Crime and Punishment and Comic Books: The ASA’s Masterclass, Day 2.

Alas Sydney, I knew you well. My feet are blistered, my wallet is empty and I somehow managed to be sunburnt (a mystery seeing as I spent most days indoors and I typically flee daylight like Dracula). I never did quite manage the coffee crawl I had hoped for, though my cohort and I did haunt some quality bookshops throughout the city. For now, I have returned to Melbourne, where familiar swathes of rain clouds and the guilt of unfinished things welcome me home.

Right, if the first day of the masterclass dealt with the art of sequential storytelling, then the second day handled the trade of comic book making. It is the stuff of pay-rates, agents, contracts, trademarks, options, rights and royalties. This is, literally, the business end of things.

Historically, corners of the industry were liberally littered with traps, pitfalls, blind alleys and dead ends for unwitting creators. The horror stories are bloody. The casualties are high. After hearing the tales of crime, court battles, debt and stunted careers, you would have to possess the IQ of a stray cat or be diagnosed clinically insane not to be intimidated by it all.

Smarter, stronger folk have been swindled by the fine print of pencil pushing con-artists before and many will in all likely-hood be swindled again. Given the sheer volume of corporate crime in this field, perhaps an Occupy Comics movement is in order.

However, in such a world of injustice, Colleen Doran is a superhero. She exposes corrupt editors and agents, defends creator rights and offers goodwill and advice to all. She presents herself with a low tolerance for greed and an endless love of the medium, no matter the scatological symptoms of food poisoning that strike her (I think it safe to assume that bad Butter Chicken is akin to her kryptonite).

So cheers Colleen, it is a comfort to all new creators to know that you’re out there and to share in your knowledge.

All in all, the second and final day of the masterclass was grand. Unfortunately, Colleen was exhausted and ill for most of it, but her information was direct and invaluable. Also, it allowed Tim McEwan a brief presentation on the Australian comics scene that was exciting and enlightening.

So, once again, very grateful to the Australian Society of Authors for this event. Good times. Great people. Distinctive work. Much wisdom. Sacred stories…

And lots of comics.


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