The Creator Collective Takeover

On the rise of creator collectives at conventions, what's driving that trend, and how the pandemic is affecting those groups

Comic conventions.

Once a basic tenet of the comic book ecosystem, now, they almost feel like a science fiction, maybe even horror movie idea in the new status quo established by the coronavirus pandemic. The premise of being packed into convention centers with thousands and thousands of others, bumping into people as you make it from one place to another, seems genuinely nightmarish in a time where even visiting a grocery store can be a harrowing experience.

But in a normal version of our world, they’re a source of joy, entertainment, commerce and connections. For someone like me who lives in a far-off place – Anchorage, Alaska – touring an Artist Alley at a convention can be a transcendent experience, where the next aisle can bring the unique opportunity of meeting one of your most beloved creators or finding a new favorite. While not every engagement is quite as magical as I’m making it seem – there are bad interactions along with the good – the potential for wonder is always there. And I love that.

One of my favorite random aspects of the Artist Alley experience is seeing how people manage their tables, as each setup is almost like a signature, acting as an immediate insight into the person and how they want to represent themselves. Sometimes that means witnessing arrangements that reflect months of thought and research, delivering a highly tailored and considered look. Other times that might mean a blank table with at most a banner behind them. Depending on the person, that may fit perfectly as the former setup, a treasure in its own way. Regardless, it’s always a thrill to see how the presence matches the creator, and how they even evolve year-over-year.

While I’m not a constant con goer, I have started to see a change in the makeup of those presences and even in the alignment of Artist Alley floors themselves. That’s for one main reason: creator collectives, or larger groupings of creators under one management team, 1 are taking over. These groups unify collections of primarily artists and sometimes writers into specific sections where there’s a certain level of standardization and management that takes hold, from the looks of the creator’s setup to management of product sales. At larger conventions in particular, these groups have started to swallow up huge portions of available real estate, leading to a slight shift in how fans experience the floor and interact with creators.

Is that a good thing? Is it a bad thing? It really depends on who you ask, but in my view, it has certainly become an increasingly capital T Thing at the very least over the past decade or so. And with every significant trend comes a story, as well as pros and cons for everyone involved. That’s what we’ll be exploring today, as well as how that landscape has shifted in a time where conventions have effectively ceased to exist because of the pandemic. 2

My desire to write this article was inspired by this past year’s New York Comic Con, where I endlessly wandered the convention’s Artist Alley, perpetually staggered by how prevalent these groups were. 3 Whether you’re talking groupings of artists managed by reps like Felix Comic Art and Cadence Comic Art or the conglomerate formed by art dealer Essential Sequential’s marriage to comic creator management outfit Comic Sketch Art, there were times where I’d walk down an entire row and find myself astonished by just how dominant they could be.

The latter pairing of Essential Sequential and Comic Sketch Art was particularly notable, as what had to be at least a tenth – maybe even an eighth – of NYCC’s Artist Alley was consumed by this supergiant. And it wasn’t just random groupings, but the biggest names in comics who also typically command the largest gatherings at these events. Tom King with Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner to his side. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. The Kuberts. You name it, they were there, and when they weren’t, an armada of helpers maintained the table presence, took orders for commissions, managed lines, booked signatures, informed fans about schedules, and, of course, sold comics and merchandise.

A look at Artist Alley at New York Comic Con 2019

I had come across this kind of thing before, of course, but the scope and scale felt different. 4 This wasn’t a gaggle of artists unified under a single dealer; this was a whirring machine of commerce and information. But that’s what these groups often do for creators, and we’re not just talking about Essential Sequential or Comic Sketch Art. Depending on the company, services can range from the aforementioned items to other crucial ones like the storing of material like comics and prints, shipping of product, and even the negotiation of appearance fees.

The latter idea is likely one of the core offerings for some of these groups to some creators, namely writers, as conventions are traditionally not money earners for scribes. Without commissions or prints and other art-based merchandise, writers are reliant on selling comics, trade paperbacks and other items with a signature as the carrot in the hope of making their convention experience anything more than a wasted vacation. Most writers have to buy their own way into tabling at a booth, and then they have to ship materials themselves. That can be tough math to deal with, making these events a long, uncertain road to profit.

