The Comics Community on the Biggest Change of 2020

After a fairly low stakes start to the creator-driven part of SKTCHD’s Year in Review content, it’s time to get into the real meat of the year. After all, 2020 was an incredibly challenging year, even if it did lead to great comics and result in tremendous adjustments from writers and artists alike. For the next few days, we’ll be focusing on how all of this *gestures everywhere* affected their work and day-to-day lives.

And it begins with a relatively simple question, albeit one with a rather complicated answer for most. Today’s question for creators was:

Obviously 2020 brought an array of challenges to it that other years didn’t have. For you, what was the biggest change from previous years when it came to how you do what you do?

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)

Honestly, the biggest challenge was not being able to see my friends and collaborators in person. At first, I was trying to find the silver lining in things, and thinking things like, “well, I may not be able to go to conventions or pop by offices, but at least I won’t have to worry about con crud and traveling messing with work.” But, I was so wrong.

Maintaining good mental health is wildly important when you work in a creative field (across the board), and I personally get SUPER recharged from seeing my friends and getting to meeting and hang out with collaborators (and the folks that work at the publishers).

I have been trying to be good about reaching out more this year to friends, and more and more conversations that would have been over text or even voice call have moved to video. It isn’t the same as in person, but I am a very audio and visual inclined person, just being able to hear voices and see faces helped make me feel more connected and energized!

Tadd Galusha (Cretaceous)

I’m not sure how to put it into words. I think the overall feel of this past year just made it difficult to “want” to create. The artistic zeitgeist, or cosmic ether of creativity, whatever you want to call it, felt like it got kicked in the nuts. The wind got knocked out of the daily enjoyments of the human experience.  I know as a commercial artist your workflow isn’t supposed to be dictated by flights of  artistic inspiration, but this year was rough, day after day, and it just made it difficult to want to sit down at the desk. Especially when you knew so many were suffering in some shape or form.

Rob Guillory (Farmhand)

The biggest change was the complete shutdown of anything resembling normality, obviously. I’ve been making comics professionally for over a decade, and this was the first year I can remember where I never stepped on a plane, never worked a convention. The lack of travel was the biggest shift for me. On one hand, it was nice to slow down a bit. Still, I missed it from time to time.

Art from Liana Kangas’ Patreon

Liana Kangas (Seeds of Eden, TRVE KVLT)

I think the biggest challenges I encountered in 2020 were twofold: one, was a really grateful volume of projects I got to produce this year — while not having the in person camaraderie from peers and community that I am used to. While I missed the camaraderie that comes with cons, I am thankful to have been busier than I have ever been. That means changing how I work in my home and personal life to accommodate for deadlines while also trying to manage my wonderful community and work/offline friendships.

Everything has presented unique opportunities and challenges, though I have found that a lot of comics communities are all experiencing it, so we can help each other get through it. What I didn’t expect was an influx of how supportive and full circle the community would be for comics knowing that we’re all going through this together. The Patreon I have has a really great crew that’s constantly uplifting and taking care of each other during these times, it’s fun to be in touch with so many people that share common values, love great art, and while I see it as a challenge in the sense that I feel obligated to provide these folks value for investment of money and faith in me. They in turn have given me something so invaluable with the gift of community that we needed right now! 

Stephen Mooney (Half Past Danger)

The massive one for me was going down the self-publishing route with the Half Past Danger Christmas Special. Getting the work done and corralling all of the guest creators wasn’t so bad at all, but figuring out printing and posting with the (as it turns out) myriad and somewhat-inevitable covid-related delays has been very complicated to deal with. A very interesting learning experience, but not something I’ll be doing again in the near future! Delighted to have it done, though.

Other than that, work was pretty normal. Like many comic creators, I don’t leave the house much or interact with other humans with any great regularity, so it was pretty much as you were, there. 

Trung Le Nguyen (The Magic Fish)

For one thing, my partner provides therapy for residents of elder care and assisted living facilities, so they wound up getting Covid. They’re recovered, and we’re fine, but we’re still working around some of the longer effects of the disease. That was not something we could have anticipated.

Nich Roche’s cover to Scarenthood #2

Nick Roche (Scarenthood)

On paper, there shouldn’t have even BEEN a change. I work from home, and my wife’s job (AS A FRONTLINE NURSE IN A KIDS’ ICU – YEAH, I MARRIED A HERO, DEAL WITH IT) shouldn’t have been affected. Equally, I was working on a creator-owned book that I wouldn’t get paid until the back-end, so i should have just doubled-down and got that wrapped up. But the mounting tinnitus of Covid updates just really overwhelmed, and I found myself discovering new flavors of self-loathing over my decreasing productivity. David, I was a right laugh to be around. Everyone in my family were and are safe and healthy. Nothing changed, and I didn’t run out of work. But like some sort of soyflake libtwerp cuckooboy, I allowed the global awfulness to puncture my creative bubble. So I guess that was new. I can’t wait to go back to my normal excuses for not being my Best Self, hun.

Matthew Rosenberg (Hawkeye: Freefall)

Well I never really left my house much anyway, so not much physically changed for me in terms of work. And I truly think there is a real value to entertainment and escapism and comics is the purest form of those things for me. But that doesn’t change the fact that writing about MODOK or whatever while people are fighting for their civil rights in the streets or are scared about getting sick, or losing their jobs and homes, it feels pretty fucking useless sometimes. It’s hard to justify the emotional work you’re putting into it. But that’s the job, and in terms of jobs it’s a pretty good one so I try not to complain.

Phillip Sevy (Triage)

Outside of no conventions and over half the year waiting on projects/without work, I think I really changed how I divide my time. I’ve created time and space for writing every day and split my time between writing projects (this year I’ve written multiple OGNs, a screenplay, a narrative podcast, several RPGs, and so on) and drawing. While I won’t have drawn the most pages in a year I’ve ever drawn, I’ve been more creative and productive than ever before. 

Declan Shalvey’s cover to the still unreleased Punisher vs. Barracuda

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

This may seem silly but I guess not knowing what I was going to do next was the big challenge. I like to have a plan, and I’ve been very fortunate that for most of my career I’ve been able to line up the next thing before I finish the current thing. Covid scrapped a lot of projects for a lot of people, I lost three so even my back up plans fell apart. I was a bit rudderless there for a bit, which I am not used to. Did a bit of a number on my head for a bit.

Otherwise, I took a creative change and decided to colour my next project (once I knew what that was). I’ve been colouring my own covers for a while, and artists colouring themselves can be a disaster, but it was a discipline I wanted to prove to myself that I could do, and though tough, was very rewarding. I also made a personal commitment to concentrate on writing/drawing my own work in future which I’m happy to say, is going well.

Kyle Starks (Karate Prom, Old Head)

For sure the biggest change from past years for me was the loss of conventions. They have been a huge part of my yearly income and a huge part of my schedule. The second biggest change was with the pandemic my daughters switched to home learning and to an ad-hoc school in our home I had to move my office to the basement. Which is cold and lousy. I hate it. 

Caitlin Yarsky (Bliss)

Like many other comic creators, I’d say my work habits haven’t changed that drastically, since working alone and from home was always pretty typical. The biggest change for me though was that some days I did like to go into the city to work from a cafe or co-working space. Even if you’re not collaborating with others, it’s nice to be around other people and amid the hustle and bustle of life. It made doing this work less isolating, so it’s been rough not to have that option anymore.

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