(a continuation from the last few posts & comments, mainly Jed's)
You'll go crazy(er) if you keep trying to make sense of it all. More on that in a minute, but first, I think I can make a LITTLE sense of the high page rate $ vs low original art $ conundrum. It's just pure economics. National magazines are fairly flush with money from advertisers, so they pay a nice page rate to get quality artwork. Comic book fans are typically NOT flush with money, so they pay what they can for artwork. In both cases, artist and buyer find a happy meeting place.
As for the stuff that will never make sense - even in THAT tiny little sanity zone that I just described, there is insanity. A couple of years ago I heard a story about DC having to pay Charles Burns $8,000 for a cover, even though he did something different than what they were expecting. DC has never paid ME $8,000 for a cover they did not like, and probably never will.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mark Landman does amazing gorgeous time-consuming work on Runaway Comic for the meager promise of a pro-rated portion of my profits, IF they ever materialize.
Some nut paid $2,500 for one page of The Biologic Show artwork. I'm selling old pages for $60. Other artists who are just as good as me or better can't sell a thing.
It will never seem "fair". But in fact, it is fair. Everybody is finding their happy meeting place.
Speaking of happy meeting places, here's a Gnatrat drawing that Gnatrat fan Angson bought from DC artist Cameron Stewart at last weekend's Paradise Comicon in Toronto. What do you suppose Angson paid for that thing? I probably would have done it for less, and I would have put the wings on his gnat logo! But Angson is happy, and I am happy he's happy! Thanks for sharing, Ang!