Mark Waid Advises New Creators 'Quality of Work Is All That Matters'

"Horror stories of personal and professional abuse I'm hearing from the trenches on a regular, almost-daily basis are mind-blowing to me," says comics industry veteran.
Lori Matsumoto

Mark Waid is a comics industry veteran who has worn many hats during his nearly 30 years in the field. He's been a writer, editor, editor-in-chief (for Boom! Studios from 2007 through 2010), publisher (via his digital imprint Thrillbent) and, as of last month, co-owner of two comic book stores -- all of which is to say, he's a man who knows his stuff when it comes to the way comics works.

That thorough knowledge of the industry is what makes his Open Letter to Young Freelancers all the more important. In his letter, which ran today on the Thrillbent blog, Waid comments on current working conditions for young comic creators just entering the industry. "The horror stories of personal and professional abuse I'm hearing from the trenches on a regular, almost-daily basis are mind-blowing to me," he writes, "not only because I'm sympathetic, but because every single one of their experiences is utterly antithetical to the creative process."

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"You’re on your own when dealing with publishers, and given the current state of the industry, I can tell you without hesitation that if I were just starting out today and had to deal with half of the nightmare stories I hear from you guys about what it’s like to work at certain places -- executives flat-out lying to your face, higher-ups demanding loyalty from you while offering none in return, editors calling you at the eleventh hour to demand 180-degree changes in stories that have already been approved and then acting as if the fault is with you -- if that had been the Way Things Were 29 years ago, I’d just be getting out of prison about now," he continued.

He goes on to give advice on how to survive both professionally and personally in such an environment -- including "be willing to compromise in the face of a solid argument" and "pick your battles, but don't pick fights" -- before reminding creators that "the quality of work is all that matters. That's what buys you longevity."

Waid's letter -- which should be read in full -- is an important commentary on business practices that are in a state of flux at publishers both large and small (DC Comics, in particular, has seen a lot of creative churn during the last couple of years over many of the issues raised by Waid, although it's far from the only publisher guilty of such charges). It'll be interesting -- and heartening -- to see if the industry at large takes heed of Waid's advice and starts making smarter decisions concerning the treatment of its talent in the weeks, months and years ahead.