Why I Won’t Cover Bluewater

In the past, when I’ve talked about Bluewater comics, it’s generally been to make fun of them. After all, they’ve made stupid, entry-level mistakes when they weren’t dementedly seizing at trends to get something, anything to sell. Their latest approach, rushing out tie-ins to whatever people are talking about politically, seems to be working for them (although once again, they made basic mistakes there as well).

Unfortunately, now word comes that the company is making money by not paying their artists. In short, they only pay the people who create the comic once they’ve made a profit … which is ripe for exploitation, since a company can keep throwing expenses against a work until nothing ever makes money (known as “Hollywood accounting”). As Chris Butcher posts,

Bluewater is churning out books with very little quality control … a “portfolio piece” from them counts for very little unless the freelancer was exceptionally talented to begin with. Talented artists: Build your portfolios for and by yourself, and not, say, by providing free artwork to companies who could pay you, but don’t want to. …

I have yet to read any of their bio comics that are any good, and even if someone wrote a stunning biography of Oprah Winfrey, I have a hard time believing an editor is going to look at that and go “Shit, this person writes great trashy celeb cash-in biographies, I definitely want to see what they can do with a completely different style of writing.”

(Butcher is responding to this self-serving statement from Bluewater president Darren G. Davis and the comments that follow.)

That answers a question I had about their website a few years back, anyway — they don’t list artist names because they’ll hire whomever is willing to work for free to churn out their exploitation books. So I won’t be covering their books here any more, even to laugh at them, because I’d rather not give them any inadvertent publicity.

70 Responses to “Why I Won’t Cover Bluewater”

  1. Chris Ward Says:

    I fail to see how this helps the artist or the writer by ignoring books. They get paid based on books sold. So you’re potentially helping to screw them over twice. Why not just filter the crap for us by actually reading the comics? Or are these comics worth reading just hunches?

    Throw a rock at a comic stand and you’ll hit a shitty book. But I would have never discovered some amazing titles if I had said, “Ehh, I’m not reading Will Pfeiffer’s Aquaman cause it’s Aquaman. Manhunter? Who’s that? Probably sucks.”
    Maybe you disagree with Bluewater’s, or positining, or alleged business practices, but that’s got nothing to do with the person writing or drawing the book.

    Some of Bluewater’s books aren’t too great, no…and some are really pretty good. I wish there was a site out there that would tell me which ones to spend my money on.

    Every time someone makes a blanket statement about Bluewater like this, I cringe just a little bit. (I mean, if it were Wizard Magazine I could understand. Now THERE’S a target, am I right boys?) But it’s your site, and that ain’t up to me.

    Anyway, I wrote the Barack Obama comic (back when he was sort of popular and dreamy) and the art was painted gorgeously by Azim Akberali. Of course you’d never know it because no one reviewed the book. It wasn’t a smear book or a rah-rah left wing book like everyone thought it would be: I thought the whole thing was semi-balanced and above average compared to the plethora of bio titles, cash-in or otherwise. And it looked amazing! But jeez, I guess I’ll never know what anyone thinks either way, besides the knee-jerk comments I read.

    But I outsold that Bo Obama book so suck it, dog! That was the whole goal, really.

    I got paid for Barack (not much, no) and not at all for Condi’s bio (which got some positive reviews in the mainstream press, but radio silence, unsurprisingly, from any other comic outlet).

    But I knew the deal going in. Sure, I was disappointed financially, but I also sold 10,000 books I can be proud of, wrote for the right reasons, and can show off to find future work.

    And because nary a page was touched editorially, I only have myself to blame if the work gets a bad review (sales aside, that is…obviously I didn’t sell that many books because MY name was on it.)

    Do I think that creative freedom could ultimately hurt Bluewater overall? Probably. (If you’re just letting guys write whatever they want about Jesus and Rush Limbaugh, you might want a third, impartial set of eyes). But I was happy to take advantage of that creative opportunity as a trade off for the money. I’ve done things I’m less proud of for a lot of money, but you don’t want to know about that time in Russia.

    Darren and co. always talk to me and deal with me very respectfully…he’s a good guy at heart who I hope will veer away from the message board threads and not let this petty stuff get to him.

    And if the amount of money I didn’t make ever bothers me, I just have to remember that I only wrote it… I didn’t hand paint 23 pages in the hot African sun like my buddy did. I hope he was VERY well compensated, or it’s a shame. Azim Akberali is going to be hot shit one day, mark my words! The kid’s good! Post over! RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!

  2. Jason Thibault Says:


    We’re following your lead and have removed them from our Comic Submission Guidelines directory post.

    That post gets hit on average 100-150 times a day so we don’t want to contribute to this unethical mess either.


  3. chris ward Says:

    You guys act like writers and artists aren’t big boys and girls who can decide that for themselves. Why would you filter a work opportunity in this climate? I’ve got news: 90% of companies pay fucking lousy freelace rates. But they’ve helped me get my foot in the door for bigger and better things
    Options are supposed to be a good thing, I’m glad I lived and learned along the way.

  4. Jason Thibault Says:


    Anyone with their own blog is free to counter Johanna and Chris Butcher (and Rich Johnston) and write a wonderful glowing post about all of the amazing opportunities for creators at Bluewater.

