Australian Comics Creators “Who Do You Think You Are?”: Survey 2015 Summary – PART 1

Panels of Cartoon People

A research project was initiated in early 2015 to determine how the Australian comics community had changed during the six years since a similar survey was conducted by the Australian Society of Authors Comics / Graphic Novels Portfolio.


The survey was administered through Survey Monkey, and promoted via social media and email marketing. It was open from 31 January 2015 with a closing date of 15 March 2015. Due to the interest the survey generated, the deadline was extended for another month.


The following definitions were provided:

  • Australian” – Australian citizens living and working either in Australia or overseas, or overseas comics creators with permanent resident status in Australia.
  • Comics Creator” – Anyone who is writing and / or illustrating comic books, graphic novels, comic / cartoon strips, web comics, zines (that contain sequential art content) and digital comics (comics developed for hand held devices) or any developing format.


The following instructions were provided:

  • This survey is for Australian comics creators only.
  • Respondents are asked to complete the survey only once.
  • The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to fill out, depending on the respondents’ level of commentary.
  • The data will be aggregated and not kept as individual files to assure privacy.
  • The raw data will remain strictly confidential and will be used with the intention of understanding the makeup and profile of the Australian comics community, to help identify the professional development needs of the community, as well as its face in the broader Australian cultural landscape.
  • The results will be published in a report later in the year.

The response rate was over triple that of the original ASA survey.


The results were derived from 122 completed responses. Please note that (except where indicated) the words “respondents” means “respondents to the question” rather than total respondents to the survey.

The survey revealed the following snapshot of the Australian comics community:

Self Classification & Demographics


  • Professional” – a comics creator who has been paid page rates or royalties by a publisher or other business entity, or who is making a full-time or part-time living from selling their comics works.
  • Hobbyist” – a comics creator who is not paid for their work.
  • Aspiring” comics creator – somebody who is interested in comics but has not yet been published.
  • Emerging” comics creator – somebody with one or two published or self-published comics works in print or digital media in mainstream book publishing or comics publishing.
  • Developing” comics creator – somebody with three or four published or self-published comics works comics works in print or digital media in mainstream book publishing or comics publishing.
  • Established” comics creator – somebody with five or more published or self-published works comics works in print or digital media in mainstream book publishing or comics publishing.

Self Classification

  • 34% of respondents identified themselves as being “established” comics creators;
  • 31% as “emerging”;
  • 18% as “developing”; and
  • 17% as “aspiring”.


  • 50% of respondents identified themselves as being in the categories cited above for 1 to 5 years;
  • 18% for 6 to 10 years;
  • 11% for under 1 year;
  • 9% for over 20 years;
  • 7% for 11 to 15 years; and
  • 5% for 16 to 20 years.

In addition:

  • 38% of respondents identified as being “professionals”; and
  • 33% identified as being “hobbyists”.
  • The remaining 29% classified themselves as “other” (including amateur, undecided, professional visual artist, and independent creator).


  • 41% of respondents lived in NSW;
  • 20% in Vic;
  • 16% in Qld;
  • 8% in SA;
  • 6% in Tas;
  • 5% in the ACT;
  • 3% in WA; and
  • 1% in the NT.

Furthermore, four respondents lived overseas in Canada, Japan, and the USA.

Of the entire sample,

  • 72% of respondents live in capital cities; and
  • 28% in a regional city or town or regional rural.


  • 44% of respondents were between the ages of 30 and 39;
  • 26% in the 40 to 49 age group;
  • 18% in the 20 to 29 age group; and
  • 12% were over 50.


  • Nearly 80% of the respondents were male;
  • Nearly 20% of the respondents were female, and
  • Nearly 1% respondents identified themselves in the “other” category.

Educational levels

  • 34% of respondents had earned a University degree;
  • 25% had earned a TAFE or college equivalent qualification;
  • 22% had completed Postgraduate degree;
  • 14% had obtained their Higher School Certificate (HSC) or equivalent; and
  • The remaining 5% were categorised as “other” (including PhD candidates, as well as those who achieved less than an HSC or equivalent).


