Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cartoonists Getting Rich?

"Getting Rich In Comics?," is the headline.

"Probably not," is the first line. Slave Labor Graphics Editor-in-Chief Jennifer De Guzman writes about unrealistic views of comic book and graphic novel creators at the Comic World News site. [Edit: This domain currently down.]

Way back before I was a full-time cartoonist, I had no delusions.

I never, ever thought I would ever, ever, ever be successful because -- as the Ms De Guzman rightly states -- very few can make a living. "Most cartoonists' careers last six months," so the saying goes.

I think one of the reasons why most pro cartoonists are such nice guys -- and I mean successful comic book artists, lauded strip cartoonists, well-known gag cartoonists -- is that they are continuously humbled by the bucket-loads of perseverance that we all have to go through to get our work out there and get it bought by an editor. For every bought cartoons there's a number (sometimes a rather large number) in a drawer.

Success does not hold any guarantees.

For instance, it's nice that I have cartoons in WSJ, Reader's Digest and Playboy this month. Wow! Looky me! I'm in 3 huge markets! Wow!

But that doesn't guarantee any level of sales in February. Heck, as a couple of my cartoonist pals know, I lost a good client a couple of weeks ago. Things like this happen, as my colleagues all know.

A client will decide to change their approach, or something. Anyway, all of a sudden, the market is not buying from you any more. You need to smile and nod and move on. Rejection is all part of the profession.

"For everything, there's a beginning, a middle and an end," Sam Gross told me a couple weeks ago. Sam submitted to the New Yorker for over five years before getting published. Heck, I've been submitting to the New Yorker for near seven years without success.

Every week, the challenge for me and every other brother and sister cartoonists drums on: come up with some good, new, funny content; keep pitching. I still don't know what sells. Some markets buy a lot, some a little, some not at all.

I may not be rich, but I am in the best company.


Mark Heath said...

Playboy? Congratulations! In my mind that's akin to a New Yorker sale.

Kevin Spear said...

Some thought provoking comments, Mike. Thank you for your insights.

Now I know where the old starving artist cliche comes from. Not that I'm starving, but I certainly couldn't cartoon without the dependable design job.

It's like being called to the ministry: don't to it unless you feel you can do nothing else.

Now there's a thought! Cartooning is a ministry. I wonder if we can get tax exempt status?

trowbridge chronicles said...

Enjoyed your article. I have a special fondness for gag cartoons. The first money I made as a 12 year old kid was selling gag cartoons to magazines. My first sale: $3.50 to Skin Diver Magazine. I'm very grateful to still be in the business full-time.