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

June 28, 2015

Go, Read: A Bunch Of Posts On Money And Cartooning

I'm only now catching up on recent discussions of money made in the comics industry. Heidi MacDonald had two good summary posts here and here. The three primary sources from which she's working, all worth their own read, are this one from Brian Churilla, this one from Kieron Gillen, and then any number of articles on this new site.

imageIf you're thinking of making comics a significant part of your life, you should bookmark the Sktchd site to read a bunch of stuff there and then work your way through Heidi's articles going back and reading all of the linked-to pieces.

It's very, very tough to make a living in comics. Several people that want to will, with a few exceeding their expectations. Many more people than that first group, people that want to make a living or become successful just as much as that first group of people, they will not make a living, with a few barely seeing any return at all.

Some of it is just the way things are. Some of it I feel is not. My hunch for a long time has been that the talent of the people making the comics has outstripped the talent of the non-creatives who are the primary folks responsible for fashioning an industry that can reward that talent. What you have left is an assemblage of people doing okay to great: superior talents and/or talents that had good timing in terms of finding something that works; those who were present for a moment in history that matches up with a market opportunity; those inclined towards a genre effort that speaks to a specific cultural need, a few with something undefinable that resonates with people in a way that can't be denied. Everyone else is in survival mode. Because some of the traditional structure is exploitative, a good deal of the best talent out there serves that system rather than another, more equitable one.

I think it behooves all of us who choose to stay here to work very hard to help fashion comics industries that are much more ruthless in terms of truth telling, but also a lot more ambitious in terms of bottom line. We need the same push on the non-creative side these next ten years that we've seen on the creative side for the last 35. The dozen or so non-creatives whose talent and accomplishment exceeded their position in the years between the Direct Market's creation and the Digital Market's creation needs to in this next cycle much better match the hundreds of unique and intriguing artistic voices that this art form fosters in increasing numbers.

I worked in the comics industry at the tail end of a period where the whole thing might go right in the toilet on a month to month basis. What a lot of leaders from that generation did to keep the industry alive and give us multiple, esteemed generations of cartoonists is a remarkable thing. A cartoonist in a home making comics largely directed by their own artistic impulses, that is a victory. It always will be. The fact that things seem to be getting worse for almost everyone 10 to 20 years younger than that generation, that we still talk of young cartoonists that are in their late 30 and early 40s because we're waiting for their careers to progress, this indicates to me a troubled landscape onto which the desire comics-makers will have to work in comics rather than pursue opportunities in other industries and media will be bled from them multiple cuts at a time.

There's a ton of work work yet to do: maintaining, building, rebuilding. It won't be easy, and it may be impossible to see through without a hefty dose of self-criticism followed by real action that shows some people the door and affords the most capable new talents a seat at the table. We need to start doing better.
posted 11:55 pm PST | Permalink

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