“Geek culture is safe. In a country that reminds me more and more of Mieville’s The City and City, where people experience their daily lives in ways that increasingly don’t intersect, geek culture can be comfortingly apolitical, ahistorical, classless, and because of that ultimately unifying, in a way.”

Searching for a metaphor

Ever since the advent of modern political thought we’ve felt the ground trembling under our feet as if we were sitting atop great beasts. Most of the time it’s a soft rumble, but ever so often they wake to swallow us whole. Much of the writing on governance and economy concerns itself with describing these invisible creatures and what is to be done with them. Hobbes conceived of the state at its best as a Leviathan and at its worst as a Behemoth. Creating macro-economy Keynes conjures the animal spirits to explain the bull and bear turns of the market. Ronald Reagan wanted to starve the beast to make it leaner and meaner.

In 2008 the ground shook underneath our feet worse than ever before. It started in the US and the shockwave moved through the whole world slowly rendering the earth apart, dislodging and displacing peoples, dragging lives into the dirt. When the dust settled we could pierce through the newly exposed fracture in the crust of the world to see the horror. There are no beasts. It’s just the one. The Growth. A mass of tendrils, veins, and nodules, crawling and dripping and penetrating and sucking and pulsating. A beast made out of assembly plants and trading routes and credit lines, of think tanks and cultural institutes and implements of war. Marx witnessed the shape of the beast:

Here we have, in the place of the isolated machine, a mechanical monster whose body fills whole factories, and whose demon power, at first veiled under the slow and measured motions of his giant limbs, at length breaks out into the fast and furious whirl of his countless working organs.[1]

Post-2011 politics, especially in the Western world and its peripheries, became more and more a reaction to being intertwined in a system of uncomfortable dependencies. With a misleading exception at the core of The Growth elections didn’t rest on what is to be done internally, but on how each nation should see the beast, which tendrils to grab hold of, which gaping mouths to feed. 

In Greece, Syriza went into power fighting against debt owed to the European troika. Hungary fueled an eurosceptic entranchement while suckling structural funds from the EU. Every act of political participation in Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, from voting in presidential elections to protests, are spasms between embracing an apparently modernising European identity and affirming a traditional and oppressive “oriental” one. Parliamentary and executive elections in France, Italy, and the UK function more as referendums on migration, both from inside the European Union and from outside it. That is, when such a referendum doesn’t hijack the whole political and social life of the nation as is the case with Brexit. And, of course, the presidential election of Donald Trump. If in 2012 the Obama vs Romney presidential race focused on the internal affairs of the country like taxes, infrastructure, and energy production, with the incumbent scoffing when the problem of Russia was raised, in 2016 the decision quickly started to revolve around migration, wars, the involvement of foreign intelligence agencies in the affairs of the US, and the economic anxiety produced by international trading and the offshoring of jobs.

Much ink has been wasted on trying to explain what happened in this period of time and even more on proposing fixes to the problems we are facing. Rigorous explanations are being developed, like in Adam Tooze’s Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World and the writing of Daniela Gabor on the so-called “shadow banking”. But these remain dense if not impenetrable to the untrained specialist. Reeling away from them we risk arbitrarily picking an incomplete story, one that lacks a theory and as such prescribes no praxis. Or even worse, it throws us into the clutches of reaction.

In programming, one of the most powerful methods for developing efficient algorithms is the divide and conquer approach, wherein the problem is broken apart into smaller and smaller chunks until they become trivial to solve, then the solutions are combined to resolve the broader issue. This approach, too, appears to fail us resulting in various contradictory readings ranging from the liberal theories of populism of someone like Cas Muddle, the afro-pessimism of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the ostrich-ike ignoring of reality of Steven Pinker, the borderline strasserism of Angela Nagle, or the impotent orthodox Marxism of countless minor intellectuals and former political activists surviving in some form or another in Eastern Europe.

It fails only if we forget that we are not dealing with various beasts, but with just one, with The Growth. It is something we often forget because of the way most social sciences evolved and developed their methods. Immanuel Wallerstein, whose conceptual frame of the world-system I’ll use throughout this article, described this situation as “a major tragedy.”[2] He believed social scientists searching to validate their discipline looked mostly at quantifiable data and ignored the more narrative historical record. He concludes that the “[...] best way not to use it was to formulate problems in such a way that its use was not indicated. Thus the quantifiability of data determined the choice of research problems which then determined the conceptual apparatuses with which one defined and handled the empirical data. It should be clear on a moment’s reflection that this is an inversion of the scientific process.”[3]

I still maintain that divide et impera is a useful method for arriving at an understanding of the current situation, the kind of understanding that offers a way through. Since dividing it locally appears to be a non-starter, a division in breadth might provide better results. The challenge is to select an aspect close enough to the surface that it’s not deeply embedded in a particular culture, legal system, economic framework, but it’s still weighty enough to be considered a part of the modern world-system.

I think I have identified precisely such a thing in the North-American comics industry.

Dividing the labour

“The capitalist world-economy which came into existence in Europe in the sixteenth century is a network of integrated production processes united in a single division of labour. Its basic economic imperative is the ceaseless accumulation of capital, made possible by the continuous appropriation of surplus-value, which is centralised via primitive accumulation, the concentration of capital, and the mechanisms of unequal exchange. Its political superstructure is the interstate system composed of ‘states’, some sovereign, some colonial. The zones under the jurisdiction of these states in this interstate system have never been economically autonomous, since they have always been integrated in a larger division of labour, that of the world-economy.”[4]

At the beginning of the XXth century, comics production was more of an appendage to the world-economy. A vestigial organ. There was no comics industry to speak of, as comics were published inside of newspapers and magazines. As such, the strips themselves were created with a pre-industrial division of labour. They would usually be credited to a single name under which could very well sit only the author, or the author and their assistants, or their ghost writers and ghost artists, and various permutations of these arrangements. When assistants got employed they sometimes were the children of the cartoonist and their tasks were particular to the needs of their employer. In this, the comic strips were produced under social relations that were more closely related to those of a Renaissance painter’s studio or a craftsman’s workshop. And, for the most part, this division of labour is maintained to this day. As is the case with those other pre-capitalist modes of organisation, the work produced could be extremely refined and sophisticated, but the vitality of the business rests on the fortunes of some other enterprise—the newspaper industry in the case of comic strips—and in time the medium of the comic became almost completely the domain of industrialised production. Artisans simply cannot compete with the production power of manufacturing, and few of them are grandmasters whose work is beyond the possibility of industry.

