The Work in Comics survey: Week 1 update / by Benjamin Woo

It's now been one week since the Work in Comics survey went live. Thanks to everyone who's taken the survey and to everyone who has been tweeting, facebooking, and sharing it. I'd like to extend a particular thanks to The Comics Reporter, The Comics Journal, The Mary Sue, and Comics Alliance for directing folks this way.

As of this writing, we have 255 completed surveys. That's pretty good for the first week, but we've got a long way to go if we're to be confident about our picture of making comics today. I thought it might be interesting for everyone to get a quick peek at the data set so far. Let's start with some basic demographic information—this is the kind of thing that we often guess at based on intuitive impressions scanning the shelves at the comic shop or looking at the guests at a convention. How accurate are those impressions? (Note that all labels in the following charts are raw counts, not percentages.)

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To begin, the sample is majority male-identified. (The survey question asks about gender identity, rather than biological sex.) No surprises there, I guess. However, women make up approximately 30 percent of the respondents so far.

The survey also asks people to identify the racial/ethnic groups that any of their ancestors belong to. Because you can be descended from multiple groups, we would expect the counts here to add up to more than 255—except that some folks are skipping this question.

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Nevertheless, at this point we're seeing a sizeable majority of Caucasian creators.

That's a quick look at who is making our comics. But what are they doing? I asked creators to identify all the creative roles they've done during their "careers" in comics, as well as to select the single, primary creative role they've done during the last three years. As you can see below, the overwhelming majority of survey respondents at this point have been working as writers, multi-role artists, or writer/artists, while the more "industrialized" roles typical of  "mainstream" comics publishing (i.e., penciller, inker, letterer, and colorist) are thin on the ground.

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Respondents are also asked what ways their work has been made available to the public and the primary way their work has been made available during the last three years.

In addition to giving us some information about people using digital distribution (48 of the creators surveyed primarily self-published digitally), it also serves as a rough proxy for different "fields" of comics production. Although this looks like a pretty even balance, my gut feeling is that the mainstream industry is not well represented, given its total output and the number of people working to make those books.

What do you think? Is this what the comics scene that you know looks like? If not, please consider taking the survey and sharing it with your peers and colleagues who make comics.

Remember that, for our purposes, "working in comics" does not necessarily mean that you make comics full time, or even that you make money at it. We're interested in the people who make comics at every level and career stage, as well as in the full range of "creative" roles in comics—any role where you affect the content or aesthetic presentation of comics that are available to the public counts as creative work.

At this point there are also 163 incomplete surveys. While you can skip any and all questions within the survey, if you don't hit the "submit" button at the end, your responses don't count. But it's not too late—come back and finish telling us about what it's like to make comics.