So you want to be a comic book artist..? Here’s some sobering information.One year. 12 issues. 264 pages. 4 covers.As a full-time comic artist this is the expected output, more or less. Not to say I haven’t done a TON of work on the side to make ends meet, but as an artist on an ongoing monthly title, this is generally what you are expected to produce every year. Some artists do much more than this. Some less. It all depends on your productivity and drive.It’s taken a lot of work and a ton of luck, but I’ve managed to stay busy for the majority of my career. I’ve gotten married, bought a house and have two beautiful kids. All the while, I was working full time as a professional comic artist. This schedule has allowed me to stay home with the kids until they were ready for school. I’m truly grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and all of the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know and work with over the years.I wanted to take this opportunity to give people a look at what it really means to be a professional comic artist; good and bad.This was a strictly work-for-hire job on a licensed book. That usually means no royalties. The page rate on this project was $125. This is considered an okay page rate by today’s standards. Advances on creator-owned projects are a different matter and subject to different criteria, so are jobs at Marvel and DC. That being said, this is a middle-of-the-road page rate. Not great, not terrible.Gross pay over the year in addition to those four covers was $33,625. After taxes? $24, 210. That’s $2,017.50 a month (again, I do a lot of work on the side to make ends meet).Nearly all of that aforementioned salary goes to the mortgage, and so the majority of the financial responsibility falls on my wife.Remember those kids i mentioned? Full-time daycare in Portland is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 -$1,500 per kid. Not to mention health insurance, utilities, car payments, school loans, credit card payments, et al.Needless to say, you’re going to have to do a hell of a lot more work than those 264+ pages per year to keep your family afloat (should you choose to have one).So. Here’s the schedule I keep:7:00am - Wake up, feed the kids and get them ready for school.8:30 - Take the kids to school9:00-9:30am - Start work12:30pm Pick up kid #13:30pm: Pick up kid #24:00-9:00pm - Family time.9:00pm-3:00am Work3:00am Sleep.Yep. That’s four hours of sleep per day, best-case scenario. Weekends too. Due to the sleep deprivation, I feel like absolute garbage all the time. Depression, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, weight gain, compromised cognitive abilities, even hallucinations - I suffer from all of these.So, let’s imagine you have a quaint little nuclear family, a mortgage, etc. and you land a high-profile, non-DC/Marvel gig like #BigTroubleinLittleChina, and you command a decent salary (by today’s standards) from whatever value your name/talent/reputation derives.You will still likely need to work 50-60 hours a week, nearly 365 days a year to just get by.So you want to be a comic book artist..?My best advice to you is to find another way to make your money. Make comics for fun, and at your leisure. Make creator-owned comics, as this is some of the most rewarding work you will ever do, hands down. My books, The Secret History of DB Cooper and Hellbreak have been the most rewarding experiences I’ve had professionally. I implore everyone to do their own thing and not expect comics to pay their bills, because it likely won’t.-BCHellbreak and The Secret History of DB Cooper are available through your local comic shop, and are published by Oni Press.
Thanks for the info Ellis. I like his last piece of advice:"My best advice to you is to find another way to make your money. Make comics for fun, and at your leisure. Make creator-owned comics, as this is some of the most rewarding work you will ever do, hands down."Thank goodness for the video games field I say.
I just broke down and bought a scanner that will work with the new computer. The iMac refuses to start properly. Won't boot from it's hard drive. Gives me a flashing question mark folder. I need a scanner to properly do my own comics. They could be 100 percent digital but then what would I do with all these pencils. Plus , my version of journal keeping is a constant supply of web published doodles.
I appreciate the author's candor and wonder about his plight. The neglect of his health in order to make deadlines, which has allowed him to barely scrape by, is not sustainable, long-term. Something's gotta give. I did the sleep deprivation thing for a couple of years and it just makes you miserable. The toll it takes on your mental health is really the thing to avoid. You are an emotional wreck and often make bad decisions that compound your problems.He says to do something else to pay the bills and do your own thing for creative satisfaction. Will he able to follow his own advice? Without really knowing him, it seems like his work and personal commitments (house, kids, bills, etc.) don't give him any latitude for a gradual change into another career, which would be the ideal way to do it. Maybe do less comic work with fewer demands, pick up a part-time side job that is a show-up/go-home deal so he can get some career training or take some classes or something like that. I dunno. Quite the dilemma.
I guess you have to truly love, or maybe be obsessed with drawing to stick with a job like that. I love drawing but I would never want to sacrifice my health for it, not even for my own personal projects, let alone someone else's at low pay. After putting in some hours on my comic I always try to get in a daily workout and some quality television watching at the end of the day.
You have to do it like Rick Schmitz. Rick is the best guy I've encountered for putting brackets around- 'Now is work' 'Now is not work.' The artist here can't quit because 'there's more work to be done' You have to quit and know it will be right where you left it.
There's a kind of around the clock worker who also tends to be the kind of guy not working around the clock. Lots of phone calls and other breaks are things you feel you deserve if you never stop working. You're not getting focused work done like that.
He has down 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm down as "family time". I wonder what that entails specifically. I would think stealing a couple of hours from that for "personal naptime" would be well worth it, and it would still leave you 6:00 - 9:00 for "family time", which I think would be a lot more fun if you're not depressed, nauseous and hallucinating. (And dead at 40 from a heart attack.)If someone asked him, bottom line, "Are you happy with your life?", I wonder what he would say.
YIKES.And we thought "The King" had it bad.Thanks for sharing this, Elz...I think?And hey--yr computer situation sounds tragic. I hope things get worked out. Seriously!
I skimmed that SKTCHD survey article. Seems really interesting Ellis, thanks for posting. Why is the link title in that crossed-out font?
Beats me. I tried to edit out the line-struck look and couldn't figure it out.
Pie charts are perfect for skimming.
I fixed it by starting over. The original text was cut and pasted with existing link info. The same link info I added via blogspot button. It might have been some glitch that happens when the info is double attached.
Another indy comic discussion
I have opportunities to work from home from time to time in my current job... I hate it. There's always something around the house that needs to get done (dishes, groceries, pick up kids), but if I do any of that during the day then I need to make up the time in the evening. It creates the illusion that the work day never ends. Bleck. I do it from time to time because of scheduling stuff or some school event that I want to attend, but it always feels like I spent the whole day working. Even if I have to crunch I'd rather do it at the office so I can be focused, get what ever it is done and keep home segregated from work.
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