It’s hard to overstate how strange and potentially deadly this last week has been. Massive protests against racist police violence have engendered even more police violence, and most states have launched back into reopening from social distancing campaigns, meaning the potential to spread COVID-19 is much higher today than it has been in months. The way the United States allocates its resources in response to these dueling crises is telling; cops dress in flak jackets on the “punch the protestor” beat while doctors and nurses wear trash bags in emergency rooms because of the lack of available personal protective equipment to protect against COVID-19. I realize that you’re at SOLRAD today because you’re probably looking for a distraction, so I’ll make this quick. If you aren’t able to be on the ground for protests and want to help, here’s a link to do so.
The riots of the last few days remind me that the Stonewall riots are the reason that June is Pride Month. The Stonewall riots were also a response to police violence. We celebrate Pride in part as an affirmation of the dignity and equality of LGBTQ+ people. We share these goals with the Black Lives Matter movement; solidarity between our communities is critical to achieving justice.
Getting back into my lane, and still on the topic of allocation of resources, Brooklyn-based Desert Island has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Rescue Party, a hardcover collection of the 3×3 comics they’ve been publishing on Instagram over the last two months. Desert Island initially solicited its massive Instagram audience for comics, and the response was overwhelming. They’ve developed an entire Instagram account, separate from their main account, to post some of these comics pages. With the announced Kickstarter campaign, they’re collecting 80 of the best-performing comics on social media and putting them in a book, which you can preorder for $30.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Daniel Elkin, wrote about his concerns about this project a few weeks ago in our weekly newsletter, and it seems that his concerns have come to fruition. While the initial cost breakdowns on the project were not released, after a series of questions from Daniel and me, Desert Island has given those projections through an update in the Kickstarter FAQ. Based on a $15,000 budget, Desert Island plans to make a $1,500 profit. Artists were asked to donate their print rights for the project, and are receiving a single book as compensation.
When initially asked, Fowler/Desert Island noted that the project came about organically online and that when the book was being considered, all artists who had contributed a page were asked to donate their print rights for the anthology via an email questionnaire, and the 80 artists included in the book have all agreed to donate their print rights.
I’m struggling with this project because Fowler’s comments on artist compensation are an afterthought, rather than an intrinsic consideration of the project. Rather than ask artists if they would be willing to collaborate with Desert Island for a small page rate, or some similar concept, artists were asked to donate their labor. There is a small comment in the Kickstarter FAQ about what will happen if the book is fully funded and hits several stretch goals; currently, compensation of artists beyond the one copy of Rescue Party they receive is unplanned.
Fowler had a great idea, operationalized it through Instagram, and is putting in the work to layout, publish, and distribute a book. He should be compensated for that work. But just as importantly, the artists, without whom there would be no book to print, should receive compensation, regardless of the organic nature of the project. There are plenty of ways to make this project work so that both Desert Island and the artists who supplied comics can make money. Why is it that only Desert Island gets to pay its rent with the fruits of all of this labor?
I’ve communicated the essential core of these thoughts to Fowler through the Desert Island Twitter account, and I will continue to bring you updates if Desert Island or Fowler responds.
SOLRAD continues to work to follow situations like this one across the small press comics arena. We know that the issues of poor pay and inequitable business practices are of deep concern for our readers and the working artists in small press comics As we continue to do our due diligence on these issues as they arise, we ask for your cooperation; if you have information about inequitable business practices in small press comics, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month, you can expect some great features at SOLRAD, including:
- A new episode of ENEMIES OF THE STATE, featuring Alienation by Ines Estrada, published in a collected form in 2019 by Fantagraphics.
- We’ve recently inked a collaborative agreement with Noah Van Sciver to start bringing some of his cartoonist chat videos to SOLRAD – expect to start seeing those this month!
- An interview between Kristina Stipetic and Zhao Chunlin, an illustrator and comic artist from Chengdu, China.
- New additions to our SOLRAD Presents line up…
- And more essays, features, interviews, and reviews from the SOLRAD team.
Some parting thoughts:
- We’re publishing the SOLRAD newsletter every week – if you want a quick and easy way to find out what we’re doing on a weekly basis, with a note from our Editor, this is a way to get that. You can sign up here.
- We’ve made some updates to the site for clarity about our vision, purpose, and for ease of use. I’d appreciate your feedback, so if you have a second to shoot me an email, I’d appreciate it.
Wishing for your good health and safety,