Equal Credit for Artists?

It's a "billing font size" discussion from the Jinxworld message boards, by way of Bleeding Cool.

Patrick Zircher, a Marvel exclusive artist, posting as "Patch" posted the following:

This has to stop. Artists, ask for equal billing. Writers, if you didn't draw a comic, ask that the billing be equal.

The statement accompanied this example from the Gotham Central Deluxe Edition:


The point is pretty clear. He doesn't care who's fault it was, or what, but that it is unilaterally unfair.  The argument could be made that if an artist is much less well known than a writer, someone like Brian Bendis or Geoff Johns, that's just a way to sell books. The argument could also be made that without the artist, there is no comic book. I tend to think the actual answer lies somewhere in between.  There are all sorts of people who need to take part in comic book production, and they're all important.  It works the other way too.  When Alex Ross does a book, the writer's biilling is almost inconsequential. While I think parity is a good thing, I also think there are reasonable marketing reasons that one person gets bigger billing over another. In the end, it's all about what readers are showing up for. 

That being said, Michael Lark deserves him one big ol' name.


  1. This artist draws for Marvel? Which books?

  2. Do Brubaker and Rucka letter the books? Does Lark do all of the pencils, inks, and colors?

    It usually takes five people to create a comic book, and that cover only has four including three writers.

  3. Pretty much has everything to do with marketing. Does the artist want more money? Make the more famous person’s name bigger. I’ve never heard of Michael Lark, although I love the art in that book. But I bought it only because I knew I’d like the writing. It’s not about credit, it’s about sales.

  4. From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense to have the most famous names the most visible.  So I totally get that. 

    The same thing happens on books sometimes, I think the non-Ludlum Bourne book has Robert Ludlum’s name in much bigger letters than the actual writer of the book.

    Marketing aside Artists definitely deserve as much (or more) recognition than the writers, and I don’t just mean pencilers, inkers, colourists and letterers do too (especially inkers and colourists).  They’re as much or more of what makes comics special.

  5. i think the penciler should be as equal as the writer unless he’s also inking and coloring. the inker and colorist should get just as much recognition as the penciler.

  6. Zircher: http://comicbookdb.com/creator_chron.php?ID=1122 Most recently, Marvel Divas and Dark Tower: The Battle for Jericho Hill.

  7. The fact that someone on our website can say they’ve never heard of Michael Lark means that I’ve failed on some level.

  8. In film, the person who they think can sell the film gets top billing. Sometimes that’s one actor, sometimes that’s multiple actors, sometimes that’s the director. Comics are no different.

  9. The writer and the artist are story tellers and deserve balanced credits. Obviously Stephen King and Alex Ross are going to get your credit size bumped down a bit. Is this a problem on trades? Scanning last weeks covers, it seems like most monthly books have a balance. I would at least push for job credit on the cover. Printing "with Michael Lark" is a felony.

  10. Wait wait wait. What’s an artist?

    I keed I keed!

    It’s an interesting situatrion. I draw a parallel with music. Being in a band how do you divy the credit? If a songwriter wrote all the parts for say a three piece does he get full credit? Do the performers get crdit for merely reading sheet music? One may argue that they onject life into the performance and without their own contribution the music would not exist or be what it is. How ’bout the engineer? He twoddles knobs after the tune’s been recorded but Nirvana’s Nevermind would not have sounded the same had Eno engineered in lieu of Albini.

    It’s a sticky issue. I’m in favor of spreading the credit wide. in terms of networking and career advancement it makes sense to have those who work with you be as happy as possible and feel as important as possible.

    From the publisher’s POV. They want "NAME" recognition. And writers are in vogue lately. It’s not a moral or ethical issue for them I assume. It’s business and numbers. My opinion there again is that making as many people feel validated as possible is in the best interest in the long run.

    I think a can of worms was opened. Kind of a "if I give one to you… I have to give one to everybody else" kind of thing.

    Another question is: "I everyone getting paid accordingly?"

    I dunno, it’s an interesting debate.

  11. I personally like the writer and artist to get equal billing, but mostly for my benefit in browsing the shelves. That said, if the publisher is crediting the artist somewhere on, or in, the product, then the publisher has the right to package the product as they wish, right?

  12. I can see all points on this issue.

    Having said that I have to tread more towards the marketing end of the spectrum. Without assigning blame, Rucka is a novelist and Brubaker’s name has been, for good or ill, in the news (a lot) for his work on Captain America. Those, plus the Batman connection, are the names that will sell this book. It makes sense that those creators will recieve top billing.

    On that note… should Chris Batista or the phalanax of artists called upon to make 52 a reality recieve the same billing treatment as, say, Keith Giffen or the writers involved?

