"F**K YOU, PAY ME." "No, f**k YOU."

You remember that from that scene in Goodfellas.It is the scene where Ray Liota's mafia guy explains how he and his cronies make their money. In it, he flips the bully/victim relationship on its ear. This speech is villainously empowering. It makes it feel right to do the wrong thing. It makes claiming what's YOURS feel like claiming what's MINE. When applied to non-villain people, it can become a mantra of legitimate empowerment. "Give me what's mine." I saw this great video a while back. It is for and by graphic designers, but a lot of it applies to any creative venture which involves money.

Making comics is a creative venture that involves money. But it isn't exactly a bully/victim relationship; nor is it exactly a client/contractor relationship.

This came up in an online discussion group about collaborations among comics creators. One artist drew the line in the sand "Never work without getting paid". I get where this position comes from . Historically, in big deals and little deals, artists have been taken advantage of. An artist ho enters into any kind of agreement with his defenses down in a fool. Too many artists have been promised to get paid "on the back end" someday only to find that someday never comes. Also, too often the visual arts are taken as fun little hobby that an artist can just whip-up at the whims of other parties. This generates a defensive default in the artist. It is a matter of self-respect. the work you do is worth something. You deserve to get paid for it. All of this is absolutely true.

However, there is one huge factor that has been overlooked. In the above situations, the artist is in a client/contractor relationship. In that relationship, the goal of the artist is to get paid to apply his or her skills at the direction of the client. This is not the goal of the comics artist.

The goal of the comics artist is to make comics. Better, to make good comics. If your goal as a drawer of comics is to use your skill to make money, then you are not a comics artist. You are contracted pencil-mover who has been hired to draw a comic. And that is fine if that is what you choose to be. But if that is you, then this is where you exit this discussion.

The artist who makes good comics has more to consider than whether or not paychecks will bounce. The artist who want to make good comics must consider whether or not a given script is a good vehicle by which to advance their art. This artist must find a good story to draw. That good story... that is part of your payment. And your good pencil work? That is part of your payment to the word-and-story artist who has crafted the piece of script-art from which you are drawing. That rule that artists should always get paid... well it applies to writers as well.

That is the specific point where the comparison to the client/contractor relationship breaks down. It is more like a slightly unbalanced client/client relationship.

As I write this. a more valid relationship comparison comes to mind... and the earlier scripted exchange still fits.

It isn't the aggressive, confrontational, meaning of "F**K YOU!". Rather, it is the more cooperative meaning which is the opening volley of every successful collaboration. It is the slightly more literal meaning which says "Let's get into bed together and see if we can make something great happen."

So, in that sense... Comics artists, F**K YOU! And you if you do a real good job at it... here's some cash to cover your supplies.