But by signing up with a group like Comic Sketch Art, writers can have an established financial floor because these companies often arrange an appearance fee for creators as part of their larger negotiation with the con. 5 Trying to leverage yourself can be a tough sell, but when you’re packing a slew of other top names with you? That gives you a lot of cachet, ensuring everyone’s base is stronger than it would be otherwise. Pair it with the management of travel, accommodations, and your actual con presence – including shipping and selling of materials! – and it’s easy to see why A-list writers like King, Snyder, and Donny Cates find this appealing. Conventions instantly become more valuable experiences in all senses of the word.

For artists, a lot of the appeal comes from the same place, even if they have more money making options at conventions. Artist Declan Shalvey told me that working with Cadence Comic Art is a huge weight off his shoulders when he’s visiting the United States for shows, as he told me he doesn’t “have to carry banners, art, etc., it’s all there for me when I show up.”

“Cadence can do the business, and I’m there to sign and talk to people and they can pick up commissions I’ve done at home through” his rep, Shalvey told me. “I’m happy for Cadence to do that and let them take their percentage.”

That’s the rub, of course. Groups like these take a cut on most everything – sales, appearance fees, commissions, etc. While how much or what is included depends on their partner, that’s largely the fundamentals of how these groups work. But that only makes sense. They’re businesses, and these services are not inconsiderable. It requires economic upside for these groups to be worth it for everyone. From the organizations I spoke to, though, they didn’t get into this business to get rich, but because of their own love of this world, particularly of original art.

The logo of art rep Essential Sequential

“As a fan, I have always enjoyed going to shows and meeting my favorite creators,” Jason Schachter of Essential Sequential told me. “My first interaction working with a creator was at NYCC 2006 when I realized there weren’t many agents or reps traveling with and/or advocating for them.”

Felix Lu of Felix Comic Art’s background was similar, as Lu was a big-time art collector who naturally transitioned into the role of an art rep thanks to conversations with many of his artist friends. 6 One place the two differ, however, is the importance of conventions to their respective business models. While these events were “always part of the job description” to Lu, he’s focused on original art sales, telling me that “doing conventions has never been a major part of our model, so we have the luxury of being choosy about which shows we decide to do.”

Schachter is the opposite. He described conventions as something that was always important to Essential Sequential, with that import only growing from there.

“Conventions are a considerable part of our business. On average we travel to 25 shows per year,” Schachter said. “I’d say it’s almost 50% part of my revenue.”

That importance has only risen since Essential Sequential partnered with Comic Sketch Art on creator representation. This two headed dragon of sales is a monster on the scene, and it all developed from a chance meeting at a signing featuring creators that each side represented.

“We met at a Frank Miller and Klaus Janson signing a few years ago and recognized a great opportunity to help each other grow,” Schachter said about Comic Sketch Art. “Once Dark Knight III was underway we saw that joining forces would be a benefit for everyone involved. We now can attend three or four different conventions during the same weekend whereas before we could only focus on one show.”

That unsurprisingly requires quite a bit of planning. When I first was putting this together, the pair was in the midst of prepping for C2E2, Chicago’s biggest comic convention, as it was the unofficial kickoff to what proved to be a lost con season. 7 That’s a lot of work for Schachter and his team, as he said they typically have “several logistical plans depending on how many creators” will be attending.

“Actual planning usually starts several months earlier and will get busier as the show nears. There’s a continual learning curve and we try to learn from previous shows of what works and what doesn’t as the conventions themselves grow and change,” Schachter shared. “The key is organization – staying on top of what’s needed for each show and what prints, books and materials need to be ordered for each show.”

