The Comics Community on the Changes to Their Daily Processes in 2020

The last of the big “how things changed” portion of my creator-centric year in review content for SKTCHD is here today. While we still have one more day of questions with this crew to come – their favorite comics of the year! – I still had one big question for each of them about how 2020 affected what they do. And that one is simple, even if it doesn’t have an easy answer. That question? It was:

When it comes specifically to your work, how did all of this affect your daily process? Was that side of your life largely the same, or were there major differences?

This one is all about their day-to-day lives, and how 2020 changed their daily schedule in some minor or major ways. We’ve gotten a lot of “this is how the industry changed!” perspectives in regards to the pandemic, but how it messes with a comic creator’s Tuesday? Not so much! So that’s what we’re doing here today.

As with all these pieces this week, this article is open to non-subscribers. But if you want to read more SKTCHD content, consider subscribing to support independent comics journalism! Learn more about this on the subscriptions page, but, until then, please enjoy the perspective from these very, very smart people.

From NYCC 2019

Vita Ayala (New Mutants, Children of the Atom)

It has made me less efficient, honestly. Back in 2018 and early to mid 2019, I was writing between 7 and 12 single issues in a month. It is absolutely ba-nay-nays, and I would never go back, but the freedom to go see a friend for an afternoon, or work in a cafe (my preferred work space haha), or just not having to have the crushing weight and fear of the virus and all the harm it is doing (both health-wise, but in other ways) to people allowed me to process, think, and exist better.

Now, working with a more reasonable workload, I have had a harder time. To try and combat the drop in efficiency, I have started getting up earlier and forcing myself to stop before 9pm (usually, with some exceptions), and doing tings just because I enjoy them. Refilling the well has never been more important!

Tadd Galusha (Cretaceous)

It was all about the same, work wise.

Rob Guillory (Farmhand)

Having three young kids, it completely rocked every aspect of our day-to-day. My wife also runs her own business, so March to September was a constant give and take between the two of us, trading off days at work and days with the kids. We managed to cobble together a decent system, but at best it still cut our usual productivity by a good bit. At the moment, my kids are back in physical school, so things are the closest to normal they’ve been. Fingers crossed.

Liana Kangas’ art from TRVE KVLT

Liana Kangas (Seeds of Eden, TRVE KVLT)

My largest challenge has been adequately managing my time to accommodate the changes we’re all experiencing. As anyone who works from home previously can tell you, especially now, there’s a balancing act of choosing when to divide your professional time from your personal time and how to do that over screens without burning yourself out. Every few months I’ve changed a bit of my routine to cater to specific deadlines or hurdles. Cut out video games, maybe pass on a few zoom calls one week… etc. Have a circle of friends you call and check in every day, write every day even if you don’t want to, manage your week to accommodate USPS and shipping schedules, or arriving merch and inventory. It’s all new. I’ve found myself scheduling more and specific things, even doing financial work and emails, so I don’t lose track, giving myself earlier deadlines to accommodate time off or free time to work on my own creative projects. 

Learning how to ask for help was my biggest learned moment and made the biggest difference; I’ve always heard “you need an agent,” but there’s no clear cut line to each career in comics and I wish I knew a lot of this when I started pursuing it. I’ve had a lot of help from friends and peers, like Aviva Maï Artzy occasionally helped run a pop up store for me recently with Sweeney Boo and Leisha Riddel while running her own illustration freelance career. I even have a friend Marie who now helps me by repping my original art / commission related requests, and Brent Fisher (aka Carol Collector) actually mods my Twitch stream and Patreon discord.

I’ve collaborated on some layouts with Lelay & Riddel, and hired a flatter for my colored work. Jazzlyn Stone, you know about her incredible marketing on TK but she’s done other books as well! All of these sections are part of the background process to being an independent creator. It’s a collaborative effort across individuals helping each other out when needed, whether it’s friends that are willing to lend a hand, or work for hire; these are important aspects in what I feel like makes me feel successful tackling these major hurdles of this year. 

Stephen Mooney (Half Past Danger)

Very much the same, for me. The only major difference (interruption!) to my workflow in the last twenty years has been having a child.

