Q: Have you read about the controversy concerning charging for a signature when appearing at a comic book convention, and what are your thoughts about it?
A: This is a timely question seeing as I just got done at New York Comic Con which is why, incidentally, the Sunday Mailbag question is appearing on Monday this week. My apologies.
The “controversy” mentioned refers to some comments made by a few notable comics professionals who think everyone should be charging money at comic cons for signing a comic or piece of work they did, and that not doing so is a disservice to other professionals and the value a signature brings. Others disagree and feel that there is nothing wrong with signing something for free. They point out that the person wanting a signature purchased whatever it is they want signed, which supports the publisher and retailers that sold the comic or piece of merchandise, and therefore indirectly benefits the creator they want the signature from. It’s a little more complex than that, but that is the gist.
I don’t really see where the controversy is myself. If you are a big enough name where someone is willing to pay you to scribble your name on a comic book or whatever, then go on ahead and charge people for it if you want to. More power to you. If you aren’t a particularity well known pro and no one will pay you to sign something, or you don’t want to charge for it, then by all means don’t charge. What’s the big deal?
I subscribe to the “free signature” notion as long as I’m signing a purchased piece of merchandise like a comic, a book, or whatever. I’m happy to do that for free because it supports the industry, publishers and retailers alike. Yes, I understand that some people turn around and sell signed items on eBay for a profit (although in my case they are in for a rude awaking regarding the value of my signature… the only time it’s worth anything when it’s at the bottom of a check), but the vast majority of the time you are asked it’s for a personal keepsake. No doubt if your name is Neal Adams, Chris Claremont, Jim Lee or similar it’s different, but that’s how it is for me and I suspect most creators at a comic con’s “Artist’s Alley”. I only balk when someone has a stack of MADs and wants 20 signatures. I either refuse to sign more than a couple or ask for some dough for the multiple autographs. I have things for sale at my booth, and sign them for free if they buy something.
I’ve heard tell that some of those who say all pros at a comic con should charge for signatures think this because they get some negative reactions when fans cite that so-and-so isn’t charging do a signature, and it makes them look like egotistical jerks. Again, I would say most of the creators in a comic con’s artists alley are not of a level of fame that they can realistically charge for signatures, so imagine how much they’d feel like egotistical jerks if they tried to charge for their autograph just because other pros expect them to. And they are supposed to charge so a handful of really famous comic book creators feel better about doing it, or to condition attendees to expect it so they stop complaining? I’m sorry but that is ridiculous. Either someone is willing to pay you for your signature, or they aren’t. If you want to charge them for it and you can, go right on ahead. Yes some people will complain… those that choose to charge for signatures just have to come to terms with the fact that a few people might think they are a little too big for their britches. If they’ve got a line of people with money in their hands, what difference does it make? In no one is paying them for their signature, then maybe the size of their britches do need adjusting.
I’m far from a big name in comics, so I am not one of the targets of those who think they should be charging for signatures… I suspect those are aimed at equally famous creators whose signature is valuable and could charge if they want to, but don’t. That’s their choice, and I fail to see why they should be expected to make a different choice. Other than a few grumbles from convention attendees, they are harming no one in doing free autographs while others charge.
Thanks to Rich Griffin for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
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