The Pains of the Comic Book Industry

Due to the powerful context of The Beat’s recent article Are cartoonists doomed to die poor and homeless while pirates dance on their graves? I highly recommend you bookmark this article and come back to read this article again and again and again–If you don’t come to grips with the PAIN YOU ARE EXPERIENCING, you will never get over that pain.

I want you to come back here every day and read this post. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I want to you to feel this pain and find out why this pain makes you so angry.

“How true does any of this ring with you?

I have found some quotes that sum up my feelings for what the artist community is going through…and has gone through for quite a while now. Is yours any different? What’s your pain?

“The days of comics having an audience large enough to support most of the work are ending.” Chris Hero

“Sometimes if I get some scratch I buy some beer and go see a movie at the $2 theatre. But I don’t buy comics.  Never comics.  Not enough bang for the buck. And even though a lot of comics you can read for free, most of them aren’t even worth reading. I’ve stopped downloading so many of them because they’ve gotten unreadable.” Anonymous comment on the Beat

“I’ve been doing graphic design for over 25 years. The art is my passion and also my form of personal expression. “ Tom weinkle

 “And what’s cool about comics people is that we all know how hard it is to do comics or publish comics or write about comics – and so there is a certain comfort in sharing stories because no one really outside of comics actually gets what comics is about. We feel like we belong.” Frank Santoro

Comics are hard work. Comics are relentless. Comics will break your heart. Comics are monetarily unsatisfying. Comics don’t offer much in terms of fortune and glory, but comics will give you complete freedom to tell the stories you want to tell, in ways unlike any other medium. Comics will pick you up after it knocks you down. Comics will dust you off and tell you it loves you. And you will look into it’s eyes and know it’s true, that you love comics back.” Becky Cloonen

“In the sequential art I create, I want to make what I want rather than listen to what others want.  My own desires for acceptance and for times long gone are reflected in my work.” Max West

“My biggest obstacles are my lack of resources and obtaining funding for projects. I have a great eye for what people want before they know what it is and by the time I draw and write my projects often the moment has passed and I see the trends pass me by.  This is a frustration I’ve dealt with for years.” Carsten Bradley


It can be frustrating dealing with lazy editors at publishing houses who are looking for a quick media tie-in. I also get really annoyed by artists and writers who’ll work for nothing to get their work in print. They make it harder for everyone else. If you’re fast and diligent, there is money to be made, but not loads.  If a film of your work gets adapted, like Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, you can make money from selling the rights.” Jim McCarthy

“The fact is, unless a creator is independently wealthy and can absorb the many, many losses they will no doubt incur for every success, the odds they will find a lucrative, marketable idea before they go belly-up are slim indeed. A very few have succeeded, but most won’t – which is why working for the big publishers on a work-for-hire-basis is nothing to be ashamed of or indignant about.” R. Maheras

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 “… a lack of marketing and reasonable product availability are the two major things killing super hero comics and keeping good comics from prospering. There are tons of people who are prime comic book fans and don’t even know it because they haven’t been shown a product worth pursuing legitimately…and that’s a damn shame!” Mike (comment on The Beat.)

I have nearly given up hope. Comic book creators are either oblivious to the need for marketing, or simply don’t see it as a priority.” Shawn Swanson

Many people, especially in the U.S., equate comic books with the superhero genre or dismiss them as kiddie fare…There are more options in terms of format and genre–though not necessarily in terms of how to make a living.” Anina Bennet

If comics readers were not so misunderstood, comics [would be] with the magazines instead of with the toys. Comic books are too hard to find because they are misunderstood and too expensive. I’m more irritated than I am sad. It doesn’t have to be this way. “Clay McKinney

“… the perceived value of comics is low to begin with.”Matt Pizzola

“For some people comic books are superhero stories or Archie comics, but really the level of storytelling and the creativity involved makes that idea limiting,”  Bill Nichols

A lot of money flooded into comics in the end of the last boom, but the tide has been slowly going out. But now it’s gone out. And people are wondering when it will come in again…Comics are an industry with no obvious safety net and dubious rewards, and that exacerbates insecurities, for sure. And right now, as a new year begins, everyone is wondering where the big payoff is coming from—or if it will never come and it’s already too late.  In just the last few days, several creators have spoken out about piracy, which it’s hard not to see as one of the grinning death monkeys holding an axe to the neck of the average freelancer.” The Comics Beat

“Why can’t we just accept that maybe making comics isn’t the path to lots of money? Seriously, the market just isn’t big enough for hundreds and hundreds of small press graphic novelists to make a great living. Alex (comment on The Beat)

“Piracy itself is less of a problem than the fact that a gigantic proportion of the money wrapped up in the creative industries never goes anywhere near the creatives themselvesBen (comment on The Beat)

 “There are now many, many comics creators out there thinking that they’re within a few good moves of making A Real Living. In many ways, this flourishing of the artform is making it ever harder to survive in it as a business.” Nat Gertler