    I’m not trying to sell anyone’s work short, the simple truth is that not all creators are made equal, and in this PR obsessed world that we live in it helps to be a known commodity. Is it unfair? Yes, incredibly so. I wish they would start putting the names of colorists on the cover of comics as they seem to be bringing a lot to the table in this day and age. But that’s another arguement entirely.

    Also, who can even remember the name Brandon Choi? He co-created some of the most popular characters of the ’90s with his work at WildStorm, but it was names like Jim Lee that moved the product. Or even, dare I say it, Joe Simon? 

    At least we are not living in a world where a studio chairperson can take credit for all the work on a particular comic, like most of the Golden Age work.

    That’s my two cents; take them for what you will.


    (Hoping I didn’t walk into it.)

  13. Definately agree on the idea on whoever sells the book gets top billing. This weekend I picked up "Batman: Snow" thinking it was a J.H. Williams book. It was him, but to my surprise as a writer only.

  14. As Rob Liefeld has pointed out, it’s beneficial to the publishers to push writers as the super stars of comics because they can do several books a month while artists are lucky to get one done.

  15. It seems somewhat jaded to say "oh well thats marketing" when some books have equal billing and others don’t. It’s a question of integrity, look at nemesis or Kickass. Mark Millar is a huge name in comics and yet he shares equal billing, and I would say in general that the name Mark Millar sells more books than McNiven or Romita Jr. 

  16. When Rucka collects his 4th Eisner this summer (Batwoman), DC are going to look very smart for having the Gotham Central covers setup the way they are.

  17. It might depend on the specific project, but on the basis of this example alone Lark should have equal billing.  For me, I don’t give a monkeys about the marketing.  For me a GOOD comic can be a work of art, and for that reason alone writer and artist should be equals.  I don’t underappreciate the importance of lettering, colouring etc but for sheer time of production and individual style these are the two main contributors to a book.  Where letterers, colourists, editors etc can contribute to several books a month, guys like Lark can barely turn in one!!

    And again, on this individual book, Michael Lark was burned here.  For this reader, I’ve known of him long before either Brubaker or Rucka were making waves on Batman books. I was reading Lark’s work at Vertigo as far back as Terminal City.  This is a guy who earned his due llloooooooonnnnngg ago.

  18. I agree with equal billing. Regardless of who is "more famous", their names should be the same size on the cover. The focus on creative talent (of both writers and artists) rather than concepts like marketing is one of the things that makes comics more respectable and more mature than other forms of storytelling media. This shouldn’t be allowed to fade away.

    It’s actually quite apt that Gotham Central was the example; I love that series and Michael Lark’s art in it, but sadly it always takes me a minute to recall his name, whereas I can remember Rucka and Brubaker instantly. Maybe these artists would have bigger names in the public’s mind if they actually had bigger names on the cover too.

  19. @weridetofight-It is not jaded, it is the reality of marketing.  The producer puts the product forth in a manner most likely to make a sale.  That is the point of business.  From comics, to movies, to TV, to music, it is all the same.  They gotta make the sales the priority.

    Further, Nemesis and Kick-Ass are kinda outside the normal bounds as they are ‘indie comics’ in a great number of ways.  As applied to this instance, the creators have production approval.  So, McNiven and Millar decided on how the cover should look.  That is not the normal situation for Marvel and DC.

  20. If we’re going for name recognition then what happens when, in a situation like Choker, we have a more famous artist paired with a lesser known writer?

  21. Proposal: If the penciler does the cover of the book as well, then they do the billing according to which name is going to sell the book. If there’s a seperate cover artist, then the writer and interior artist get equal billing.

     I suppose this doesn’t really apply to single issues? In which case, I have no problem with the writer’s name coming first, as long as they’re the same size, since the work starts with them. What about cases where the writer’s name is in the title of the book, like Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, or Warren Ellis’ Supergod?

    This seems like a pretty standard problem with a medium that involves two creative mediums coming together to form one final product. Why hasn’t this been figured out by now?

  22. I can totally see this argument for writers and artists getting equal billing. However, on many books, especially creator owned books, couldn’t the case be made that in many instances the wrier is the one that ultimately creates the story. I have read many interviews where writers talk about having written a story or had an idea for a book and THEN gone out and found an artist. Of course this is not a hard and fast rule by any means but it seems that in some cases the artist is involved in the creative process after the writer already has a pretty good idea of what the story is and what the feel/look of the book will be. The artist clearly has a hand in the feel/look of any book being the one that ultimately renders it visually, but it seems that while the writer creates a story or world out of whole cloth, the artist creates it visually in tandem with the writer. Maybe I’m wrong but that’s how a lot of books seem to develop.

