As of this year, I've been drawing comics professionally for 21 years. The ongoing joke around my house is that my comic book career is old enough to drink. Which for some reason amuses me, but let's be honest, probably only me.
It hasn't been a smooth road, as anyone who has followed my career knows. Lots of ups and downs. Good years, dismal years, years where I wanted to chuck it all in and get a normal job, even years where I actually did go and get a normal job. But for one reason or another, I always end up back behind an art table, or now, a Cintiq.
I've made mistakes, plenty of them. Some derailed my career a bit, some nearly destroyed it, and yet, somehow, I'm busier now than I've ever been. In fact, I seem to have stumbled on to the career I expected to have when I started out 21 years ago - with a regular gig, a sea of side gigs to fill up my spare time, and personal projects to fill any extra time I might have considered using for sleep or hanging out or any of the normal stuff of life that is rarely an option when you're freelance creative person with bills to pay and deadlines to meet.
There's no secret to my survival, at least not a simple, easy to explain one, but I have learned some things over the years, things I thought I'd share on the off chance that they might help other people looking at comics as a career or a hobby; rules you should follow, or at least some mistakes to avoid.
I've talked before about the realities of making comics in the current marketplace, and between the time I wrote about it and now, things have continued to change. It's a hard way to make a living, and while many people still think comic book creators are all rich and famous, the truth is an ever smaller group of people are making what most people would think of as 'good money' much less a stack of cash they can sleep on.
I don't say this to scare anyone. The related fact is that it's so much easier to get a comic book out now than it has ever been. If you can finish it, you can publish it, either yourself or through someone else. But as always, finding an audience for it isn't easy and making money at it is even harder still.
For a while now, I've been thinking that we're fast approaching an age where the professional creative class - people who make their living solely through making comics or writing books or making music - will be an incredibly rare species. Lots of people will still be making things, but only a few will be supporting themselves with it.
And that's okay. As we often say in my family when something we're not wild about happens, "It is what it is." Like the move to digital in most creative media, the writing is on the walls (or the iPad) and you have to adjust and plan for it as best you can or get left behind.
But say you do find yourself in the position of creating comics for a publisher - big or small, digital or print - and you'd like to keep doing it. Well, let me give you a few pointers...
NEXT: THE CARE AND FEEDING OF EDITORS