Comic Book Specialization

Keeping with the comic book theme here at Catallarchy, Bryan Caplan discusses the complex division of labor in comic book creation, something I've known about for a long time but never really thought of in the context of specialization.

You see, my first job was working at a comic book store. This was not your run of the mill, strip mall comic book store. No, the business was located in the basement of an antique shop, with the only entrance around back near a loading dock, with the outside walls covered in colorful graffiti and used regularly for handball. The area was semi-seedy, but punk and hip at the same time, in the way stores near Little Five Points tend to be.

The two proprietors, Tim and Tony, were old friends in their mid 30s, who decided to pool their respective comic book collections together as back issues, and sell through both the store front and the occasional local comic book convention. I was hired to alphebetize, re-bag and board, and price all of the back issues, as well as run the register one day a week when Tim and Tony had other commitments. I was paid mostly in store credit, but occasionally received cash for register duty. (All under the table, of course.)

Tim and Tony also shared the space and rent with Don Hillsman, a professional comic book artist who was then inking the DC title, Damage.


As Brian's post points out, an inker is a middleman: Don would receive daily FedEx packages containing oversized pencilled drawings (the art paper used in the creative process is much larger than the final retail product) and work the pencilling over with various types of black ink for a day or two, and then repackage his own workproduct and mail it to the next stage in production (sometimes the colorer, sometimes the letterer). What was amazing about this whole process is that it took place across the entire continental U.S., with some of the production staff in L.A., some in New York, and Don in Atlanta.

Stranger still was the image of me, a 12-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy with long sidelocks and a black, velvet yarmalka, working with these three black guys - Tim and Tony were pretty much business casual, but Don dressed semi-Rastafarian with long dreadlocks and a colorful knitted wool cap. Man, I miss those guys.

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