In anticipation of this weekend's MoCCA Festival, The Village Voice published its Cartoon Issue, featuring an exhaustive and fascinating article on the grim financial realities of cartoonists. Among the many depressing facts reported were that Fantagraphics makes only $6 million in sales a year; the Diamond Comic Distributor's total sales figures for 2009 were only $428 million; and that The Village Voice itself doesn't pay many cartoonists whose work it publishes.The four-page Village Voice piece by Roy Edroso is well worth reading and features remarks from a number of prominent sources including Brendan Burford, Ted Rall and Gary Groth, who confirms that the first printing of a Jim Woodring book will sell only 10,000 copies despite that artist's prominence.

But in discussing the continuing struggle of cartoonists, Tom Tomorrow creator Dan Perkins remarked, "I'm not sure how much you'll be allowed to write about this but of course the Village Voice Media chain is one of the major culprits in this-their decision to 'suspend' cartoons [in 15 papers in 2009] dealt a serious blow to the struggling subgenre of alt-weekly cartoons."

In brackets, The Village Voice indicated that Perkins' Tom Tomorrow returned to the paper, but added that many of the artists featured in that particular issue -- the Cartoon Issue -- were not paid for their work and were contributing "for the exposure."

The irony of the situation is bitter, and has of course been the subject of many online condemnations, jokes and other pontifications. The most succinct may be that of R. Stevens, cartoonist of Diesel Sweeties, who Tweeted, "Remember this, artists: Free work for yourself is good. Free work for exposure often leads to dying of exposure."

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