|Read "The Thief's Tale" webcomic here: thethiefstale.com/|
Genderqueer. E/em/eir pronouns.
MFA in Comics from California College of the Arts, 2015.
BFA in Studio Art from Dominican University of California, 2011.
Based in Northern California.
Current Residence: the Library
Favourite genre of music: Classic Rock, Celtic Rock, Musicals
Favourite style of art: Medieval manuscripts, Pre-Raphaelites, Comics, Illustration
Personal Quote: "I desired dragons with a profound desire." ~JRR Tolkien
Instagram: @ redgoldsparks
At the beginning of 2016 I set myself the goal of finishing 100 pages of comics before the end of the year. I met that goal right at the end of October, which allowed me to exceed it! I posted this graph showing a breakdown of my 2016 projects:
Here were some of my successes this year:
I drew more pages of The Thief's Tale than any year in the past
I made more money directly from comics (specifically page rates) than ever before
Tom o'Bedlam was accepted into a Society of Illustrators show and nominated for an Ignatz Award and a Dinky Award
I tabled at my first international convention, VanCAF, back in May
I attended Comic Con for the first time
Speaking appearances this year included the Queer Comics Expo, Pandora, the San Francisco Library, Dominican University, and the Storytelling Across Media conference (where I moderated my first panel!)
I tried out both new inking styles and new subject matters (including my first superhero story and my first serious foray into auto-bio comics)
I had two stories appear in an anthology and two more stories accepted into future anthologies
I achieved my life-long goal of being paid to read when I was hired to write comic book reviews for Publisher's Weekly
I posted one Genderqueer comic everyday in Inktober
I paid my way down from $25,000 in students loans (at the beginning of the year) to $16,500 (where I am now)
And I had the opportunity to put together a Thief's Tale pitch for the literary agent OF MY DREAMS.
The pitch packet I put together to show the agent outlined a 350 page black and white medieval fantasy book for a middle grade audience. Right off the bat, she informed me that:
A) black and white is “the kiss of death” in middle grade and YA comics so I'd have to redraw all the pages I have done either in color or so that they can be digitally colored
B) no publisher she works with would accept a 350 page color book by an unknown author so
C) I need to cut my book down by roughly 1/3, for a total length between 200-240 pages max.
This was obviously very difficult to hear, and I spent about a week feeling very hard done by. Now that so many of my friends are comics people, it seems like I see a friend announcing a new book deal nearly once per week. Sometimes I catch myself spiraling into a very negative place of “If that person got a book deal, why not me?” Also, the thought of not only re-drawing but also heavily re-structuring the entire story I have built over the past five years is very daunting. Thief's Tale pages have made up about 1/4 of my total output this year, and account for more than 1/3 of all the comics pages I've finished in my entire life. I have poured so much time and energy into running The Thief's Tale as a webcomic and a self-published series, but it seems like if I seriously want to pursue publishing this story in a mainstream market, I'll have to essentially pull the 150 pages I have finished out of circulation. I had to spend some time mourning the story as it is, before I was able to move on to figuring out what the story could someday be. The good news is, about two and a half weeks after I had my latest conversation with the agent, I thought of a way I can cut the story down to the needed length. It involves removing one of the extremely major characters from the narrative entirely. So the next thing I need to do it write up a new outline for the entire book and sort out any plot holes that are left by my changes. Then I need to sit down, put my nose to the grindstone, and thumbnail out the entire book.
Another thing that's been on my mind at the tale end of this year is money. As I stated in my successes, I made more money from comics this year than I ever had before. But even so- I did not make very much. Here's what my page rates looked like this year:
4 pages in an anthology at $10 per page (for a story drawn in 2015)
7 pages in an anthology at $20 per page (for a story drawn in 2015)
60 pages drawn in collaboration with Ashley R Guillory at $35 a page
2 pages for a zine at $100 page
(and 17 pages which will receive $50 per page, but not until next year)
…. for a stunning total of $2480. Obviously, this is not my only source of income. I started a patreon page in September (hooray! www.patreon.com/maiakobabe) and now receive roughly $100 a month from it. I took on a few other freelance jobs, including writing book reviews and several different painting projects that earned me about $1000 combined. I earned around $500 teaching comics workshops. I also sold roughly $3500 of products (mainly buttons, bookmarks and self-published comics) through tabling at comic conventions and etsy sales. All told though, my art-based income for 2016 was less than $8000. How do I manage to live, you might be wondering? Two reasons:
I work a part time job at $25 per hour for 18 hours per week during the school year
and I live rent free with my parents
I've always assumed that someday I would no longer need a part time job, and could make all of my income from art. I have also always assumed that one day I could afford to move out of my parents house. This year I started to have some really serious doubts about those two assumptions, and I now think that it is entirely possible that either one or both of them might not be true. This has lead me to some really existential pondering on my own personal definition of success. If “making the majority of my income from art” and “being able to afford to live independently” are two key points of my own definition of success, then this year was not a successful year. In fact, by that rubric I have never had a successful year. But is that a fault of mine, or is that a fault of this particular classification of success? Looking up to the list at the top of this post that I very deliberately titled “successes” doesn't make it seem like this year was a failure. Should my own definition of success be so closely tied to money? Should my definition of success instead be based on points such as “majority of working hours were given to art” and “produced more art than ever before” and “felt more personally enriched by work than any year in the past”? And what about the even more vague and undefinable “spent time with family” and “read for pleasure” and “traveled with friends”? How should all of these be balanced against income in the measuring of a successful life? I'm not sure. These are questions I am still struggling with and have not yet resolved. I look forward to wrestling with them further in 2017.