Matt D. Wilson writes about some of the most recent appeals to cover comic creators’ health care costs at ComicsAlliance, perhaps the most prominent of which has to do with the on-going care of Bill Mantlo, one of the creators of Rocket Raccoon who suffered brain damage after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in 1992. While these are certainly worthy, valuable and humane initiatives, Wilson is right that the particular distribution of risk that has been institutionalized in comics by the reliance on freelance workers makes them both inevitably necessary and ultimately inadequate.
Despite the Affordable Care Act, this problem remains particularly dire for American creators, but in many countries with basic universal health coverage, extended benefit plans are often assumed to be provided through employers or need to be purchased out of pocket from private insurance companies. (And even then, you’ll look long and hard for a plan with good vision coverage, believe you me.)
I’ve noted that a couple of my survey respondents are members of the Freelancers Union, which isn’t really a union per se but does provide a way to buy into group benefit plans along with its advocacy for issues of concern to contract labour in the cultural and creative industries. Wilson points out that traditional unions have proven a non-starter in comics for various reasons (to which we could add Spurgeon’s points about creators’ self-presentation regarding money and success), but there might be other models of collective organization that can help ameliorate the risks and insecurities associated with working in industries defined by unstable conditions. (Some colleagues of mine are exploring some of these grassroots experiments.)