Bad Machinery and the Economics of Free Comics: A Webcomic Case Study
John Allison is one of a small number of alternative cartoonists in the UK today earning a living from their cartooning. However, since he began his first webcomic, Bobbins, in 1998, he has given all of his comics content away for free online. This article presents John Allison’s comics, most notably his series Bad Machinery, as a case study of how to make free webcomics an economically viable labour, achieved by Allison’s use of webcomics as a springboard for other commercial activities such as illustration work and printed comics. Taking an interdisciplinary approach consistent with the wider field of Comics Studies, this article draws upon concepts from sociology, literary criticism and economics to provide a theoretical framework through which to understand webcomics as labour, and thus to understand through this reading the economics of free webcomics, with John Allison as the exemplary web cartoonist.