Who Does What?

This page is intended to provide a basic overview of the ways in which the demographic composition of the participants in this study influence their industry positioning, means of publication, and satisfaction with their lives and work situation. Below are a series of crosstabs and their implications.

Click here for an overview of similar analyses using data from 2013. Comparisons between the 2013 and 2019 analyses will be added shortly.

Primary Industry Position (by Gender, Race, and Sexuality)

While there were comparable numbers of men and women in this study, their dispersion among the comics workforce suggests patterns of gender inequality within the industry. Generally, men are dominant in the positions of book design, lettering, pencil art, translation, and writing. Women are dominant in coloring, cover art, editing, inking, and "other" jobs within the industry, but women and nonbinary workers share dominance of concept art within comics. Other gender identities are universally marginalized in comics, but have presences within coloring, concept art, inking, and "other" jobs.

It is significant to note that the labor positions which are dominated by men tend to be the labor positions within the industry that are paid the highest overall rates (per book) and most likely to receive public credit and attribution as collaborators on the work. Positions occupied by women, nonbinary, and other gender identities tend to be rendered invisible, or are obfuscated by hyper-focus on the contributions of writers or (pencil) artists.

In addition to the over-representation of White comics laborers present in this study, racial inequality within comics labor is indicated by the fact that White laborers dominate all of the identified labor positions. Among the specific marginalized groups identified, the following employment patterns emerge: Aboriginal/Indigenous laborers and Latinx/Hispanic laborers are most common in concept art and inking; Arab laborers are most common in lettering; Black laborers are most common in concept art and editing; East Asian and South Asian laborers are most common in cover art; West Asian laborers are most common in "other" positions; and other racial groups are most common in "other" positions, coloring, and cover art.

Not only are White laborers more likely to be visible within the industry due to their sheer numbers, White laborers are generally more common than other racial/ethnic groups in the most visible labor positions (over 70% of writers and pencil artists in this data were White). These findings are consistent with employment trends in book publishing (beyond comics), which suggests that the racialized employment trends present within the comics industry may fall in line with broader trends of cultural gatekeeping which exist throughout the book publishing industry.

While heterosexuals were the most represented sexual identity group in this study, trends in these data suggest that they are not dominant across all types of employment. Bisexual laborers are dominant in concept art, editing, inking, and "other" jobs, while heterosexual laborers tend to be dominant in all other labor positions within comics. Marginalized sexual orientations are still common across labor positions, with gay and lesbian laborers being common in inking, penciling, and editing, and laborers who selected "other" for their sexual identities being common in concept art and book design.

While the most visible labor positions (writer and pencil artist) are dominated by heterosexual workers, the large share of marginalized workers which also occupy these positions suggest that sexuality may be less of a barrier to those positions than race or gender. That being said, the largest proportion of marginalized workers who occupy these roles are bisexual workers; a group that is commonly erased from narratives of queer sexuality.

Additionally, it is not clear whether these workers have "come out" to their employers (or audiences), so it is possible that a portion of the bisexual workers in highly visible labor positions could be passing as straight to attain or maintain their employment in comics.

Primary Means of Publication (by Gender, Race, and Sexuality)

When considering the primary means of publication and the gender of participants, men reported having the most work-for-hire contracts and creator-owned contracts. Women had the most crowd-funded, self-published (both print and digital), and "other" publications. Laborers who identified as nonbinary (or as other genders) were generally marginalized throughout comics publishing, and were most common in self-publishing (print and digital). These patterns are significant as these findings follow the gendered patterns of visibility and invisibility in comics discussed above.

In terms of publication, men were more common in the arrangements with the most visibility. Since contracts with publishers (both work-for-hire and creator-owned) enable workers to utilize established marketing and sales channels, those workers (who are often men) are more likely to have their work in the public eye. By contrast, self-publishing and crowd-funding offers immense potential for workers to arrange equitable agreements among all collaborators - which may be generally more enticing for/welcoming towards women, nonbinary workers, and workers with other gender identities.

Similar patterns emerge in terms of race/ethnicity and sexual identity - each outlined below:

White laborers were the most common racial/ethnic group across all means of comics publishing.

Among the specific marginalized groups identified, the following employment patterns emerge: Aboriginal/Indigenous laborers and West Asian laborers were most common in crowd-funded publications, Arab laborers were most common in creator-owned publications, Black laborers and East Asian laborers were most common in crowd-funded and digital self-publishing, Latinx/Hispanic laborers and South Asian laborers were most common in work-for-hire publications and self-publishing, and laborers from other racial/ethnic groups were most common in other types of publications.

Heterosexuals had the most work-for-hire publications, creator-owned publications, crowd-funded publications, and print-based self-published works. Bisexuals had the most digital self-publications and the most publications in the "other" category. While generally marginalized across all means of publication, gay and lesbian workers commonly produced self-published and creator-owned publications, while laborers from other gender identity groups commonly produced self-published and crowd-funded publications.