There’s a bunch of stuff out there right now on creative teams fighting and/or dissolving. It’s not something I care to link to, but you can find it pretty easily if you look around. The thing that I wanted to note is that this kind of public griping always seems to happen when comics is in a real emotionally stressful period; I think the mini-era we’re in qualifies, for sure. I think we’re past the point where people are just starting to realize that all the exciting things happening around them may not happen to them, and into a phase where people are beginning to worry that comics may have a detrimental effect on their lives.” Tom Spurgeon

A common story was that Artist X was willing and able to starve during his or her 20s in order to produce comics, but marriage, kids, and age combine to make that kind of deliberate self-impoverishment impossible. They end up working some more remunerative job–and who can blame them? But when that happens, comics as a whole is diminished.” Robert Boyd

“…consider the various mental challenges of working in an industry that often attracts … well, there’s no polite word that comes to mind. I’m fond of saying that most people in comics are broken in some way. We’re all drawn to this wacky field because it gives us something we couldn’t get elsewhere, whether escapism or validation or a feeling of community or a business where the usual rules don’t apply or room for extreme individualism or sheep to be fleeced. The flip side of that is how much comics can bring bad feelings or fallings-out or mental scars.Joanna Draper Carlson

“It’s hard getting into the comic book business so finding a local group that’s supportive because of our understanding of what it is we all do is a valuable resource. Many creators feel they’re alone because not everyone does what we do.” Scottie Watson

“Doing it alone, I’m learning, is suicide because project development, making contacts, and creating and producing everything has proven to be so monumental that real progress is slow.” Carsten Bradley

“And for indie creators, piracy is the least of their worries. Diamond not carrying your book is. Retailers unwilling to order your book is. You and your publisher unable to get the word out about your book is.” Mario Boon

“There’s no amount of threats, either legal or brow-beaterly that will change the fact that many more people are unwilling to pay for the intellectual property than those who are happy to plunk down the cash.” Joshua Hale Fialkov

“Truthfully, it’s a burden to have a dream you want to live 24/7, but don’t. Because you can’t make even a middle class living at drawing comics” Jeff Bonivert

“Publishers’ overwhelming profits aren’t generated from sales of comics, but rather from Intellectual Property sales. They could lose on comics sales and still make enormous profits elsewhere, to more than make up for it.” Michael Netzer

“We had a lot of money troubles. I got into these rows with Dave Sim and Linda Medley, and it was very demoralizing. I forgot how close we came to going out of business. We put a bunch of money into toys — toys were really big — in 1999 and 2000.” Jeff Smith

“With the exception of relatively limited grants etc. we really don’t have much of that for people who want to pursue the “life of creativity.” The academy as a whole doesn’t provide the same refuge that it does for academics …this sort of problem has been around for a long time. Without making some fundamental changes to the way we engage with the creative professions as an industry it’s likely to remain with us for a long time still.” Josh Benton

You’ll have to learn to wear more than one hat, and to work your ass off. Not to mention create things that are good. You’re competing with everything else, now more than ever.” DJ Coffman

We’re more than 30 years into the “creator era” of comics, and the question isn’t where is Scott Snyder now. It’s where is Don McGregor now. What is the career path? Where is the security? Is the answer really a spouse with a day job? I don’t have any answers. I’m anxious; all my friends are anxious. Everyone would like to just sit at home and write or draw; instead we have to figure out the future right now in order to be a part of it.” The Comics Beat

“Answers are there but may be elusive, depending on what we want. … Our demonstration sites are our websites. But it’s not easy to persevere and raise a voice unless a movement grows. It needs massive popular support. Leadership from the ranks.” Michael Netzer

DC and Marvel, from their position, didn’t want a thriving publishing industry. They’ve done everything possible to choke it into failure. It’s more comfortable and less risky for them because they make their profits elsewhere. They only need the comics for raw materials, not for profits. So, though what you say is true, it would all change if DC and Marvel were to change strategy and decide to get back to the business of publishing comic books for profit. Ironically, this would elevate everyone, including the big 2. But, because we live in a business world where it’s considered good business to destroy one branch of an industry  for everyone else, in order to maximize profits for yourself in all the other branches, then we will not likely see this happening anytime soon. Unless something miraculous happens and the people (or in this case fandom) raise a voice against it that affects the reputation of the publishers. Their fear for negative publicity is the only thing that caused them to shift a little towards equity with some creators.Michael Netzer

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that there was a reason this was all happening? Wouldn’t be nice if there was a simple solution–an EASY button–that we could push and we would end up in an alternate dimension where comics ruled the world and everyone bowed at our feet?

Well, there isn’t.

And the reason there isn’t is because there is a curse on the comic book industry that is keeping the MUCH NEEDED change from happening. In order to OVERCOME THE CURSE, one must first know what this curse is.

2.1.12 THE END.