The Comics Community on the Biggest Things They Learned in 2020

While 2020 undoubtedly brought challenges to the way creators do their work and the opportunities for doing them, but every challenge gives people the chance to learn something new about the way they do things. That was definitely the case this year, as plenty of folks I talked to were reinventing themselves as creators on the fly throughout.

So in today’s creator-centric year in review feature, we’ll be focusing on that idea – what creators learned – and how that might be changing things going forward. With that in mind, the question I asked them was:

I’m sure in the constant changes of the year you learned a lot about what you want to do and how you want to do it. Amongst all that, what was the biggest thing you learned from this year, at least specifically in regards to your comic work?

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.

Rod Reis’ cover to New Mutants #14

Vita Ayala (New Mutants, Children of the Atom)

That I really love making weird, queer work. I have been blessed to be able to write a lot of bucket list level WFN books in the last two years, and I am supremely grateful! But there is really something about being able to make something as Black and queer and speculative as I want that is so delightful, and I miss it!

So, I am working on a bunch of creator-owned pitches along side the Big Two stuff I am on!

Tadd Galusha (Cretaceous)

It was more of a personal reaffirmation of my goals. OGN’s. That’s where my interests have been, so that’s all I really want to do at this point.

Rob Guillory (Farmhand)

I learned that without a deadline I’m a hot mess. That was probably the biggest challenge of the year for me. With circumstances changing so rapidly and so often, it was nearly impossible to plan my work flow, which has always been a strength of mine. I learned the value of boundaries when making work. Without them, I’m nowhere near as productive as I’d like to be.

I also realized how insane my usual comic con schedule was. I honestly can’t see myself sitting behind a table for eight hours a day after this. As much as I enjoy cons, I think I’ll be changing how I do cons after this.

Liana Kangas’ art to TRVE KVLT

Liana Kangas (Seeds of Eden, TRVE KVLT)

The biggest takeaway this year in regards to my work is to do what you can when you can. Much like with the Kickstarter, Scott and I had the idea to just go for it, to try our hand at releasing the first issue of Trve Kvlt and what sort of traction it had. I have a newfound respect and view of self published comics that I hadn’t experienced before this. I am always drawing and collaborating on multiple pitches with peers when I can, to see what sort of things we create and how to grow from each other. It allows me to stretch my legs and find different ways to engage my creative process.

I also think time spent socializing with your peers and new people can be great for inspiration and kicking up some of the monotony in a week now. Socializing over the internet via zoom or twitch with peers and fans has energized me not only in my work, but I’ve made new friends and connections. In turn, it’s fun to feel like you’re still active in the industry despite only existing online and in print right now.

Stephen Mooney (Half Past Danger)

I did a lot more writing this year, especially for other artists, and that’s an avenue I intend to keep exploring. I’m writing for more publishers and really enjoying the process.

I learned that my tastes are changing quite dramatically where subject matter is concerned – in my teens I was all about those superhero comics, and now I’m in my forties; not so much. It’s strange, because the goal posts have shifted dramatically in that regard; the characters and genres I assumed I’d want to explore once I got to this point in my career are now very much changed. It’s an entirely new landscape, in some ways.I also learned that it takes an awful lot of organization and networks to professionally publish and distribute a comic book! I knew about all of that on the surface, of course, but until you actually undertake those roles yourself, you’re not quite fully aware. Just like pencilling, inking, coloring, lettering and writing though; it’s a very worthy addition to my skill set. Jack of all trades and master of none – that’s me!

Trung Le Nguyen (The Magic Fish)

Professionally, I’m figuring out how to talk about my own work. After I finished The Magic Fish, I thought my work was done and I could move onto my next project. I didn’t realize I’d have to learn how to give a good interview and chat with people about my process. That’s actually been a lovely experience, a nice new challenge.

Nick Roche’s cover to Scarenthood #1

Nick Roche (Scarenthood)

Annoyingly, I’ve been left with the crippling feeling of “I want to make comics”, and specifically, my OWN ones. Maybe as part of that, I do need to keep an eye on the DIY models and consider crowdfunding – I’ll just get my wife to stuff envelopes when she’s not intubating an infant (for business, not pleasure, you understand) – because the hilarity of 2020 did show us that the distribution channels of old are slippery and unreliable under duress. But while the sensible thing might be to sideline into animation, and see how “transferable” my”skills” ” are”, that’s not something I’d like to commit to permanently. Even if it’s not more Scarenthood, I want to stay in the roiling tombola drum of comics. Basically, I’ve learned nothing.

Matthew Rosenberg (Hawkeye: Freefall)

I guess I knew this but 2020 was a good reminder that artists need focus on themselves in a lot of ways. Make work you care about and make career choices that help you and your collaborators, because lots of people will be willing to push you in front of a bus when it benefits them or they feel like it.

Phillip Sevy (Triage)

A lot of my future/ongoing work has switched to the OGN format and I’ve found that I really love it. I spent a solid six months writing a 600 page OGN (that I’m currently rewriting and drawing the first 50 pages for a pitch). I’m also working on at least two other (smaller) OGNs right now. The change in format and storytelling approach closer aligns with how I love to tell stories and I’ve found a new excitement in changing my approach.

Declan Shalvey’s cover to Immortal Hulk Flatline

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

Like many, I was dealt a few setbacks which did derail my short and long term plans. To take some significant positives, I decided to focus more on doing my own work as an artist/writer. I was forced to take a step back and see where I was in my career. Was it where I wanted to be? Not exactly. I was fortunate enough to get work offers and am glad where I’m in a position that there seems to be demand for me as an artist still, but I only have so many pages in me each year, and decided to focus on doing those pages for myself. Drawing a line (no pun intended) between very solid gigs and projects that were more creatively rewarding was tough, but I’m glad I did it.

Kyle Starks (Karate Prom, Old Head)

I mean, this was a miserable year for me all around.  I know a lot of folks have seemed to thrive but for me almost all my work ended around March and I spent the year living of my savings.  I, like a lot of people, dealt with a ton of anxiety and depression but in May I decided to throw something together for Free Comic Book Day. All the stores were closed then and it seemed like something we all could’ve used – something that the comics world looked forward to.  So I took a survey of my twitter followers to come up with a title for what I believed would be a super short, fun little free thing to give away that became a 32 page book I did in 10 days and put it up for pay what you want/free and had a pretty solid response.

Anyway, that book was called Karate Prom and making it really reminded me what I love about making comics.  There’s something about sitting down for me and writing/drawing a book that just fills my heart with joy.  

Caitlin Yarsky (Bliss)

The biggest thing I learned this year is that working exclusively as a comic artist is not a pie-in-the-sky dream anymore. I think pretty soon I’ll be able to do it, which is pretty exciting. While I love my coworkers (I work in games, also from home), it causes a lot of burn out to do that job on top of my comic work.

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