Comic Illustrator  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotComic illustrators create drawings and art for publication so we can see the story. The work involved can range in length from a whole comic book to a complicated one-frame picture. The content of those comics -- funny or serious, strange or realistic -- is only limited by the illustrator's imagination.

"Superman comic books, The Far Side and Garfield are all very different, but they're all produced by comic illustrators," says comic illustrator Jenny Frank.

dotIllustrators may work for large publishing companies as part of a team to create a comic book.

A large number of comic illustrators also create, promote and publish their own work.

dotThe creation of a comic has four stages: writing the story, penciling or creating pictures that tell the story, adding the text to each frame and inking over the pencil lines in color or black and white.

If an illustrator works for a large publishing company, they'll probably be responsible for the pencilling stage.

dotMost independent comic illustrators are responsible for all four stages of creating a book, as well as the business side. This includes managing finances, arranging for printing, networking at comic book conventions and keeping in close contact with distributors and publishers.

dotSome 5,000 comic books are published in North America. While alternative comics are becoming more popular, traditional superhero comics are becoming less so, experts say.

dotWhile job security may be pretty alien to the industry, people in this field do have a fair amount of flexibility. Since comic illustrators almost always work from a home office, they get to set their own hours and their own pace.

"Comics can be a tremendously solitary thing to do for a living. Most of the time it's just you and the board, which is, for some people, a hardship," says Superman illustrator Jon Bogdanove.

dotFlexibility doesn't mean fewer hours. Comic illustrators say they work anywhere from eight to 16 hours a day -- and they can't quit until the job is done.

At a Glance

Tell a story with illustrations

  • This can be a fairly solitary career
  • A high number of illustrators produce independent comic books
  • Consider taking art classes or even attending a post-secondary art program