  23. @Heroville – If I’m not mistaken, Templesmith got top billing on that book.

    Honestly though, as long as the artist does the cover of the book in question, doesn’t that grab the eye of a fan of that artist the same way a writer’s name real big would grab the attention of a fan of that writer? I’m not saying that it does, since I am an artist myself and am kind of torn between logic and loyalty to my fellow artists.

  24. There’s is something called a "contract". If it is that important to you, get it in the contract.

  25. I’ll be honest, even though Michael Lark is one of my favorite artists, I would never buy a comic for his name alone. But I’d definitely do just that for Brubaker or Rucka.

    I guess times have changed, didn’t the exact opposite happen in the mid 90’s?

  26. This reminds of the Kirbys’ lawsuit, and the passage in Stan Lee’s autobiography when he scoffs at the idea that the artists "co-created" any of his characters. On both sides of the divide, people stand saying, "The book would not be possible without me," and neither side is wrong. It’s also true that top billing theoretically goes to the guy who sells the most units. Still… I can’t remember ever seeing an artist’s name looming large over a writer’s name in fine print. There does seem to be some inequity.

  27. I agree Josh. My view is that the size of the writer and artist of the book is not an equality issue, it is an business decision. If an artist will sell a book, his or her name will be the same size if not bigger than a writers name. 

  28. Kick-Ass leads the way in comics again!  Equality!!!

  29. I’ll buy a book with good writing and shit art (like Uncanny X-Men Annual 2001) but not a book with a shit story AND shit art. Very seldom will an artist sell a book for me, and given that some books have rotating artists and multiple artist per issue…i don’t know where I’m going with this. I think artists should definitly get equal credit but it’s really a case by case bases. Nemisis feature both Millar and Mcniven’s names equally, and on the average monthly they’re both pretty even, but at the end of the day I think a writer’s name will sell more books than an artists.

  30. Image in the 90’s usually gave top billing to the artist.  Especially the Extreme Studio stuff.

  31. I was going to make a point, but Conor beat me to it

  32. @cormano  The point about artist vs. writer output complicates their ability to get "star billing".  Top writers can practically develop their own brand via name recognition (Johns, Bendis, Kirkman?) which can equal multiple sales per month by putting their names on it. 

    Artists can’t get that kind of return on cover space because seeing them more than once a month would be a pretty strange occurance as stated before.


    If the book is creator owned equal billing is appropriate, and usually done, which is the best I think we can hope for.

  33. @spoons: Your avatar is the chemical diagram for lsd.

    Well, it is isn’t it?

  34. any solace in the fact that with Vol. 2 they took out the "with" and made his name slightly larger?  and he didn’t even draw every issue in that volume

  35. Between the two, penciling is by far, the more labor intensive/time consuming of the two.

    Getting pushed aside isn’t fair obviously, but then again, when is marketing ever fair?

  36. @Jumping Jupiter  No, LSD is a much more complicated and interesting molecule.  This is just trinitrotoluene, TNT.

  37. From a marketing standpoint, you’re always going to put the bigger person’s name in bigger text.

    The egalitarian creative-type in me likes the idea of putting people’s names depending on their contributions to creating the story. The writer and artist working in a true collaboation vs a writer having a fully actualzied script and "hiring" an artist are two different things.

    My New Year’s resolution has been to pay more attention to who’s penciling it. Because I can think of a lot of writers I’d buy works just because they wrote it, but only three artists — Amanda Conner, J.H. Williams, & Skottie Young — I’d do the same for their interior penciling. 

  38. This may have already been said but it doesn’t matter if it is a writer, artist or inker, the top billing will go to whomever will sell the book best. Take someone like Will Farrell, he will take top billing over most actors to sell a film but that doesn’t mean the other actors in the film aren’t better at the acting craft than him.

  39. "there wouldn’t be X comicbook without the writer AND the artist" isn’t an entirely accurate statement, either. While yes, Watchmen wouldn’t have been Watchmen without Alan Moore, Watchmen wouldn’t have been a comic book without Dave Gibbons.

  40. @conor & @JohnVFerrigno: A good example of top billing in film is Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds.  He isn’t in the movie alot but gets top billing because of the draw.

  41. I think Marlon Brando got top billing in Superman which is absurd.

  42. @JesTr: And because he was FANTASTIC in it! 🙂

  43. It’s a business decision. The bottom line is when a fan discovers or looks for the name they will find those creators books. The decision by a company to publish whom ever is big the big name at the time to sell the product is a legitimate practice. As long as the credit for the creators are acknowledged, every artist wants the best opportunity to receive the largest amount of royalties for their work. It’s the trade off but not a bad thing, when they must think of thier own real life expenses.