Comics, today and in America, have gone through a lot of changes in order for them to be the works of art they are today. Their essence has been around since ancient times, and they have been used for many different reasons – from instructing, to entertaining, to propaganda in times of war. It’s only been in the last fifty years that comics have been looked at under a microscope and actually be considered a high art like painting or literature has been centuries prior. That’s what makes comics such an interesting subject, because something that has been in front of our faces for centuries and has been completely overlooked and has now been put on a prestigious level.
Comics aren’t an entity on their own, behind the panels are artists who work hard at creating either mindless entertainment or masterpieces. As comics have grown, they’ve had their fair share of growing pains and so have the artists who make them. The tight regulations of the Comics Code in the 1950’s to the decline of newspapers at the turn of the 21st century, after each decline, they bounce back with something new that revitalizes the art form. This article isn’t just about comics, there is underlying message that is about the artists who create them. I want to look at the various ways that comics have been made, distributed, and changes that the artists have gone through, not only to keep their jobs but grow the art form itself.
After going through the timeline of comics and the various stages that they’ve gone through, I hope, by the end you’ll have some ideas of how people have made careers out of making art. Not only that, I want to offer a recipe of how anyone can get a job in the comics industry, as an artist or someone who works alongside the artists to make it happen. I find this important because “Art” has many negative connotations attached to it when compared to professionalism, with the most common one being the myth of the “starving artist.” In Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon, she addresses this myth by saying that the myth is a “conventional belief that pursuing a career as an artist leads to financial struggle and [is a] romanticized notion that art is better when created in a state of deprivation.” In other words, this myth tells us that art doesn’t pay and you’ll struggle in life while doing it.
As a counter to the starving artist myth, I use the comics industry as a rebuttal that artists can have financially stable careers by making art. The comics industry is and has been highly prominent throughout our culture and there have been many artists who have lived fulfilling lives through it. But, the visual art market is vast with many other industries available to artists such as – screen printing, graphic design, tattooing, etc. For this series of blog posts, I’ve narrowed down my discussion to be centrally focused on comics, and through it I hope to shed light into working professional artists and how someone can become one.