    People have been emailing me about this for a couple of months. I feel like a bit of an a-hole for not doing something sooner even if it’s just a small token response.

  5. Johanna Says:

    A lot of wannabe writers and artists, sadly, are so mesmerized by the possibility of being “discovered” that no, they aren’t really considering the business aspects reasonably. And others don’t know that this kind of “we’ll use your work for free until we think we’ve made enough money” is unethical.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Oh, and no, I’ve never seen a Bluewater comic worth reading. The few I’ve read are miserably mediocre at best.

    If the books you’re working on aren’t getting the press you want, maybe Bluewater’s marketing is as badly done as their business practices? I don’t recall being offered a review copy for the Obama or Condi books. Perhaps they thought that they would be bought regardless of what the contents were.

    Chris, your comic sold 10,000 copies — better than some DC or Marvel — and you got paid “not much”? And you’re defending this deal?

  7. Aliera Says:

    Wow, I think you really managed to miss the point there, Chris.

    Her point is simply that she doesn’t want to support Bluewater’s fairly shady, money-grabbing tactics and believes artists should be paid for their hard work.

    Like she says, she doesn’t want to give them any publicity, even bad press, but probably wrote about it to get the message out there- so when a young talent does a search for “bluewater comics”, they know what they’re getting into.

    Sure, writers and artists are “big boys and girls” but I think anyone would want to know that Bluewater may renege on promised payment, and their less than stellar reputation.

    Honestly, it sounds like you’ve really got an axe to grind personally. Keep in mind if you did get a boost up from Bluewater comics, then you were probably one of the lucky ones. They don’t exactly sounds as if they are trying hard to promote their artists or encourage new talent over there- just trying to make a quick buck.

  8. Alan Coil Says:

    Chris Ward, your “talent” didn’t sell any books. The celebrity power of the cover did. And that is all Bluewater sells, is celebrity covers. As there are 300,000,000 people in the USA, there will always be people willing to buy ANYTHING that features their favorite celebrity.

    And I put talent in parentheses because there is no way of telling if you have any real talent or not without reading the comic, and I’m not going to do that because 1. the cost involved and 2. they don’t pay their writers and artists a flat page rate.

    What the people who work for Bluewater are doing is working in sweatshop conditions hoping for a pat on the back and an extra bottle of water at the end of the day. I wouldn’t work under those conditions, and I won’t support a company that creates those conditions.

  9. Ben Morse Says:

    Actually, you didn’t put “talent” in parentheses, you put it in quotes. Just sayin’.

    And Chris’s Obama comic was quite good.

  10. Ed Sizemore Says:


    Maybe you should go talk to some of the Tokyopop OEL alumni. They found out that accepting a crappy deal in order to get published didn’t turn out to be all that great.

    I don’t go into the office 8 hours a day, because it provides me the oppurtunity to work and I hope that some other employer will see how dedicated I am and give me a paying job. I got into the office to get a paycheck. I give them my time and labor, they give me money. It’s a beautiful business transaction. If you’re not getting paid for the work you do, then you’re selling yourself short. Other comic companies don’t have time for a writer who gives away his talent for free. They’re probably thinking you’re already getting paid what you’re worth. If you got the chops, get the check. Pure and simple. Don’t settle for anything less than what you’re worth. It sends the wrong public image to potential employers.

    Hearing the scummy business practices that Bluewater is using. I’ll stay away from the company too.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Ed, to be fair, some of the OEL creators have said that they don’t regret the deal and appreciate what they learned from it, which appears to be similar to what Chris is saying.

    Many comic deals where compensation comes on the back end are fair if the creator retains ownership of their work. What is unusual about the Bluewater setup is how the deal appears to be work for hire in every way but actually getting paid. (Legally, that might even be troublesome for the publisher. But I am not a lawyer.)

  12. Chris Ward Says:

    Alan, that’s exactly what I said, RE: my talent vs. celebrity (9th graf of my comment, for quick reference). And, in fairness, my talent and good looks sold PLENTY of books in my hometown.
    Maybe you didn’t catch the “local boy does good” articles, but that’s ok.

    So people are willing to pay money for celebrity shit. We’re a celebrity obsessed culture. Big surprise. Did You Hear About the Morgans? Well, lots of people DID and spent money on that crap too. That sounds a personal culture axe you’ve got to grind, to borrow a phrase from Aliera. In my mind, if it keeps Tiger Beat afloat in this economy, then live and let live.

    All Marvel sells is Wolverine covers, so what’s the difference? Are you telling me you’ve never bought a comic with your favorite character on the front? It’s just business. And if you won’t support a company that allegedly treats its artists and writers bad, you’d better stop reading everything on the stands. But, boy, I feel your pain Alan. That’s a tough row to hoe, brother.

    These comics are for the mainstream anyway, I think, and they’re eating this stuff up for the moment. And I’ve always said, the content’s gotta back it up, or that popularity will fade away naturally without anyone rallying against it. Or maybe not…Keeping up with the Kardashians is still on the air. Try explaining that. You can’t fix stupid.

    I just don’t think this is some grand cause people need to rise up and thwart. Bluewater is run by two guys, and maybe they’ve made some rookie mistakes but its not like some evil empire we need to take down.