The comic book industry sprouted from the artisanal newspapers strips in 1933 with the launch of Famous Funnies, an anthology of previously published comic strips. Soon, the material available for repackaging would dry out and the editors would start commissioning new original strips. At first the division of labour was identical, but the relationship between parties shifted. If the cartoonist was de facto, if not de jure, a private entity supplying a syndicate with daily/weekly strips, which would in turn lease them to various newspapers around the country, the writer or the artist on a comic book magazine was a labourer contracted to produce a commodity. The logic of the two businesses was different as well as their possibility for growth. The success of a comic strip was gauged by how many newspapers would syndicate it. But that made them almost a zero-sum game with fierce competition for the limited space between the strips. This also explains why newspaper strips simply didn’t move to an industrial division of labour in order to compete with comic books. A newspaper comic strip had little place to grow, while the comic book industry could simply publish more and more magazines. And so it did. And so it grew.

This shift to success as growth and constantly increasing production forced an increase in productivity and blind cooperation, achieved through specialisation. A cartoonist who was more comfortable just writing would partner up with another who was more comfortable just providing the art. The cartoonist who was then a writer could work on more series and the cartoonist who became an artist could produce more pages, since they alleviated themselves of the tasks which proved difficult. Over time, as editorial offices congealed, some of the writers who were more managerial inclined and had a mind over the big picture took up the role of editors shaping the stories with broad strokes.[5] On the art side, the division of labour was even more intense. Those artists that were better at page layouts, blocking, and graphic storytelling took on the role of pencilers. Their rough art would then be rendered in ink by inkers with a steadier hand, coloured by colourists, and lettered by letterers with superior design sense. It’s worth noting that in this new division of labour the artists get identified not with their end product (i.e. the cartoon), not even with their craft (i.e. the act of writing or editing), but with their tools.

This industrial division of labour also hides a division of social labour. In the introduction of The DC Guide to COLORING and LETTERING Comics, Jim Steranko acknowledges the “assembly-line” quality of producing comic books. Since colouring was believed to be of little importance, it was left to people Steranko describes as “non-artists, [only] a few of whom might qualify as craftsmen.” As such their “page rates were minimal; colourists on salary had to produce ten or more pages in an average workday.” And if they had “authentic artistic ability [they] soon became pencillers or inkers.” A few pages further into the manual we might get a hint as to why colour was relegated to such a place and why Steranko had such harsh words for those that applied it to comics. Mark Chiarello explains that the actual production of coloured comic book pages was done by “a group of old ladies [sitting] around applying dark brown paint to acetate copies of the artwork.” Comic book colouring started as ‘women’s work’ and remains so to this day. From 1988 to 2019 there were 29 men who won the Eisner Awards (a mainstream industry award) and only 2 women who won it for the art (be it pencelling or inking). This proportion remains the same for writing, with 13 male writers and just one female writer (in 2018, Marjorie Liu, who shared her award with Tom King). But, for colourists from 1992 to 2019, the award was won equitably by six women and six men.

This shows how the division of labour creates various peripheries. And while having men occupy the core and keeping the women at distance is one of the first, it is certainly not the last.[6]

Dividing the world

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Comic book artists tell the story through their choice over the placing of the figures and by endowing them with their personal style, by deciding on the layout of the page, by fixing the logic of the sequence; they commit to an appropriate way of rendering shadow and light and texture, they give the line weight and modulation; they apply colour schemes and tonalities and impress important visual information; they have the task of turning sound graphic through expressive typography. But, in the end, they have little creative control. Comics book artists are defined by their tools and their place on the figurative assembly-line. The comic book artist does a job fit for the faceless other. Overshadowed by the characters and properties they were assigned, the other creators they happened to collaborate with, the thankless roles they chose (but mostly were assigned to) without much of a voice in a visual world ironically focused on the word.

In 1970, almost all of the people working for Marvel Comics were concentrated in the United States (in New York, to be more precise). By 1975, as the industry grew and it was absorbed into the world-economy exporting the comics overseas as well as by licencing the characters for various merchandise deals and producing them in other media, the demographics of the people employed by Marvel Comics (and other publishers) would change. A timid employment of work from other core countries is to be expected. Especially from Canada and Great Britain, thanks to similar cultures and the lack of a language barrier. What could at first be surprising is the great portion of Philippino artists. It becomes less so when we consider the conditions at the core.

Two main pressures affected the publishers in the US and restricted their growth. The first one was competition[7] from various other publishers fighting over a dwindling number of creators. Chris Knowles recounts in an article for Comic Book Artist that “many old hands who had been in the business since its inception, suffering long hours and lousy pay, were retiring, joining management or leaving the industry for greener pastures.”[8] The second one was coming from the creators themselves who wanted better working conditions, better pay and more control over their art. A simple way to solve these tensions was to grow the boundaries of the industry and establish different divisions of labour between the core and the periphery. In Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story the author reports that in 1974, “[when] there had been the threat of an industry-wide artists’ union, [Roy] Thomas [the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics] wanted to fly to the Philippines to recruit artists who’d work at cheaper rates.”[9]

Why the Philippines? The structural reason is the place the Phillipines occupied in the world-system. Quoting Chris Knowles from his article “Invasion from the Philippines: A Brief Survey of the Great ‘70s Filipino Artists at DC”:

“The Philippines fell under the aegis of the U.S. during the Spanish American War at the turn of the century and eventually the Islands absorbed many American cultural traditions, among them comic books. The Philippines’ former status as an American protectorate meant that a great deal of military personnel spent time on the islands. And the servicemen brought comics with them in the days before World War II. The Filipinos went mad for this new medium and (following the Japanese occupation) the nation saw the growth of a homegrown comics industry.”[10]

The second one is circumstantial, in the person of Tony De Zuniga, a Filipino artist who emigrated to the US and started working at DC Comics. He then established a link between US editorial offices and the English-speaking pool of artists from the Philippines.[11]

