When I moved I had a decision to make. Would I spend the ninety dollars required to bring my comic collection with me or would I leave it behind?
I left it all behind—every comic, every graphic novel, every ashcan, every sketchbook, every ‘zine. Such a decision was not to be made lightly. I began first by pruning, eliminating books I knew I would not reread and would not miss. Great swaths of comics from the nineties were relinquished, banished to Ikea dustbins and set aside for donation. In the end, when I had accepted that I would be leaving my entire collection behind, I set aside a weekend to simply sit and read. I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the older works held up.
Though I had the funds to take my collection with me, I was reluctant to take it out of my “start-up money.” I knew that bringing the books with me was not a necessity. A more religious (and more annoying) person would probably mention the need to put away childish things. But comics are not childish things. How can a medium, a fully formed method of storytelling, be childish? The notion is absurd.
It is, however, an expensive thing—as a consumer and as a creator. As a consumer, one must have the space to house a personal library and the lucre required to spend $2.99 on roughly seven minutes of entertainment. That’s $25.00 an hour—nearly double the average person’s salary.
And yet that $2.99 must provide for nearly a half-dozen creative individuals—writers, pencillers, inkers, letterers, colorists, and editors. The amount of labor involved to produce such a small—though delectable—morsel of entertainment is astounding and should be adequately compensated. Often, it is not.
In Chris Arrant’s interview with the talented Sean Murphy (who amusingly provided an image that once served as the logo for this site), Murphy was asked if the comics industry was a young man’s game.
“I think it probably helps to be young, not only because you have more energy, but it means you probably have less real-world responsibilities like a mortgage or children (I certainly wouldn’t have had the luxury of doing Punk Rock Jesus if I had two kids to feed). Going to conventions, staying out late and hobnobbing certainly isn’t as fun as it was when I was in my 20s.”
I have to disagree with Murphy. The comics industry—any entertainment industry—is a rich man’s game, be he young or old. Surprisingly, creation itself is a luxury—one that requires time, supplies, and a support network. Those who have wealth are able to acquire resources in greater abundance. Those who do not have money but still possess the desire to create are often expected to suffer for their art. Poverty is romanticized. We swoon over the starving artist or struggling writer. “You have to love comics to be in it.”
When I left my previous position at an academic publisher, I was adamant that I would remain in publishing. In fact, I was certain that I would make the switch to trade or comic publishing—and perhaps write as well. Had one stated that I would set my creative aspirations aside for the field of property management, I would have scoffed.
Yet I left the books behind for a reason. I am far too practical to let the wide-eyed writer inside of me drag me into noisy, cramped apartments; cold, polluted cities; and low-paying daytime drudgery in an attempt to satisfy her creative wishes. I am poised to purchase my first property; she will have to settle for a diary and a library card.
Perhaps when I make that last payment on that last house—somewhere near water where the skies are blue and the political affiliations are as well—I will allow her some leeway. Luckily, writing isn’t a young man’s game.