    All this stems from a few jaded employees. And now I’m saying my experience was just fine, or at least not out of line with most comic companies I’ve worked with, and no one’s hearing any of it.

    For some some perspective here. Check out what Virgin Records has been doing to their artists, and they’ve actually got money to throw around:


    Also, Mr. Coil, sir, how can you rant about “sweatshop conditions” when you yourself have never actually worked for Bluewater? You have no frame of reference here, Donnie. I wrote my comic comfortably in a Panera Bread. I don’t know about the other guys but, jeez. Heavy handed much?

    I don’t need to write a glowing recommendation of Bluewater on my blog and I wouldn’t. I’ve never worked with any company I can wholeheartedly support or completely trash…be it Boom! or the Village Voice Media or whoever. You take the good, you take the bad and you do what’s best for yourself.

    I’m all for bringing bad business practices to light, but so far it just sounds like hearsay and no actually reporting by anyone. All I can say is that in my personal, actual experience, Bluewater was up front with me from the start, and delivered on all promises. They threw in some extra stuff when one book underperformed, they’re receptive to my pitches…I’m glad I did the work I did. It was fun, and I got to make a comic book that sold more than some Marvel and DC books. Not many people can say that.

    I’ve worked for Wizard, so I know what “sweatshop conditions” are like. This is nothing of the sort. I knew the deal going in, assessed it, made a decision and chose to do what was right for me. If I want to do another, I guess I will. I’m a big boy. I’ve got irons in the fire. It’s not like I’m living and dying on the sales of their a Condoleezza Rice book. It’s just another gig.

    Besides, anyone getting into art for the money has got a mean wake-up call coming.

    And Ben is right, “talent” is totally in quotes, not parentheses. Have you thought about a career with Wizard Entertainment?

    So I know this is going to make me look like a Bluewater apologist or something, but I’m just trying to reason with a comment thread. Which ALWAYS turns out well for everyone involved.

  13. Chris Ward Says:

    Ed, I hear what you’re saying but sometimes I make a little sacrifice, or even sell myself short, so I DON’T have to go to an office 8 hours a day. I’m writing for a few big websites now (UGO.com and Jeff Katz’ new Geekweek.com) for almost nothing, because it’s put me in contact with the kind of people you really want to be in contact with in this business, and gave me some exposure. Added Bonus: they’re fabulous people to work with. And I made those gigs happen by having a decent selling comic book under my belt, and running a few websites like this one on my own time, for no money.

    Bluewater sold a lot of these books, and though I may not have cash money to show for it I have: a funny comic book cameo on Conan O’ Brian, a gorgeous looking book to show off, decent sales, new friends…I’m just getting my name out there and that’s important to me too.

    Plus, I live in the Midwest and it’s fucking cheeeeap here! Big backyard, big garage, big rooms, cats…$500 bucks! Roommates wanted! Maybe my ship will come in, whatever. But I’m not going to sit around and belly ache that I didn’t get paid what I’m worth. No one gets paid what they’re worth. And for whoever’s listening, I’m worth 70 Million dollars.

  14. Gordon Levy Says:

    Sorry, but this is just cheap blogger snobbery and bias on Johanna’s part. Ed bringing up TokyoPop makes a great point. This site will review any turd to come out of TokyoPop, regardless of THEIR unfair business practices toward their creators (which has been well documented). But she won’t give a fair shake to artists/writers trying to break in via Bluewater.

    If comics were reviewed based on whether the talent were paid fairly (if at all), there would be thousands of comics less to review. Whether the talent got screwed should not be the criteria to judge a comic book. The entire industry has been out of whack since the beginning. Perhaps you shouldn’t review ACTION COMICS # 1 either!

  15. Simon Jones Says:

    >What is unusual about the Bluewater setup is how the deal appears to be work for hire in every way but actually getting paid. (Legally, that might even be troublesome for the publisher. But I am not a lawyer.)

    Once a contract stipulating such payment terms is signed, there is little that can be done. But you are right, work for hire is written in such a way to afford the creative talent some meager protection, in recognition that the interests of the artists are easily overwhelmed by that of companies and corporations.

    The comics industry is particular in that a significant segment of the talent seem intent on working against themselves, discarding rights afforded them and lowering the standards of appropriate business practices in general.

  16. Johanna Says:

    Chris, you have an amazing combination of rationalization and jaded cynicism going on in your comments. I appreciate you sharing your viewpoint with us, spinning as it is. You say “I just don’t think this is some grand cause people need to rise up and thwart.” That’s where we disagree — I think this is a particularly toxic version of “exploit the young and stupid”, especially with those comments about portfolio pieces.

    The thing about “I’ll work for free because of the opportunities” is that you only know whether it was a good deal years later, and you can’t get those years back. For some, it may be the right choice. For more, it’s just another broken promise on the crumbling road to fame, where they never reach the destination.

    And as for the “getting the name out there” — I hate to say, with all the Bluewater PR I’ve seen, the only name I’ve ever noticed on any of it is owner Darren Davis. I’m happy to have “met” you, but this is the first time I’ve ever noticed your name.

  17. Johanna Says:

    Gordon, I just want to correct one thing: There are plenty of Tokyopop turds I haven’t talked about.

    Is your argument really “the industry was built on exploiting people so it’s ok that Bluewater is still doing it?”

