by Art Chantry:
this is something else i collect – little corporate booklets of cartoons. basically, big business likes to commission gag comix from cartoonists and publish them in their magazines and advertising. they think that means they ‘support the arts’ or something. in truth, they buy the copyrights outright and usually pay the cartoonist something like double their usual price tag (2 times zero is what?). in the biz, it’s called a ‘buy-out’, and that’s usually only double whatever the original cartoonist’s going rate is. then they own the total copyright and usually keep the original artwork, too. that’s how that record company managed to keep that famous r. crumb cover art for ‘cheap thrills’ for so long and then attempt to auction it off at sotheby’s. crumb is the only “commercial” artist i’ve ever read about who actually found legal footing to get it back. it’s VERY hard to do. you actually have to PROOVE that ripping you off is not an industry standard practice. no joke. good luck with that.
so, what cartoonists usually create for corporate clients is second rate comics and gag panels for the corporate dudes and take the money and run. i think they figure it’s second rate work and will never be all that special over time. but, like r. crumb, sometimes, they’re wrong, too. i have a little hard cover book put out by the Volkswagon auto company that is a collection of VW gag panel cartoons that were commissioned specially for this little gift book. it includes original VW jokes (every single cartoon!) done by some of the truly giant greats of theat era (the 1960′s). for instance, the cover gag is done by charles addams! yup, it’s the cream of the crop with VW – they could afford it. they were HUGE back then. i’m sure the paycheck seemed worth it to the starving cartoonists, too.
but, that was often before their careers became pop culture royalty and their original artwork skyrocketed in value. you used to be able to pick up an original robert crumb cartoon art panel for a couple hundred bucks. now they are very high six-figures – i think some even a million or more. so, over time, that was one hell of an investement for organizations like VW. i wonder what that charles addams original must be worth today?
over the last 10-20 years the collectible markets ‘discovered’ original illustration and cartoon art. the stuff is solid gold out there. images tossed into the garbage and fished out by rag pickers now show up on the open market for small fortunes. scarcity and rarity is key – all of it was usually thrown in the trash and lost. corporations usually keep this stuff in buried warehoused file cabinets out of habit (obsessive beuracracy.) so, this sort of thing actually somehow gets saved, where the actual publishing world shitcanned the stuff (like magazines and books and record publishing). it’s all become very rare and way cool stuff.
i once had the rare opportunity to dig around in the files of Hallmark Cards. it seems they have saved every piece of artwork they ever produced and stored it in warehouses on simple flats. they are in the process of sorting through what they have and catalogging and archiving it all (to re-use, actually, since they own the coyright and therefore it’s ‘free’). since the kept all originals since day one, they had one of the most INCREDIBLE collection of original illustration i’ve ever seen. people like chuck jones, norman rockwell, salvador dali, winston churchill, jackie onassis, all the mad magazine guys and on and on. it must be worth millions and millions on the open market. but, it’s peanuts to hallmark. they just want the free usage of norman rockwell stuff they own.
for instance, this little booklet here was sold(?) or handed out(?) for free by the magazine TV GUIDE. it’s selection of cartoons that appeared in their magazine over time. how this set was selected is beyond me. some of the gags are pretty flimsy and the cartoonists featured strike me as mediocre (excpt for this cover artist, ronald searle and interior gag panels by rodriguez, which are really twistedly funny. he was later a mainstay of the early National Lampoon).
it’s a cheap little magazine-style saddle-stictched format, 16 pages, and apparently printed (for free?) by their regular printer of their magazine. the paper is that cheapo interior flimsy stuff they ususally used in TV GUIDE – some sort of newsprint or pulp like ‘electrobright’. cheezy as heck.
but, this cover is a portait of johnny carson by RONALD SEARLE! top that! it’s probably a rejected illustration that was originally commissioned to be on TV GUIDE’s cover, but either didn’t make it, or perhaps they liked it so much they re-ran it. searle is one of those major illustration figures of the last half-century (he just recently died). he’s probably drawn more covers, illustrations, record covers, cartoons, etc. etc. etc. than any other person of his era. his work was nearly ubiquitous. but, becasue he never promoted himself as a ‘personality’, he stayed behind the drawing board and just let his work represent him. the result is a vast output of brilliant and impressive (and influential) work that flew under the radar. it was just ‘always there’. when it was noticed, it was highly praised (i’
never read a bad word about the guy.) i imagine his originals are right now starting to skyrocket, too.
so, i suggest if you work in a major corproation somewhere, you start digging in those warehouse files everybody else has forgotten about. you may find some items that nobody knows about or wants any more. you may have access to a goldmine that is simply garbage in the eyes of the current beholder.
everybody always protects the weirdo. and other ignorant artists get all angry paranoid about history. truth is, it’s still out there waiting to eat you. read every contract and wince. lawyers protect their clients an they ALWAYS add ‘work for hire”. they can’t restrain themselves. clients have no idea what it means, either. magazines will often put ‘work for hire’ on paychecks that take away your rights when you cash the damn thing. that nailed guys as famous as patrick nagel and don martin . lost their rights to even use their own names, in some cases….
…artists are so stupid. they think the law can’t take their copyrights away from them – like it’s given by god or something. so stupid. corporations have been writing copyright law to protect themselves for so long that we artists have no idea how bad it is. CYA with the corp dudes. forget about shep fairy – they prefer we all go after tiny tiny fish (one of our own, no less!) than figure out that they are up to….notice the off-register ghosting on the “tv jibes” logo. and the uneven color. really bad printing….
… i mean that the sympathetic ‘pop j=history’ always makes the artist to be an innocent betrayed (usually) by some “evil bitch”. i think that’s story has been told to me so many times (about other artists, not crumb) that i think it’s an urban myth. the reality is that whoever wrote that has no idea how the biz worked back then (or now). but, instead they get all indignant about protecting their favorite little artist weirdo (who seemingly can’t precut himself)….
…and i think the “evil bitch” stereotype emerges from artists who allow their lovers to ‘manage’ them. the women try to ‘protect their little weirdo’ and think that actually having a contract protects the artist from getting screwed (cuz it’s actually in writing). the problem is that she has no idea what she’s doing (and neither does the artist) and they sign those contracts like it’s “what you do.” lord knows i’ve been there more times than i care to count. lost a lot in the process, too. there’s reasons why corporations won’t hire me any more. i actually ask questions and try to protect my ass….
…if you fight back, then people who approach you have to be honest. that’s GOOD thing (sez martha). and if enough people fight back, then the path is cleared fro those who follow to get a better shake. most artist types are too afraid to stand up for themselves against money-power. it takes MORE shep fairy’s to save all of us, not less….