Across the past week, one comic book publisher has been the subject of no small amount of online conversation regarding its treatment of creators. No, not Action Lab Entertainment — although, of course, the statement is also true of that publisher. In this particular case, though, AfterShock Comics is the company that’s been the topic of discussion, specifically over how slow it’s been to pay creators monies owed.
AfterShock has been around since 2015, when it was founded by Joe Pruett and Mike Marts; the two served as co-leaders for the company — Pruett as publisher, and Marts as editor-in-chief — until earlier this year, when Marts departed and former DC editor Brian Cunningham stepped in. Former IDW chief creative officer and president Chris Ryall also joined the company in early November as a publishing consultant. The company has been consistently publishing new series from creators including Donny Cates, Cullen Bunn, and Paul Tobin since its creation, and in 2020 partnered with Rive Gauche to create AfterShock Media, a television and movie development arm.
The public discussion of AfterShock’s late payments started at the end of last week, when artist Will Robson tweeted, “Has it become industry standard to pay creators ridiculously late for their work? I’ve struggled ALL year with ALL the large companies I work for to get paid on the agreed time. I’m talking MONTHS late… it’s sad how nervous I am to even talk about this publicly for fear of being blacklisted for future work.”
In response, writer Zac Thompson said, “I’ve had two books completely fall apart this year because of late payments. One of which took me over a year of dedicated research to even script. Said publisher them optioned one of my books (without telling me or the team at the time) and still said they couldn’t pay.”
Writer Alex de Campi then tweeted screenshots of both of the above tweets, adding, “This is @AfterShockComix. They owe friends of mine tens of thousands and I’ve been doling out contact details of California Lawyers for the Arts like it was Xmas candy.”
Neither Thompson nor Robson responded to requests for comment or, indeed, confirmation that either was specifically calling out AfterShock. (It’s worth noting, after all, that Robson explicitly wrote “ALL the large companies I work for,” so he wasn’t only writing about AfterShock.) Thompson, however, went on to tacitly confirm that he was talking about AfterShock in response to another creator talking about the company.
“Late payments to the artist effectively killed / paused indeterminately an original 4-issue I co-created with Aftershock,” wrote Christopher Cantwell, one of the few creators to actually name AfterShock outright, in a Twitter thread. “Have had good faith convos w/ EIC Brian [Cunningham] but w/ 2 issues done, no movement. If within a year you don’t have art costs to finish 2 issues within your budget then your whole enterprise should be called into question. This statement says all under contract will be paid… but when? No word on that for months now. Zero direct communication. ‘Late’ at a certain point becomes ‘non’ if your income has a giant hole in it for 6+ months.”
Thompson tweeted in response, “I’ve had similar good faith convos but… in reality this has been ongoing for months now and nothing has changed.” He wasn’t the only one to use Cantwell’s comments to talk about their own situation; Eion Marron, Thompson’s artist on The Brother of All Men, tweeted that Cantwell’s experience “unfortunately mirrors what’s happened with our book.”
Outside of owing creators for their work — according to one source who declined to speak on the record, this is particularly a problem when it comes to colorists and cover artists —Popverse has heard from sources that AfterShock additionally owes money elsewhere, including advertising and production costs.
In response to a request for comment, AfterShock provided the following statement: “The truth of the matter is that the company is addressing late payments as outstanding funds owed to the company come in. There are no non-payments. Everyone who is owed money will be paid. We recognize our obligations and consider creator compensation our number one priority. We apologize for this situation and are making our best efforts to rectify it as quickly as possible.”
The company declined to answer any follow-up questions.
Since receiving that statement, it’s been announced that Legendary Entertainment has signed a deal with AfterShock to develop the 2021 graphic novel Party & Prey as a feature. It’s the second AfterShock option so far this month, following SBS Australia optioning The Normals for television. Ideally, such deals might improve the cashflow situation at AfterShock for the next few months… but the question is, how much damage has been done to the company’s reputation in the meantime?
Read more about the troubles with Action Lab Entertainment and the Free Comic Book Day release its creators don’t want released.