  18. David Says:

    No one demands consistency of a blogger, and this is my fave comics review blog, so I totally don’t want to argue much, but…

    …most manga costs $10 because no one is paying the creators fairly for the license to reprint — at least as I understand it, informally, by talking to people who probably aren’t in a position to know.

    And the OEL material is another issue.

    And there have to be hundreds of Image creators who suck hundreds of hours into comics that barely earn them enough money to pay for the laptop it was written/drawn/lettered/colored with. And they own that property, but that probably doesn’t earn them much more, either — if no one bought the comic, fewer will buy the trade.


    Poets and short story writers send their work out for payment in “copies of the journal” every day.

    I wrote for The Comics Journal once and was paid in “copies of the Journal.”

    That’s how many contributions to TwoMorrows publications survive — there’s not enough profit to be had if you pay for all.

    Would my abuse at the hands of TCJ constitute a reason to not review Fantagraphics material? Chris Ward has at least hope of seeing money for his hours writing.


    I’m not justifying what Bluewater does. I’m just wondering where/how you draw the line on where contractual practices become criteria for reviewing material.

    The real answer is: wherever you want; it’s your blog. But I’d welcome more thoughts.

  19. Kenny Cather Says:

    “But I would have never discovered some amazing titles if I had said, “Ehh, I’m not reading Will Pfeiffer’s Aquaman cause it’s Aquaman. Manhunter? Who’s that? Probably sucks.””

    Huh, I’ve said exactly that and discovered amazing books anyway.

  20. Jason Green Says:


    As to why BlueWater books don’t get reviewed, I can only speak for what happened at our site.

    Back in September of 2007, we received one BlueWater comic (Legend of Isis), and gave it a semi-positive review. Then we received some more BlueWater comics (Ray Harryhausen licensed books), and scored them “mediocre.” After that, not only did we never receive another BlueWater comic in the ensuing two and half years, we never even received another press release from them. They just wrote us off, because we dared to give them a negative review.

    Not that I care, really. None of my writers have asked about any BlueWater in the years since then either, and we’re covering material that’s of much greater interest to both our writers and our readership. Still, I can’t help but laugh at how silly and petty it was for them to delete us off of their Rolodex simply for being honest, which is our job as reviewers in the first place.

  21. Simon Jones Says:

    >…most manga costs $10 because no one is paying the creators fairly for the license to reprint — at least as I understand it, informally, by talking to people who probably aren’t in a position to know.

    As a microscopic publisher of licensed niche manga, let me assure you… *even we pay a non-returnable advance.* We pay before a single book is printed, before a single page of manuscript is sent. On a percentage basis, the royalties we pay work out to twice the industry average for paperback books.

    The thing with licensing manga is, you’re working with Japanese publishers and agents who make damn sure you’re not screwing them and their charge. Licensing terms last no more than 3~5 years. We don’t own copyright, we don’t sub-license unless the Japanese publisher explicitly grant us the right. That keeps people honest.

  22. More Bluewater Accusations and Reactions » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] considering the active discussion in my post yesterday on Bluewater’s unique financial strategy of considering artist payment an optional expense, to be paid only after they’ve made profit, […]

  23. Bill Peschel Says:

    Chris, let me give you Harlan Ellison’s views.

    Did the publisher at Bluewater get paid?

    Did the printer get paid?

    Did the guy putting together the book get paid?

    In short, did everyone else get paid but you?

    That makes you the sucker.

    And if a site reviews BlueWater Comics, they’re helping them make you a sucker, and encouraging them to make other people suckers.

    Again, let me ask you: if the owner of BlueWater got paid whether or not a book makes a profit, why shouldn’t you?

  24. Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] Publishing | Bloggers Christopher Butcher and Johanna Draper Carlson take issue with Bluewater Productions' back-end payment deal (creators are paid when, and if, a comic turns a profit). [Comics212, Comics Worth Reading] […]

  25. Johanna Says:

    David, thank you for the compliment. (As for demanding consistency, “hypocrite” is the first and favorite insult online!) It’s true that the economics are very different for reprints in another country (since the cost-covering money is assumed to have already been made in the home market), although I’d need a bit more evidence before I believed the creators weren’t getting paid at all. I have also taken Tokyopop to task numerous times when I’ve seen them taking advantage of young creators. However, they did pay something, so it’s not exactly the same situtation.

    You pass off Image creators maintaining ownership, but I think that’s a bigger deal, when you can have movies made on such relatively little-known properties as Bulletproof Monk or Surrogates.

    When I wrote for the Journal, there was a cents-per-word rate along with the comp copies. It was tiny, but it was there. I don’t know if they’ve changed their deal since, especially with the transition online. If we want to talk about the issues with getting paid in trade, let’s talk about the many many comic stores run on that principle. (That would be a crusade to take the industry down!)

    In this particular Bluewater case, what capped my resolve was finding the whole “if you talk about our contract, I might sue you for slander/libel.” In my experience, that’s the sign of an unrepentant snake.

  26. Chris Ward Says:

    Ok, just to sum up, everyone agrees with me it looks like, if I’m reading this correctly. Then we’ll consider the matter closed!

    keep reaching for the stars!