Despite being “prolific master craftsmen,” bestowing upon the comics an “explosion of elegance and draftsmanship seldom seen in the comics since the glory days of newspaper strip greats like Foster and Raymond,” the work they were assigned to was of secondary importance to the publisher. They were given fill-in issues, mid-level titles, once popular but now failing (soon to be cancelled) series or various licenced comics. Their quality as craftspersons is secondary.[12] Knowles explains that they would be paid more than the $3-5 dollars a page they would get in their home countries, but a far cry from the $35 dollar a page, which was the rate at DC at the time.[13] And more importantly than simply being cheaper, their presence had a depressing effect on the artists from the US.[14] Knowles retells urban legends about how “Alfredo [Alcala] could work for days on end without sleep, turn in his pages and pick up another assignment without taking more than a catnap in-between.”[15] And by the end of the decade the Philippines became well entrenched in the division of labour, supplying artists mostly for their inking abilities.[16]

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This kind of “invasion” repeated itself with the UK in the late 80s and early 90s, only with writers, illustrating more of a semi-peripheral relationship. It started with Alan Moore who after working on critical and commercial hits such as The Saga of the Swamp Thing and Watchmen turned away from mainstream comics as they would “treat their creators as chattel.”[17] Nonetheless, Moore’s editor, Karen Berger, started to recruit other British writers, such as Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Alan Grant, Jamie Delano, Brett Ewins, Peter Milligan, and Garth Ennis. While Berger says she “found their sensibility and point of view to be refreshingly different, edgier and smarter,” we should also note that the creators she recruited were “younger and less experienced than Moore had been [...], [while the] older hands of the British comics industry, like Steve Parkhouse, Steve Moore, Pat Mills, and John Wagner, typically picked up little work.”[18] This being the case it wouldn’t be far fetched to believe that this offshoring came, once again, from searching for a cheaper and more obedient workforce, which will pacify the creators at home. Independent media journalist Ryan Carey speculates as much when he says that “the real reason that the British Isles were even tapped for new creators in the first place in the early 80s is because the Brits, eager for their first ‘big break’ often worked much cheaper than their American counterparts, since even the reduced rates DC offered their foreign talent were more than homegrown publishers like Fleetway offered.”[19]

This phenomena continued and accelerated, but it did so mostly when it came to the artists themselves. Starting with the late 80s, Spain became a source of talent, Marvel and DC enlisting artists, such as Carlos Pacheco, Esteban Maroto, Oscar Jiménez, José Luis García-López, Salvador Larroca, and many others. To this day the country is a trustworthy source of pencilers, inkers, and colourists for the mainstream comic book industry.

Then the Berlin Wall fell and a whole new market opened. Eastern European peoples were starved by their former authoritarian rulers, but they also starved for recognition, for validation, for integration, for reform. Independently they prodded a market they believed could bestow all of these.

Beloved Romanian artist Sandu Florea emigrated to the United States wanting to draw comics but found most of Marvel’s cast of characters incompatible with his style honed on fairy tales and historical battles. So he did what most such immigrant artists do and tried his hand at doing Conan. Since then he specialised as an inker out of financial reasons. Inking other artist’s pages he could work on three comics a month, as opposed to just one as a penciler, which would double his yearly income.[20]

The late Edvin Biuković is probably one of the most influential and inspiring Croatian artists working in that period, even being nominated and winning multiple awards in the USA. He drew two Grendel Tales mini-series for Dark Horse, both of them clearly inspired by the violence of the Yugoslav wars; written by his friend Darko Macan—one of the few non-British immigrant writers at mainstream comic book companies. With other writers he worked on comics from different corporate franchises such as Star Wars or The Human Target, but continued to collaborate with Darko Macan on short stories.

The serb Zoran Janjetov achieved worldwide renown after “inheriting” the Incal series from Moebius and worked on different prequels and spin-offs with guru/superstar/huckster writer and director Alexandro Jodorowsky, himself an immigrant with cosmopolitan origins.

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By 2015, even if the majority of Marvel’s employees came from the US, the distribution of their roles was unequal around the world. Almost half of the portion of artists working for the publisher was coming from outside of the US. And not from a single country, but from all over the world. The vast majority of writers came from the USA, with a sizable influx of British and Canadians authors. And almost all of the editors were from the USA. This is congruent with Wallerstein’s observation that, at the core, the occupational “trend was toward variety and specialisation, while the trend in the periphery [is] toward monoculture.”[21] But why? And why these proportions?

Of course, more managerial roles are closely linked to the geographical location. And, of course, language and cultural differences create some barriers for writers that aren’t there for artists. At the same time, artists compose a much more sizable portion of the workforce, numbering four to five times more than writers. And as we’ve established, their tasks are more intensely divided. A division of work that only got exacerbated with the employment of international talent. Fragmenting a workforce of this size is key to maintaining the rate of profit. Quoting Wallerstein:

Since profitability is directly related to the degree of monopolisation, what we essentially mean by core-like production processes is those that are controlled by quasi-monopolies. Peripheral processes are then those that are truly competitive. When exchange occurs, competitive products are in a weak position and quasi-monopolized products are in a strong position. As a result, there is a constant flow of surplus-value from the producers of peripheral products to the producers of core-like products. This has been called unequal exchange.[22]

Through this division of labour the comic book industry grew and became more and more integrated in the world-system, now a part of The Growth itself not just an appendage or atavism. Which is why I find it at least ironic, and at worse perverse, that these waves of offshoring are dubbed “invasions.” It was The Growth spreading its subterraneous limbs, opening passages to the periphery when conditions at the core became too tense. But, of course, we didn’t really know about The Growth at the time. And so many artists did crawl through the uncovered channels. Especially helped by the global village, by electronic communication, and digital artwork. 

A few like Aleksa Gajić or Stjepan Šejić even managed to leave a mark on the scene, to gain authorship and some margins of control. Most did not. Igor Kordey, Goran Parlov, Danijel Žeželj, Dalibor Talajić, Esad Ribić, Goran Sudžuka, Tonči Zonjić, Ive Svorcina, Victor Drujiniu, Remus Brezeanu, Alexandru Talambă, Attila Futaki followed in the steps of their colleagues before them, coerced by the economic needs to work and the opportunity to do so in places brimming with social and financial capital, even if to do so would mean less recognition and less auctorial control, as well as fewer rights over the final artistic work produced.

This flow of workers from the periphery to the core might leave us wondering what happens to the comic book publishers in those countries. This is what I’m going to look at in the next part, using the Romanian production of comic books as a case study.

