For close to a decade now, I’ve been working on a project that is close to my heart—a series of all-ages graphic novels called the Dragon Lord Saga. It’s a story about adventure and imagination and redemption and community, and it has slapstick humor and talking animals and dragons.
I believe in the story that I’m telling and in the work that I’m doing, but in the day-to-day grind of drawing each panel, promoting my comics, and scraping and searching for paying work, it’s disconcertingly easy to forget that what I do has any value.
It takes years of slow progress to draw a graphic novel, and in a world competing for attention, it’s exhausting to get even a single pair of eyes to rest on my work long enough to care about it. Some days I begin to wonder if anyone is listening. And I begin to wonder if it even matters.
But every now and then, I get a letter from a kid who has read my books. Sometimes they thank me for creating the Dragon Lord Saga, but more often the letter is a plea to finish the next book so that they can read it. And often the letter includes their drawing of my characters.
Letters like that stop me in my tracks, and brighten my eyes. The work is still hard, but those letters remind me why it matters.
Last month, in the middle of a pandemic, in a busy work day, in my most despairing mood, I received a message that stopped me in my tracks. This one wasn’t from a reader, and it wasn’t anything surprising. It was just an automated reminder email from Patreon’s web service:
“Your Patreon anniversary is coming up next month on April 13!”
So many comic pages have been inked in the years since I launched my Patreon page. Back then, I didn’t know if Patreon was even worth wasting time on. All I knew was that I was working overtime creating comics, and for all that work, I was (at best) breaking even on costs. I needed a way to generate income from these comics, or I would have to stop making them. But asking fans to create an account, to pledge support—that’s a big ask. Would anyone show up?
If you’ve never encountered it, Patreon is a service that allows creators to build member-supported content based on a monthly pledge. My Patreon backers choose an amount to pledge financially each month, and I keep the Patreon feed updated each week with new comic pages, along with other goodies like behind-the-scenes features, ebooks, and exclusive webcomics.
Thank you for every Patreon you pledge to, and every Kickstarter you back. Thank you for buying books from your favorite authors, albums and t-shirts from your favorite bands. You stop us in our tracks and tell us that we matter. You matter, too.Jonny Jimison
People showed up. It started slow, and it grew slower. Some people showed up for a few months and then discontinued, kindly stepping in to give me a few months of support. Others have honored me by staying since the very beginning. Patreon support doesn’t pay the bills, but it allows me to continue to pour my hours into making comics and pursue new opportunities. And the vote of confidence and interest indicated by the presence of so many Patreon backers is like a letter from a young fan, reminding me that what I do matters.
We’ve created two books—and started work on a third!
We’ve released 382 pages of comics—and that’s just the Dragon Lord Saga. That doesn’t include all the webcomics we’ve been able to create, including Getting Ethan comics for social media and the Patreon-exclusive Martin and Marco Mini comics.
And last year, we began getting serious about merchandise. In addition to free quarterly gifts for top-tier backers, Patreon has allowed me to create limited-run books and postcard prints—and we have something special coming next week: a Patreon-exclusive pin featuring a certain penguin!
Best of all: with the completion of volume two, The River Fox, I’m doing a final pass on the book, redrawing a few pages, addressing editor’s notes, and adding print necessities like the title page and covers. As I finish this work on the book, we’re posting two entire scenes each week, instead of our normal two pages! And to celebrate, for the next few weeks, those scenes will be open to read for free, even if you don’t have a Patreon account.
If you haven’t visited the Patreon yet, now is the best time to check it out.
And, friends: Thank you for every Patreon you pledge to, and every Kickstarter you back. Thank you for buying books from your favorite authors, albums and t-shirts from your favorite bands. You make a difference with every pledge, every purchase, every penny that you use to support us.
You stop us in our tracks and tell us that we matter. You matter, too.
Jonny Jimison is a talented cartoonist and graphic novelist. In addition to a long history of web-based cartoons, he's the author of Dragon Lord Saga series of graphic novels, including Martin & Marco and The River Fox. Jonny lives and works in Jacksonville, Florida.