Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Rant, or How To Get Free Sketches From Me

DC used the passing of someone that had a huge contribution to their great library and history of work by promoting his work in part of a current, controversial project that one could argue a great bit rides on the success of. A lot of fans and artists were appalled at DC's callous action in the passing of a man responsible for so much great comic art, and not just his own, but a legacy of former students.

Comics is a business and that has become painfully apparent lately. A handful of artists can make a living on what they get from comics alone, and they do so without the benefit of health insurance or many of the job security benefits many of us take for granted. Efforts to change the status quo have always fallen flat. Crossgen offered benefits, but folded when the losses the company made could no longer be written off on taxes. (That is an assumption, I have no information as to why Crossgen folded. ) Efforts to unionize have failed, and efforts to secure rights for creators have centered on pay and intellectual property.

It has occurred to me, after talking to a great number of artists at conventions that when we talk of comics, we sometimes mention that we have "a love affair with comics." Taking that analogy further, comics often treats us like we're in a love affair, and we're the mistress. Comics treats us all right most of the time, and when we're with him, we have fun, and when we're not with him we often think about him and how he makes us feel. We're generally happy with the relationship.

Then there are the times that comics treats us bad. We put a lot of effort in the relationship, drawing comics, putting together minis, going to shows to show comics what we have done for him. We make it obvious that all we really want is for comics to dress us up and take us out and show us off. However, we are cruelly reminded that comics doesn't really care about us. Comics cares only about making money, and it does so with any number of the other mistresses he has out there. He takes them out for his New 52 or his Beyond Watchmen. He encourages them to do fan art and yells at them when they make money and don't give him any, like a pimp. We show comics the stuff we worked so hard on and we're told way too often that it isn't good enough. Like the cliche mistress, we hold onto the relationship, convinced that if we just try harder next time, he'll be taking us out for his next big party.

Well, I'm done being walked on by comics. I'm going to do my own thing on my own terms and not worry about putting on my nice clothes and taken out to be shown off. Comics is not loyal and never will be. Even when comics pays attention to its best mistresses, he treats them badly, not caring about their well-being, not-caring that they have enough money to pay their bills, even if they spend all of their time trying to please him.

I'm doing the comics that I want and doing them when I want to do them. You'll see me at conventions, but I'm not hustling any more. I like drawing sketches for people, but I'm never going to rely on doing paid commissions to pay any of my bills. Will I collect any of my comics into print format? I might, since friends seem to enjoy them, but I'm not going to do another Kickstarter, or whatever follows it for crowdsourcing, for a while, I do believe. I reserve the right to change my mind, though.

So, after Jet-Pack Jenny gets printed, I'm working on what I want to work on at the pace I can afford to work on. It's not a career for me, it's a hobby. A career is something that you make a living at, and there's too many creators out there who call comics their career, but not making a living at it. When you don't make a living at something, it's not a career, it's a hobby.

So I'll continue to post where I've been posting, and for the most part, you'll never know that I even posted this rant or came to this decision. The actual changes that I'm making in my practices will not be immediately visible, but you will notice a shift in how I treat my comics and how I produce them.

The major change that people might notice will be at conventions my willingness to do free sketches on 3 x 5 cards. That's right, free, because I enjoy drawing for people and there's nothing more depressing than putting a sign out with prices you charge for sketches and not getting any takers for long periods of time. Whenever I've done free sketches, I've had fun.

I'm not out to convert anyone to my new position, but I do urge you to re-evaluate your own relationship to comics.

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