The Washington Post

VILLAGE VOICE REVERSAL: Responding to criticism, editor will pay Comics Issue artists after all

Ward Sutton"s mashup happy cover (Ward Sutton/Village Voice)

The Village Voice has just contacted Comic Riffs to let us know about its significant editorial reversal:

After being roundly criticized by many within the comics and journalism communities over its latest pay practices, editor Tony Ortega says the Voice will pay “all of the artists in the special issue” that hit newsstands this week.

The Voice’s new Comics Issue featured the hired work of numerous talented cartoonists — including John Kovaleski, Lalo Alcaraz and Cojo — as well as a somewhat serpentine Roy Edroso article that, without apparent irony, sought to discover why cartooning can be such a ”low-paying” field for many creators despite the cultural popularity of comics.

Under the headline, “Yeah, That Turned Out Not to Be Such a Good Idea,” Ortega has now posted this explanation on the Voice site:

I wanted to have a big special comics issue, but I had a limited budget. So in a well-meaning effort to make this work, I asked some cartoonists to provide work without compensation. In the last couple of days, it's been pointed out to me quite clearly that this was not the best way to help out the cartooning industry. The thing is, we're not a company that expects people to work for free for the exposure. And I'm making this right: I'm paying all of the artists in the special issue. And hopefully buying them beers and working with them again soon.
Tony Ortega
The Village Voice

Ortega would not expand to Comic Riffs about the details of the payment, including what the pay rates would be or how many of the artists had provided their work for free. Contacted about their Village Voice work this week, numerous artists refused to discuss the matter, citing that they don’t discuss their work compensation as a matter of course.

Earlier this week, the cover artist, Ward Sutton, told us that he had indeed been paid for his Voice work.

Comic Riffs also noted Wednesday that the Comics Issue was “especially striking just two years after the Village Voice Media chain, citing budget issues, suspended publication of its alt-cartoons.”

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.


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