Tightlip Entertainment: Lessons Learnt The Hard Way

This email came across my desk only yesterday. Jimmy T, a damn good friend of mine, sent it to a mailing list that I frequent and then kindly gave me permission to post it here. It's what I consider to be essential reading for anyone who wants to break into the field of comic books. Beware, sharks troll those waters.

Before we start understand this - Jimmy is one of the all-time good guys. He's done some work for me in the past and I've always offered to pay him, and he's always refused. I don't expect that to continue and I'd be more than happy to pay him for anything he's done - but, as I said, he's a good guy and someone I'm happy to call my friend. Add to that he's an exceptionally talented artist in his own right (the art in this post was all inked by Jimmy). I've seen him grow into the artist he is over the past few years and it's been a thrill to see someone just starting out slowly but surely establish himself as a professional inker by furthering his talent via hard work and by listening. What happened to Jimmy and Cesar Feliciano at the hands of this particular shark should not happen in this day and age - and there shouldn't be a need for a site like Unscrewed, yet there is and it does. You'll find links scattered throughout Jimmy's account and I urge you to click them and read up as much as you can. Of particular note, click this link to an open letter that Tony Isabella has been distributing and see if you're able to sign it. Also, feel free to pass any of the links, or information, in this post anywhere you want - the more people that see it the better.

Sadly getting done over happens to almost everyone - no matter what we read, hear or see before we ease in. You'd think with all the stories I know of about people in these industries then I'd certainly know better, yet I got done over by a publisher recently and it's still costing me, both professionally and personally. These people exist only to do damage and then walk away from the train wrecks that they leave behind. It takes people as brave as Jimmy and advocates like Tony Isabella to expose such people - at risk to their own careers - and it shouldn't (Tony has gone on record as saying this about Olney: "In my 35 years in the comics industry, he's one of the worst and most vile and most untrustworthy people I've come across." Now Tony has met almost everyone, including some of the real pieces of work in the comic book industry, so for him to make that claim, well you do the math). Yet these things shouldn't happen either. Publishers like Rick Olney (no links for this arsehole) are a pox on the comic book industry, hell, they're a pox on any industry, and the sooner they get out of things the better.

I doubt that anyone will stand to defend him (but hey - if you are one of the ones that want to defend him then feel free to get in touch - this blog always has a right of reply, unless you're clearly an idiot who wants to rant and rave), and as recently as this week I've heard he's still at it, this time ripping off Barry Pearl's brilliant book on Marvel by claiming it as his own and then acting belligerent when called out on it. It's odd but Olney's actions make those people that we've read about in the books about comic book history look like saints - at least they'd throw people a bit of cash every so often. But, as I wrote Barry, history, and people, tend to have a way of catching up with arseholes like Olney, usually in carparks. So read the following and learn from it.

THIS is a true story not a RANT! Ignore it if you are already one that has been taken, because it is long, and has suggestions for those doing small press and indy work. Especially working for people that are publishing comics without a lot of references.

I figured I would post this so others won't do what I did.

I was asked to ink a story over a fellow artists pencils, for a book called Monster Squad, by Rick Olney of Tightlip Entertainment, out of Mowhawk, NY (off route 84). We were told we would get paid every ten pages, plus bonuses and percentages. We had some people on board that a lot of you know or heard of.

It looked like a good thing because the penciler is a friend, so we agreed. Contracts signed, and we went to work, but that's when things got strange. Everything was delays and scripts were not finished as well as characters developed, but promises of making it up to us were made, and he supposedly was a fellow Marine, which we take seriously, Semper Fi and all that.

Anyway I noticed as we started the first three covers that he was getting promo clocks, and messages were flying about sculptures which he made photos available to us in our private forum.

Good! Right! If he has the money for that stuff, we should be OK. Well now I see the fellow who made the clocks ask for a check, and Rick starts running him down on the forum. The fellow responded politely that he needed the money for the clocks at least as he had paid for them. Rick again started to verbally abuse him.

Then a creator asked about checks for work done and was promptly treated the same way. This went on for a while but he would e-mail us saying that they were being paid and to keep going and what wonderful work we did. He then was going to pay everyone to go down to Pittsburgh for the show and we would all meet. Well when show date came he denied it but told me in an e-mail he would reimburse me but not to spread it around. I declined.

By this time my penciler (you all know him) and I talked it over as we had 10 pages done and invoiced him. The response was that covers did not count as pages and they would be paid for at the completion of each book. I told him I don't think so, and he said just finish three more pages and I will get you a check out post haste.

