So this summer I contributed a short comic to a literary anthology that will be published by Forest Avenue Press, Weird Portland, which is a collection of supernatural and science-fiction stories set in Portland. One of my panels included the Made in Oregon sign that you see when driving to the west side on Burnside.
I actually don't really care much for the sign, but I needed some landmarks to establish Portland, and I didn't want to have to draw a cityscape and all the buildings, so I thought this image would be a nice replacement and less labor intensive.
The editor informed me that they would have to get permission from the city to use the sign in the publication. She didn't think it would be that big of a deal - just contacting some people, filling out some forms, etc. A couple of months went by and I didn't think much more of it. Until I got an e-mail listing their exact demands for use of the sign.
From the e-mail:
"1) They have taken forever; I submitted the request soon after we received your art, and have gotten consistently ill-informed emails back, such as sending them the name of the signer and name of the book, only to be asked those questions literally a month later. They called it Illustrated Storybook in the contract, even though I had given them the name at least twice, and could see the name in our email chain.
2) I don’t mind paying a usage fee, and it’s fairly reasonable, but permission must be requested every year (and the fee repaid). That means if there’s a lag in their respose in 2016 (or 2017 or 2018), or if they somehow decide they don’t like the project once they see it, they could choose not to re-issue permission, and I’d have to pulp all the remaining inventory. This to me seems like the biggest potential snafu, given the lack of response after umpteen emails and phone calls where I’ve been told yes but then not given any other information or paperwork until yesterday.
3) They want you to alter the picture to the exact specs of the sign! That also felt quite absurd and overbearing to me. I’m attaching Exhibit A that they sent to me, which has a list of angles and ways the sign exists in real life to explain how yours is, umm, ART.
There’s more contract language I haven’t waded through and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another dealbreaker or two in there. I could maybe try to fight the one-year thing, and see if I could get written permission about the duration of the project, but the whole thing has been such a hassle, and seeing as they’d want to have you change the panel wording anyway, it maybe makes more sense, unfortunately, to have you replace it with something else."
The folks at Forest Avenue Press went above and beyond in trying to accommodate me using the sign. Honestly, if I would have known the city of Portland would make it so difficult and time consuming to use the stupid sign, I would have just redrawn it immediately.
It just goes to show you - cutting corners isn't worth it. I ended up having to draw buildings and a cityscape anyway...
Weird Portland will be published by Forest Avenue Press in October 2016. You can find more information about it on their website: http://www.forestavenuepress.com/