Less Credit, Longer Hours: Illustrators’ Roles in Graphic Novels

From Book Riot:

While there are many brilliant single-creator comics and graphic novels in the world — think Neill Cameron’s Mega Robo Bros, ND Stevenson’s Nimona, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, among others — many graphic novels, both traditionally published and indie, have separate writers and illustrators. Sometimes, the writer and artist work as a long-collaborating team, like René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, the duo behind the Asterix comics. Some artists are approached directly by authors as the best fit for a planned work, as happened with The Adventure Zone comics, where illustrator Carey Pietch drew fanart of the series long before the McElroys began converting their popular podcast into graphic novels. In other cases, writers and artists are paired up by publishers for a specific project, something frequently seen in Marvel and DC comics, or sometimes in comics produced outside of the “Big Two’s” sphere, such as Frizzy, a new graphic novel written by middle grade author Claribel A. Ortega and illustrated by Rose Bousamra.

My own work in comics has followed the Goscinny-Uderzo model (although focused around metafictional faeries and anti-fascist magical girls instead of indomitable Gauls). I have three webcomics with my best friend and co-creator Emily Brady — I’m the writer, she’s the artist. We’ve been working on these comics since 2004, and one thing has been very clear to me since the beginning is that for all my procrastination, faffing around, and grappling with writer’s block, the writing side of comics takes no time at all compared to the huge number of hours required to produce the art. We have seven substantially-sized print volumes to show for our 18 years working on these comics, a very respectable number — but to people outside the visual medium of comics, used to working in the written-word-only side of publishing, seven books in nearly two decades looks like a small amount.

The number of hours it takes to produce a 200-page graphic novel is a point repeated by many comics illustrators who have spoken out about the unreasonable time expectations that artists often face when working for publishers, particularly those publishers who are primarily used to working on novels. In her article “Graphic Novel Production Schedules Are Too Short — and the Publishing Industry Should Care About It“, Nilah Magruder notes that “the average graphic novel is 200 pages, but it’s common for publishers to offer a year, sometimes even less’ — a huge ask which puts the illustrator in a perpetual state of crunch.

Magruder explains, “When I entered the children’s book industry, six months was the average timeline for illustrating a 32 page picture book. Let’s say I were to expand that 32 pages to 200 pages. The schedule to produce that gigantic book would be a little over three years,” which is a stark difference from the short timeline that so many publishers require.

Magruder’s article breaks down the amount of time and effort that it takes to produce a comic, something that many people without direct experience of working in this medium rarely consider. One comics professional I spoke to noted that “much like people who grimace when receiving a jumper Granny knitted for them for their birthday, [readers and publishers] never realise how much time and care has taken into making something.”

Rachael Smith (Wired Up WrongQuarantine Comix) said, “I think the time it takes to draw a page is often underestimated because of the relatively short time it takes to read one.”

“It’s hard to get rid of the idea that writing is skilled, ruminative hard work, but drawing is easy, messing about making pretty pictures, and therefore doesn’t need to be rewarded with any serious remuneration because you’re having fun all day.”

Link to the rest at Book Riot