Comics and the Nonreading Public
The comic market is in decline. People are angry when comic companies change things. More things get changed when movies comic out because companies think status-quos need to be restored.
So what do I do to try and change things? I give a comic.
If I tell my friend they need to read such and such because it is so good, I loan them my copy. My friends got into Fables this way. If I say you need to read this arc of Spider-Man, I’d cut you a discount to read it or I did when I worked in the comic shop. My biggest goal there was to not be Comic Book Guy. I never once got into a major continuity battle. I never called anything total shit. If I didn’t like something I said It’s Not For Me. I did what I could to invite people into looking at comics if not buying them. I made at least 2 dozen new comic fans that way.
The saddest thing is - I never read comics frequently till I got that job till I turned 21. I had no friendly comic shop that I knew of growing up and I never got that initial exposure. My first comic was the Lobster Johnson miniseries and that I only got because 1. I thought the name was funny (I was 16) and 2. I had store credit and I didn’t want more Magic cards. I ended up getting the rest of the Lobster Johnson series and then I bought every other Hellboy and BPRD I could find at the time and Hellboy was my pull list. Then I went to college and I stopped reading comics, minus the first Strange Tales series, till I got hired.
Except for webcomics.
I got my start writing reviewing webcomics and without that I would not be where I am not. Before that though I was going to write game reviews. Then I realized I had no money and I gave that up and became a webcomic reviewer. There are millions of hundreds of thousands of webcomics on the web ranging in quality to content in a spectrum of wonderfully beautiful to eye-bleedingly bad. Yet the good ones make money, they support the artists.
Why do people not want to pay for every webcomic that starts up immediately? Because they are typically free and there are free webcomics besides that webcomic. The reason why people want to eventually give money to webcomics though is because the people know that that webcomics is good to read. They’ve seen the quality of the work and they’ve enjoyed the quality. The were given enough free work to feel like paying. They want to support the people who do work of that quality. It is economics. People make good work, support the people who make good work.
So what does this mean for comics?
It doesn’t mean make big companies just do webcomics. Zuda was a joke while it lasted since even though it made quality work and that is a story for another day. The thing was the companies never gave it the respect it should have had but I digress.
Why not give more free comics to the public and stick with me for a second.
Remember those boxes of detergent and cereal samples you used to get in the mail? I ended up buying at least one box of every one of those cereals because I got to try the stuff and I got to try it for free. Heck, some of that stuff that is still around, I still buy.
Why do parents buy kids news print comic collections?
The kids and parents already read the comics in the paper. Heck, at my house we fought over the Sunday comics and I have comic treasuries.
So stick a comic in the newspaper Marvel and DC. Give the readers a complete story that doesn’t require backup. Show them that they can pick up a comic that anyone can enjoy. Yes it may be a big cost event but you know what - you get free publicity too! Have the newspapers that week say “Big Comic Company Shares Comics With Nation.”
The New York Times has over 1 million weekend readers. Give out 1 million free comics and yes it will cost you out the ass but that is exposing 1 million people to how good your work can be. All those digital subscribers? Give them a digital copy.
Free Comic Book Day works so well for sales because people like buying stuff and getting to try comics for free. Give them that chance on a large scale. Make it easy for them to find a local comic shop.
All of these people on the streets have their views on superheroes. They will defend their view of Batman without ever reading a comic. Look at that who Superman giving up his citizenship debacle (and groan). When Johnny die (sorry but it happened 3 months ago) people who don’t read comics bought the issue to be a part of it. All these people want a classic Superman story like what they grew up with or like what they know? Grant Morrison’s Action Comics sounds like a good bet. People want Spider-man? After Spider-Island give them a jumping on point.
I got into comics late, the market is doing bad and I don’t want comics to die out. I care about the industry and I know a bunch of you do too. Take a big chance to show and not tell people that your comics are good. Make this nonreading fans into readers.
And please stop returning your comics to the status quo so we can have characters who actually mature because right now most of the people who care aren’t reading your work.
Your Friend In Superman and Spidey,
Luke “Koltreg” H