Those needs have shifted as the groups have aged. What once started as him helping pals sell original art at shows has evolved into “logistics such as travel coordination, booth design, merchandise shipment and management, panel bookings, commission scheduling, creator advocation” and beyond, per Schachter, all in the hopes of creators having “the best experience with fans as possible and not worry about anything else during the weekend.”

The logo of art rep Felix Comic Art

Lu shared that what they offer creators depends on the person, saying they’re flexible but also that “most creators want everything handled for them.” One note Lu had about conventions, though, is that “much of the fun and innocence of shows in the past is now largely gone” thanks to how “the dynamics of shows” changed.

“I’m not pinning that on any one group, we’re all responsible,” Lu told me. “But as shows on the whole have become more about business than fun, that’s something we’ve had to navigate. The trick is finding a balance so that it’s a fair experience for both creators and fans. And in the end, hopefully still a bit of fun for all, too.”

That’s important to him, as conventions can be mentally, emotionally and physically draining for creators. While not every creator needs or wants help with balancing every aspect of their con experience, he finds that giving artists “total freedom” at shows helps them have a better time.

“Drawing comics can be a lonely, solitary profession,” Lu shared. “So for us, the main purpose of the show is to socialize and again, have a good time!”

In my experience, the Felix Comic Art gang is definitely on the more casual end of the spectrum, as a visit to their table often results in finding artists like Ramon Villalobos, Chris Burnham and Daniel Warren Johnson sassing each other as they sketch away. It’s a joyful vibe, and something that fits what Lu said about their presence at conventions and how they tend to hang out together even outside of the shows. Lu told me, “We do that because we all genuinely enjoy hanging out together. Doing conventions then, isn’t a job. It’s more like a mini reunion.”

For Schachter, his efforts are focused on helping both creators and fans have a better experience. Much of the latter is accomplished through planning and scheduling, giving a much different feel than what Lu offers. But that’s what works for him, and he’s found that to be necessary with the passage of time, especially as aspects like mental and physical health have become something “that’s been more on my mind as I get older.”

“In the past we could just go all day without a break or eating. That’s taken a toll over the years, so we now try to make sure everyone takes breaks,” Schachter said. “It’s not always possible when things are busy, but we try to encourage our group to step away to the green room to have a breather. Depending on the convention and creator, we’ll have a liaison go with them to panels and meetings to make sure they get to their commitments on time, are comfortable and best represented.”

That’s one of the most impressive things about the presences these organizations have at conventions. While they’re obviously there to maximize revenue for everyone, stopping by a table managed by one of these groups can feel like an entirely different experience than you have elsewhere. There is seemingly always someone there who has a grasp on where everyone is and what they should be doing. This helps improve the experience for everyone, and not just monetarily, but physically and emotionally as well.

Maybe that’s why these groups are seemingly growing both in terms of the number of groups and the size of them, an idea that each of the reps agreed is happening. Lu said that this trend has “been going on for a while now,” and he views it almost as a battle of brands.

“I think some approach it like a battle for shelf space in a supermarket. In order to carry Coke, you now also have to carry all the associated Coke products, even if demand for those products is limited,” Lu shared. “All to crowd out the competition.

“That’s not our game.”

Lu noted that their primary focus is – and likely will always be – on the art itself. That works for his crew, but for other creators, Schachter’s angle might work better. As Schachter said, “I think creators see the benefit of working with agents to help them with the business element so they can focus on their creative process,” which is a big part of the reason he believes these groups have seen notable gains.

They aren’t the only ones who have noticed a boost in this trend, of course. Original art collector 8 Jason Wood noted that these groups have become increasingly prevalent – especially at larger conventions like San Diego, New York, C2E2 and Emerald City – and he’s surprised it didn’t happen sooner given all they can offer creators.

“These larger collectives can negotiate better rates and incentives from showrunners. They can get more space and prime locations in Artists Alley. In some cases, they even can negotiate guaranteed appearance fees,” Wood said. “It’s basic economics, and I’m surprised it took this long.”

Wood’s fellow original art collector Michael Perlman believes these groups help creators lean into their own strengths – drawing, writing, or whatever it is they do – allowing someone else to manage the administration and business side of things.

