Photo (cc) Flickr user  cobalt .

The Work in Comics Project

For many people who grew up as comic fans, making comics seems like a dream job: a chance to be creative, working with beloved characters in a challenging medium. But it is also a field characterized by uneven conditions and rewards, and what little we know about work and employment in comics is anecdotal.

With this study, I am trying to build a rich and systematic picture of what it’s like to work in comics today—across occupational roles, career stages, and publishing sectors. The project includes a survey and follow-up interviews.

The survey was conducted online over the winter of 2013/14. I collected 570 complete surveys. Questions covered basic information about you (age, gender, place of residence, etc.), your training and career in comics, your economic well-being, and various measures of job quality and satisfaction. This information will be invaluable to our understanding of comics publishing and creators’ careers.

The survey phase was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through the SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships program, and the research was approved by the Conjoint Faculties Research Ethics Board at the University of Calgary. 

The project has now moved to Carleton University. I am currently conducting the follow-up interviews to add some additional depth to our account of what it's like for contemporary comic creators trying to make a living making comics. This phase of the project has been supported by funds from Carleton University and the Internship-Carleton University Research Experience for Undergraduate Students (I-CUREUS) program.

Relevant Publications

2015. “Erasing the Lines between Leisure and Labor: Creative Work in the Comics World.” In “Performing Labor in the Media Industries,” ed. Kate Fortmueller. Special issue, Spectator 35 (2): 57–64.

2013. “Why Is It So Hard to Think about Comics as Labour?” In “Comics and Cultural Work,” themed series edited by Casey Brienza. Comics Forum, December 9.

“Who Makes Your Comics? Preliminary Findings from the Work in Comics Survey.” Paper presented at the Fifth International  Graphic Novel and Comics Conference, the British Library, London, UK, July 18, 2014.

“‘Comics Will Break Your Heart’: Fan Identification and Self-Exploitation in Creative Work.” Paper presented at the Canadian Sociological Association, St Catharines, ON, May 29, 2014.