I Locating Labor
For the Love of the Craft: Industry, Identity, and Australian Comics
Amy Louise Maynard
Over the past 40 years, Australian comic book production has been comprised of individuals who form social networks of production and consumption, with an emphasis on creating product as authentic artistic expression. Economically, Australian comics production could be considered a small creative industry, and culturally, it could be considered a scene. In order to understand more about the creative identity and the thought processes behind comics production, I interviewed creators from scenes across Australia. Using primary data from artists in order to understand their ethos is a method frequently utilized within creative identity studies (Hackley and Kover 2007; Wang and Cheng 2010; Taylor and Littleton 2008).
Although publishing comics is not an economically rewarding activity, it is seen as socially rewarding to belong to a community of like-minded individuals who share the same passion for the medium. Therefore, there is justification for this labor in that there is a strong identification as a comics creator, and creators accumulate social capital due to the “love of
A.L. Maynard (H)
University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 21
C. Brienza, P. Johnston (eds.), Cultures of Comics Work,
Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels,
the craft.” By adopting the identity of a comics creator and forming relationships with others, this can create a positive sense of self-worth based on shared values and behaviors (Williams 2011, 129-131). As consumer markets become increasingly fragmented, media convergence changes the media landscape and casualization occurs in the workplace, artists do not often achieve a steady or profitable income from their labor. Thus, there needs to be some alternate sense of agency and empowerment which comes from creative labor (Deuze and Elefante 2012, 17-19).
Within the discourse of Australian comics creators there is a resistance to labeling their activity an industry, as the term “industry” carries the subtext of mass production and corporate ideologies. There are two reasons for this: firstly, due to the belief that the domestic market is considered too small for product to have a consistent profit margin and secondly, there is a conscious level of distancing from corporate ideologies as they are seen as antithetical to those of a scene, which values authentic personal expression (Duncombe 1997, 60). The tension between creating for artistic and economic purposes is something common to most artists (Heazlewood 2014, 75-90; Taylor and Littleton 2008, 275-292). This chapter argues that a scene and a creative industry co-exist within modern Australian comics production. It is a creative industry due to the clusters of comics creation that occur in urban hubs in most capital cities, these social networks forming a system where product is circulated for economic capital within a knowledge economy (Hartley et al. 2013, 18-19). There is optimism that the scene is growing, and the creative industry has proven itself to be sustainable, due to collective action and creative identity.