  27. David Says:

    I get where you are going. And I can see how Fantagraphics and Twomorrows are certainly not snakes… which just means that the judgement call to review or not to review a publisher is holistic, and not based on some criterion for what constitutes a good or fair contract.

    (I wish that TCJ had offered me a tenth of a cent for my article, because as an academic, among my writer friends, I lose tons of cred for never “getting paid” for my writing. Academic journals never pay. And yet, as the gainfully employed one, I always get the pitcher when we are at the bar. Odd, that.)

    Digression over. Thanks!

  28. Alan Coil Says:

    Ben Morse — I sit corrected. I have no idea what made my brain rebel against me like that, saying parentheses instead of ellipses. ;)

    Chris Ward, perhaps some day reality will reveal itself to you. Your last comment, “…everyone agrees with me…”, is completely delusional.

  29. Johanna Says:

    That’s his point, Alan. I thought it was a funny, unusual way to bow out of an online discussion. And it shows he’s got a sense of humor.

  30. Gordon Levy Says:


    Of course my point is NOT that “the industry was built on exploiting people so it’s ok that Bluewater is still doing it?”

    If this industry was a fair one, Siegel and Shuster would’ve been multimillionaires in their lifetimes, as would Kirby, Ditko, et al. and I wish that were the case.

    I’m not for exploiting talent at all. My point is more like you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater by not reviewing Bluewater material as you would any other company?

    The list is long regarding companies that fail to properly compensate their talent. but that’s an internal issue between talent and the companies – the talent do not have to work for the companies.

    Your job as critic is to review the finished product and let us know whether or not it’s worth buying. Tis all I’m saying.

  31. Simon Jones Says:

    >Your job as critic is to review the finished product and let us know whether or not it’s worth buying. Tis all I’m saying.

    I would hope that the reviewer is not one of those few despicable professions that requires one to leave personal morality, judgment, and accountability at the door.

  32. Johanna Says:

    I disagree strongly that the question of whether companies are bothering to pay for the work they’re publishing is merely “an internal issue”. That’s the kind of attitude that allows unethical behavior to continue — no one thinks it’s their job to say anything, or they fear that they might get in trouble for doing so.

  33. David Says:

    I think the argument is stronger holistically. It’s not just that the contract is bad — but that the bad contract is embedded in other questionable practices.


  34. THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Bluewater: finding new ways not to pay people Says:

    […] reaction: Johanna Draper Carlson one and two, Tom Spurgeon, Chris Butcher. Also this thread where actual “creatives” discuss […]

  35. Richard Says:

    I agree 100%. While I was serving as Managing Editor at comicnews.info I wrote a couple of columns trying to help spread the word on Davis, as I had come to know a handful of solid creators who were burned pretty bad. Even though I parted with the site months ago- I still get approached by hurt creatives, wanting to know what their options are. If I ever meet Davis at a Con, I will punch the crook right out of him. Non-payment is one thing, but lies, and when the well-being of families are at stake…good god I wish he would fold already.


  36. Alan Coil Says:

    Gordon Levy said:

    “Your job as critic is to review the finished product and let us know whether or not it’s worth buying.”

    That’s true, but Johanna is more than just a reviewer. And has been for several years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any bias from her in her reviews, with the possible exception of when she mentions her bias. And right now, I can’t remember any specific instances of that.

  37. Gordon Levy Says:

    I’m not disagreeing with the general line of thinking, but I see this as a two-track scenario: one in which Bluewater is justly taken to task in investigative articles for exploiting its talent, etc. And the other track is to review the work.

    If Bluewater were, say, Marvel, and if Marvel were not returning artwork and properly compensating Jack Kirby (as they did decades ago, or as they are with the Kirby estate today….they haven’t fairly compensated Ditko either), their comics would still be reviewed, now wouldn’t they? So why the double standard?

    And by the way, some might argue that the bulk of today’s Marvel Comics are almost as sh*tty and unreadable as anything Bluewater puts out.

  38. Greg Harms Says:

    I for one, will never work for the company ever again. After seeing his slight of hand and unmet promises, the magic of the company has lost its appeal.
    After his threats to me and his lack of appropriate e-mail responses,after a 4 issue miniseries, a “delayed” trade, and no money from the work, after a couple of comp. copies and cost on the others, after hearing him state “you should get some money when we do the trades,” and then he postponed the trade, and now it appears they are forgotten all together. I thank you for boycotting the company. Let’s clear out the crap in the industry and get some good stuff in here, stuff that is worthwhile. With Dishwater off your list, it opens it up to a lot more valuable properties to be reviewed. Some creator-owned work would be nice. At the time Richard did his article, more than 20 creatives had been “back-end dealt”. A novelist, artist, colorist, writers, letterist, inkers you name it, he was an equal opportunist. Surprisingly I have ran into others that are equally as zealous about how good the company was to work for. So I guess if you like exposure it is a good thing, but for me it was not. I have more exposure on my social networking sites than Darren got me with his little company. I got blindsided by his shady deals, and want others to deal cautiously with Dishwater and any other company. They really don’t have your best interest at heart, so guard yourself. Another note on exposure, the internet offers way more, do quality work, web comics, do colloborations, if you aren’t crap you’ll get quality assignments, if not, you’ll get hired by Dishwater at least once.

