I recently provided this article for Nerd For A Living:
Back in 2012, comics news sites, blogs and forums had their collective heads on fire about Marvel’s legal dealings with Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich. The issue has been covered in-depth elsewhere, with plenty of opposing viewpoints and comment wars. But an interesting tangent has arisen from that story: the use of copyrighted characters and other trademarks in Artist Alley.
Most comic artists and conventioneers should be familiar with Artist Alley: at comic-oriented conventions, a section of the exhibition floor is reserved for artists – both pros and amateurs. They rent “booths” to sell prints, books, original art and other merch, interact with fans and take commissions for custom sketches. The Alley is a colorful place. Artists sit behind 4-to-8-foot tables piled high with their wares, hoping to attract attention and buyers with eye-catching banners. Up-and-comers attempt to spark conversations and engage sales. Popular professionals grow increasingly blurry-eyed as the weekend plows on, cranking out sketches while pounding caffeine, in anticipation of long nights in the hotel room catching up on their commission lists. It’s a place of excitement, commerce, camaraderie… and a certain degree of desperation. In short – it’s pretty awesome.
For many who make their entire living doing comic/genre-related art, Artist Alley represents an important segment of their income. A chance to offset the ever-increasing costs of being an artist. Maybe mollify their spouse’s budget-related anxiety attacks. When page rates are low and work scarce, a good weekend in Artist Alley might mean paying rent and avoiding a part-time job.