May 2011 Update

It occurred to me that it’s been several months since I’ve actually posted anything original on this blog. Most recent posts have been links to YouTube videos and other filler. So I figured it was high time for an update of sorts:


For two years beginning in 2008, I received a scholarship that included a monthly living stipend. It was juuust barely enough to get by on, but I gotta say, it was glorious. It confirmed something I’d long suspected. If I have a steady & predictable source of income and am able to do work that I care about, I can be quite happy, even when I’m hovering around the wrong side of the poverty line.

In March 2010 the scholarship ended, and with it went my steady income. The financial concerns I put on hold for two years ago returned to the fore. As I contemplated my cartooning “career”, I realized that one area where I dropped the ball was marketing & promotion. I had done a bunch to market my first graphic novel shortly before it came out, but almost nothing after that.

Many artist/writers/cartoonists eschew marketing, and I’m sympathetic with that point of view. It takes precious time away from the art, and can be a slippery slope. You write a couple press releases and hand out a few business cards, and before you know it you’re a hack that “creates content” that will appeal to the “18-34 demo”.

Okay, maybe that’s overstating the point a bit, but even artists that take marketing seriously probably see it more as a necessary evil than something they’re actually interested in. But having spent the past 18-odd months trying to market my work, I’ve actually sort of come to enjoy it, the networking aspect in particular.

“Networking” is of course just another way of saying “meeting people”, which is something I enjoy, despite the fact that I’m somewhat introverted. So I’m glad that I had the pretense of “networking” to force me to get off my butt and go out there and meet people. This has enriched my life both professionally and personally.

All-in-all, my efforts have been successful… relatively speaking. Unfortunately, “success” in the world of alternative comics rarely reaches the opulent heights of “living wage”. I make money off my comics, it still isn’t enough to sustain me, and my savings are getting pretty meager. So I’ve decided to make a strategic retreat and get a day job again. (Oh, the horror!)

The good news is, I’ve landed a great one: as a JET Program assistant English teacher. This is what I did from 2003-2006, and what served as the framework for the Tonoharu storyline. It’s hands-down the most rewarding “day job” that I’ve ever had, so I’m honored to have the opportunity to do it again (plus, it’ll remind me of the experience as I work on the last half of Tonoharu). I’ll be leaving for Japan late-July.

So what does this mean for my cartooning aspirations? I haven’t given up on them. I’ll continue to work on Tonoharu in the evenings and on weekends. I suppose this will slow my already glacial pace, but what can you do. Once I’ve had the chance to refill the coffers a bit, I’ll probably take another swing at cartooning full-time.

In the meantime, it’ll be great to have money for extravagances again, like replacement computer equipment and dentist visits. That’s how I roll, folks!

  • Trollmouse

    It will be sad to see you go but I’m sure you’ll have wonderful experiences. Congrats!

  • Affan

    Congrats man! Hopefully it all works out for you. It’s a tiny bit ironic seeing as that your character in Tonoharu is so miserable there. But whatever your story started there it might as well end there too!

  • Chris

    Best of luck back in the program. In some ways, I’d love to have the chance to do it again. (Toyama 01-03). Maybe you can throw up some photos of your town once you arrive? Do a bit more photo blogging? Hopefully, you’ll still have time to work on Vol. 3!

  • jg

    congrats! which city are you going to?

    i’m following your method on applying for the mext scholarship, so if it works out, i owe you a beer or two.

  • Lars Martinson

    Thanks for all the comments, guys! To answer your questions, I don’t know where I’ll be placed yet, but should find out within the next couple weeks. And I’ll certainly post photos and such once I get there! Also, good luck to JG on your Monbusho bid!

  • Namaikisaru

    sorry to hear you have to get a day job. I loved Tonoharu 1 & 2. I can’t wait for 3. Anyway, welcome back. If you come anywhere near Shonan I’ll buy you a cold Nama!

  • Lars Martinson

    Awesome, another offer for a free beer! That’s why I do this, folks!

  • Have you found out where you’re going yet? I’m starting the JET Program in July as well, but I haven’t found out my placement yet.

    My ex-boss at the library gave me the first two volumes of Tonoharu as a going-away present (she knew I liked “alternative comics”.) I loved reading them and can’t wait for the next installment. This might sound silly, but the thing I enjoy most about your comics is the neat, clean layout.

    If we meet in Japan, I’ll be sure to buy you a beer, haha. Life as an artist sucks, but sometimes there’s free alcohol!

  • Lars Martinson

    Nope, still don’t know yet, but I should find out any day now, I would think. Some JETs have already gotten their placements from their BOE, so the rest of us should find out soon, I’d think.
    Thanks for the kind words! I look forward to that beer!