“Many have tried doing these tasks themselves and found that they are not good at, nor do they enjoy doing them, especially as they have less time for them,” Perlman told me.

Artist Jen Bartel views the growth of these groups in a slightly different way, but one I agree with.

“I don’t know that there’s been in increase in groups per se… but there’s definitely been huge growth within the prominent collectives that are frequently seen in most major artist alleys,” Bartel said. “A couple of them seem to take up entire aisles at these things—which makes a lot of sense, because from the perspective of a convention attendee, that’s gotta be so much more convenient than having to run all around a big show floor just to get a few books signed!”

Of course, there can be perceived downside to that as well. Shalvey shared one of them, as he’s concerned about some of the same things Lu noted earlier, seemingly.

“I do think it’s probably not a good thing for any company to dominate Artist Alley like that. As a fan, it kind of creeps me out. As a pro, it makes me worry that one group is sucking up all the money as fans are more likely to gravitate to the big names they know,” Shalvey said. “Saying that, it’s a free market, anyone can do what they like. I just think there’s a danger in one group having a monopoly will have a negative effect on driving prices up and making paying for signatures more of a thing, which I don’t like.”

That ties into one of the biggest concerns about these groups that I heard, primarily about the aforementioned Comic Sketch Art. Others I spoke to were unenthusiastic about anyone setting a precedent where signatures should cost money – Comic Sketch Art charges $5 per signature, per its site, but I had heard the first three autographs were free – as that was viewed as tacky at best and harmful to fan encounters at worst. The experience of engaging at one of their tables can feel a bit different than others around Artist Alley, from the homogeny of the table setups to some interactions I’ve had feeling a little bit like gatekeeping. Perhaps that’s related to the inherent focus on branding and schedule management. Maybe it’s something else.

But at the same time, I get it. Branding and management are useful, and charging for signatures can help resolve several notable problems. I remember going to Emerald City Comic Con one time and the main teams from the Green Lantern books then – Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason – were signing for fans. Right before we get to the front of the line, a guy a few people ahead of my buddy Brandon and I rolled up with a cart with literally two full long boxes of comics for them to sign. Needless to say, that took a while, 9 so having some sort of “well, if you’re going to get so many comics signed, there’s a cost to it” feels like a win for the creator/collective side and a way of helping manage breakdowns in line flow.

The line for Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder at NYCC 2019. It looks insane. It actually made sense.

Speaking of, even just the fundamentals of how lines work and how convention floors flow can benefit from oversight by these groups. While there’s only so much they can do, seeing how they wrangle hordes of fans first hand was truly eye opening. These experiences can quickly devolve into uncertain tangles of fans, each of whom is mad at someone. So maybe what I viewed as gatekeeping was just a rather unexpected sight at a convention: someone maintaining order in a typically chaotic situation. That makes a huge difference in terms of improving engagements for not just creators but fans as well.

There’s plenty of upside on the creator side, too. As noted before, these groups can help establish a financial floor for creators, particularly writers thanks to the negotiation of appearance fees. Crucially, they can help provide structure for the experience as well, insuring creators don’t get overwhelmed or overpromise and then underdeliver. Shalvey sees the benefits, as partnering with Cadence Comic Art has improved his U.S. shows dramatically.

“I definitely will prioritize doing a show if Cadence is there,” Shalvey told me. “Having everything I need at the table when I arrive makes travel way less stressful, (knowing) everything has been arranged.”

The artist finds that working with Cadence helps him spend less time at his table, as they can ensure that fans who stop by know he’s signing on a specific schedule. And when he is there, it helps improve the overall experience as he knows he’ll be partnered with other creators within the group, sharing it “creates a nice sense of camaraderie with fellow Cadence artists.”

