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A Message from the Supreme Commander

Tom Artis, a veteran comic book artist who worked for Marvel and DC Comics (and other companies as well) recently passed away, leaving his family in a dire financial position. The details can be found in an article here, you can read them on your own so I will only summarize by saying that this is a very sad story with a lousy ending and something that has hit me pretty close to home. A fund has been set up to help the man's family pay for funeral expenses and to help his kids out. You can send a check to:

The Tom TC Artis and Family Memorial Fund
Marine Bank
Attn: Gale Krueger
1401 North Dirksen Parkway
Springfield, IL 62702

I am asking everyone I know to send something, anything, to this man's family if for no other reason than the fact that it's just the right thing to do. Whatever excuse you are making right now is lame and stupid. People who say "I have no money for this right now" are paying monthly fees to play stupid online games or buy some T-shirt they will wear once. If you are reading this and you are not living in a box you can always find a way to dredge up cash for something stupid and then justify it by saying you needed it. The comic book business is built on the foundation of frivolous wastes of money, I am certain it can afford one gesture of compassion and selflessness.

Why am I so adamant about this?

Tom Artis was just a few years older than me when he died and damn close to my age when he suffered the stroke that incapacitated him and left him unable to work. This story could be about me someday, it could be about anyone who chooses to work in this business who did not jump to upper echelon and make a ton of money. Even if you did make a lot of money at one point the lack of job security in this business can eat through savings real quickly and leave you with nothing to take care of yourself when the unthinkable happens. And, really, the unthinkable ALWAYS happens. It's not that we cannot imagine the bad things that can destroy you, it's that we choose not to think about them.

I made some comments at a recent convention where someone asked me what I would do over again if I could, my initial reply was that I would not have published comics. I then made some other comments about creator ownership which got a lot of publicity and during that minor dust-up I wondered to myself why nobody bothered to ask me to clarify the first part of the statement about not publishing at all.

Tom Artis is why. I am closing in on 50, I have high blood pressure and sometimes I think I am one phone call from Diamond or Disney or some other maddening business "partner" away from stroking out. I have two kids who want to go to college, I have a wife and an extended family who depend on me and I do a job which really only a handful of people in this entire country can really do. On top of that, I am self-employed and a sole-proprietor and 100% on the hook for all of the debts that my business runs up (yeah, I know, LLC is the way to go and I will go that way at some point). The comics business is not a place to be if you want a lot of financial rewards or job security, and maybe that's okay for a younger person, but once you get to my place in life and start to see how a decision made 20 years ago comes home to roost when your older. I am 47 years old, I don't remember being 37. I work in a business where you might plan for a project as much 18 months in the future, sometimes more, and it ages you fast.

I loose sleep every night worrying about scenarios like the one Tom Artis' family has found itself in. I have nightmares (and I am not exaggerating here, I have actual nightmares) about what would happen to my family if I died suddenly. Who would run this business? Would all my "loyal" creators remain true to my family, or would they bail on them at the first opportunity? Crap, I think about this kind of thing every time I step on a plane? While I have made plans and I do have life insurance, there is no way of knowing if that will be enough. If I had taken a different career path, one with more security and better pay I could probably sleep better at night.

I realize that this is pretty much the same scenario every self-employed person faces, but it's worse in comics. Almost every comic book artist is a freelancer and thus self-employed. If you are and Indy comics person you are probably spending a lot of time on stuff that is not really paying off in the immediate sense. Everyone is a bad car accident away from financial disaster.

So, if you're working in comics then YOU'RE Tom Artis too. We're ALL Tom Artis and so we all owe it to ourselves to help this man's family out, because someday this could happen to you and it might be YOUR family that needs a hand. I didn't know Tom Artis, but I AM Tom Artis and so are the rest of you.

So, no excuses are acceptable. If you're working in comics and you have made a couple of bucks in this business send this guy's family some dough. You don't need to break the bank, but send something, for your own sake. You never know when the good karma will repay you.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 11th, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)
I totally hear you, about every single thing you said.

May. 11th, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
Geez, that is all so true. I look back at the 20 years I spent co-publishing manga and wonder if I might have spent that time more to my own benefit. And it was pure dumb luck that I sold my copyrights and fled just a few months ahead of the TP flood that changed the manga biz in such a way that I couldn't get a job in it now if I wanted to.
I decided not to have a family for multiple reasons, but certainly one of them was that the industry is so shockingly unreliable. Hell, I'm not even sure I should have a dog. I've lost huge amounts of money multiple times, from traitorous comics publishers to collapsing distributors.
So, yeah, sending a few bucks their way is the right thing to do.

(P.S. 47, huh? Me, too.)
May. 12th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
"that changed the manga biz in such a way that I couldn't get a job in it now if I wanted to."

It's depressing to me that I was trained by arguably the best letteter the biz ever had (Tom Orzechowski), worked for the best and most ethical packaging studio in manga (Sudio Proteus), and now any monkey with a computer and a font is a "manga letterer."

But I suppose that's the way it is. It makes me glad I made my own books, that I own, instead of holding off for some future time.

You should too have a dog. Shut up.
May. 12th, 2007 05:41 am (UTC)
from Tokyo
I just want to add another reason why people should help out. I'm not involved with comics in any way, but I grew up in Springfield and used to visit Tom's house when I was in high-school.

The thing people should understand about Tom is, he could have been well-off. His art was phenomenal, and his work ethic was rock-solid. But all the time that he could have spent working on bigger deals and making a bigger name for himself, he instead spent showing local wannabe artist kids (like me) the ropes, helping out local comic projects, drawing pages for aspiring writers that he knew he'd never make a cent from. In short, he lived his life in a way that was a huge benefit to everyone but himself, and was happy that way. For that reason, even if for no other, please help if you can.

Now I have to figure out how in the hell I can donate via funds transfer... :/
May. 12th, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC)
Re: from Tokyo
I think I know how you can. Email me divalea @ gmail . com and I'll see if I can help.
May. 12th, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, Dan, I linked to this from my LJ. I really wanted to say what you said. I wonder how many times both young and old comics folks have to see a case like Artis or Messner-Loebs before they get it into their head it can be them.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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