A growth doubly stifled

A comics presence in Romania can be noticed ever since the end of the XIXth century. At points it could be argued that we’ve developed a comics culture, but it never could’ve been described as an industry. Various historical circumstances prohibited the timid production from developing a robust enough division of labour to be integrated in the national economy and then in the division of labour of the world-system. Instead, it has remained a liminal practice; instead of contributing to the internal homeostasis, it facilitated exchanges with the outside through which The Growth could probe the country’s conditions.

The first Romanian comic strip, Pisica Spelată (The Washed Cat), was created by Constantin Jiquidi and published in Revista Copiilor (Children’s Magazine) in 1896. Jiquidi spent a few months among Parisian editorial offices where he came in contact with early French bandes dessinées. The format established by Jiquidi (four panels with rhyming text underneath) would remain virtually unchanged in Romanian comics for about 50 years.[23]

For the next few years comics would continue to be consumed mostly as imported goods filling the pages of short-lived children’s magazines since ”[it] was cheaper [for the publisher] to reproduce foreign BDs, especially German and Austrian, than to pay for domestic creations, which lead to numerous such BDs being published over the two years the magazine was running, either under Romanian pseudonyms or uncredited.”[24] 

In 1924, Haplea (Gobbles), the first Romanian brand character made its appearance in Dimineața Copiilor (Children’s Morning), created by Nicolae Batzaria and Marin Iorda. Replicating the history of the medium from the US, for example, this first popular character also leaped into the medium of animation, being immortalised in the first archived Romanian animation film. But if other such characters were the subject of difficult ownership battles between the editors and the authors, Haplea became a sort-of public-domain creation, melding into the commons of stock characters. For a time in the late 1930s, Pascal Rădulescu would get the rains over Haplea’s adventures. Later, in the 1970s, Marin Iorda and Tudor Muşatescu would reinvent the character, dressing it in ripped blue jeans and a proletarian shirt. And further still, in 1995, Viorel Pîrligras would publish a strip with Haplea in Renaşterea Bănăţeană (Banat’s Revival). Probably this was a minor aspect compared to the level of development of the Romanian economy at the time, but this kind of ownership also might have prevented the character to be processed through an intense division of labour as to create an industry around it, in the way Little Nemo, Mickey Mouse, Astro Boy, or Asterix would do.

Over the interwar period, the comics presence in Romania would be a mixture of autochthonous (among others, Păcală și Tândală by Arny Murnu in Lumea Copiilor, or Children’s World) as well as imported strips (among others, Hal Foster’s Tarzan strip and Mickey Mouse in Universul Copiilor, or Children’s Universe) mirroring the burgeoning industrialisation of the country and its linkage with the Western world-system. As opposed to France, for example, the war didn’t greatly stifle comics publishing. The magazines’ format and length remained intact, instead becoming more expensive. Some of the stories increasingly turned into war propaganda. This was something prone to happen and, inasmuch as it concerns our study, it shows a further integration of comics production in the national economy and broader society.

Near the end of the Second World War, Ion Drugă and Jean Fințeanu would start publishing Covorul Fermecat (The Magic Carpet). It was a magazine primarily focused on comics, publishing American titles such as Jungle Jim, Bric Bradford, and Mandrake, The Magician licensed through the French Press agency Opera Mundi. From its selection of strips, size, and format, Covorul Fermecat was positioned to be a Romanian version of Le Journal de Mickey, a wildly popular French magazine. This would signal both a leap for the Romanian comics culture[25] and a further integration into the world-economy.

But geopolitical circumstances changed and following the end of the war Romania fell under the Soviet sphere of influence, essentially being severed from Western economy. A severance which was, for many, traumatic.

During the communist period, Romanian comics production benefited from the developmentalist strategy of the state. In state-sponsored children’s magazines like Licurici (Firefly), Scânteia Pionierului (The Pioneer’s Spark), Cravata Roșie (The Red Tie) creators like Radu Duldurescu, Livia Rusz, Puiu Manu, and many others would produce a substantial amount of comics in various genres, with some differentiation based on the age of the readership and some division of labour between the writers and the artists. Of course, the stories took a harsh propagandistic tone. The historical strips would imagine a past which justifies the political situation of the time. The “humorous” contemporaneous strips would do little more than remind the children to do their homework and behave, while the adventure ones would present obviously fantastic high-tech gadgets and machines created through Soviet science.[26] On the other hand, comparing them with most of the North-American comics published at the same time, the differences aren’t fundamental, which is why someone like Puiu Manu remains beloved to this day. And as opposed to the pre-war half of century the medium did develop. One of the high points came in 1979 when Sandu Florea (trained as an architect) published at Editura Sport-Turism (Sport-Turism Publishing) În Lumea lui Harap-Alb (In White-Thrall’s World), a graphically sophisticated adaptation of a popular romanian children’s tale. The BD album, whose style conjures European masters such as Philippe Druillet and Sergio Toppi, can be hardly found in antique shops.[27]

But even after being squashed between capitalist countries and the USSR, which had little to no comics culture, the biggest impact on Romanian comics culture was still made by a foreign publication: the famous French Pif Gadget

The curious fact that a magazine from a capitalist country could be found at the newsstands is usually brushed aside by mentioning that it was published by the French Communist Party. We should also consider the geopolitical situation Romania was finding itself at the time. According to Cornel Ban’s research:

The regime’s increasingly evident nationalism led to a clash with the rest of the Eastern ‘block’ in the middle of the 60s. In 1963, RCP’s leaders defied Moscow’s plans to force Romania to focus on agriculture—seen at Moscow as its competitive advantage—and posited a full equivalence between economic self-reliance and national independence. This resulted in the adoption of a new doctrine in Bucharest, according to which Romania has to build a developmental state that should keep important parts of the stalinist model, while formulating a distinct commercial and financial regime, which would include the strategic cooperation with capitalist countries.[28]

So to avoid being defined as a peripheral country[29], Romania sought to bootstrap its own industrial processes, not only by creating complex divisions of labour internally, but by inserting itself in production chains where it could offer not raw materials, but products with added value. 

And this is the mechanism through which the Romanian Comunist Party would pay the subscriptions for Pif, as they couldn’t move foreign currency beyond the border: in exchange for the Pif Gadget magazines they’d print a number of Rahan and Corinne et Jeannot albums at the Combinatul Poligrafic Casa Scînteii.[30] What would’ve been simple consumption, now becomes trade.

