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For artists and comic book fans, working on comic books for a living may seem like a dream come true. But further analysis will bring up the question of pay. The answer to how much a comic book artist is paid depends on the terms of employment, your reputation as an artist, and your page output.
Terms of Employment
The average salary of a comic book artist is, generally speaking, $20,000. But pay and benefits, if any, vary widely based on the company and terms of employment. A staffed career with a major publishing company such as DC or Marvel can net a $40,000 or higher salary, but a career in the big leagues typically follows a climb into reader regard. Most jobs in comic book art are on a freelance, pay-per-page basis. A typical fee per page is $100.
It's common, especially in the major publishing houses, for the artwork to be completed by several specialists. One artist may complete the pencil drawings and then pass the work on to an inker, who passes it on to a colorist and then a shader, each of whom must be paid by the publisher bankrolling the project. The specialization method ensures the art is completed quickly, by people who have mastered one area of the artistic process. But if one artist can fulfill multiple roles competently and in a timely manner, it is economically advantageous for the publisher to pay that artist more money -- but still less than if they paid several specialist artists. For example, if a publisher pays a penciller, inker and colorist $100 each for one page, he spends $300 per page of a book. But if he pays one artist $200 to fulfill all three roles, hecuts their overall art costs by a third.
Comic book publishers, like any other business operators, treat the money put into a comic as an investment. Therefore, an unknown artist is an unproven and risky asset -- the work may not produce high sales, or the artist may not produce work to the publisher's timetable or preference. So the logical step for publishers is to pay the artist a lower fee. Artists who prove themselves reliable and able to attract a readership may receive a higher fee for their work, in order to prevent the asset being poached by rival publishers. Artists with a fan base that will purchase their comics will be able to command the highest fees, because their work will all but guarantee sales.
Artists working on a fee-per-page basis can theoretically earn more money if they finish pages faster. Assuming that available work is unlimited, if an artist earns $100 per page and finishes a page every day for a year, they will be able to earn $36,500 per year. Of course, an artist may take days off, or work may sometimes not be available. But, under ideal conditions, more work equals more money.
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