I haunt the twitter feeds of a lot of creators, and I've been hearing some discourse about the hierarchy in comics. This seems to be the the food chain for the creators: 1. Writer 2. Artist 3. Colorist 4. Inker (if there is one) 5. Letterer, or that is how I have heard it to be, or imagine it to be.
Why? I guess it all comes down to money. Writers can take on various projects at once and write the hell out of them (some of them anyways, Ed Brubaker just took himself out of Marvel because 18 issues a year on Captain America was too much), and that means they can make a decent amount of money for themselves. Artists can only do one title a month, and although I believe their page rate is above that of a writer, they are locked down to one project, and possibly a cover or two.
Colorists are rising in prominence, but I believe they don't get any royalties, and letterers are the runt of the group, getting shoved about and getting shit shoveled down their throats on every deadline.
That said, there are alternatives. We could all just get out of comics and get into video games or film and make a fuckton more money. We could do illustration for any sort of media, could attempt to make the jump from one medium to the other, it might be hard but we are a wily little bunch of comic creators.
Take the time to look up page rates for pros online though. You might be
surprised that comics people don't make that much money, probably about
mid-five figures for most, maybe a little more, maybe a little less,
depending on where you are in the mix.
I can only imagine creators that have worked in this business for 20-30 years. They have seen so much happen in the way of creator rights. Writers and artists get some royalties for characters that they create, and books that they sell now (colorist get the shaft, at least as much as I know). There has been some forward momentum. I think the 90s was the age of the artist, where artists could pump out books and as long as it looked good they were printing money, until the bust. Writer's have obviously been doing pretty damned good for themselves. Let's not forget the other creators also. Colorists are bringing a whole new dimension to comics now, making them look more like fine art than comics have ever been and they seem to be getting the biggest shaft out of everyone, except for the letterer who brings the comics to life with words and isn't even in the discussion.
I'm not offering any solutions and am probably pissing a few people off just by writing this, but I think that the discussion of such things can lead to a place wherein comics creators can get along, look at each other and say, "We're all getting about the right amount." It really is a case by case scenario though, especially in the indie scene, and it depends on the amount of work that everyone is putting into the project. Thing is, do people consider it polite to talk dollars and cents? I don't know, I'm just blathering on now. As long as there is forward momentum we are doing well.