  39. greg harms Says:

    Something that does worry/bother me is they are some of mainstreams “first” introduction to comics(political and biographical). If all there books are like the one I worked on there are mispellings, typos and bad grammar. This is not a very good impression to make. And unfortunately they aren’t the only company making the same mistakes.

  40. Johanna Says:

    Gordon, I review Marvel comics maybe once every six months? (In part because yeah, I agree with you, many of them aren’t very good.) This isn’t that kind of review site.

    What you’re not taking into account is that my review stack, based on submissions, is over a hundred books deep right now. (And most of them are books, not issues.) I am woefully behind, so I have to be selective about what I choose to cover — and thus I skip the mediocre or those where I have nothing original to say or those where I object to the ethics of the publisher. There’s a wide variety of factors that affect my decision, and ruling out a publisher that’s never, to my knowledge, put out a good comic when I object to their business methods… yeah, I’m comfortable with that.

    I was previously only covering them to make fun of them anyway.

  41. Thom Says:

    “And there have to be hundreds of Image creators who suck hundreds of hours into comics that barely earn them enough money to pay for the laptop it was written/drawn/lettered/colored with. And they own that property, but that probably doesn’t earn them much more, either — if no one bought the comic, fewer will buy the trade.”

    This is still a better deal than what Bluewater offers.

  42. David Says:

    Thom: I was only pointing out the spectrum of possible deals for creators and articulating the old “where do you draw the line” question. No kidding, it’s a better deal. Still not a great deal.

    What pushes Bluewater over the line: Related sites have suggested, for example, some falsified or at lest inflated accounting practices to help justify the claims to “no profit.” The example is: billing the project for lettering at a rate twice what they payed the letterer. That’s evil, and that’s evil regardless of the contract signed with the writer.

    This seems a perfectly legitimate decision for a review blog. I ain’t questioning it. At the same time, there was an effort to pile on Ward for accepting a deal that, when viewed on a spectrum of possible bad deals, just wasn’t worth battering him for. In addition to TCJ and Twomorrows pubs, for example, the International Journal of Comic Art doesn’t pay, either, except in copies. Hand me “Writers Market” and a dart and I could throw the dart at the book all day and hit “paid in copies” publications at least 1 in every 4 times.

    Should any writer take these unpaying gigs forever? Clearly not. Was he a sucker worth berating? Also clearly not. And there are thousands of suckers writing and creating under at least similar conditions at the second I type this. At my university, we call them “creative writers.”

    I think it was worth clarifying: his work, in which he might have some substantial measure of pride, is not being reviewed NOT because he was a sucker taking a lousy contract. That does seem like a bit of snobbery. Bluewater is being ignored, justifiably, because the company engages in a portfolio of poor practices. The lousy contract is just the tip of the iceberg.

  43. Johanna Says:

    Yes, we piled on Chris a bit too much, and I apologize for not shutting that down earlier.

    However, there is one distinction between “paid in copies” for the Comics Journal (if that’s what they’re doing now; as I said above, when I wrote for them, I got a check) and Bluewater. The Journal is respected and Bluewater is not. That may seem unfair, but that’s the way it is. Some people will respect you for being a Journal contributor; few people will care that you wrote the latest celeb cash-in bio comic, because it’s not seen as requiring any skill and no one cares whose name is on it as writer.

  44. David Says:

    (When I wrote for TCJ, it was 2007. So it’s not a recent shift. And I did write the essay for them for precisely that reason. That thing took weeks to research and write and revise to not sound like a professor.)

    And all of this goes back to the “holistic” consideration you’re giving Bluewater in this decision.

  45. Gordon Levy Says:

    Johanna, regarding your reply to my reply….

    Johanna, I was talking in the realm of mature comics criticism, to be unbiased in reviewing content from all companies, not targeting companies based on whether their business practices are sketchy. Many creators would argue that such practices are industry-wide….maybe not to the extent of Bluewater, but some variation there of…and so I suggest such practices should not determine whether a comic should be reviewed. And by the way, I was using Marvel as an example (not literally targeting Marvel) of a company that’s engaged in shady practices and yet has been/continues to be reviewed.

    This answer you’ve written, in which you justify why you don’t review Marvel or this or that because it’s your site and you can review whatever you like, etc., is just silly and childish and basically a cop-out to this discussion.

    Yeah, Johanna, you’re right. It’s your site. You don’t like Marvel? don’t review Marvel. You don’t like Bluewater? Don’t review Bluewater. “It’s my site so there! Nanny-nanny-nanny!”

    Review your Mom’s mini-comic, perhaps she pays your rent so therefore she’s an ethical employer.( *Yeeesh!*)

  46. Johanna Says:

    No reviewers are unbiased. Some wallow in subjectivity, some aim for objectivity, but we all have preconceptions.

    You and I simply disagree on whether a company’s ethics should be evaluated and talked about in public. Calling names isn’t going to change my opinion that they should.

    I gave up trying to cover everything I’m sent a long while ago. And several publishers have told me they would rather I not review a book than review it negatively. I can’t think of any site that reviews every comic out there. But I wish you luck in finding it.

  47. Dave Says:

    Regarding people who are working for Bluewater: Give a man (who wants a job) a job… for example licking stamps from nine to five and pay him 1 dollar a day. Ask him if the job is good. His answer: Yes… it’s not much money but the work is easy.

