On Business: Schooling

By | Monday, November 16, 2015 Leave a Comment
First, it is absolutely incredible that there are not just courses for comic study at accredited universities, but there are schools -- schools, plural! -- that are focused exclusively on teaching comics. The Center for Cartoon Studies and The Kubert School are certainly the most prominent, but there are others. (!) The programs are somewhat different, not surprisingly, but they have the types of specialized courses you would expect: figure drawing, storytelling, lettering, coloring, etc. Basically, everything you need to be an artist in the comic industry, whether you apply that to making comic books, comic strips, webcomics, whatever. Some even have "professional practices" classes where they teach about building a portfolio, marketing yourself, creator rights, etc.

But, from what I can tell, none of them cover what is possibly the single, most important part about becoming a professional comic creator. Which is simultaneously the least understood/appreciated aspect of becoming a professional comic creator (from the perspective of the stereotypically right-brained creatives who want to make comics for a living). And that part that doesn't seem to be mentioned? Actually making a living.

There is nothing (again, from what I can see) about the different ways you can actually earn money being in comics. There's no discussion of how a company like Marvel or DC might hire you versus how a creator-owned book at Image might work versus how a syndicated newspaper strip pays you versus how you're able to make a living doing webcomics. Those are all wildly different models, and require different types of skills above and beyond your ability to draw comics. Furthermore, they're all various forms of freelancing and therefore don't provide anything in the way of health benefits, which would have to be sought out independently.

It is absolutely not the sexy part of being a comic creator. And I can almost guarantee that every student taking the class will rank it as their least favorite. "I just wanna draw comics -- what the hell do I care about 'business models'?"

But if we're at a point where we do have a good amount of choice for students who want to study sequential art, doesn't it make sense to provide an education that a full picture of what being a comic creator is like? Yeah, if you want to be the next Robert Khoo, you're going to go to a business school and maybe take a course or two on storytelling or comic appreciation or something. But if you're going to be drawing comics every day, then you'll want to go to a school that provides a deeper level of work on those drawing related skills. And while that focus should indeed be on the comics creation process, I wonder if aspiring creators should be made more aware of the "earning a living" part of this.
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