There’s one thing that seems almost universal when it comes to comic creators — almost all of us are struggling to make ends meet. It’s not a business you get into because of the great pay, decent hours and generous benefits, because somehow the areas that are enjoyed by most (arts, movies, literature, videogames) are still seen as not being a Real Job. Comic artists constantly undersell themselves, especially if they’re just starting out but I’ve been doing this full time since 2011 and I still price myself way too low. It’s a question of asking for less and getting work, or asking for a reasonable salary and get nothing.
I’m not going to talk about the financials of it all. Instead I want to talk about the mind gymnastics I go through every day to keep at it. There are other jobs out there I could take that would land me with a liveable salary for acceptable hours. I’m a smart person in a country where education is free and relatively easy to come by. Drawing isn’t something I do out of necessity because I can’t do anything else, but rather because there’s nothing else that I can imagine doing for the rest of my life.
Actually doing it takes commitment and patience and so much hard work and luck that it’s ridiculous. Putting in the hours while all your peers whisper in your ear how shitty this business is borders on absolutely impossible. Somehow you have to simultaneously be aware of it so you can change it – don’t undercharge, know your rights, demand better – while also ignoring it completely so you can actually get some goddamn work done. That part is harder than anything. Harder than taxes. Harder than drawing hands.
Mark Twain said that “all you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure” and I think there’s something to that. Though perhaps in this time of twitter feeds it’s more a matter of ignoring than ignorance. I love working in a business where it doesn’t matter where I live and where my colleagues – even the ones I’ve never actually worked with – talk frankly about bad employers and what to look out for in a contract. But goddamn, is it hard to draw a clean speech bubble when you’re having a panic attack.