    Give a man (who wants a job) the same job… and pay him 100 dollars a day. Ask him if the job is good. His answer: The job sucks… but the pay is good. That’s the only reason I’m doing it.

    People who work for Bluewater are delusional. WAKE UP!!!

  48. Gordon Levy Says:

    Johanna, you haven’t read my responses very carefully so I’m not going to continue this pointless conversation.

    Dave, so are people who work for many other companies which shall remain nameless. Bluewater is not the only culprit that does not pay, underpays or exploits talent. Half the comics industry is like this. Wake up to THAT!

  49. Johanna Says:

    Gordon, people can read and understand your comments and still not agree with them. Although if you want to blow the whistle on other companies publishing artists with no payment and no ownership, go right ahead.

  50. Richard Says:

    You mean like the Dabel Brothers, Platinum Studios, Atomic Pop, etc.?

    I think what some folks may be missing are basic semantics. Just consider the volume of creatives with issues against Davis (and the fact that some of the cases I’m aware of go back years). He is clearly abusing people. Of course, a guarded individual is harder to dupe, but then very few of these artists and writers could be considered either rookies or foreigners. Davis is telling people what they want to hear, from prospective talent to his own defensive pleas in these handful of soapboxes. This is not a case of artists being overeager for a good thing, they are being used like toilet paper.

    And as such, I see no reasons with ignoring any of the company’s countless and inane releases. That grave will dig itself eventually. BlueWater’s acquisition of the late Todd Loren’s stash of books (Revolutionary Comics) is another sign, as many of those comics were not cleared legally and had lawsuits pending when they were originally in print almost twenty years ago. With folks like Geppi playing along and signing exclusive contracts (as announced last year, only weeks AFTER DCD dropped most of the BW line…?), and with the more tabloid of the comic book news sites (newsarama, cbr, etc) giving him the time of day, Davis seems to think he is indestructible.
    Time will absolutely tell.

  51. Uli Says:

    I have posted this over at The Beat before…

    I know an artist who has worked for Bluewater in the past. He knew the deal was crap but he did it to get his name ‘out’ by working on some titles the press should be interested in… so he thought his name will get out and this way he can get a real paid job at another company.
    He told me he did a lot of stuff for Bluewater for free and helped out here and there with pitch art, cover work and such stuff.
    He knew the work wasn’t paid but he asked Bluewater to use his name whenever the work is mentioned in news articles and other press releases. They told him they will and they did NOTHING! His art was shown, but his name NEVER was mentioned in a text about the books. He also asked for a book where his art was printed in and was told they will send him a copy… needless to say he never got it.

    I think when someone is working for free and he knows it and still is doing it for the publisher he deserves to get his name mentioned in the press and get a free copy of printed stuff.

  52. Bluewater Follow-Up at Comics212 Says:

    […] more on Bluewater Comics, check out Simon Jones, Tom Spurgeon, Johanna Draper Carlson (2), and Heidi […]

  53. Making a Better World LinkBlogging » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] two months ago about Bluewater’s celebrity comics. They asked to interview me, given my outspoken comments on the subject previously, but they refused to talk about Bluewater’s shady business […]

  54. PR: What Not to Do: Calling the Reviewer Unethical » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] readers of the site know that I am boycotting Bluewater comics because of their near-criminal exploitation of creators. I recently got an email from a relatively […]

  55. Digital Manga’s bold move | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] be promised a cut of profits should the book sell. What makes this less exploitative than, say, the Bluewater Comics model is that both the American and the Japanese publishers would also wait for their cut—no one gets […]

  56. Rove Says:

    I’d just like to say thank you for bringing this to light. And to apologize for this rant.
    I am a penciller that worked for them a few years back on The Legend of Isis. When you are a young artist it’s so hard to break into the comic book industry, that you are almost forced to get work before anyone will offer you work. Even if you are at a professional level, the right editor see your portfolio at a time where your style fits in with an open book. It’s tough.
    Blue Water Productions took advantage of that and my almost desperation to do what I love and stole 50 pages of my art and two months of my time. They promised me back-end pay but to this day it never came. Later, they re-released my run on the book as a trade without my knowledge.
    I quit the book abruptly after not getting paid.
    Maybe a year later I went to San Diego to look for work and ran into Darren G. Davis, my former boss. We talked. It was pleasant. I actually had no hard feelings because I thought that the experience would pay off with a paying job. I left to see an editor at another small publisher, and she loved my work. She told me to come back later, and we’d talk.

    This is the best part.

    Wandering around the Con I noticed her and Darren talking. When I went back to see her, she politely let me know that she couldn’t work with me because I was one of Darren’s artists and as his friend she couldn’t “step on his toes”.

    That company is the lowest of the low for exploiting people’s dreams. I would never suggest anyone work with them ever. If you own one of they’re books salt it and burn it. It was created using slave labor and I’m pretty sure it was printed on the skin of children with they’re tears for ink.

    p.s. It’s hilarious that they make religious books.


  57. Diego Simone Says:

    I worked for them too. And not only they never paid me anything, they never even sent me a copy of the book I’ve worked on. I reccomend everybody run far from Bluewater.

