DC Changes Creator Contracts: Better Deal or Better Business?

Ty Templeton Injustice League, 2000

This week DC announced significant changes to their creator payments, and more visible a shift for fans, colorist credits will be added to comic book covers. The additional changes to DC’s creator contracts are less discernable as being positive without us being privy to actual sales numbers, percentages, and dollar amounts. Time will tell if this new direction helps DC retain and attract talent; until then, here is what DC plans to offer moving forward.

Direct deposit offered; contracts will be signed digitally

Okay, not the sexiest of topics when discussing creator rights, but still! Direct deposit for U.S. based creators and the convenience of being able to sign contracts digitally is probably much appreciated by the recipients. Sadly, Grant Morrison will still be receiving his dump trucks of money via wire transfer.

Digital-first comic sales to offer same royalties to creators as print comics

Sales from digital comics will no longer be treated differently than print comics. This is especially good news for folks that are working on DC’s digital exclusive content. Previous to these changes, creators of digital content were paid a flat rate and were not eligible to receive royalty payments based on the digital sales.

Colorists now offered royalties

Colorists definitely have a lot to benefit from these changes, finally cementing our long-suspected belief that lettering is the under-appreciated grunt work of the comic book world. Colorists will now be eligible for future payments on the sale of comics, a form of incentive pay that Marvel has offered colorists for a little over a decade now.

Royalties will be based on net revenue rather than cover price

Bear with me here. Royalties are not something that start paying out right away, and that will not change. Currently, sales must reach a certain amount before royalty payments start. The page rate creators are offered is really their initial down payment, with the hope that sales down the road like digital and trade paperbacks will eventually provide additional revenue. This is so the publisher can ensure that their operating costs are covered before royalty payments begin. Low selling books that fail to cover costs may never provide royalties to creators, hence why it is called “incentive pay”, “revenue sharing”, and as DC calls it, “participation payments.” What this change means is that the threshold for royalty payments will be based on actual net sales and not on a sales unit or what the cover price would have contributed to that threshold. So books sold at discount will have a greater impact on creators reaching the threshold for royalties. The threshold for royalty payments has also changed according to DC, but those numbers have not been revealed.

It is difficult to say if these changes will be more financially rewarding to creators without seeing the numbers. DC promises “The new thresholds and percentages are designed to generously reward high sales performance.” For creators of high selling titles this sounds fantastic, but for those books selling under that threshold, these jobs will continue to be the work-for-hire model of yore. The proof is in the pudding, the numbers and dollars pudding, and for that we must wait.

Megan Byrd

Megan Byrd

Megan is a Chicago based professional photographer by day and a comic book blogger by nights and weekends at comicbookcandy.com. As a former comic book retail employee, Megan writes about the industry with an insider perspective. Megan still moderates a monthly Ladies’ Night event at Graham Crackers Comics in downtown Chicago, and is editor-in-chief of Ladies’ Night Anthology.