YEAAAAHHH GO LLOYD! My favourite line in the whole book, I think! Except for Lloyd’s other great line, which is coming up. XD
So a few days ago I posted about how Comics Are My Job, and it became a bit of a lightening rod for various issues, some of which I wasn’t really commenting on, and some mis-understandings. I really meant the post to be something very positive, a ‘hey, fellow young artists, you really can make a living drawing comics full time! It can be tough and requires sacrifice, but here’s how I did it!” ramble. And for the most part, I think it got that across, and I very much appreciate all the responses and people being both inspired and concerned by the post.
Glancing over the post, I see how it may have legitimately confused some, which is mostly owing to my desire to make it positive. I really did not want to put another screed about how working fulltime in comics is a horrible grind and the financial rewards are pitiful and etc on the internet, because I really love my job, and as of now, I’ve managed to make it work for me financially.
So, to clarify one issue: In 2008 I lost my job in animation because the animation industry in Nova Scotia crashed and burned. Would you like to read about it? Here is a pretty good news article which talks about how many people lost their job, how many studios shut down, and what people did to survive. It’s worth noting that only now (in 2012!) is animation in Nova Scotia truly recovering from the shutdown of 2008.
I never would have left my job in animation voluntarily. It was taken from me by circumstances out of my control. All of us in animation in Nova Scotia in 2008 did things to survive: the lucky ones got jobs at other studios in Ontario or Vancouver. Some went back to school, retraining in other fields. Others got temporary jobs, like working at call centres. One of the most talented background painters I know sanded floors. He’s now back at the studio, drawing for a living.
I was lucky too. I got to draw comics when animation died. Now that the animation industry in my part of the world is slowly coming back to life, I feel I could possibly return to it. But I am making ends meet in comics (through careful, budget-based living), and I want to stay here. But initially, the choice was not mine to leave animation. Anyway. I hope that is now much clearer.
There is also another sentiment I want to address, which may have been inadvertently implied in my post, and if so, I apologize, because it wasn’t meant to be. It is the question of Does it Matter if Comics Are Your Full-Time Job? Are You Perhaps Less of a Cartoonist if You Don’t Work Full-Time In Comics? Will You Be Spat Upon by Real Cartoonists Who Work Full Time In Comics If You, A Lesser Cartoonist, Approach Them At Conventions? (Kidding on the last one, of course. BTW, this subject was inspired by a twitter post by a fellow cartoonist. It’s something I wanted to talk about eventually anyway, and seeing the post I figured I’d dive into it sooner rather than later.)
When I was doing my old webcomic Demonology 101, I never told anyone in real life I made comics, because I felt like I wasn’t a Real Comic Book Artist. I was just messing around on the internet, and anyway, my comics weren’t good or anything. It was only published comic book artists who were REAL comic book artists. Who cared about my dumb online comics?
Even though I now write and draw comics for a living, I still don’t feel like a Real Comic Book Artist because the evil little voice in my head tells me so. Here is what that little voice promises me, and then follows up with:
1) If I get into Sheridan College’s Animation program, I will be a Real Artist.
2) I got into the program, but I won’t feel like a real artist until I graduate.
3) I’ve graduated, but I’m not a Real Artist until I get a job in animation.
4) I got a job in animation, but I won’t be a Real Artist until I’ve published a comic book.
5) I’ve published a comic book, but I won’t be a Real Artist until I make a living as a cartoonist.
6) I make a living as a cartoonist, but I won’t be a Real Artist until I have a hit book and I can live off sales and royalties.
7) … well, this is where I currently am, but you see my point? It’s dumb. I would like that little voice to die.
I think within the arts you (meaning me) can sometimes get very caught up in defining success as one thing, like say, being published. Or making a living from your art. And I think that’s a mentality that is not very helpful, and it can discourage people from just making art for the sake of making it.
I think comics are always worth doing. I think they’re worth doing if you get paid or if you don’t get paid, if you have an internet readership in the millions or in the dozens, if you make tiny perfect comics by hand or if you staple together photocopied sheets from Kinkos, if you make comics to show to people, or keep them locked in your dresser drawer. Comics are always worth making because they are awesome. So you make them, and you learn and you grow as a creator. And sometimes you even get paid to make comics! And sometimes you don’t.
Remember that statistic I posted ages ago about how many pages of comics I’ve drawn since I started drawing? I’ve drawn over 1800 pages of comics. I’ve been paid for about 600 pages. I’ve been paid a living wage (what is a living wage for me, it might not be for you) for about 350 pages. I’d drawn over a thousand pages of comics (Demonology 101, Ice and various spin offs/one offs) before I was published. And now, I believe the future is some kind of internet/print combination, so the whole “published” thing has come to mean something very nebulous.
What I’m saying is, comics are wonderful and my most favourite thing in the world, and if you are making comics that mean something to you, it doesn’t matter if you’re published or not or internet famous or not or making a living from your comics or not because you are a Real Comic Book Artist. You are someone I respect and would like to be friends with, because I want to be friends with everyone in comics (except for the jerks. Go to hell, jerks. I think there are, like, two of them in all of comics).
I remember reading about Gene Yang (author of American Born Chinese and the new Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel [out now! get it, it's great]) continuing to work as a teacher even though he had success in comics. And honestly, I thought that was really cool, because how awesome would it to have Gene Yang as a teacher? I would love to have Gene Yang as a teacher. Not to mention, comics are really isolating and sometimes I forget how to string together a sentence because I haven’t talked to anyone but my cat in days, and working in a social environment like school is a great way to make sure your brain doesn’t atrophy. That’s the thing I miss most about working in animation: being part of a vibrant and interesting community of artists, working on something together, sharing ideas, stealing lunches … scratch that last part. Anyway, whatever. Point is, make good comics and nobody worth anything will give you crap about whether or not it’s your day job. Don’t listen to that evil little voice. It wants to eat your soul.
I want to read good comics and make good comics. Awesome people working in comics and trying to do the best they can and make the best comics they can is the greatest thing for comics, whether or not you make it your full time job. I am surrounded by people who believe in this art form; cartoonists and writers and retailers and fans and everyone and it RULES.
In conclusion: COMICS.
Next up: some topic much less serious, for sure. Whew!