Recently, a comic book writer and artist named Ian McGinty passed away. He was only 38 and had worked on big-name properties like Adventure Time and Invader Zim, as well as his own comic, Welcome to Showside (pictured above). On Twitter, McGinty’s mother has spoken out and urged people to support other cartoonists. While the cause of McGinty’s death isn’t public information, others in the industry have expressed concern knowing how hard he was pushing himself to work.
The hashtag #ComicsBrokeMe erupted on Twitter and folks have been sharing their own experiences in the industry. It’s heartbreaking to think about because the reality is that the people that help make the content you love are undervalued. And this goes hand in hand with the WGA strike because ultimately, creatives across the board are typically underpaid. Meanwhile, the higher ups are continuing to get richer.
The death of Ian McGinty is very sad. Here’s what I think. The reality about the comics industry, even within the indie community, is that there’s still so much work to be done regarding cartoonists supporting each other. The reality is that distant people in authority (gatekeepers, so-called experts, and basic assholes)–or even colleagues, are NOT going to care about you as much as you need to be caring about yourself. Maybe you’ll get lucky and you’ll experience someone paying it forward for you. That definitely happens. And that can take a lot of patience before something like that comes your way. Special and good people are out there.
In general, I strongly advise any young person embarking upon a creative career, especially in comics, to love and respect themselves fiercely. Now and then, cartoonists support each other unconditionally but there’s still so much growing up within the comics community that is essential before the next big step forward–if it ever comes. The truth is that there will always be a callow darkness to anything so inextricably linked to youth culture. The focus on the comics industry breaking people is valid but that’s not going to change anytime soon–if it ever does. First and foremost, protect yourself and your own integrity, health and sanity. There’s exceptions but, in general, no one is going to care about you as much as you need to be caring about yourself. That’s just a given. A healthy you is all that matters. Of course, we need change and must fight for it every chance we get. A healthy you gives you the strength to do anything, including speaking out for better working conditions.