Alright so IDK if this will get seen/responded to or not because I'm def late to this thread and I know that this is also DEFINITELY a loaded question with no single answer but it's one that's been weighing on my mind for a while knowing what I know and it just becomes more compelling to ask the more I learn, so...
At this point in the game, what is really separating a Webtoon Originals creator from a Canvas creator?
From what I've seen/read/etc. from both yourself and others (some of whom are my own pals in comic creating circles) Originals creators:
- Aren't paid a living wage;
- Barely have support from the platform in terms of advertising, publishing deals, event coordination, etc. (something that traditional publishing houses are all about, ask any published author - any publishing house worth working with will go above and beyond to get your work seen and sold because a win for you is a win for them);
- Don't get any sort of financial security or health coverage;
- Don't get weekends or holidays save for mid-season/season finale hiatuses (and I'm sure many creators spend that building a buffer for when they return);
- Work 50+ hour weeks at minimum to meet deadlines;
- Have to compete with their own peers on a front page that's growing increasingly more oversaturated and doesn't provide equal or equitable advertising opportunities;
- Have to rely a lot on their own networking/marketing/etc. to get people's eyes on their work;
- Have to pay for their own extra assistants out of pocket to meet their panel requirements and deadlines;
- Have to deal with a legal team that, in your words, are getting "creepier" with their contracting and how much they expect you to do for what you're getting;
- Have to worry about people pirating/screencapping their FP content and posting it to free-to-read message boards/groups/etc. (trust me, I see it in webtoon-specific subreddits and Discords all the freaking TIME of people asking what happened in new FP episodes so they don't have to pay for what is an OPTIONAL service that, as you've stated, y'all don't even make much off of until you hit a certain point if you even hit it at all? Am I understanding that right?);
- At the end of all of it, despite everything, are doing what they love.
I know it's easy to just say "Twitter doesn't get nuance" and normally I would agree with that statement, but I'm failing to see the nuance here. Like it doesn't seem that complicated when it comes down to it, Webtoons is overworking and underpaying their contracted employees. That's it. It's really not that complicated (especially with so many creators talking about it on their socials, even before the whole #notasidehustle controversy) so for once, I'm gonna say Twitter really isn't off the mark here. The ONLY thing I really disagree with is the group of people who are thinking it's okay to steal creator's content in protest or demand creator's put their livelihood at risk to go on strike. Y'all have enough shit on your plate, clearly, you don't need to put up with that on top of it all.
So... what exactly is the difference between a Canvas creator and an Originals creator if these are the conditions y'all are having to work in and at the end of the day the 'nuance' is 'because I love doing it'?
IDK about you, I can't speak for every non-Originals creator out there just like how you can't speak for every Originals creator, but I love dearly what I do as do many of my peers, it's why we do it, for free no less. I work a day job and do webcomics in my off-time, my posting schedule and amount that I upload per update has fluctuated over the years relative to my day job situation and work/life balance. I feel like that's the norm for most if not all Canvas creators, save for the few who have actually made it more financially stable for themselves through things like Patreon/Ko-Fi/Twitch/commissions/etc. It's a much more attainable dream, in a way - instead of shooting for the 1% that are rich or at least making a decent living doing webcomics, we shoot for something that's tolerable and manageable so we can do what we love in our spare time without having to worry about where our next meal is coming from (I mean, some of us still worry, but that's just late stage capitalism in a nutshell lol). The majority of us may not put out 50+ panels a week, but progress is progress is progress, and so long as we're enjoying making it, then the quantity really doesn't matter in the long run.
So does a paycheque through an Originals contract really pose much of a difference between you or I when the paycheque isn't much better than what you'd be making if you just worked a boring but tolerable day job - but Canvas creators have the added benefit of a flexible uploading schedule and flexible panel expectations within OUR control, 40 hour work weeks, overtime, and possibly even health coverage of SOME kind? I know it's easier said than done in today's job market but anything has gotta be better than this because you're being paid diddly squat in comparison to the amount of work y'all are doing. Webcomics have always been a financially starved industry, they couldn't even be called an 'industry' prior to 2020 really, and yet this is the bar we're allowing corporations like Webtoons to set? Pardon my wording on this, but we can't possibly be that desperate to see webcomics become a financially viable field that we'd do it for what's less than financially viable. I know this kind of thing would be a dream come true 10 years ago, but that doesn't and shouldn't mean that we should be grateful for the bare minimum. It sets a dangerous precedent for young and onboarding artists that this should be treated as normal. It's the same thing mangaka artists have been dealing with for decades now despite all the outcry towards how unhealthy and unsustainable it is.
With how apparent it's becoming that this is the bar Webtoons has set - whether it applies to every creator or not - with Originals creators speaking out more and more about their experiences (as much as they can with an NDA which I also have VERY strong opinions about), how is Webtoons even gonna be able to keep convincing people to sign the dotted line when they could have better working conditions doing it for free and just working a primary job to pay the bills? There are plenty of webcomics that have achieved commercial success without even needing a platform to contract them. Yeah, it's hard as shit but it sounds like Webtoons isn't doing much to make it easier.
Maybe for some people "because we love it" is really the only answer - it would probably be mine if I were in your shoes! - but is it sustainable in the long run and is 'because we love it' enough to separate an Originals creator from a Canvas creator? If it's not, then what's the point/appeal? If you're barely getting paid enough to pay your rent despite working 70 hours a week at minimum, then fuck it, I'd rather just draw comics for free without being held at metaphorical gunpoint by contractual obligations and sling lattes at Starbucks 😂 (which is what a lot of us are doing or have done!)
Sorry, I realize that got very opinionated. Like I said, I've been doing this for free for a long time now (since 2014, on Canvas since 2016), and while you'd think that would mean I would jump at the chance to get paid to do it, I've also done it in such quantities that I fully understand the work and time and effort it takes so I personally wouldn't be signing away that labor and licensing to a publishing platform that doesn't pull their own weight in return. That includes adequate working conditions/expectations that allows me to provide the work efficiently for both our benefits, as well as more effort on the platform's end to pull in more views and subsequently money for both of us. That's supposed to be how publishing houses work. Not this "you're hired and now you gotta fend for yourself" nonsense.
phew opinionated question/response/rant over! Thank you so much for taking the time to read that if you did, if you don't want to answer it (because again, very loaded question) that's totally fine by you, it's just a question that's been growing louder in my head for months now as I see folks go on to become Originals creators and then immediately have to deal with bullshit. This is literally not how publishing contracts are supposed to work, at least not any that's worth signing into IMO. Thank you for your time and energy responding to everyone's questions and being so candid in your responses <3