2 million bucks a year on Spiderman when he worked for Marvel.

  • 1MightyR says:

    Im digging yer convo. Really in depth. Yer Arts amazing!! Im subbing! And thanx im learning 2 draw in ink, Starting now!!! Maybe u can give me some constructive critism??… Thanx!

  • jz35 says:

    jesus that drawing your doing is FRACKING AWESOME, i think i just might pick up my pencils n pads again after many years of not using them , thanks you,ve inspired me to get back into it

  • Jose Barro says:

    I'm useless at drawing straight lines. They always end and start at the same point and I'm sure I don't go round the whole globe.

  • Giani Popescu says:

    You're great, uncle Ethan! You're a pure genius. You're the Michelangelo of comic books. I hope you will do some videos with you working and talking about anything in the future

  • Ismael Alvarado says:

    Surreal, I just bought Jordan Peterson's book. And being bored this video came up on my recommend list so I watched and enjoyed it and thought let me see what he has on ebay. A signed JP Book? Creepy.

  • Gabriel Payne says:

    Really good advice, thank you so much. I love you're truth a lot. You're the best

  • drx studio says:

    Thank you for this video

  • Josh Long says:

    How much did you make for Atrocitous in Injustice 2 video games?

  • Jason Hanks says:

    Ethan, You have not worked for DC for 20 years..lol..Secondly, the rates HAVE changed!!!…Stop slapping your gums when you talk..thx

  • David Hernandez says:

    This is gonna sound like a stupid question because I'm ignorant of comic books, just a wandering artist. Does DC only take realistic art comics like realistic humans or do they accept manga/anime comic style?
    Even when the proportions, landscapings, everything is good about the art to a pro level but just different toon style?

  • TOURMusic says:

    Interesting video, but just want to stop by to let everyone know to checkout The.Only.Unique.Radio. On-Air Now! Google "TOURMusicinc"!

  • Kim Beam says:

    How do you draw straight lines by free hand?!

  • Soma noma says:

    Look at what the pen did to your index finger

  • Preswursthd HD says:

    My question is, how long it takes to make a page and how many pages do you do in a month?

  • Kall_Mii_ Kemo says:

    Thankyou for all that info.. What kind of paper are you drawing on and where to find them?

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