When I asked Shalvey if he’d recommend this to currently unaffiliated creators, he noted that there are “definite advantages to it,” but it largely depends on what creators want from their convention experience and whether or not they do their research. 10

“Are you uncomfortable selling yourself? An art rep can do that. Are you uncomfortable talking to people? An art rep can help with that. Does carrying your stock and artwork around stress you out? Generally, that answer to these things are ‘yes’ so again; art reps can help with that.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean working with these groups has to be the answer. Bartel – one of the most successful creators at any convention she goes to 11 – continues to be independent, even if managing her own experience has “definitely gotten more challenging.”

“Ultimately I prefer to handle all correspondence related to appearances myself because I still feel like it’s the most efficient option,” Bartel told me. “I did bring on Andrea Demonakos of White Squirrel as my full-time convention assistant last year though—so on top of managing my web store and fulfilling all orders, she’s also handling all my convention inventory and setup as well.

“I still try to be at my booth as much as possible though—unless I’m at a scheduled panel or signing, chances are you will find me at the booth—getting to actually meet with convention attendees is really important to me, and I want to make sure they have plenty of opportunities to do that.”

Bartel finds that most conventions she goes to – which she admits are typically the bigger ones – are good at surrounding creators with others who might have “audience crossover” even without belonging to one of these groups. Having seen Bartel in action at Emerald City Comic Con several times with names like Kris Anka, Joe Quinones and Irene Koh in range, it’s easy to see why she believes that. This makes it easier for her to avoid joining up with any of these outfits, as some of the benefits they offer happen naturally thanks to internal planning by convention organizers.

“I haven’t personally felt a need to join an official group because of this, and I also really enjoy the freedom to be totally in control of what my table looks like, instead of having to adhere to ‘collective branding,’” Bartel shared. 12

Not that she’s even been recruited. I assumed she would have been a prime target, but the artist told me she hadn’t been approached by anyone so far. It all works out, as she’s dubious of what she would gain from the experience given her own preferences and success. But she did mention that “collectives seem like a really great option for creators who want to have a presence at shows, but don’t want to/don’t have time to deal with the nitty gritty stuff.”

A view inside NYCC 2019’s Artist Alley, photo © ConnorSumner2014

But what about the consumer side of things? How do fans or customers feels about these? I shared a little of my own mixed feelings earlier, but from those I talked to, most felt that dealing with these collectives can lead to an improved experience overall.

“An artist on their own will often take more commissions than they can complete over a con weekend; they will bring art to sell and not have prices; the art they bring will not be organized,” Perlman told me. “My experience working with a rep for commissions and art is better than working directly with an artist in most cases.”

Wood works directly with a lot of artists, if only because of his “passion for discovering new artists,” and he finds that there’s no one size fits all answer. Some artists handle it swimmingly. Some do not. He finds that working with reps can have a clear upside, though.

“As a collector, the nice thing about a high-quality art rep is accountability,” Wood said. “If they’re good, they’ll work hard to make sure artists don’t overbook, and deliver within a reasonable timeline. They’ll also be more apt to handle disputes and refunds without animas.”

One thing I was curious about for the pair is whether or not dealing with these groups can lead to more impersonal experiences, and neither found that to be the case. Wood used a specific example from this past New York Comic Con as an example, as the two of us ran into each other when I was talking to artist Daniel Warren Johnson at his table in the Felix Comic Art area. Johnson’s one of the most popular people at any convention he goes to, but Lu’s management of his commission process and communication with buyers allowed freelancing for the cartoonist to be ribbed by Wood and I for a few minutes about our recent fantasy baseball season. 13 Freedom comes from the structure itself, which is a nice benefit for everyone.

“Whether you’re arranging for a piece of art directly with the artist or with their rep, you’re still going to have an opportunity to interact with the artist,” Wood said. “As long as they’re attending the convention, they’ll be tabling and you’ll have the chance to thank them for the piece, chat with them, and perhaps get them to personalize your art.”

That’s how everything with these types of creator collectives worked, and it was easy to see benefits for everyone involved. But the tense is important there, because it was in the past. When I was beginning the development of this piece, it was before there was a single convention this year. Little did I know at the time that there would potentially be just that: a single convention, as C2E2 may have been the final convention of the year as well as the first. For Essential Sequential, who told me before all of this that conventions were 50% of their revenues, that’s substantial.

