PR: What Not to Do: Exploiting Models

Zenescope, a comic company best known for covers featuring scantily clad women, is also too cheap to hire models. Instead, they run “Girl of the Year” contests. They even admit this is their target audience, asking those who are “aspiring models, amateur models, and fans” to enter.

Women, excuse me, “girls” dress up and send in pictures. Zenescope offers as prizes running the images in their comics (“each monthly winner will appear in print in over 20,000 total issues of Zenescope’s popular monthly series and will also be featured online”), a $100 gift certificate for an online comic store, and the chance to compete to be named “Zenescope Girl of 2010″. In other words, instead of paying modeling fees, they get free pictures in return for calling it a contest prize.

The yearly “Grand Prize” winner gets a free trip to the San Diego Con (for three days and two nights, which is also cheaping out since the show runs five days). While there, they’ll get to “appear for a signing” at the Zenescope booth. Airfare and motel must be cheaper than hiring a professional booth babe. Based on this image from last year, one key factor appears to be the willingness to flash your cleavage for the online “voters” who will be helping with this decision.

They’ve been doing this for four years now, by the way.

Rich Johnston came up with yet another reason to criticize them: he asked Zenescope if a man could enter. They said only he could. Didn’t someone else get in trouble for doing a gender-specific contest last year?


16 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Exploiting Models”

  1. Alan Coil Says:

    How can they prove that “All models featured” are at least 18 years of age? Do they have Notarized Certificates on record?

    This is just ripe with the possibility of exploiting a minor, which we all know has a legal definition that nobody wants to be associated with.

  2. Velma Says:

    This is, ugh!

  3. Torsten Adair Says:

    Two comparisons:
    1) Costume contests, such as the recent Marvel contest during their motion comic premiere in Union Square, which were recently featured in their comic books.

    2) Nudie magazines holding monthly amateur modeling contests. If memory serves, each month’s winner gets a pictorial in the monthly issue, some cash. The yearly winner gets a bigger payout.
    —–
    Do they need live models? Oh, do you mean Booth Babes? I can see the amateur angle, the fan doing something they enjoy, getting some fan-cred, the whole cosplay mentality, winning a prize.

    I haven’t read their comics, so won’t comment on the content.

  4. Johanna Says:

    I wouldn’t know about the nudie comparison, although I think that’s somewhat telling given that we’re talking about a comic based on fairy tale stories. But yeah, costume contests. There are always people willing to do this sort of thing purely for the attention and recognition of their craft skills, but that “I made this costume myself” aspect appears to be missing from this particular effort.

  5. Thom Says:

    Most costume contests that I have seen are not gender specific like this-nor are they calls out to aspiring models…they are meant for fans of all types.

  6. THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Zenescope’s “Girl of the Month” contest gets some attention Says:

    […] and Johanna already got in on this. Johanna’s post was entitled, as is her fashion, PR: What Not to Do: Exploiting Models In other words, instead of paying modeling fees, they get free pictures in return for calling it a […]

  7. Howard Says:

    “Zenescope, a comic company best known for covers featuring scantily clad women, is also too cheap to hire models. Instead, they run “Girl of the Year” contests. They even admit this is their target audience, asking those who are “aspiring models, amateur models, and fans” to enter.”

    Zenoscope is a tiny publisher, they do, probably, one or two monthly comics, so I doubt that this has anything to do with being “cheap”, and, since you are a comic blogger, people shouldn’t have to tell you how rare and difficult it is for anyone outside the big two publishers to make a living in comics. (Do I know whether they can afford to pay a professional model? Well, Rich Johnson reported rumors they were having cash flow problems)

    I doubt that any of those women are doing this because they desperately need a $100 gift certificate and trip to San Diego.

    You are presenting this as if a huge corporate conglomerate was taking advantage of poor working models, which is ridiculous.

    I know video game companies do the model thing, and don’t know about comic publisher, but I’d hate for this to be a “if the wealthy do it, its moral, if those without wealth do it, its disgusting and appalling,” sort of thing.

  8. Johanna Says:

    There is an unfortunate long history in comics of people accepting much less than their work should be worth. Writers accept a pittance to work on childhood favorite characters. Artists don’t complain when they don’t get paid for fear of being seen as “rocking the boat” or tagged a troublemaker, risking their ability to get future work. I saw this as part of that disreputable chain, albeit from an unusual perspective.

  9. Howard Says:

    “I saw this as part of that disreputable chain, albeit from an unusual perspective.”

    I guess I’m seeing this from the position of a small business.

    I agree that its unfair to only give the creators of Superman 5 bucks when the property makes a billion dollars.

    Its more fair to me to give the creators of Superman 5 bucks if the property makes $5.50.

    I’m sure these women are making some money for Zenescape by attracting people to the table or generating publicity, or whatever, but if they also get to explore the convention on their own (I have no idea what is expected of them at the convention, aside from the signing), and a free trip sounds like a form of compensation.

    I can’t say I know anything about the motivations of the women who enter this thing, whether they are just fans who want attention, aspiring models hoping to put this on their resume, clueless fools, or whatever. I’m not prepared to substitute by judgment for their own, without more information.

  10. Alan Coil Says:

    “I agree that its unfair to only give the creators of Superman 5 bucks when the property makes a billion dollars.”

    That’s a completely unfair statement. The creators got way more than that over the years. They certainly should have received more. But stating they only got $5 is silly.

    Btw, it’s Zenescope, not Zenescape.

  11. Cat Says:

    Your rant is ill-informed. They require copies of each contestant’s drivers license before consideration; the comment on “eploitation of minors” is rediculous. The contest never implies that the “Booth Babes” are being banished. If you don’t like what Zenescope is doing, by all means, avoid their forums- which beyond the last page of some of their comics, is the only place you will encounter this contest. It’s their right to run it, as it is each girls (no, WOMAN’s) right to enter.

  12. Howard Says:

    “That’s a completely unfair statement. The creators got way more than that over the years. They certainly should have received more. But stating they only got $5 is silly.”

    I meant that as a hypothetical, not a literal statement of fact.

  13. NoahB Says:

    Back when the Baffler was running, they had an article about unpaid interns. The author of the article commented that just because someone was young, and stupid, and quite possibly well off, that did not change the fact that it was ethically wrong to exploit and underpay them.

  14. It’s About Keeping It Classy… Part 2 « In One Ear… Says:

    […] include writers for Zenescope and some of the girls who have won among others) and Johanna at Comics Worth Reading suggest that this is exploitation plain and […]

  15. Dark Horse Runs Contest to Build Mailing List » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] this year, I criticized Zenescope for running contests instead of paying photo models. Now, Dark Horse is doing the same thing (only without as much […]

  16. Brieanna Says:

    To each his/her own. I am a cosplay model and have put a lot of money, time, and talent into my costumes and photography. If Zenescope is so kind to recognize that by giving me a “girl of the month” title and enters me in a chance for tickets and hotel for SDCC, well that would just be awesome. I’ve seen many cosplay reasons for Cosplay. Some are able to get “booth babe” gigs, future cosplay model recognition deals for cosplaying for new comics, joy of winning a contest, and yes…attention. That attention however takes some of them farther and where they want to go with it i.e. another skill/trade/talent on a resume, fans for blog, theatre or cover models, and helps them make ready able to sale prints as well. They are models, not girls. Every comic scene now days has a sexy theme to it whether it is a sexy cover or a twisted and sexy story. If we’re going to point fingers and blame women for being all sexy and showing cleavage…better start calling EVERY comic artists and company out there.




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