Around this time of year, graduation speakers tell young people to follow their hearts and pursue work that they love. It’s a good idea.
Me, I love comic books (among other things). And I’ve had the good fortune to work in comics from time to time.
But when you give your heart to something, you give it the power to break your heart. And that’s happened over and over to me and others.
Co-creators and other collaborators fail to deliver as promised. Editors pay no attention to your work or tear it to pieces. Publishers cheat you or run out of money or change direction away from what you’re doing. Printers run your pages too dark or too light to read. Readers and reviewers attack your work — or worse, ignore it. Search engines put any mention of your work at the end of their results list, if they list it at all. Conventions don’t care about you as an exhibitor. Retailers and bookstores order few or no copies of your work — or they order a huge amount on a returnable basis, running up your printer bills and forcing you to take thousands of returned copies at full credit.
Comics is wonderful as a form of art and storytelling. As an industry, it breaks hearts.
So why keep pursuing it?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I love it. And although I’ll protect myself from further heartbreak, I’m not giving up on comics. Maybe I should —
— but it’s hard to leave love behind.