The Facebook Comic

You don’t publish graphic novels—and allegedly not pay your artists—without making a few enemies.

November 18, 2010 Published in the December 2010 issue of Seattle Met

COMIC BOOK MOGUL Darren Davis swears—swears!—his decision to publish Mark Zuckerberg: Creator of Facebook, the latest title by his Vancouver, Washington–based Bluewater Productions, has nothing to do with the release of the Zuckerberg biopic and box-office hit The Social Network.

“This book has been planned for a while, before the announcement of the film,” Davis said. “And the script was written before any of us saw the film.”

The 48-page comic, like the movie, traces the rise of the 26-year-old father of Facebook and the byzantine legal actions against him.

But at least one comic book aficionado won’t be championing the graphic novel when it comes out on December 22.

Evidently, Darren Davis has something in common with the embattled subject of his latest release. Fantagraphics spokesperson Jacq Cohen says Bluewater “has a reputation for not paying its cartoonists.” Many young writers and illustrators sign the contract, eager to break into the industry, only to discover that payment is elusive.

Indeed, Davis—whose publishing house is known for comic biographies of figures as disparate as FOX News mouth Bill O’Reilly and comedian-cum-senator Al Franken—has been excoriated on industry news sites and blogs for not paying artists.

“Bluewater Comics has an awful contract that creators sign because they’re desperate to ‘break into’ the industry,” wrote one blogger.

But, Davis told us, the flap over nonpayment is the result of a misunderstanding. His contracts state that artists and writers will be paid if and when the book in question turns a profit.

It’s not a business model that works for everyone, he admits. “We’re 100 percent up front about it…. [Contributors] know exactly what they are getting into.”

To which Fantagraphics’ Jacq Cohen responded with little speech bubbles of angst.

“Creating art takes time, and the work put into any comic is valuable,” she said. “A chef at a restaurant wouldn’t work all day making food only to be told by a restaurateur that he or she should feel lucky to even get a chance to cook and then not get paid. Then, why should a comics publisher expect that same from an illustrator or writer?”

Good question. Also, good subject for a comic.

Show Comments