Comics Lowdown | Action Lab accused of lack of payment and more by their creators

Plus: Joe Bennett, Ninja Turtles, Substack and more!

Action Lab Entertainment, the publisher of Spencer & Locke, Princeless, Jupiter Jet, Midnight Tiger and Molly Danger, among many other titles, has come under scrutiny on social media by a long list of creators for the terms of their contracts, soliciting comics that are never published, lack of payment to creators and poor communications.

At Women Write About Comics, Claire Napier rounds up a number of these allegations against the publisher, from creators like Jeremy Whitley, John J. Peréz, Tom Rogers and Nick Marino, among others. Napier focuses a good portion of her article on Gordon McLean, writer of Supermom: Expecting Trouble, who went missing in December of 2019 around the time that the first issue of his comic was supposed to come out — but according to sources, the comic was canceled and McLean was never told.

Action Lab President Bryan Seaton spoke with Bleeding Cool in a very brief interview on the subject. He talks about many of the speed bumps the company hit during the COVID crisis, but as folks pointed out on Twitter, many of these issues predate the pandemic. Seaton did note he has set up an email address, alecreator@actionlabent.com, that creators can use to contact them directly about any outstanding issues regarding a title.

In related news, Dan Mendoza, creator of Zombie Tramp, and Action Lab announced they have reached an agreement that will allow Mendoza to take back full control of the character and publish it himself. Under the agreement, Action Lab Entertainment will finish and release a final seven-issue run of the Zombie Tramp comic book issues it has been producing, which it plans to complete by next summer.

Artist Joe Bennett once again made headlines for a piece of controversial art, this time for an illustration of Brazil’s President Jair Messias Bolsonaro, who himself has drawn comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump for his policies and his use of misinformation on social media.

Bennett’s former collaborator on Immortal Hulk, Al Ewing, posted in detail about the piece of art in question, which was originally drawn a few years ago but recently resurfaced.

“If you’ve seen the image, you know what it is. An armoured swordsman, which I assume represents Bolsonaro given Joe’s commentary, slaughtering tiny, scurrying people, with the buck teeth and ears of rats. And big noses. One of them is cosplaying Dracula,” Ewing wrote.

You can read the complete thread from Ewing here, where Ewing apologizes for not addressing it sooner and concludes by saying, “Immortal Hulk is done, but I won’t be working with Joe again.” He also notes that he’s made donations to Rainbow Railroad and the Rainforest Trust in the interest of “adding some material action to that apology.”

This isn’t the first time Bennett’s artwork has caused controversy; earlier this year an issue of Immortal Hulk was called out for some of the imagery displayed in the background of a panel.

Over at Polygon, Chloe Maveal lists “Our 11 most anticipated graphic novels of the fall,” noting that the British independent publisher Shortbox is planning a virtual comics fest throughout October. It will “offer not just one collection to sate your comic collector needs, but an entire month of creator-owned digital comics available exclusively on the ShortBox GumRoad page.” Mark your calendars and set a bookmark now.

All the “YES! YES! YES!” in the world to this post by Augie de Blieck about digital comics and how they’re presented and read. Trying to figure out where to start and what to read can be a pain for both digital AND print, and there’s really no good reason for it outside the direct market.

A copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 recently sold at auction for $245,000, setting a new record for a “copper age” comic book.

If you are not yet tired of reading about Substack, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with several unnamed comic book “insiders” and “executives” about the recent deals by James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder and other creators who have launched premium newsletters there.

That offer may prove appealing for some. “People work at DC or Marvel because they love the characters and want the exposure,” says one insider at the Big Two, adding that top talent at both can make well into the six figures. This source, however, concedes that Substack money is becoming the writer equivalent of Netflix dough to creatives when the streamer initially courted Hollywood’s top talent extravagantly as it jumped into programming. “They have deep pockets,” says another source, a comics creator who was approached by Substack, noting, “They are paying for names.”

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