Following news of multiple layoffs in Marvel editorial today (So far, Alejandro Arbona, Jody LeHeup and Rachel Pinnelas have been named as being affected; up to 15 are rumored to be facing redundancy according to reports), Rich Johnston has a fascinating, horrific story putting together various Marvel moves from the last few months to paint a picture of the company’s current status quo:
Heidi [MacDonald, of The Beat] also echoes growing complaints that I’ve been receiving, that Marvel general freelancer rates were cut earlier this year, though she talks about exceptions for individual agreements such as exclusive deals. At a time when Marvel have justified the 20 page $3.99 comic book as because of increasing creative costs, it seems a number of them have been summarily cut.
It’s not quite as general as Heidi implies though. It started with letterers, then colorists, then inkers – Marvel have asked creators to establish a lower rate they’ve dubbed “B-rate” along with their current rate. If the book a creator is on is currently selling below a certain threshold, the B-rate is used instead of the “A-rate.”? They are of course told first and can chose to leave the book or stay depending on their circumstances. But this has effectively cut certain freelancers overall pay, for the same amount of work delivered. It has yet to touch pencillers or writers, however.
It’s not just the newsstand and bookstore staff or less glamorous freelancers that are worried. Marvel hasn’t replaced any recent editorial departures in the last year, including Nate Cosby, Michael Horwitz and Charlie Beckerman. Axel’s promotion to Editor-In-Chief also means the loss of a line editor who was never replaced. Ralph Macchio’s retirement is regarded as anything but.
I am told by Marvel sources that the publisher’s policy is to spread the work amongst the remaining staff. Marvel is still publishing a hundred comic books a month, with many collections and special projects, more than a year ago, when they were talking about publishing less – but now doing it with less staff.
After the June firings, work was either outsourced or spread to the managers below – who get paid less for the job. With fifteen fewer staff, things have to be close to breaking point.
Go read the whole thing. Sobering, and depressing. Good luck to those who were let go from Marvel today (Great to see that Alejandro will remain with the Casanova team), and also to those who remain.