A new round of discussing the financial realities of making comics hit Twitter this week, sparked by an honest and sobering thread from writer Joshua Dysart.

Here’s the Tweet:

The tweet — which was sincerely about as honest and as insightful as a tweet on this subject can get — quickly struck a chord with the online comics discussion community, going on to hundreds of likes and retweets, many of which were from other creators quoting it as they shared their own (largely similar) experiences, ranging from staying with friends for years at a time…

…to holding full-time jobs that necessitated 18-hour days to also do comics…

…and more.

In brief, folks from throughout the industry agree that it’s rare to be able to pay all your bills through comics, without a job (or jobs) and/or supplemental income from a partner. Oh, and there’s an extra layer of difficulty afflicting American creators who have to answer the healthcare question, unlike Canadian and some European counterparts. This goes beyond just a popular twitter thread, though. This week has seen the financial realities of comics go on to afflict some publishing ventures.

Within 24 hours of this thread going off, news also broke that much-loved small press publisher, AdHouse Books, was calling it quits after 20 years, 100 books, and several awards. Chris Pitzer, who ran AdHouse, cited a few reasons for this, and among them, of course were finances, specifically a desire to have a retirement plan (another item that appeared frequently in Dysart’s thread as well as those that came in response). And AdHouse isn’t alone. The folks at Peow Studio (another well-respected small press published of fantastic books) also ended their run this year, not long after Koyama Press (another great small press publisher) did the same.

This is all a bummer, mixed with a reality check as well as a bit of sobering/useful news for those of us with medical conditions, partners unable to carry all the financial load, and any number of other Real Life considerations. But, hey, it’s also a conversation that tends to go around comics…and has for many many years.

The Beat has certainly detailed the struggles of paying bills through comics (especially indie comics), plus also trying to maintain any kind of work/life balance, as these are all factors that have and continue to convince talented creators to quit. While many tout the freedom of the creator-owned model, as Jim Zub has written over the years, it’s no slam dunk. And of course, it can be a detriment, but it’s also probably good for the community that the realities be unobscured and readily discussed without stigma. I’ve been personally joking that this Twitter thread is now my mentor.

At least we know what we’re dealing with, and continue to remind folks. Anyway, I just got pinged for my own day job and best be getting back to that…

8 COMMENTS

  1. I know that one of the greatest concerns I get when interview younger creators for the Graphic Novel Clubs is just how many of them appear to be doing work, published work I mean, for what appears to be sub-minimum wage rates.

  2. Yes, I have a career in comics without a second income. I pay my rent and all my bills with it. But it also requires working seven 12 hour days every week. And of course I’ll never get to retire. Comics suck and no one should do them.

  3. ” and/or supplemental income from a partner. ” is the art equivalent of the “their parents bought the condo ten years ago” line.

    When I was a grad student, my male professor went on a rant about how a Ph D. required dedication and had to be full time or nothing, and when I asked how he ate, he slid right over that his wife was working two jobs, and raising the kids. I made him repeat the point several times until the class understood. He never did. So many creative men have been bolstered by the labor of the women in their lives. Yes, they worked hard, but they also were able to work hard at art because someone else did a job that paid money.

  4. It can be done, but as the others rightly indicated, you make extreme sacrifices… like just about everything else in (what used to be) your life. It’s like trying to make it as a rock star; most will perish in the attempt, even though many are indeed talented. In my case, I have resources to free up my time, but it meant waiting years to begin creating serious graphic novels.

  5. I have been able to make ten books because of several factors, the first (and most important) of which is my partner’s stable job. I live in Canada, so healthcare is not an extra concern. Kickstarter was pivotal (until it became an albatross around my neck). And I supplement my very very small income through teaching, school appearances, and freelance illustration work (all of which pay far more than comics, pound for pound). After fifteen years, it has started to wear me down immensely and I find myself wondering if my time can’t be better spent elsewhere. People who have decamped to animation or film don’t seem to be much diminished by their new gigs. Quite the opposite.

  6. Art schools like SCAD cost far too much for what they provide and don’t disclose the reality of the career. Save your money- there are workshops and online classes that can teach the same things for cheap or free.

  7. When I was a teenager I loved drawing comics and really looked into it – I became a doctor instead. Because as far as I could tell I could haul butt and probably still need to rely on someone else to pay the bills or I could haul butt and make plenty of money to support myself and a family! I just didn’t want to have to rely on someone else, or hope to luck out and be one of the few rockstars who actually make a decent living.

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