“It’s looking like they’ll be no conventions this year which will be a huge loss for us,” Schachter said.

That’s led to rapid shifts in approach, as Schachter has been embracing digital outlets to simulate the convention experience. Essential Sequential has been streaming on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch, and they’ve invested “more in proper streaming equipment and taking more time to be online with the creators.”

A graphic for a recent livestream Essential Sequential hosted

“For now, it seems that fans and the creators are enjoying the online interactions,” Schachter told me.

Of course, nothing can make up for the enormity of convention revenue for Essential Sequential, but it’s leading to greater pushes for online sales, additional commission opportunities, and even mail-in signings for fans who are interested. Those are wins, even if it doesn’t offset the lack of conventions.

While there’s hardly a fortunate place to find yourself in a pandemic, Lu and his group of artists managed to find themselves in a relatively positive one, as the art rep said the coronavirus has had “no negative impact at all” on Felix Comic Art, at least not directly.

“If anything, our bottom line improves from not having to travel,” Lu said. “Also, in a total coincidence, this was a year where most of our artists were planning on sitting out conventions, anyway. Our convention schedule for 2020 was going to be our lightest one in years.”

The indirect cost for Lu’s group was that the loss of convention revenue would shift other reps online, leading to more competition in terms of commission and original art sales. So far, so good, though, as Lu reported that they’ve been very successful despite the uncertainty in the world. The original art market has continued to thrive. You can see that in the sales of original pages or just in the span of time it took Daniel Warren Johnson’s recent commission list to fill up: 40 spots in a matter of minutes. Because of this, Lu shared that they’re “in position to ride this out for a while, if necessary.”

A recent Cowboy Bebop commission by Daniel Warren Johnson

That’s good, because it could be a bit. When I asked both Lu and Schachter how they were feeling about conventions going forward and whether they’d consider setting up at one without a COVID-19 vaccine, the answer was a quick and resolute no, even with both admitting that there are plenty of variables to consider.

“If there’s no vaccine, whether it’s 2020 or 2021, I have a hard time seeing myself hitting conventions,” Lu said. “I should say really doing any conventions because I don’t want to put myself…that’s one thing, but family, loved ones, that can be a kind of risk.”

“My parents are elderly. I see them often. So, I have those considerations,” he noted, before adding, “I think it’s still too early to say.” 14

“I don’t see an environment in which it’s safe for us to go without a vaccine, I guess,” Schachter said. “Without some sort of therapeutic there…if we have to sit one guy to 12 feet, that’s going to reduce the amount of creators that are going to be allowed into a space.”

From a logistical standpoint, the potential presence of this virus would make the mechanics of creator management difficult to impossible, whether you’re talking staff engaging with creators or consumers. And it’s not like conventions can have permanent fixtures like what we’ve seen from restaurants or other businesses. These events are pop ups, through and through. And from a health standpoint? Forget about it.

“As of right now, we get emails informing and asking about about the other shows we’ve committed to. And the only thing we say is, ‘We’re willing to go if everything is safe,’” Schachter said. “And without that guarantee, nobody wants to be put in a situation where they might get sick or contaminate other people. It’s just not worth it for us to potentially get other people sick.”

The world of conventions is obviously on hold, and it’s not just because of these groups. Conversations I’ve had with creators have suggested a wariness of returning to conventions too soon – or even at all in some cases – out of fear of what it could mean for their health or the safety of loved ones. Even an informal poll of people on Twitter 15 suggests no one’s in a rush to go to conventions before a vaccine, as over 84% of 803 respondents said they weren’t going back before a vaccine. 16

The hope is these other revenue channels continue to perform well. The good news is Schachter has seen ample support amongst the fans of those he reps. He’s found sales on the Essential Sequential site to be solid, helping stave off his feelings early on in the pandemic that his “business was going to tank.”

