With the current influx of Indie and Freelance Comic Book Publishing taking root in the comic industry, it is a wise thing to be aware of all the legalities and pitfalls that can arise. It was this need for assistance that made Lawyer Gamal Hennessy put out his first book: The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing to share some of his knowledge he had acquired in his career. Edited by comic veteran Mike Martz, Gamal’s first book was fully funded through Kickstarter and became the guidepost for Indie Publishers.
fast forward to now and Gamal is now giving Freelance Publishers the benefit of his knowledge. Along with the difference between Independent and Freelance publishing. Once again, he is bringing his book through Kickstarter with The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing. This time edited by the talented Joseph Illidge. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk to the very busy Mr. Hennessy to discuss his first book and what made him decide to follow it up. This time focusing on Freelance Publishers. So, let’s welcome Attorney, Author, and Business Consultant Gamal Hennessy to GVN Talking Comics.
GVN: Thank you for sharing a bit of your valuable time with us, Gamal.
GH: No worries. Thanks for taking the time to discuss my book.
GVN: Since we have not had the pleasure of talking to you before, let us discuss a little of your career beginnings. You graduated from the New York School of Law in 1996. At that time, was contract law your initial focus or did that come as you surveyed your employment opportunities?
GH: Repaying law school loans is a stressful process, even back when I graduated, so my initial focus was getting any job I could to avoid default. Fortunately, I landed at Central Park Media. That allowed me to pay my bills and work in a field I was interested in.
Central Park Media
GVN: So, as you mentioned, Central Park Media was your first introduction to the world of entertainment contracts. Were you at all intimidated starting that job and what do you feel that you learned while working there that benefitted you in your future endeavors?
GH: I was intimidated primarily because most lawyers work under a more experienced attorney in their first job, but I was the only attorney at CPM, so I was basically flying without a net. The most important thing that I learned fresh out of law school was that people trying to run a business want the law to give them solutions to problems. They’re not looking for more problems. I had to learn to give my boss options and answers they could use, not hypothetical concerns about risk.
Marvel International Publishing
GVN: You eventually were hired at Marvel for their international publishing department. How did that opportunity come about?
GH: After the first Spider-Man film, Marvel was looking to expand their international licensing program into Japan, so they were looking for someone who understood the business of comics and negotiating with Japanese publishers. My work at CPM made me a good fit for the job, so they brought me in to run the international publishing program and help out with their growing merchandise licensing portfolio.
The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing
GVN: From there you started your own practice, and you concentrated on representing independent IP creators and freelance artists with their business development, contracts, etc. It was around this time (2020) that you wrote your first book The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing. When did you decide to explore this subject or did someone else suggest to you that you were the perfect person to share such knowledge?
GH: I started my boutique practice after I left Marvel with the idea that comic creators needed to understand the implications of the contracts they were signing. That worked well for more than ten years, but at a certain point, I realized that these creators also needed guidance in the areas of project management, marketing, distribution, and several different areas of the comic book industry. I had a lot of that background in my work at CPM and Marvel, and I knew a lot of people in the business who could help me fill in the things I didn’t understand. The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing was designed to help creators beyond the legal aspects of comics and guide them through the entire process.
The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing
GVN: Your first book was a tremendous success on your crowdfunding campaign and afterward. Which leads us to your follow-up book, The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing. When did you start working on that and for those of who don’t know, how do the topics differ?
GH: I started writing The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing about a year after the first book. Freelance comic book publishing is a very different animal to independent publishing because the different business models (owning all the rights to the comic vs. owning none of the rights) create differences in legal status, financial motivations, and long-term incentives. In many ways, freelance creators and independent creators are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Although they often work together to produce comics, they are working in different businesses.
Working with Mike and Joe
GVN: You worked with esteemed writer and editor Joseph Illidge on this book. He had written the foreword on the first book. How did that collaboration work and what have you learned from the experience of working first with Mike Marts and now Joseph?
GH: I’ve known Mike Marts since our days at Marvel and we’d kept in touch as friends, colleagues, and clients for more than 20 years. Mike knows the business from all sides, having worked as the Batman editor for DC and the X-Men editor for Marvel and EIC at both AfterShock and Mad Cave. He was my first choice to edit my initial book, because his business experience complimented my legal approach. He’s part of the reason that book came out so well.
Joseph has had a well-deserved reputation in the industry for years and I knew of him through his work and from various clients I’ve had over the years. I was originally introduced to him during the final stages of writing The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing through a mutual acquaintance who thought he could provide a good perspective on the book. His foreword on the first book was both elegant and uplifting, and working with him was a pleasure. He became a client of mine and was a natural choice to edit the new book. I’m very pleased with the results.
Coming Back to Kickstarter
GVN: You are bringing your new book back to Kickstarter later this fall. I know you offered an hour consultation for a few of the pledges on the first book. That is a valuable offer. Especially for those indie creators needing some of your expertise. Do you plan to do so again on this campaign? What WILL followers find when they check out the campaign? Besides a great and educational book.
GH: The higher backing tiers come with a different opportunity this time around. In 2021, I started an online membership community called Comics Connection to help creators develop and maintain ongoing business models. For the new campaign, backers can join Comics Connection and get one free month with their pledge. This will give backers even more access to up-to-the-minute information that will help them make the most of their comics. The Comics Connection memberships will be available alongside digital and print versions of the book, and the chance for anyone who missed The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing and wants to pick up a copy.
Lessons Learned That Remain
GVN: Thanks again for chatting with us, Gamal. Before I let you go, I have one more question for you. As we discussed, you worked for several different companies before you branched out on your own. What would you say was the most important thing you learned from your time with them that you have carried till this day in your own practice?
GH: The legal aspects of comics can’t be separated from the business realities of the creators. One of the reasons other lawyers find it difficult to represent comic creators is that they don’t have a firm grasp on how the industry works and what is important to the creators and publishers. It’s not a highly complex field, but the more you understand the business and how it’s changing, the easier it is to help creators succeed.
The Kickstarter Campaign for The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing by Gamal Hennessy and edited by Joseph Illidge starts today. You can follow it or check out the campaign by going here.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.