Is it possible to have a career in comics without a second income?

A new round of discussing the financial realities of making comics hit Twitter this week, sparked by an honest and sobering thread from writer Joshua Dysart.

Here’s the Tweet:

Truth for you. Almost every single person who got their start in comics from my generation, & from most others too, had some kind of supplemental income, & many people who appear successful today are either being subsidized by a spouse, family money, or some other means.

— Óðinn’s Eye – All December Long (@JoshuaDysart) July 13, 2021

The tweet — which was sincerely about as honest and as insightful as a tweet on this subject can get — quickly struck a chord with the online comics discussion community, going on to hundreds of likes and retweets, many of which were from other creators quoting it as they shared their own (largely similar) experiences, ranging from staying with friends for years at a time…

2 friends let me move in with them (and their 2 kids, 2 dogs & 2 cats) for a couple years while I worked to get a foothold in comics. i definitely wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for that unrepayable act of friendship (and faith in my abilities, something i still kinda lack)

— Christopher Sebela (@xtop) July 14, 2021

…to holding full-time jobs that necessitated 18-hour days to also do comics…

I had a full-time job while writing comics full-time for longer than I’d have liked. Yes, as in working 16-18 hour days.

Thanks to living in a state with a good healthcare exchange, AND my dad saying he’d help with insurance if I got in trouble, am JUST doing comics full-time.

— Jody Houser is Vaccinated! (@Jody_Houser) July 14, 2021

…and more.

In brief, folks from throughout the industry agree that it’s rare to be able to pay all your bills through comics, without a job (or jobs) and/or supplemental income from a partner. Oh, and there’s an extra layer of difficulty afflicting American creators who have to answer the healthcare question, unlike Canadian and some European counterparts. This goes beyond just a popular twitter thread, though. This week has seen the financial realities of comics go on to afflict some publishing ventures.

Within 24 hours of this thread going off, news also broke that much-loved small press publisher, AdHouse Books, was calling it quits after 20 years, 100 books, and several awards. Chris Pitzer, who ran AdHouse, cited a few reasons for this, and among them, of course were finances, specifically a desire to have a retirement plan (another item that appeared frequently in Dysart’s thread as well as those that came in response). And AdHouse isn’t alone. The folks at Peow Studio (another well-respected small press published of fantastic books) also ended their run this year, not long after Koyama Press (another great small press publisher) did the same.

This is all a bummer, mixed with a reality check as well as a bit of sobering/useful news for those of us with medical conditions, partners unable to carry all the financial load, and any number of other Real Life considerations. But, hey, it’s also a conversation that tends to go around comics…and has for many many years.

The Beat has certainly detailed the struggles of paying bills through comics (especially indie comics), plus also trying to maintain any kind of work/life balance, as these are all factors that have and continue to convince talented creators to quit. While many tout the freedom of the creator-owned model, as Jim Zub has written over the years, it’s no slam dunk. And of course, it can be a detriment, but it’s also probably good for the community that the realities be unobscured and readily discussed without stigma. I’ve been personally joking that this Twitter thread is now my mentor.

At least we know what we’re dealing with, and continue to remind folks. Anyway, I just got pinged for my own day job and best be getting back to that…

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Twitter thread sparks latest round of expectation adjusting.
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