Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > Letters to CR

Brian Fies On The Young Cartoonists List
posted August 5, 2013

As a 53-year-old cartoonist who turned pro-ish relatively late in life (Mom's Cancer went online when I was 44), I admit your list of Young Cartoonists elicited an "ouch." I didn't take offense (let alone prickle defensively) at the reminder I'll never be an enfant terrible, but add intimations of mortality to the routine envy of hot young talent and I understand the impulse.

I agree that comics is more egalitarian than most fields -- the anonymity and solitude of the job makes it a bit like the Internet where nobody knows you're a dog. I don't know what many of my favorite cartoonists look like, and have been surprised to learn their age, race, and even sex. There's certainly some mindless pursuit of fashionable cutting-edge youth in all creative fields, even in those you'd think it wouldn't matter (try to find a novice Hollywood screenwriter over 35). In that respect, comics is probably better than some and worse than others. What struck me most aptly in your follow-up post was "...aligning one's career progression with those in a similar place..." That's a big one I think. Many of the emerging creators I met when I first started going places and meeting people were 20 or 25 years younger than me. I still think of them as my peers, consider many of them friends, and sometimes have to remind myself that I'm really in a different place in life. It's like being the old guy who goes back to college; you're still in the Class of '05 even though you're old enough to be their Dad.

One difference in our perspectives (again, in my experience) is awareness of the finiteness of time. I've got maybe 20 years of good productivity left, 30 if I'm lucky. A graphic novel project takes me a few years to do. If everything goes right -- including the not-at-all-certainty that I'll have worthwhile ideas that anyone will be interested in publishing and/or reading -- I'll be able to count my literary oeuvre on two hands. Maybe one. I will never fill a library shelf. I've had this conversation with young cartoonists who look at me like I've grown antlers and an udder. They've got their whole careers ahead and it's an Infinite Canvas stretching unbroken over the horizon. I hate those kids. Enviously.

I dunno, maybe that's the hornet's nest you poked.

Editor's Note: Please visit Brian at his web site.