Over on his Deviant Art blog, Sean Murphy – One of Newsarama’s 10 Creators to Watch for the past two years – considers the five different “levels” of a comic book artist’s career:
While not as well paid or popular as Level 1 artists, these artists are consistently fed with work throughout the year (many of them are under contract) and manage to carve out a comfortable salary (assuming they can stay away from drug addiction or bad financial planning). Most of the books they work on are mainstream Marvel/DC staples that most people are aware of. But you can also find a few of these guys on large Dark Horse and creator owned Image books. I think that there are a few “artist’s artists” in this category whose cult following has brought them very high up, but their distinct style of drawing often excludes them from larger “event” books. Some Level 2 artists are happy to stay at this level because they have no interest in being a marquee player. Some were marquee players but decided to drop down to Level 2 in exchange for more control over their careers.
I’m not quite convinced by his breakdown of the different levels – I feel as if there’s a missing level between levels 2 and 3 – but it’s a fascinating look at how a professional sees his field, and the different ways he believes an artist can progress.