Many of us fantasize about getting to create stories featuring our favorite TV, movie, and comic characters. ECCC 2019 ran a panel tailored to exploring the benefits and challenges of working on licensed properties. The guests were Josh Trujillo, Drew Rausch, Andrew MacLean, Irene Koh, Sarah Stern, Kris Anka, and the panel was moderated by Sarah Gaydos.
Gaydos opened by explaining the difference between licensed properties and creator owned comics. There are comics that tie into TV shows like Rick and Morty. Then there are comics that feature a set of legacy characters owned by the publishers like Marvel and DC. Finally there are creator owned titles like Head Lopper were the creators have the most creative input and earn royalties.
As a ‘work for hire’ job creators receive a page rate for their work but there’s no guarantee of royalties. Any new characters created for the comic become the property of the studio who owns the show. But by working on a licensed property artists can potentially expose a whole new audience to their artwork.
The challenges of working on licensed properties are that studios that own the property can be very protective of their brand. A comic like Rick and Morty has looser continuity because it’s considered to be in it’s own parallel universe. A comic like Adventure Time however, takes place between episodes to artists need to be mindful of small details like making sure Finn has the correct sword.
Drew Rausch shared a funny story about when he was hired to draw the Edward Scissorhands comic but IDW didn’t have the rights to Johnney Depp‘s likeness. So, Rausch had to draw Edward without the character looking like Depp.
The panel ended on a positive note saying how fan art can take you places. Irene Koh was working in video games but was offered the Avatar comic job when the show’s creators saw her Legend of Korra fan art.
Koh explained how Korra and Asami could have a more explicit relationship in the comics that would have been heavily censored if it aired on a kids network. As a fan of the Legend of Korra I’m glad that the creators were finally able to fully explore that relationship as originally intended.
The line between indie and mainstream in a constant state of flux. Luckily as fans there’s no need to pick sides. This years fan artist could be next years professional. After all every creator started making their art as a fan.