#ComicsBrokeMe Co-op Public Statement

This statement was originally posted on June 11th, 2023, and has been backdated on our journal as part of our collective archiving efforts. Below is the text as it was published on that date.

The death of anyone working in comics is a tragedy, and they’re too often the result of poor working conditions the industry is famous for. So many people in comics often talk about how the process is inherently isolating, but much of that has to do with unreasonable deadlines that lead to 10+ hour workdays for the smallest crumbs to live off of. At best, cartoonists are left with chronic health conditions with no way to manage them (as few creators have health insurance). At worst, we end up dead from overwork. 

It’s not a coincidence that there aren’t many old hands still working in comics when it doesn’t pay enough to live off of; the older artists that do stay in comics often have to fundraise for medical bills while publishers are sitting pretty with bigger profits year over year. Many artists deal with health issues similar to traumatic shock from horrible working conditions placed upon them. Even “the best” publishers still underpay their artists. 

It does all come back to publishers, and how capitalism doesn’t value artists. As long as working in comics makes it prohibitive for a creator to acquire health insurance, comics is broken. As long as cartoonists are paid the same low rates for pages — if not worse — than they were 20–30 years ago, comics is broken. The fact that working in comics is mostly considered contract/freelance work is by design: it limits access to health benefits and inhibits artists from rallying together. 

Workers around the world are striking for better working conditions, protesting the same kind of unlivable circumstances we find ourselves in with comics. The Writer’s Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA are both fighting for living wages, fighting against generative AI stealing people’s work; the same things that so many cartoonists are demanding as well. If so many industries are striking and getting better deals, it stands to reason: why can’t we do that with comics?

The only way we fix this is by organizing, stopping the presses, and demanding better working conditions for all. This would mean that any time a publisher tries to get away with not paying their workers (and writers, artists, colorists, letterers, and anyone else who makes comics are workers) or paying less than is liveable, that publisher doesn’t get to acquire our work. The publishers who prey on artists who don’t know whether they’re being taken advantage of need to be shamed into doing better. 

We don’t have to justify our love of comics to our growing debt and medical bills. We don’t have to see another cartoonist die from overwork. It all starts with us getting together and demanding more, so comics can be better for everyone. Organize with us! Right here, right now! We hope you’ll join us in working towards a better comics industry as a member of the Cartoonist Cooperative.