  58. Jessica Green Says:

    Darren agreed to pay me depending on the profits the books made, then claimed it never made any despite selling out and now being reprinted, seriously?

  59. Pj Perez Says:

    I have no personal experiences with Bluewater, nor have I read any of their comics, so I won’t comment on their alleged business practices.

    I will say this as an independent comic book publisher: I also only offer my creators a back-end deal, and yes, the huge difference is that they 100 percent own their work. But how BAD is Bluewater’s deal if someone who worked on a title that sold 10,000 copies made “very little?” If we were so lucky to sell that much on a single issue, our creative teams would make anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 — and still own their work for perpetuity.

    We also send them comp copies as a courtesy AND allow them to purchase extra copies at wholesale so they can make extra scratch at shows.

    Diego and Jessica’s stories — especially Jessica on a supposed sell-out book — just reinforce the notion that either Bluewater is really bad at running a business or something is fishy in those blue waters.

    Again, it could easily be the former. Maybe Bluewater’s spending much more on advertising and promotion. Maybe they’re not marking up their cover price enough. I made a lot of dumb mistakes when we launched, underestimating shipping costs and things like that. But you know what? I ate those costs, and didn’t pass them on to my creators’ bottom line. No, neither they nor my company are making much money. But we enjoy happy, productive, ongoing working relationships, get decent reviews, and make high-quality comics we love (and hope people love too).

    Obviously Bluewater has to make money — that’s the game, kids. I just hope people like Jessica and Diego and Chris Ward get the chance to get compensated properly for their work at another publisher in the future. Yes, they are “big kids” and know how to read the words in a contract. But as someone who’s worked freelance for the last 15 years, you have to know the value of your talent and never undervalue yourself — because once you do, that’s all you’ll ever be worth to future employers.

    Good luck to all.

  60. Bluewater to launch superhero line | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] read it), and I have seen some good writing in these books, but Bluewater has gotten some bad press for its creator contracts as well, which has to cut into the talent pool. For a line like this, I […]

  61. Spoof Comics: 90s dreck at its best (worst) Says:

    […] young artists with way more enthusiasm to “break in” than actual alent. You know, the Bluewater model. So if you can get some nice looking covers, you may at least trick some unsuspecting souls into […]

  62. Amber Unmasked » Bluewater Productions scars another rising comics star Says:

    […] that its comics were never at profit – at least not when their artists asked. Check out the Why I Won’t Cover Bluewater op/ed at Comics Worth Reading for the lowdown. The 2009 exposé Getting in Deep With Bluewater […]

  63. Former Bluewater Artist Says:

    Bluewater are bloody thieves!!! I used to work for them as an artist so what I say is a fact and not a speculation.

    I did 24 full pages of art work (pencils, inks and colors) for one of their books and was suppossed to be paid a fair percentage of the sales. The book sold over 20,000 copies and is still selling and you know how much I got paid for it? 300 dollars! That’s right, 300 lousy dollars. That’s less than 0.004% of sales. Shocking, isn’t it especially when I as the artist did the bulk of the work.

    So take it from me guys and gals, don’t buy, read or work for Bluewater (unless you like being screwed)

  64. Bluewater Launching Superhero Line With Twilight of the Gods » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] writer sent me a preview copy (either not having done research on my attitudes toward Bluewater or being desperate enough to hope I’d ignore it, as I’ve done) as part of a press push. […]

  65. Spoof Comics: 90s dreck at its best (worst) : Dara Naraghi Says:

    […] young artists with way more enthusiasm to “break in” than actual alent. You know, the Bluewater model. So if you can get some nice looking covers, you may at least trick some unsuspecting souls into […]

  66. Bluewater Gives Up on Comic Market Distributor » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] story’s at Robot 6: Comic publisher Bluewater — known for ripping off artists while chasing trends with incompetent and poor quality biographical comics — is taking its […]

  67. This Site’s Kickstarter Policy and Some Crowdfunding Thoughts on Paying Artists » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] and I want to make fun of you. For example, look! Bluewater discovered crowdfunding! Just what an unethical company needs — more money from other people to play with. And of course they chose Indiegogo, where […]

  68. Rob Patey (Optimous Douche - Ain't It Cool News) Says:

    Agreed! Here are my thoughts on Blowater: http://robpatey.com/2013/02/21/bluewater-comics-heres-why-people-hate-you/

  69. Blue Water Productions Rant | Indy Comic Review Says:

    […] Alright, after a brief absence I’m back. I actually wanted to review some comics but nothing good popped up on my radar. Since becoming a DriveThruComic featured reviewer, I have been receiving a LOT of comics to reviews. Unfortunately the vast majority have been from a company named “Blue Water Productions”. Literally 95% of the comics sent to me were from them. I wanted to take this opportunity to voice my strong dislike of them. I know there is a lot of bad press surrounding their alleged bad business practices regarding their payment of those who work for/with them, but that is not what I’m talking about (it is covered better than I could by Johanna Draper Carlson on Comics Worth Reading). […]

  70. POLITICAL POWER: HERMAN CAIN | chacebook Says:

    […] I don’t like to speculate about rumors, but for the past few years I’ve read about allegations that Bluewater Comics doesn’t pay their artists, and perhaps that’s why they’re now in this position where they can only get […]




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