Pif Gadget’s impact on local culture was described as a Pifomania. Not only were the comics influential for numerous comics authors, but they also impacted many current intellectual and cultural figures. People like theatre director Felix Alexa, film translator and critic Irina Margareta Nistor, and journalist Mihaela Rodina admitted having learned French from reading the magazine.[31] The comic book was so sought after that only the privileged few could afford it first-hand from official channels, while the more unfortunate readers would have to get it second/third/fourth-hand or by bribing the newspaper seller.

So, as was the case in the mid-1940s Romanian comics culture counted both popular and reasonably modern imports as well as a healthy internal production. And as was the case in the 1940s, the fledgeling industry was suddenly curbed, with a traumatic impact towards the audience. The loss of Pif Gadget hit particularly hard, as many readers saw it as a window towards the West, projecting the image of a borderline utopian society without oppression and an abundance of consumer goods.

Under the shadow of The Growth

After the fall of the Eastern bloc as a result of the transition to a democratic capitalist system comic books weren’t supported any longer. Varying around the market conditions from time to time, a publisher would try to put out on the market some magazine or album. Especially Egmont with different Disney licences. But they didn’t manage to create a comics culture. Even when such a publication turned reasonably successful the comic was just one way to consume a particular brand[32], which was the main attraction. Especially if it felt foreign and western.

By the time I started reading comics, very few got published anymore—Romanian or translated. Readers were enclaved in small groups of friends carrying on the tradition. One of the most active of these was localised in Craiova. Some libraries kept old comic books, especially those associated with foreign cultural institutes. People still had old collections. Those who traveled abroad could have come across them. Only they were not products to be consumed, rather comic books became a conduit to another time and another place. Both to one we just left and to one where we were imagining to arrive. Comics, more than any other piece of pop culture was a reminder that Romania wasn’t Western enough, wasn’t civilized enough. At least for a certain generation.

Until technology empowered us. We started to have webcomics like Fredo and Pidjin, Smoking Cool Cat and Mîța cu î din i. We started to have fanzines like Revista Comics, Glorioasa Fanzină, and a bit later SEFEU. We started to have websites/blogs dedicated to comics like Webcomics and the now defunct Salon BD. We even got some self-published “graphic novels.” They were small and shuffled around searching for a formula, running on passion alone, but some of them were vital, vigorous and unique.

Up to this point I’m sure everyone can tell the story differently, as a function of the small scale and disparate arrangement of actors on the scene. But I’m confident that from now on the narrative will snap into focus. 


Apparently little seemed to happen domestically regarding comics during the 2000s. At least in the mainstream. In 2002, Miloš Jovanović, a Serbian expat, would found the independent publishing house Hardcomics. In 2006, Octav Avramescu and Anamaria Pravicencu both returned from studies and short careers in Canada, respectively France, with a passion for alternative comics, so they founded the Jumătatea Plină (The Full Half) bookstore. A sizeable chunk of those who would be in the “who’s who” of Romanian comics, illustration, and animation in the following decades would’ve crossed their path sooner or later, either by participating in workshops organised by them, buying comics from Jumătatea Plină, or even being published by them.

These efforts were curious for some of the other comics readers at the time. “An alternative to what,”[33] they’d ask. An important thing to note is that alternative comics aren’t reacting per se to mainstream comics, rather to the way they’re expected to be produced. They’re reacting to the intense division of labour in mainstream comics by having the creator produce the whole work in such a way that writing, pencilling, inking, coloring, and lettering aren’t distinct, sequential steps, instead melding together. At points, the division of labour collapses in even more extreme ways by having the person producing the work being the same on taking care of its reproduction as well as its publishing and distribution. In a way this is similar to the more artisanal mode of production, but it differs in the essential point that while workshop production was an act of co-operation, alternative comics is an individualistic act. Which means that while it can be liberating for the author, its productivity is minimal and if it’s something other than a solipsistic exercise it can only function under the care of some much stronger entity. Like a mecena or the state.

By 2008, the debt crisis was starting to hit Europe. The Growth was convulsing. This was acknowledged by the Romanian state only in early 2010 and took strong steps in reaction to it in 2011. The reelection of president Traian Băsescu depended on maintaining the impression of prosperity.[34] One of the ways this was achieved was through culture and an intensified linkage to the West. 

Until 2012, the Romanian Cultural Institute had functioned under the authority of the President. Under Traian Băsescu, the RCI was led by Horia Roman Patapievici, Mircea Mihăieș, and Tania Radu. Probably because both Patapievici and Mihăieș are bedephiles with a nostalgia for Pif and the comics from it (especially Corto Maltese),[35] comics was one of the areas they expanded state support for the arts in order to create this impression of prosperity.

According to RCI’s activity reports, before 2008 they hadn’t supported any comics related event or publication. In 2008 they, together with the Wallonie-Bruxelles Delegation, hosted an exposition dedicated to Tintin and participated through Dodo Niță and Alexandru Ciubotariu at the KomiksFEST independent festival.[36] In 2009, among an increasing number of events, they sent Hardcomics and Matei Branea at the MoCCA Art Festival to hold the presentation Very Bad Comics & So-So Music from Romania.

By 2011, RCI’s efforts multiplied. Not only did the institute continue to send representatives to the most important comics and comics-friendly festivals and trade shows (while the Romanian comics production was composed of a few fanzines and various unpublished/unfinished projects), in 2010 it organised its own, Salonul European de Bandă Desenată (The European Salon of Comics) in partnership with various other European cultural institutes, the old guard of Romanian fans from Asociația Bedefililor din România (The Association of Romanian Bedephiles) and Asociația Jumătatea Plină (The Full Half Association). “An intense campaign was orchestrated to promote this first edition of The European Salon of Comics, including radio shows, TV interviews, street posters, press briefings, etc.”[37] At the festival, Dodo Niță and Alexandru Ciubotariu launched the historiographic volume Istoria benzii desenate românești (1891-2010)/The History of Romanian Comics (1891-2010), published by Vellant with the support of RCI. All of these continued in 2011. On top of them, RCI helped Hardcomics and Jumătatea Plină publish the anthology Book of George (which they presented at Angoulême at the beginning of the year, supported the urban festival Street Delivery, where various small-press comics displayed their wares and helped open Muzeul Benzii Desenate (The Comics Museum).