Work/Life Satisfaction (by Gender, Race, and Sexuality)

Gendered patterns emerge when considering participants' work/life satisfaction. Men reported being mostly satisfied with their lives; the majority of men were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied". By contrast, men were ambivalent about work satisfaction (with a fairly even disbursement of responses across the spectrum of responses). Similarly, women reported being mostly satisfied with their lives, with the majority of women being either "satisfied" or "very satisfied". However, women were somewhat ambivalent about work satisfaction, with fewer women workers being "satisfied" with their work than "dissatisfied". Nonbinary participants reported being generally dissatisfied with their lives (with fairly strong dissatisfaction indicated). When considering life satisfaction, responses from nonbinary participants mirrored women's responses, with them being somewhat ambivalent about work satisfaction (with fewer nonbinary workers being "satisfied" with their work than "dissatisfied"). Participants with other gender identities indicated that they were strongly dissatisfied with their lives, and had high levels of ambivalence about their work satisfaction (with strong polar responses given).

While white workers were fairly ambivalent about their lives, this skewed slightly more satisfied than dissatisfied (fewer responses among White respondents were given for "very dissatisfied" than "very satisfied"); they were also fairly ambivalent about their work satisfaction, with an even disbursement of responses across categories. Among marginalized races/ethnicities, the following patterns emerge:

Arab workers reported being very dissatisfied with their lives, and highly ambivalent about work (with strong polar responses given). Black and Latinx/Hispanic workers' responses indicated a slight degree of ambivalence about both their work situations and their lives (with more "dissatisfied responses" in both categories). East Asian workers' responses generally indicated a neutral perception of their lives (with slightly more "dissatisfied" responses), and a generally neutral perception of their work situations (with slightly more "satisfied" responses). South Asian workers' responses indicated a slight ambivalence about life (with more "satisfied" responses), and general sense of satisfaction with their work situations. West Asian workers' responses generally indicated dissatisfaction with their lives and satisfaction with their work situations. Responses from workers from other racial/ethnic groups suggest high degrees of ambivalence about their lives (with strong polar responses), and slight ambivalence about their work situations (with slightly more "satisfied" responses).

Heterosexual workers' responses suggested a slight degree of ambivalence with their lives (with slightly more "satisfied" responses), and a general sense of satisfaction with their work situations. Bisexual workers and workers with other sexual identities reported a slight degree of ambivalence about their lives (with slightly more "dissatisfied" responses). These workers were also somewhat ambivalent about their work satisfaction, presenting a fairly even disbursement of responses across categories. Gay and Lesbian workers reported being generally ambivalent about both their lives and their work situations, with a fairly even disbursement of responses across response categories.

What Does This Mean?

By assessing the trends in occupational positioning among various demographic groups, it is clear that heterosexuals, men, and white workers occupy positions of relative privilege and prestige within the industry. These types of workers more commonly occupy labor positions which are visible and desirable within the industry; these findings suggest that intersectional analyses of these data may show strong disparities between the industry positioning of workers with multiple forms of privilege (i.e. straight white men) and marginalized workers (i.e. queer workers of color).

When considering workers' primary means of publication, similar patterns emerge: heterosexuals, white workers, and men were found to be more common in mainstream publication arrangements. These findings additionally suggest that strong disparities may exist between the publication means of workers with multiple forms of privilege (i.e. straight white men) and the publication means of marginalized workers (i.e. queer workers of color).

When considering the work/life satisfaction of workers, patterns of privilege and marginalization continue to be meaningfully impacting these data. While women reported high degrees of life satisfaction, men more frequently reported satisfaction with both their lives and their work situations. While White workers more commonly reported satisfaction with their lives than workers from marginalized racial/ethnic groups, White workers, Asian workers, and workers from "other" racial groups (who were often members of White-passing ethnic groups) reported the highest levels of work satisfaction. This finding suggests that while racial inequality may be more readily visible within the industry in many ways, colorism may impact the dynamics of working relationships within comics (with lighter-skinned workers being treated more favorably than dark-skinned workers). While workers across sexual orientations reported large amounts of ambivalence about their lives, only heterosexual workers reported being satisfied with their work situations in comics. This finding corroborates anecdotal claims about mainstream comics' reluctance to fully embrace LGBTQ+ workers.

Furthermore, state of the gender inequality present (in terms of employment and satisfaction) suggests a working culture where the needs of those who are not men may not necessarily be being met. In addition to this, the ubiquitous presence of White laborers throughout all modes of comics employment and publishing suggests an overall working culture that is heavily imbued with Whiteness (which may not necessarily present welcoming or equitable conditions for workers of color). Similarly, the relative visibility and satisfaction of heterosexual laborers (compared to sexual minorities) suggests a working culture that favors heteronormative values overall. While each of these dynamics are noteworthy on their own, it is doubly worth noting that the coincidence of these trends tends to have meaningful impacts on audiences' perceptions of comics employment. Please note that while audience perception is generally unable to directly influence the employment decisions of comics publishers, it still holds strong potential to influence and shape the way new books (or talent) are acquired, developed, and/or marketed.