Reconfiguring the Power Structure of the Comic Book Field: Crowdfunding and the Use of Social Networks
Andre Pereira de Carvalho
Comic book publishing in Brazil is guided primarily by the general principles of supply and demand. However, internal specificity in the field of comics produces certain economic configurations. Thus, to understand how actors organize themselves to succeed in this field, it is necessary to explore production strategies and possibilities. One of the methods now used by comic book artists to produce material is crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding in this sense is new to the digital age and requires online support infrastructure. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are among the most well-known. In Brazil, however, Catarse (www.catarse.me) is the largest crowdfunding platform. It hosts comic book projects, as well as music and theater projects, from artists seeking funding to release their products. A project generally requires people who can financially contribute enough to achieve the funding goal. This way, an artist remains independent and is not dependent on a publisher. Crowdfunding platforms such as Catarse take care of resource collection and deduct a percentage of the proceeds.
The main difference between crowdfunding and the traditional methods (i.e. publishing houses) of comic book production is the criteria that
A. Pereira de Carvalho (H)
Escola de Administrate de Empresas de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 251
C. Brienza, P. Johnston (eds.), Cultures of Comics Work,
Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels,
define who can and cannot publish their work. When seeking crowdfunding, an artist must have elaborate strategies in place to ensure good project performance through the Catarse platform: use of social networks, attendance at project-related events, and asking people to share their work, among other measures. Once artists achieve their required number of contributors and meet their funding goals, they can successfully publish their work. Publishing houses, on the other hand, to avoid financial injury, typically favor artists with high sales potential. This means many unknown artists struggle to get published.
This chapter aims to explore the duality between creators of and financial contributors to projects. It also analyzes the new configurations of power distribution in the field of comics made possible by new mechanisms of independent production. This chapter begins with the assumption that social relations matter as publishing strategies and are developed to build reputation and recognition. To achieve this objective, a network analysis was conducted to observe these social relations at work. The analysis was performed using the computer software Pajek 4.01. The construction of a network is designed by considering field specifics and characteristics observed using an ethnographic approach. Attributes such as the relative significance of actors and subgroups formed within the networks are retrieved, and Pajek is used to filter and analyze quantitative data in a more effective manner than simple field observations. By examining the structure of social relations in the comics field, I attempt to understand which factors are relevant and to what degree, not only to the production of comics but also to the accrual of recognition from one’s peers. I hypothesize that social relations are a field in which strategies are built and specific capital is circulated, making it possible for certain artists to gain recognition within the field.