“Luckily fans and buyers from around the world still want either art, commissions or books. They’re still being supportive of the artists and our business, so that’s been a great help in just staying afloat. Things could be a lot worse, in general, looking at the overall picture,” Schachter said. “But we also do 20 to 30 shows a year, so that obviously is a revenue source for us that is now gone.”

In another version of this world – one without a pandemic – this article would have been quite different than the version you’re now reading. We’d be in the midst of yet another convention season, and odds are, we’d likely have spent a lot more time in places that weren’t our homes recently. But that’s not the world we live in, as there isn’t a convention season and we are largely either sheltering-in-place by design or by choice. 17

It’s hard to say what the long-term impact of these creator collectives will be or whether this trend will continue simply because it’s difficult to guess when conventions will return, or if they’ll be at the same level after the pandemic as they were before. There are so many unknowns, so many variables, that it makes guessing at this kind of thing an incredibly difficult task.

But here’s what I will say: part of me wonders if the presence of these collectives will only be more significant when we’re through all of this, if only because of how they help reduce risk. I imagine the post pandemic world will be one where we’re even more cautious about uncertainty, and if these groups can help lock in a palatable floor for creators – via appearance fees, management of sales, and commission lists, or whatever – then that will be attractive to many creators who are trepidatious about other aspects of the experience.

Pair the financial aspect with how these groups can lead to better schedule management, better mental health conditions, and maybe even a reminder to eat a dang sandwich every once in a while, then to me, this trend feels like a good thing. Beyond that, it feels like something that won’t just survive the pandemic, but maybe even see increased importance when we’re through it.

That doesn’t mean the actions of each of these groups will be well-liked – the charging for signatures element is unpopular amongst the unaffiliated, even if the adoption rate of that tactic is limited – or that everyone will have to join, as someone like Bartel can clearly survive and even thrive on their own.

But these creator collectives seem like they’re here to stay, with the size and amount of the groups likely only growing from here, even if the future shape and presence of conventions themselves is uncertain. We may not know where we’re headed when this is all said and done, but if we’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that a little less risk in life is a nice feeling. And that’s something these groups can offer, if you’re willing.

  1. Like Comic Sketch Art, Essential Sequential, Felix Comic Art, and beyond, but they’re most often aligned under an art representative. Also, they’re not officially called “creator collectives,” but they’re also not officially called anything. So that’s what I’m calling them!

  2. Quick note: this article was conceptualized and researched before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Since then, I’ve been trying to find the right direction for it in a time without conventions. This feature is what resulted from that, as well as follow up conversations I had with people.

  3. To the point I wrote about this very trend in my recap of the convention.

  4. One aspect that helps with this feeling like such a change: I hadn’t been to NYCC since 2013 or 2014.

  5. I’ve heard that Comic Sketch Art does this, but it’s uncertain which – if any – other groups do this.

  6. For more on the world of art reps in specific as well as the stories of Schachter and Lu, maybe check out my previous feature on the world of original art sales.

  7. That and the pandemic is the reason Comic Sketch Art could not participate in this piece.

  8. And 11 O’Clock Comics podcast co-host.

  9. Long enough for Brandon and I to both get sketches from Johns, who decided to draw in our books out of boredom, which was a win for us! Also, Geoff Johns is a pretty food artist!

  10. He stressed that everyone considering this should make sure they’re working with someone that’s reputable.

  11. Seriously, her tables have some of the most outrageous lines out of anyone I come across at cons.

  12. I mentioned this earlier, but the collective branding aspect is one of my least favorite parts of these groups. Comic creators are creative individuals, and seeing many of them represented by homogenous setups can be disappointing.

  13. Which I won!

  14. He also shared he believes that if San Diego Comic Con returns in 2021 with or without a vaccine, he believes it will be a sold out, vibrant event.

  15. Which was a random group that likely included creators, fans and people within the industry.

  16. Obviously that’s not scientific and certainly not nuanced, but it’s an interesting result.

  17. I hope, at least.