After the summer of 2012, the RCI was moved under the Senate’s authority (at the time controlled by the opposition), its funding was halved, and Horia Roman Patapievici together with his team resigned. In terms of comics, it continued to sponsor the attendance of Romanian artists to a few smaller international comics festivals, to organise some exhibitions, and sporadically organise the Salonul European de Bandă Desenată, although in much reduced forms, and with the partnered associations and institutes pulling most of the weight.

Nevertheless, these four years of intense state support[38] were enough to create the impression that the market for comics was growing with vitality. In 2010, Editura Art (Art Publishing House) translated the French graphic novel Persepolis, quickly followed by its spin-off Embroideries. The next year Alexandru Talambă published through the Mandragora Production House (where he worked) his own short graphic novel, Elabuga. In 2012 Institut Francais (French Institute) organised the Pif en Roumanie, un héros de l'âge d'or (Pif in Romania, a Hero of the Golden Age) exhibition and published a catalogue. Despite the name, the exhibition is strongly anti-communist and reinforces the escapist importance Pif Gadget had for the Romanian public.

What needs to be noted is that organising these activities with the support of both Asociația Bedefililor din România, representing older readers and authors faithful to a fordist mode of production, and Asociația Jumătatea Plină, representing an anarchic (but not quite anarchist) mode of production, the RCI unintentionally created some tensions and divides in the Romanian comics culture. Tensions that could be contained for as long as the state was expanding the field, but after it stopped doing so, they were left to be resolved on the market.

And so, attracted by this activity, The Growth started to roll its monstruos limbs towards the country. The heralds were the importers. Almost overnight both online and brick and mortar shops appeared offering to bring new and old comics to the craving fans. American comics. The shops almost invariably had hero or comic in their name, not bandă desenată or BD, as our history with Franco-Belgian comics would encourage. Their marketing material was filled with superhero imagery.

Poor management and the fact that comics are so damn expensive meant that many of those failed, at least in some capacity. Even so, I don’t even have to wonder why people started those businesses. It’s linked to geek culture as a whole and, as irrelevant as it might sound, to The Big Bang Theory’s popularity in particular.

At least partly because of this they still crept up, still tried to reenact the almost mythical comic book shop, as if guided by some force beyond their control. Talking with people near the would-be entrepreneurs, again and again they mentioned the damn show, saying how much they wanted a building brimming with pamphlets and superhero action figures. They weren’t concerned to whom they would sell them, they just wanted that feeling. And even if most ended up sacrificing themselves, they did what they had to do. They prodded at the calloused skin of the country and prepared the ground for The Growth by spending money on marketing campaigns, agglutinating small groups of people, and setting up small distribution channels.

HAC!BD, supported by Asociația Bedefililor, saw potential in that small market, took a gamble and created the appearance of success with Harap Alb Continuă, by setting up a cargo-cult industry. If, as we’ve seen, arriving at a division of labour is a historical process HAC!BD adopted as closely as possible the one from the North-American comics industry. It turned a mechanism of production into an aesthetic.

Harap Alb Continuă can be seen as the perfect crystallisation of the hegemonic mainstream culture, without any of the existing self-censoring impulses or subversive undercurrents. It functions as a dim reflection of US culture, displaying only the brightest points of what’s projected.

The main villain is arbitrarily a Yellow Peril figure, just because that kind of figure was codified as villainous through North-American media. In one of the last storylines they ran, the villains were black-skinned tribal-looking people with bones sticking out of their noses called “The Unclean.” The hero is a blonde, long-haired muscular man. The sole main female character is his love-interest. She’s a barely dressed red-haired shapely sorceress, portrayed in marketing material in compromising positions. In a way, it is perfect. No US publisher could have achieved anything like this. It would have been tainted by some sort of authorial quirks. For somebody it would have been registered as something other than just a product. In a way, its manufactured image is a triumph. It still might have been just as offensive.

Around the same time we got our very own Comic Con. Not the București Comic Con or Romania Comic Con, but the East European Comic Con—which focused mostly on offering high-schoolers and college students the opportunity to meet actors from Game of Thrones and Supernatural and to witness live matches of League of Legends and Counter Strike: Go. It was the West as seen on TV made of flesh and plastic. It was the divine gaping wound while the toys and posters we bought were our very own incredulous finger gaining faith. Even so comic books were low on the priority list. It was understood that geek-culture is what was truly celebrated. It was a portal for The Growth from outside. There, people met and made plans.


Still, for a few years there was some sort of balance. Crowdfunding seemed to open the floodgates for well-produced self-published graphic novels like Maria Surducan’s fairy tale reinterpretation of Prâslea cel Voinic și Merele de Aur (Prâslea the Mighty and the Golden Apples) and Robert Matei’s post-apocalyptic psychedelic tale Profeția Urbană (Urban Prophecy). Since the end of 2014, this period of balance can be seen only as one of incubation.

EAT Comics began to publish The Walking Dead. They made many poor scheduling decisions and when selling TPBs[39] didn’t work out as well as expected, they took a break. Only to then return apparently stronger, or at least hungrier, bringing a few more translations: Ei8ht, Apocalyptic Girl, and, because there must be a franchise, Dark Horse’s Prometheus: Fire and Stone event. As none of these would sell in the hoped-for numbers, with a last gasp they published an anthology of original Romanian comics, in a very limited distribution, UN1.ON.

A few months after EAT Comics arrived on the map, the board games publisher/localiser Lex Comics started its stint as Marvel’s translator. They started with three series. Marvel NOW’s Thor: The God of Thunder, Iron Man, and Deadpool. Subsequently they added new titles to their catalog. By the end they also translated the Amazing Spider-Man series, and graphic novels/TPBs like the Deadpool Killogy trilogy, Civil War, Daredevil: Man Without Fear and The Death of Captain America.

While all of the licensed comics came from publishers in the USA and all the comics were written by writers either from the USA or UK, many of the comics were drawn by people from Central America, South America, or Europe. Alien vs. Predator and Prometheus had art by the Argentines Ariel Olivetti and Juan Ferreyra. Ei8ht was drawn (and co-written) by the Brazillian Rafael Albuquerque. Thor was drawn by the Croatian Esad Ribić and coloured by fellow countrywoman Ive Svorcina. Spider-Man was pencilled by Mexican Humberto Ramos. Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe was pencilled by the Croatian Dalibor Talajić. Deadpool Killustrated was pencilled by Italian Matteo Lolli and coloured by the Argentine Veronica Gandini. Finally, Deadpool Kills Deadpool had art provided by the Spanish Salva Espin.