Publishing History & Practice


  • Mainstream” comics creator – working for a comics studio on licensed or original properties.
  • Independent” (“indie”) or alternative comics creator – otherwise known as “underground”, “small press”, “new wave”, “creator-owned” or “art comics” in various formats including mini comics that are self-published or published by an independent publisher).

Self classification via publishing model

  • Nearly 71% of respondents classified themselves as being “independent (indie)” comics creators;
  • 15% classified themselves as working in “both” the mainstream and indie publishing worlds;
  • 7% as “mainstream” comics creators;
  • 4% were “neither”; and
  • 3% were “other” (authors and freelance cartoonists).

Creative roles

  • 88% of respondents were writers (story, page breakdowns, scripts);
  • 77% respectively were pencillers and inkers:
  • 69% were page layout artists (shot and panel design);
  • 68% respectively were cover artists, colourers and letterers;
  • 56% respectively were graphic designers and editors;
  • 43% were book project managers;
  • 22% were strip cartoonists;
  • 20% were zinesters; and
  • 3% categorised themselves as “other” (which included publishers and producers).


  • 37% of respondents collaborated with other comics creators;
  • 30% did not; and
  • 33% collaborated “sometimes”.

Comics formats

  • 75% of respondents worked in comic books;
  • 48% worked in graphic novels;
  • 31% worked in web comics;
  • 26% worked in zines (containing sequential art);
  • 23% worked in comic / cartoon strips;
  • 22% worked in digital comics (which can be viewed on hand held devices); and
  • 7% worked in “other” categories or formats (including newspapers, European comic albums, comics books that later become digital comics, scripts, and anthologies).

Comic book categories

Of the comics creators who worked in comic books:

  • 67% of respondents have created short stories;
  • 48% have created one-shots;
  • 43% have created series;
  • 31% have created mini series;
  • 20% have created serials; and
  • 7% have worked on “other” (including illustration, political cartoons, topical strips, book compilation of comic strips, graphic novels in the French format, European-type series with self-contained stories in each book, but with continuing characters and longform story threads).

6% have not worked in comics books.

Graphic novel categories

Of the comics creators who worked in graphic novels:

  • 54% of comics creators have created original graphic novels;
  • 36% have had collected volumes published;
  • 16% have had collections of web comics published; and
  • 5% have had translations published.

31% have had no graphic novel published, and 2% have classified themselves as “other” (whereby the respondents did not agree with the definition of graphic novels).

Comics genres

  • 56% of respondents worked in the science fiction genre;
  • 45% in fantasy;
  • 36% respectively in horror and alternative;
  • 31% in superhero;
  • 28% autobiography / biography;
  • 24% in crime;
  • 10% respectively in romance, manga, and military / war;
  • 4% erotica; and
  • 20% in “other” (including apocalypic, comedy, social satire, literary, children’s, and political / topical).

Target market

The predominant target market comics creators work in for the various comics formats and categories is:

  • Both men and women 16+ at 55%; and
  • All ages / genders at 37%.


  • The children’s market (ages 5 to 12 and both genders) averaged 3%; and
  • The teenage market (ages 13 to 16 and both genders) averaged 5%.

Print vs Digital Formats

  • 67% of Australian comics creators publish their work in print and digitally;
  • 25% of Australian comics creators publish their work in print only; and
  • 8% in digital only.

Breaking this down further:

  • 67% self-publish in print;
  • 56% self-publish in digital format;
  • 55% publish in “other” (including syndication through a traditional syndicate and online cartoon database, pin ups and hard copy script).
  • 37% publish their work in print via a comics publisher or studio;;
  • 16% publish their work digitally via a comics publisher or studio;
  • 16% in print via a magazine or newspaper publisher;
  • 12% in print via a mainstream book publisher;
  • 12% in digital format via a web comics platform;
  • 8% in digital via a magazine or newspaper publisher; and
  • 8% in digital via a mainstream book publisher.


  • 89% distribute their works in Australia;
  • 42% in North America;
  • 27% respectively in New Zealand and Europe;
  • 18% in “other” (including ‘global’ distribution via the web);
  • 14% in South America; and
  • 12% in Asia.


Part 2 of the Survey Summary will be published next month.


© Julie Ditrich, 2016

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