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Posted 31 Oct, 2014

Cultures of Comics Work

Editors: Casey Brienza and Paddy Johnston

"All artistic work, like all human activity, involves the joint activity of a number, often a large number, of people. Through their cooperation, the art work we eventually see or hear comes to be and continues to be. The work always shows signs of that cooperation," wrote sociologist Howard Becker in his seminal monograph on cultural production Art Worlds. Comic art is no exception to Becker's basic insight. Writers, illustrators, graphic designers, letterers, editors, printers, typesetters, publicists, publishers, distributors, retailers, and countless others are both directly and indirectly involved in the creative production of what is commonly thought of as the comic book.

Yet comics scholars all too often advance a narrow auteurist vision of production in their research. Names such as Art Spiegelman, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Osamu Tezuka continue loom large in the intellectual firmament, while, despite recent calls for sociological approaches to comics scholarship, the large numbers of people without whom no comic would exist in the first place are routinely overlooked. A clear focus upon these people and the contributions of their labor is therefore long overdue and absolutely necessary to advance the boundaries of the theoretical and methodological study of comics. After all, how are we to understand any work of comic art if we know nothing about the myriad varieties of cultural work that went into its creation?

This anthology takes as its problematic the tensions between the artistic ideal and the realities of contemporary cultural production and builds upon preliminary work mapping out this important but underexplored area of inquiry in the "Comics & Cultural Work" Special Theme Month which ran through December 2013 at Comics Forum ( Chapters addressing the theme of cultures of comics work outlined in the previous paragraphs are solicited, with a view toward the publication of a multi-authored volume consisting of between 12-14 chapters. A series editor for a well-known academic press has expressed preliminary interest in this project.

We welcome submissions from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives and are particularly interested in underrepresented areas of comics scholarship, such as women in comics and comics outside the Anglo-American region. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • cultures and/or experiences of work in the comics production, distribution, promotion, and consumption circuit
  • theorizing the cultural work of comics
  • casualization, freelance labor, feminization, and other employment inequality and precarity
  • histories of comics work, how production has changed over time
  • professional identities and self-identifications in the comics industry
  • new workflow/publishing models for comics in the digital age
  • case studies of particular national/regional/local comics production cultures
  • analyses of autobiographical comics and/or fictionalized narratives about the life of the comic book artist


Chapter proposals from authors with both academic and industry/practitioner backgrounds are welcome. Prospective contributors should submit 1) an extended abstract of 300-400 words, 2) an indicative bibliography, and 3) a short biographical sketch no later than November 30, 2014.

The deadline for full manuscripts of 6000-7000 words (including notes and references) will be three months from notification of acceptance.

Please direct any inquiries and submissions to Casey Brienza (casey.brienza.1 [at]


Casey Brienza is Lecturer in Publishing and Digital Media in the Department of Culture and Creative Industries at City University London. Her research focuses on transnational cultural production and consumption; the social organization and influence of the contemporary culture industries; and digital technologies of publishing and reading. She has written extensively on comics and manga. Her forthcoming books include Global Manga (Ashgate) and Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics (Bloomsbury).

Paddy Johnston is a Doctoral Researcher in the Department of English at the University of Sussex, currently researching comics as labor and the socioeconomic history of alternative comics. His other research interests include cultural work, authorship, crowdfunding, neoliberalism, and political economy, with particular applications to alternative comics and graphic novels. He is also a publishing industry professional, cartoonist, musician, and podcaster, yet he still finds the time to write about comics for The Comics Grid, Comics Forum, and Graphixia.



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