During this time, accomplished Romanian artists like Alexandru Talambă, Xenia Pamfil, Victor Drujiniu, and Cristian Păcurariu would supply the art for various French or American productions.

This meant that, for the time being, the productive capacities of Romanian creators were employed by the growth creating both a void in the periphery that could be filled only with commodities supplied—directly through importing or indirectly through licensing—by the core and had a depressing effect on the workforce in the core.

Harap Alb Continuă rebranded itself as HAC!BD, started to publish graphic novels by national comics legend Puiu Manu, and also launched another serial, TFB, closely aligned aesthetically with their other magazine, but on the science fiction side of the genre. They continued to push ever-strongly new merchandise inspired by their characters or aligned with nationalistic and protochronistic ideologies.

This should have been a good thing. The theory went that strong commercial comics would create new readers, would educate the public, and would make room for a vigorous alternative market. We would ignore the fact that readership is a function of economics and comics can only grow as fast as our frail economy allows it.

But practice offered a few counterexamples. The first one concerns the distribution side of things. Cărturești, a major bookstore chain, opened up a small shop called, how else, Fandom, which is probably as close as we’ve gotten to that dream of having a The Big Bang Theory-like comic book store. What’s worth remarking though is that books were never Cărturești’s main attraction, rather cheaply made but expensively sold trinkets presented as fancy and chic to upper-middle-class corporate workers who wanted to signal to the world that they were still hip and sensitive. Among these unusual, artsy attractions were comics. Indie imported titles—you were much more likely to find something by Crepax than by Geoff Johns—or self-published Romanian ones. And the irony is that you could still find more Romanian titles in your average Cărturești location, than in Fandom, which was filled with imported volumes of mainstream superhero comics, action manga, and those translated comics.

Another example, this time on the creative side, came with Abația, a crowdfunded adaptation of a well-regarded science fiction novel. It wasn’t without its faults. Some of which earned it a panning by a SF literature critic in a respected national culture magazine.[40] But the brunt of his criticism came because it wasn’t enough like HAC!BD’s TFB. Already the critical metric has been calibrated towards the colonised forms. Even so, it showed signs of improvement with each issue, but the initial unattractive presentation sealed the deal for most readers and the reserved critical reception didn’t offer opportunities for renegotiation. And The Growth didn’t only occupy space on the newspaper kiosk. It occupied our wallets, our time, our thoughts, our discourse. 

The comic didn’t hit the ground running and every two months it had to pry itself back into people’s lives after they’ve been bombarded with “content” and advertising about the newest issue of HAC!BD’s comics, bi-monthly themselves, or the monthly translated comics and graphic novels. Or whatever imported comic Fandom and the few remaining independent shops would bring. And it’s hard to do this when the readership is small, monolithic, not that wealthy, and holds memories of being unimpressed. When there is no professional comics press to keep its eyes open and inform the readers. When the consumers aren’t accustomed or willing to read the few existing hobby blogs. For a reader, any of those other comics they could get their hands on was a much safer bet. Especially when they didn’t really want to engage with the comic. They are looking for an escape. An escape from Romania, more than anything. And a Romanian-feeling comic defeats the purpose.

For a while it seemed that those were the comics that were becoming synonymous with comic books in Romania. And they grew. And they kept on bringing titles from the outside with only timid efforts to cultivate home-grown creators.

In 2016, it all came crashing down. After some delays, Abația folded, publishing only four issues. The last issue it published featured a short story by Dan Ianoș, who is now hard at work for French publisher Delcourt. HAC!BD contracted its offer and stopped publishing TFB. Lex stopped publishing Marvel comics. And 2017 razed whatever was left. Fandom closed as well, its place taken by a shop that sells imported English books, alternative American and French comics, and mainstream leftist magazines. Finally, HAC!BD stopped publishing comics at the end of the year.

Why did this happen? The causes are multiple and compounding. Many of the publishers misjudged the market and their failure dragged down the distributors as well. At the same time, intense competition depressed the rate of profit for each business. For example, nobody had a monopoly on selling comics.

The Growth had probed our soil, absorbed whatever we could throw at it, but it wasn’t enough. Realising that whatever made this place sound promising was a ruse, it drove back. It left failed entrepreneurs with debt, wasted effort, and spent time, it left readers with empty wallets and boxes filled with stories that didn’t even approach a conclusion. There was no accumulation of capital, be it monetary or social. Just rubble.

Instead of a conclusion

Fans fixated on the kinds of comics published in the core countries through an intense division of labour ignored at first that, while the cargo cult imitators were disappearing, new comics still found their way on the market. Editura Art started once again to translate award winning graphic novels, Cartea Copilului (Children’s Book) started to translate Corto Maltese, Humanitas (Romania’s biggest publisher) also got into the game, as well as various other smaller publishers. Even some new original Romanian comics appeared under various forms: as webcomics (Comic gianch, Oranges The Webcomic, Fisksoppa,) fanzines (Therapy Cat by Andreea Chirică), graphic novels published both by small imprints (Ora 12 by Alexandra Gold), and major publishers (Vacanța lui Nor by Ileana and Maria Surducan). 

But in my opinion this doesn’t represent just a repetition of the cycle we’ve already witnessed thrice before. These comics aren’t supported by the newspaper industry, nor are they trying to establish their own industry. Instead, they’re now part of the book industry, with its own division of labour. In a way, I think that this can be seen as a synthesis of the two modes of producing comics that competed during the 2010s.

It is an outgrowth from the alternative mode of production, with authors like Maria and Ileana Surducan not only having collaborated with Asociația Jumătatea Plină but also publishing their own fanzine. At the same time, it relinquishes some of the individualistic instincts of that approach and embraces some division of labour. But this division isn’t done among the lines of creating the artistic work: the author isn’t divided and reduced to their tools. It’s a division of labour concerned with transforming the work in a commodity through packaging, marketing, and distribution. What the authors relinquish by accepting this much increased productivity is that they now have to interact with the state and the market.

My wish is that after a while I’ll be able to add another chapter to this article, talking about how after this continued interaction between the authors, the market, and the state, the creators will have arrived at class counsciness and forms of organising based on solidarity.

This text has been also published in the fourth issue of Kajet Journal in abridged form.