Trung Le Nguyen (The Magic Fish)

I think I had to slow down more so than I’d hoped, which is so frustrating for me. I like to be able to keep banging out work, but there’s a lot of learning that needs to happen on the job while making a comic. It’s tough to do all that work while the world is, you know, the way it is this year.

Nick Roche (Scarenthood)

As I mention, life should have remained the same, but the background roar of 2020 definitely bled through the noise-cancelling earphones I was gifted after the birth of my first kid. My children were at home from school all the time, and so that did have SOME effect. The four-five hours I had during week mornings without them was when I would mentally storm the beach of the day, so even if chaos reigned after school, I had cleared a lot of the harder work on the page, and had built up momentum that could withstand their company and requests for me to DJ on Spotify while I worked. It’s a good job Into The Unknown is a CHOON. Is the lesson ‘Don’t Have Kids?’ Possibly, but without them, I wouldn’t have come up with SCARENTHOOD, which in turn, they slowed down progress of by looking for attention and stuff?

I think the main effect I felt though was down to my own negativity, and internalising a lot of self-doubt and imposter syndrome due to the HYPERPRODUCTIVITY displayed by some of my peers. People churning out lockdown comics, or setting up streaming channels, or creating online events that brought people together… all super-positive things that undermined my own confidence, and made my own stuttering workflow grind to a halt. So even the positive stuff online was affecting me negatively, which says a lot about my own bitter, resentful soul.

But on the plus side, I got indoctrinated into a lovely online DnD family with artists Will Sliney and Sean Izaakse, and that gave me a chance to try something I’d always wanted to, and make new friends too. The sort of thing you can only say after a successful orgy.

Matthew Rosenberg (Hawkeye: Freefall)

I spent a lot more time staring at blank pages trying to will words on to them. It’s not glamorous, but I know it’s a thing a lot of people suffered from and beat themselves up about, and I hate that. I wish we could normalize not beating ourselves up for struggling.

Phillip Sevy’s cover art for Triage

Phillip Sevy (Triage)

I experienced a major creative shut down early in the year after Covid hit, Diamond stopped, and I had all my upcoming work put on hold. With the state of the world and its impact on my career, I just hit a wall. So I had to learn how to be okay with taking a break and allowing a creative recharge. For someone who rarely misses a day of drawing, to go four months with almost nothing drawn was a very different shift.

But once I allowed myself to take a breath, focus on a few other things, life outside of comics, and find a productive routine, I was able to begin drawing comics again. It’s been a big change, but I’ve found a new burst of productivity both writing and drawing. After this year, I feel I have a different relationship and goals as it relates to comics work. We’ll have to see how that evolves over 2021!

Declan Shalvey (Wolverine: Black, White and Blood, Immortal Hulk: Flatline)

Overall, things haven’t changed that much for me. I share a studio with animators so we were all isolated together, so it hasn’t been too isolating, I still can have in-person creative conversations. I probably take that for granted, I have been very fortunate in that regard. I remember getting art materials was hard during lockdown, but I’d previously stocked up. Again; lucky. There was a time when the internet was just going insane week after week, and with so many of my friends being online, it was hard to stay in contact with people and not get mentally overwhelmed by everything. It definitely had an effect on my headspace and productivity. I’ve made an effort to step back and keep myself sane, productive and in control of what sanity I already had. There’s one thing I could control; my focus, and things have been better since.

Kyle Starks (Karate Prom, Old Head)

I mean, I think the biggest hit on my daily process was I just didn’t want to work. The pandemic plus the political climate of this country this year caused me and my family nothing but intense anxiety and concern. Once I figured out I’d be happier working than doomscrolling the news it was better mentally and emotionally for me. Did how I work change? No, I mean, you hit the ball the way you hit the ball – you always try to improve, to get better, try new things – but I don’t think you’re changing your entire stance.

Caitlin Yarsky (Bliss)

I do a mix of digital and traditional work, but being at home more allows me more opportunities to experiment with different traditional techniques which is fun.

Come back tomorrow for one more day of thoughts from these creators and more, and if you enjoy this content, consider subscribing to get much more like it!