Can You Make A Living in Comics?
So I read this thing where someone said almost no one makes a career in comics and that most people have a day job, spouse, or other money to support their art. And I thought, well, you know, probably true, but that goes for most of the arts, doesn’t it?
It’s not like the majority of musicians & actors are career working artists, either. It’s tough to make a career in the arts. I have a career and make a good living but it is a roller coaster.
If you admit to having a bad year, people gloat. If you admit to having a good year, people complain you’re bragging. It’s like there are only two attitudes for people in comics: schadenfreude and pernicious envy.
In the good years, you prepare for the bad. And in the bad years, you hope the good ones will roll around again. In good years you pay off all the debt you incurred in the bad. And so it goes.
I’m in the upper middle class earning range now: admitting that means people will hate my guts, but there are a few to whom this news is a source of hope.
You can make a living in comics. And a good one.
If you have something people want to buy.
There are a few people who will gnash their teeth in rage that I am not having a bad year, because everyone has a list of creators they don’t think are deserving of having that career. That’s too bad, because the paying audience makes that choice, not them.
But while it’s true that the career self-supporting comics artist is rare, I’ve only had 1 year since about 1986 when I wasn’t entirely self supporting.
There are many people who denounce any non-self supporting creator as invalid. No one says you’re not a “real” bank teller if your spouse helps support you, do they?
The binary thinking about artists and income is toxic. If your books aren’t making you stinking rich, people think they suck. If your books are making you stinking rich, then you must be a sell out. And if you’re not rich, you should quit art and get a day job.
People get very touchy about status and validity in this business, furious that they’re not considered a pro if they don’t have the catalog or income to back up the claim, angry that they don’t get table space at conventions, asked to speak on panels, enraged that they don’t get invited to parties, dinners, to hang out with the A-list.
No one told you you weren’t an artist when they didn’t invite you to speak on a panel. You just didn’t get invited to speak on a panel.
No matter what you do or how much money you make at art, it’s going to be “wrong” to somebody. So make art anyway.
It is possible to make a career in comics. It’s not likely, but it doesn’t make you a bad cartoonist if you don’t. So make comics.
The trick is to find a way to finance the making of those comics if you’re not making a living at comics.
Not being a full-time pro artist does not mean you’re not an artist. It doesn’t mean you’re not good. You can be a fine amateur. You can be a fine semi-pro.
Keep making art because it is what you need to do. And if the money comes, great. Because making a good living (and I do) at what you love is pretty awesome.
And I hope it happens for you, too.