What is Comics Work?

While each and every worker who performs any one of the tasks listed above, such as inking or distribution, is, in our view, a cultural worker and a comics worker, this fact in and of itself does not, however, provide a proper definition of comics work. We thus define comics work as any labor within the field of the cultural production of comics that contributes to or informs a comic’s production. In Becker’s terms, comics will show “signs of the cooperation” (1982, 1) between the numerous parties involved in its production, and these signs are the outward, visible manifestations of comics work. However, to reveal and interpret these signs, comics work must be understood not just as that which creates obvious visual and material signs but as that which operates—often invisibly—behind the scenes to enable these signs and to build a comic and its message and meaning from these signs.

Our definition of comics work is therefore a broad, expansive, and inclusive one, as is the nature of such a definition and what we seek to advance with it: that is, to reveal and expose the labors behind comics that are routinely and systematically overlooked, not just by scholars but also by fans, critics, and even by creators themselves. These labors are, without doubt, myriad. Comics work is, therefore, a somewhat loaded term, and it would not be possible to fully understand how the term has been applied here without some consideration of the research on cultural work in other media fields.

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