Week 8 update: Age and career / by Benjamin Woo

As of this writing, the survey now has received 463 completed responses. Although I’d initially intended to close it on January 15 (tomorrow), I’m going to keep going for another three weeks in order to run the numbers up a little bit higher.

The more people who complete the survey, the better and more accurate a picture we have of the comics industry as a place to work in general but, perhaps more importantly, we need a relatively large group of responses in order to be able to say anything at all about smaller groups within the population—whether that be minority creators, older creators, or occupational roles. So please take the survey and share it with your friends and collaborators by February 5, 2014.

With that announcement out of the way, let me turn to a couple of statistics and charts about age and career length. The impression that I get from anecdotes is that there is a degree of ageism in comics careers. On the one hand, creators who have not quite managed to break into the field and make comics a full-time job may give up in the face of economic need and/or exhaustion. On the other hand, “journeyman” creators – those who are relatively well-established but are not superstars with large, devoted fan followings – may find themselves getting less work as younger creators start to vie for the readers’ attention.

Distribution of creator ages. Click to enlarge.

According to our preliminary survey data, the median age (calculated by subtracting their year of birth from 2014) of the creative workforce in comics is 34 years old, meaning that half of comics creators are younger than 34 and half are older. Looking at the distribution of ages, we see that most creators are between 31 and 40 years of age, with the second largest cohort between 21 and 30.

For comparison, the median age of the US population overall is 36.8 years old, while the median age of the US labour force is estimated at 41 years old.

Survey respondents are also asked what year a work to which they contributed was first made available to the public. As public availability of your work (whether in print or digitally, for sale or for free) is one of our eligibility criteria, this question is in essence asking when someone became a creative worker in comics. Again using 2014 as a baseline, the median career is 9 years old. That is to say, half of the surveyed creators started their career before 2005, and half have started since.

Looking at all the cases where we had a valid response for both questions (year of birth and year of career start), we can determine how old each creator was in the year that they first released a work to which they contributed creatively. The median age of a comic creator at the start of their career is 24. The relationship between age and career length is plotted below.


Unsurprisingly, the older you are, the more likely you are to have had a longer career, while the bulk of the surveyed creators appear to be in their 20s and 30s and have started their careers since 2005. There are notable outliers floating towards the bottom right of the chart and above the main diagonal mass of points; some of these may turn out to be the result of human error while filling out the survey.

Because our survey is a web survey and invitations and recruitment have been done online by email and social media, there is good reason to suppose that older creators may not be adequately represented, since they are less likely to have a web presence than younger ones. However, since our eligibility window is 2010 and afterwards, it is difficult to say whether or not we are missing a large group of active creators. If you think we are, please spread the word in your professional networks by whatever means will reach people.