Breaking into comics is hard; making money in comics is insanely hard.
Well, actually, breaking in isn’t that hard. Just make your own comics. Bendis agrees. But then getting paid or making a living might be the dream but that’s kind of all if will be. At least for a very long time. Again, Bendis agrees.
Many pros have talked about money and comics and the oil and water nature of them at times. Obviously, there is money in comics. If you self-publish books at a decent price and sell them at cons you can make some money. Not a great deal, not enough to go full time on, not always enough to cover cost of con travel/accomm/table, but some money. If you get tapped to write anything work for hire (like I did at IDW), there’s some money there. If you grind for years, hustle, and sell well into a decent fanbase then there will be some money. Money exists in comics, in certain places, it’s true.
You can make money in comics but rarely enough to go full time or retire on. But we live in the dream of maybe making this happen. Y’know, if we land a sweet Image gig, that’s critically acclaimed, and really good, then we’ll make money, right?
Well, let me ask you this: is your book better than CASANOVA by Gabriel Ba/Fabio Moon and Matt Fraction? I’d argue it’s not. In fact, not much anywhere is. Nothing I’ve written comes close. CASANOVA was a critical darling like you’d dream about. It’s sales weren’t great, though, and it’s been said many times that Fraction didn’t see a cent for writing that book for years. Years. He wrote two arcs, 14 issues, and crafted one of my favourite stories/books of all time and yet the whole time he made that book at Image, he didn’t see a cent.
CASANOVA did make some money and Fraction invested it in his artists. Because Ba and Moon needed to pay the bills.
This means, in this instance, two things:
- There’s not a lot of money in making your first comics, no matter how brilliant they are,
- And, the artists get paid first. Even when the writer isn’t yet seeing a dollar.
I think these two points are really something to stew on, especially for the rest of us as we make our way up. We don’t have to adhere to them but it doesn’t hurt to consider them with gravity.
Are we expecting big bucks? We might be disappointed.
Are we (and I mean writers, because that’s what I am) hoping to split profits evenly with our art team? Well, that might not work out the best. Especially not if we want people on the level of Ba/Moon who could/can/and will take paying gigs elsewhere because rent and food come first. And there are breaking in artists on that level, for sure, they are out there. Perhaps, and this might feel painful, but perhaps we need to invest much more into the artists with that early profit. Perhaps we need to fulfil their page rates first and foremost.
Of course, this then begets a new discussion about pay in comics that this post isn’t really about. What is this post about?
Matt Fraction created CASANOVA for 14 issues, garnered the highest praise possible, put out a book that is insanely well crafted, and didn’t make a dollar for it. And yet he did it. One can only assume because he had passion for the project.
That’s what this comes down to – how much passion do you have for your project? What would you do to see it become real?