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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why I Didn't Become a Comic Book Artist...

Today in The Cube:

If you've paid much attention to my blog, you notice that I have a deep and abiding reverence for comic book artists. They're doing God's work, people. Hardworking Joes and Janes out there at their boards, computers and Cintiqs, giving static life to the written word.

When I was a kid, about 15, I wanted to learn the artistic style of comics artists - not necessarily to become a comics artist, but to develop the skill set of one. Certainly, in the back of my head was the dream of doing it one day, but never seriously. (That half-baked dream is still in the back of my head somewhere, lurking like Gollum...)

So I worked and practiced, and worked. And I read about techniques, about other artist's processes, about the industry. And the more I learned, the more encouraged and discouraged I became, simultaneously.

It is, obviously, a wonderfully fulfilling career to be able to create, to put your mind and vision to paper with a pen in your hand. But so, SO very few get to "make it" in the industry. Visit any comvention. For every "professional" there who's worked for one of the "Big 4" publishers [Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse] there are 4-5 guys at other tables in Artist's Alley who slave away at a project, often for no pay, publishing it on their own dime, trying to get noticed and get a gig. Their chances are so, so, SO very slim. If they bust their butts they might make it to one of the smaller Indie publishers. Maybe. Or not. You have to respect them for trying, though.

The thing is, once they make it to the "majors", things are far from certain. Books get cancelled. Artist lineups get shaken up. Sometimes you're just not fast enough or quality enough, and you get dropped.

Then there's the money. As a kid I though that, once you were published in a comic, you were set for life. Rich. Famous. Not the case. Pencillers doing a monthly book, starting out, make $30,000 to $40,000 a year - maybe - if they manage a page a day. For some guys, depending on where they live, they still need to support themselves with a second job. Far from the lap of luxury.

Then there's the pressure. I work in a deadline-driven field, so I know what that's like, but I've never been able to put out my best artistic stuff drawing on a tight deadline. I would freeze, and I know it. Most of the artists in the field that I know work from home, and have children at home; the ability to do your work in that kind of environment and not goof off is staggering. I don't know if I could do it.

So that's what I content myself with sketches and doing some coloring piecework. That's why I never really decided to be a comic book artist.

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