Cesar (whoops!) and I discussed it and said, well we are committed this far lets see what happens. In the meantime the Freedom Three comic was being done at the same time, and we all shared a forum together. And they were being berated everytime someone mentioned payment. Excuses flew left and right like a crack head talking to a counselor.

Rick ranted and started to sound delusional. Still we were polite and stayed quiet until our invoices were sent. We were told checks would be forthcoming (that was over a year ago).

After my third invoice I received an E-mail from Rick stating I was talking about him in a forum, which I'd never heard of, with some people I also had never heard of, and as we had a non-disclosure agreement I was now in big trouble. So I basically told him I had never signed a non disclosure agreement, just the contract, and I was coming to see him face to face in so many words, any time, any place get my dough...in fact his rant infuriated me so much I almost took the ride to take the pay out of his hide that day but one of my brothers cooled me down.

Remember by this point I looked up the link and now saw how many people this weasel had screwed and the list was still growing.

He then apologized and asked If we would rather do another book for him (he appeared to have the IQ of a lugnut by this point with his rambling). I declined. So here we are a year strung out and I am so pissed I want to draw and quarter this maggot (pardon me to those of sensitive tastes).

Up comes http://www.unscrewedcomic.com/ and I see he is in to artists and creators etc., for over $60,000.00 and I lost over $2,000.00 in promised payments.

And he still was having Chuck Dixon going to write for him in his e-mails to me!!!! I do not know if Chuck got paid yet but he threatens everyone with lawsuits and had some people nervous. To those nervous people I encourage you to slap a lawsuit on his fatass and I will take the ride to collect it if you like. Believe me he is a putz.

So now the present.. TA DA.. I beat him in court today and will file in New York to see if I can enforce judgement as I have been a Constable for over 30 years and can do it in my sleep. Otherwise I will sell it to someone their to make his life miserable. It stopped being about the money early on and became principle.

So heed this warning if Rick Olney asks you to do anything for him. And if you know him and see me and him at the same show point him out so I can say "Hi".

MORAL: If you work for an independent or small press make sure to include in all agreements or contracts at least a variation of:

1 - If payment is not made within the specified agreement period, then all agreements and contractual obligations with *company et all* are hereby null an void. Further the publisher will be liable for agreed upon percentages of projected sales, bonuses and interest in any litigation that may result from such non-payment.

2 - Original artwork will be returned to Inker unless the artist makes a deal for less pay, and it is agreed upon that they split. This is because some inkers depend on the revenues of inked page sales to make up for the small pay they get.

3 - An advance of one page is made as security and payment should be made upon completion of each page thereafter. This could be two pages to ten pages depending on what the publisher can afford for his project. If the publisher cannot pay you, why is he producing a comic?

4 - If the publisher feels you are not right after the first few pages he can cancel you with an agreed upon dismissal fee (you may have given up another book for him). This only if he or she puts a dismissal clause that you are not up to snuff, otherwise, disregard.

If a publisher does not like this, then don't do it. You're going to get peanuts from most indy's and small press anyway so why chase for it. There are some that do pay decent. I want to qualify that, so I don't get e-mails.

Green Lantern rebirth payed $450.00 per page to pencil. Some small press are giving guys that have decent talent, $10.00 to $100.00 per page. With print runs of 50 to 2000 copies they are not going to make any money percentage wise. So with so little money at stake for talent to try to break in, I think it is disgusting that these predators screw them like that.

I am payed well for what I do so I don't need inking for a living. I do this for the love of the craft. I do not seek a job with anyone, unless Archie asked me because Bob Smith is cool and I want to be like him.

Anyway you get the picture. So people like Cesar who deserves a break with a major company, does not get screwed like that wasting over a year, that could have been better served by penciling for cool inkers like you guys...and young ladies ( yeah I see some of your cool inks too).

Sorry if this was long but I had to reaffirm this. OK back to the boards, and I won't ever bore you with this again. I just thought it was worth mentioning. And a tip of the hat to Tony Isabella for his help as well.

---Jimmy T


--steve cohen said…
What a sad story, Jim.
I hate to hear about such things, but I am glad that forums like Danny's exist to keep people properly informed of such behaviors.
By the way, I love that BATMAN piece on the blog entry, sort of Neal Adams meets Adam West meets Joe Staton!!!
This is high praise coming from me.

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