Should Artists Pay Creators to Sell Prints of Their Characters at Conventions?

by | Mar 9, 2016

UPDATED: Recently (or… all the time really) the issue as to whether or not artists at conventions who sell prints featuring other creators’ intellectual property eg. Batman, Spider-Man, aka EVERYTHING should have to pay in order to sell their drawings of those characters they don’t own.

Bleeding Cool did a great piece about pirate prints (HERE) and how it needs to stop. Now – pirate prints as a term to me would be straight up knock-offs of other artists’ work – ie – just scanning the image and re-selling it (which is pure evil). However, artists selling their own interpretations of other characters they didn’t create as prints – that’s a different story entirely. Does that mean you’re going to go up to Neal Adams and charge him to sell his version of Batman at his booth before the next convention? Where does this royalty really wind up going anyway if this is the direction the industry winds up going for everybody?

Neal Adams Batman 2

In the Bleeding Cool piece, there was mention of a comic creator who only made a couple hundred bucks while a local who had a giant display of prints ranging from $10-$100 wound up raking in thousands of dollars in profit. Here’s the thing. You want to know why some of these local artists can occasionally make more bank than the actual creators themselves? Advertising.

I’ve been to several conventions where the famous creator will show up with zero inventory, sit at a blank table and wait for people to bring in their own stuff to sign. Now – that works some of the time depending how well-known they are, but you have to remember that most conventions these days are cluttered with people who don’t even read comics. So what are they more likely to do – research who this dude is sitting at the blank table, or buy a badass print from this colorful stand that looks damn good? It’s a matter of advertising one’s self. It’s the sad truth in 2016, but that’s what you need to do – catch the eye of the casual con attendee, because they’re the ones who will be willing to spend their cash.


Remember when Marvel Zombies artist Arthur Suydamn caught all kinds of shit because of his massive display set-up that he utilizes at conventions? I know – it’s a little much at times, especially when it’s as long as it usually is. He’s making money though – it’s eye-catching. He’s making the money by advertising his work and he also brings a huge-ass stash of prints with him so he’s going to wreel in the casual con-goers. That’s just how it works.

So do I agree with artists having to pay a licensing fee in order to sell prints or their artwork featuring characters they didn’t create at conventions? No. Do I like seeing the original creators suffer financially while people with big fancy booths sell more artwork of other people’s characters? That’s not the right question we should be asking. We should be looking at how creators and publishing companies are promoting their stuff at shows… Some do it right – and some need to adjust to the times. That’s the real issue here and the true root of this problem.

Exclusive Updates:

Artist Rob Guillory (Chew)


Writer Justin Jordan (Spread, Strayer)


Eric Dyck (Slaughterhouse Slough)

Creator of Slaughterhouse Slough & local artist from Southern Alberta – Check out his website HERE – he was kind and brave enough to share his thoughts on the controversial issue exclusively with us today:


Your question is: should independent artists pay to create derivative artwork of trademarked characters.

Yes, the independent artists should.

The grey area is created by the utopian ideal of a real world symbiosis between artists (wanting attention via recognition of existing properties), vs creators (wanting to deservedly derive income from their works but also to maintain fan growth).

I cannot speak for the artists who create & sell strictly fan art/intellectual properties. I must confess, I’m not sure how exactly that is even a thing, and I look upon their con booths in wonderment at how they get away with it, or why they even want to try to get away with it.

I can try to speak for myself, as an artist with original properties & creations, who will occasionally do commissioned & live drawings of other people’s properties in a convention/live-drawing setting. I have done, typically very exaggerated or caricatured, fan art for customers at cons, all of which I believe has been altered or is insignificant enough to be considered fair use. I have created similar art (fat batman; adorable jabba; characters dressed as unrelated characters) in an attempt to get a reaction from passers-by. Having said that, I do not find this kind of activity very rewarding. I also feel that the passer-by attention it has gotten me has been much less valuable. Fan art has not resulted in new fans of my work, nor do I find fan art leads to sales of my primary work.

As of this year (2016), I will not be creating any more fan art at cons in order to catch eyes, or draw people to my booth, by capitalizing on a fan’s recognition of property that is not mine. I will happily create obviously parody, or satirical artwork, for fans who want their favourite character drawn by me in my style.”

Jimmy Palmiotti (Harley Quinn)


“This crackdown will be coming for sure, and eventually companies will just license out the characters images to the artists and people asking them for the rights- Just like they do with the hundreds of companies that buy the rights to do products based on their characters. People make fan films of their favorite characters but the minute they sell those fan films, well…there is someone sending a cease and desist.

My perfect world scenario would be just that…the people that get permission to sell PRINTS are the ones doing a deal with the companies and then what the Lisense holders DO allow is anyone to draw and sell ORIGINAL ART of their characters at shows. I think this makes everyone happy on some level and gets rid of the glut of prints.How does that sound? Yeah, I am trying to make sense of this, so please keep the attacks civil. ;]” — posted via Facebook.