1. Karl Marx. Capital, volume one. Chapter fifteen: Machinery and Modern Industry. Online:

2. Wallerstein, Immanuel (2011) The Modern World-system vol. 1, University of California, p.8

3. Ibidem.

4. Wallerstein, Immanuel (1984) The Politics of the World-Economy: The States, the Movements and the Civilizations, Cambridge Press, p.80.

5. In the introduction to EGOs vol.1, published by Image Comics in 2014, Stuart Moore reminisces how many comics of his youth from the ‘60s and ‘70s were written and edited by the same person, which is why he wanted to bear the title of Writer/Editor for his comic. And as the “mainstream comics universes became more complicated and harder to manage, [first] Marvel and then DC discontinued the Writer/Editor position, preferring the jobs to be handled by different people.”

6. Let us remember that in The German Ideology Marx and Engels wrote about the first division of labour being the one between a man and a woman. Something which Engels reaffirmed with greater subtlety in Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State.

7. While it is common knowledge that intense competition is good for the market, it is not preferable to the established businesses. This is why Wallerstein asserts that “[what] sellers always prefer is a monopoly, for then they can create a relatively wide margin between the costs of production and the sales price, and thus realize high rates of profit” Wallerstein, Immanuel (2004) World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction Duke University Press, p.26.

8. Knowles, Chris (1999) Invasion from the Philippines: A Brief Survey of the Great ‘70s Filipino Artists at DC Comic Book Artist 5, p.90.

9. Howe, Sean (2013) “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story Harper Perennial, p.149.

10. Knowles, Chris (1999) Invasion from the Philippines: A Brief Survey of the Great ‘70s Filipino Artists at DC Comic Book Artist 5, p.91.

11. Ibidem, p.91.

12. Alex Niño won an Inkpot Award in 1976 and Alfredo Alcala won another in 1977, for example.

13. Knowles, Chris (1999) “Invasion from the Philippines: A Brief Survey of the Great ‘70s Filipino Artists at DC Comic Book Artist 5, p.93.

14. This is well in line with Wallerstein’s observation that “The ability to expand successfully is a function both of the ability to maintain relative social solidarity at home (in turn a function of the mechanisms of the distribution of reward) and the arrangements that can be made to use cheap labor far away (it being all the more important that it be cheap the further it is away, because of transport costs).”

15. Knowles, Chris (1999) “Invasion from the Philippines: A Brief Survey of the Great ‘70s Filipino Artists at DC Comic Book Artist 5, p.93.

16. “[It] became apparent that what editors wanted most out of the Filipino artists was their services as finishing artists. Artists like Chan and Nebres were increasingly paired with veteran American artists, to an extent that it became difficult to find examples of their penciling once the Orlando anthologies faded. The last of the “Old School” Filipinos was the much-younger Danny Bulanadi who made his mark as an inker for Marvel in the early 1980’s inking titles like Conan (over Gil Kane) and Daredevil (over David Mazzuchelli and others).” Ibidem, p.94.

17. Parkin, Lance (2013). Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore, Aurum Press Ltd, p.236.

18. Ibidem: 237

19. Carey, Ryan. “Bugged Out!: Scarab Reconsidered 20 Years On, Part Two (or, The British Invader Who Stayed Home)” (2013), Sequart

20. Online post:

21. Wallerstein, Immanuel (2004) World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction Duke University Press, p.102.

22. Ibidem, p.28.

23. Niță, Dodo & Ciubotariu, Alexandru (2010) Istoria Benzilor desenate Românești, Vellant, p.14.

24. Ibidem, p. 14-15

25. In an interview with Kim Thompson in The Comics Journal, famous BD author Jean Giraud describes the strips published in Le Journal De Mickey as having “a high graphic quality, [being] very inventive, very adult in their concepts, very highly evolved.” See: Giraud, Jean “The Other Side of Moebius” The Comics Journal #118, p.86.

26. Niță, Dodo & Ciubotariu, Alexandru (2010) Istoria Benzilor desenate Românești, Vellant, pp.56-87.

27. Niță, Dodo & Ciubotariu, Alexandru (2010) Istoria Benzilor desenate Românești, Vellant, p.152.

28. Ban, Cornel (2014) Dependență și dezvoltare: Economia politică a capitalismului românesc, Tact, p.45.

29. While Ban’s analysis is done through a polanyist framework, Wallerstein recognizes that Karl Polanyi’s units of analysis used in The Great Transformation seemed like another way to express those of his own world-system. See: Wallerstein, Immanuel (2004) World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction Duke University Press, p.17.

30. Manolescu, Ion (2004) “Pif Gadget: Istoria unei reviste inegalabile” Observatorul Cultural 218, web

31. Alexa, Felix & Nistor, Irina Margareta & Rodina, Mihaela (2012) Pif în România, Un Erou al Epocii de Aur, Institutul Francez din București, p.144.

32. For example the W.I.T.C.H. franchise. At first came the magazine, published by Egmont from 2003, then the animated TV show, which started to air on Jetix channel in 2006 and the two book collections: four prose books and seven books with advice aimed at young girls and teenagers.

33. Lucy_shark (2009) “Alternativa la ce”

34. Guga, Ștefan (2014) ”Criza ca oportunitate: schimbarea legislației muncii și înfrângerea mișcării sindicale” Epoca Traian Băsescu Tact, p. 156

35. Mihăieș translated the first two volumes of Corto Maltese published by Cartea Copilului. Patapievici wrote the forward for the third volume.

36. Online report:

37. Croitoru, Dan & Cernea, Roxana (2010) Raport de Activitate 2010 Institutul Cultural Român, p. 199. Online:

38. Which is ironic, since Horia Roman Patapievici is a fervent advocate of the minimal state.

39. Trade paperbacks: collected editions of the serialized stories, usually at a slightly reduced size.

40. Badea-Gheracostea, Cătălin (2015) “SFada cu literatura. „Aşa Da“ şi „Aşa Nu“ în banda desenată românească recentă” Observatorul Cultural 778, web

* Maps based on the data provided by Comicvine, which Alin Răuțoiu consulted, analyzed and presented on

** Cover image: Daniel Lizars—World Map (1831), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By day, Alin Răuțoiu fiddles with .Net technologies and calls himself a software developer. By night he either reads comics, critical theory, or fails to teach himself to make video games. In the meantime, he infiltrated on ComicsVerse, The MNT, and Mindcraft web-publications as well as on the Grafic imprint’s blog where he writes about comics and tech. On the weekend, Alin frightens his cat with the vacuum cleaner.