Philly City Paper regrets charging cartoonists for Comics Issue submissions

Philadelphia City Paper cover by Art Baxter

Back in April, there was a mini-flap over the Village Voice not paying “Comics Issue” contributors. Editor Tony Ortega told me at the time that “in order to fill [the issue] out with so much art, we asked some artists to donate their work.” In Philadelphia, the City Paper told artists they had to donate their work and pay $5 to even be considered for the annual Comics Issue. (Cash prizes went to the winners.) It sounds like the alt-weekly won’t be doing that again. Here’s what the A&E editor Patrick Rapa wrote:

Also new this year was the $5 submission fee. Oh man, what a terrible idea. We wanted to “reward” the artists whose stuff we liked enough to print, but probably ended up discouraging some fence-sitters from taking a shot. Lesson learned.


How many entries did you get this year vs. average of previous years?

I haven’t figured that out – and I can’t right now; Tuesday’s our deadline day – but I’m certain we got fewer entries.

Do the published cartoonists then get a cash prize/compensation, or is getting published the reward?

All the money collected goes to the artists whose work got published in the issue. The top comic, as chosen by our expert judge Art Baxter, gets $100. Everybody else gets the divided-up remains of the entry pool. I still haven’t worked out how much that will be (we’re having a minor PayPal issue right now) but I’m hoping to bolster it with some money from the paper if we’re under our editorial budget. Even then it will be meager. I’ve already warned the winners not to quit their day jobs.

I saw the one comment from a cartoonist who wanted his $5 back [I’ve posted it below]; what other reactions are you getting?

Well the initial reaction, when the contest was first announced, was decidedly negative. Pretty much all the complaints were about the entry fee. Once we announced we’d enlisted Mr. Baxter, however, at least some of our detractors appeared to be satisfied. Since the
issue came out, the only negative responses I’m aware of were left as comments, both from people whose comics didn’t get chosen for print, for whatever that’s worth. I do agree with the one who wishes we’d printed more comics. The one who’d like his/her $5 sent back is out of luck.

One last thing: We use the $5-per-entry/winners-get-the-money model for our annual fiction/poetry contest and everybody seems to like it, so that’s why I thought it would work with comics. I was wrong. The comics world is a different animal.

From the City Paper’s comments:

I want my $5.00 back. As a professional cartoonist, I don’t agree with your choice for first place. First of all, it was too talky. Yes, the text was interesting but in a comic strip a picture should speak a thousand words, not a thousand words a picture. Second, the drawings appeared to be rushed. There was very little line variation, the scenes were too dark and in the last panel the art was way too busy . My wife and I barely made out the Invisible man, we thought he was part of Frankenstein’s jacket. And the tiny captions in that panel were unnecessary. The smiles on the monsters faces (except for the Invisible Man) showed that they were glade to see the Count. May I suggest that you run all of the submissions, including mine, on line and let the readers choose the top 10.

Check out that “too talky” winning entry, by Mike Sgier.