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I am not going to miss 2013. There were a number of high points (The Crow collection, Moon Lake, drawing covers for Joe Palooka, working on a short story with Steve Niles), but this one ended up being the nadir of a few years of bad personal luck.
I’m not sure if my perspective is warped because I’m in a small minority of creators in the comic industry that make their living from working solely in said comic industry, but it’s a pretty tough place to do that if you have the perfect storm of life factors that I do:
I live in the second most expensive city in the U.S.
My spouse doesn’t support me financially (unless necessary – we have separate finances).
I have a child.
I like to leave my drawing table occasionally.
We usually manage pretty well because I take on as much work as I can, and my wife’s clientele usually take very good care of her. We intentionally live as cheaply as possible and have a cushion in our savings accounts in the event that some disaster makes our finances go tits-up.
The superstorm back in 2012 fucked up a lot of people’s lives really badly – way worse than ours – but we ended up as some weird form of collateral damage. Basically, as a freelancer in publishing, one rule of thumb is that if I don’t have a long-term gig booked by the end of October, I probably won’t be working until some time in January (publishing is usually pretty dead between Thanksgiving and New Year’s). What happened that year is that I had nothing on deck yet, lost a week of work time due to power outage, and by the time I could get back to it, November was half over.
We’re usually prepared for that kind of thing, but the loss of both of our incomes for nearly two weeks made the situation pretty bleak, though not impossible. All through the end of the year and into January I made my rounds of calls trying to find some gigs, and I landed a few really neat, small, and much-appreciated ones, but not enough to keep the needle in the black.
As we got out of ‘12 and into ‘13, I started getting hearing back from various editors that there was stuff in the pipe, but sometimes it takes a while. Long story very short, I ended up eating though my savings and didn’t have any regular gigs until May, and not enough regular gigs to pay the bills until July (and I am eternally grateful to the people who hooked me up with those – you know who you are.)
In the interest of perspective, I’m going to break taboo on talking about money (if I haven’t already, and fuck taboos anyway) and say that I gross a little less than the median income for where I live. My wife grosses half that. We live pretty nicely, but we are nowhere near what would be considered middle class in NYC. Like I said, we usually manage really well, but while my financials were back on track, circumstances left my wife with her income being halved in the last half of the year.
We’re still not entirely back in track yet, but things are looking okay going into 2014. We chose this lifestyle, and know what the risks are. The real frustration comes from having too many actual adult responsibilities to be able to draw comics as a side gig or hobby - if it don’t pay, it don’t play. I’m pretty damn fast, but when you’re the primary caregiver for a 3yo and working 15 hour days at the same time just to not go bankrupt, drawing a personal project isn’t super feasible. In fact, mixing a cocktail and firing up Netflix is usually even stretching the mental capacity at the end of the day. There was much serious talk of retirement this time – putting down the pens and going on sabbatical at the very least.
But I’ve got stuff on deck for 2014 – my new series Antioch, Fishtown being back in print, a new webcomic with Miss that we want to produce on a regular schedule. But I think I’ll be moving away a bit too, getting back to music, getting serious about learning another language, and (most importantly and bizarrely unless you know me well) co-writing a musical, hopefully the first of many.
And on top of all that my health and strength, which have deteriorated due to the stress of the last few years, are returning quickly and with shocking force. I am grateful that I get to do the work I do and work with great people who believe in me. I am grateful to have a spectacular family and friends who are supportive beyond all logic. We’ll all march on to a better future.
But fuck you 2013. If you were a person I would repeatedly mack you in the face with razor wire until you begged for death. I’m glad I don’t need to worry about that anymore