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Unconventional #3

Posted On Monday, November 12, 2012

Originally posted at (Nov 2010)

So, we left off with the mainstream Big Two forming a sort of bicameral congress that aims to spark new and sustained readership by publishing in separate age group ranges (DC gets the 3-10 year olds and Marvel, the 10-18s).  Not too bad, right?  Radical, but kinda spiffy on paper!  But, I SAY THEE NAY!  While this does make it easier to select WHAT to buy for a potential reader, it still doesn’t automatically put books into their hands – especially not newbies.  Remember, we’re supposed to be standing up against Multi-Million Dollar Mega-Blockbuster Movies and High-Definition, Ultra Violent Video Games with VIRTUAL REAL DEATH SPASMS!  In layman’s terms, we gotta step it up!   Especially when we’re shooting ourselves in the foot – The Dark Knight is one of the highest grossing films of all time, was there an influx of new readership – not even.  Season one of The Walking Dead had one of the highest viewer ratings in all of television history – some people aren’t even aware that it’s based on a comic of the same name (probably because it’s called an AMC Original Series!).  

Now, I’m not suggesting that the mainstream’s pursuit of these “rival” mediums is bad or that in any way they should stop!  It’s an honest attempt to piggyback the marketability of their characters and intellectual properties and we need as much face-time with the consumer market as possible.  However, I do begrudge that the efforts do little to promote the comic book FORM.  Despite earning MILLIONS worldwide, people aren’t catching the bug and stalking the comic racks every Wednesday, like the best of us!  And again, I say the prominent forces against this are the mainstream’s Big Two (though the other three publishers, Image, Dark Horse and IDW would do well to follow suit!).  
Have you seen any of the DC Showcase animated shorts?  They’re brilliant, really!  They are roughly ten minute snippets that tell a complete story, but feature some of DC’s obscure and/or underappreciated characters (so far, specifically, The Spectre, Jonah Hex and Green Arrow).   But the TRUE genius (and subsequent answer) isn’t in the shows themselves, but in the twenty second opening before the feature begins!  

Very poor quality, but you get the idea...right?

We start with a shelf or display case, adorned with stickers from some of DC’s previous animated successes, before we’re weaving thru the familiar enclosed space of a comic shop.   Serpentinely weaving between an auspicious reader or two (Hi Bruce Timm!) and the phalanx of stacked shelves, until we ominously come to a lone spinner rack, that serendipitously stops on a cover featuring the forthcoming short’s star!   Did you see it?  Did you catch it?  The answer was right there -- every book, every statuette, ever poster – every single item in this fictitious store was a DC product!  Well…OF COURSE IT IS!!  We ARE about to watch a DC Comic based movie, right?!  And there it is, pretty as she pleases – a storefront, nay, MANY storefronts run FOR a publisher, BY a publisher!
You thought I liked to work in pixel art before...yeesh!

When was the last time you went to the local mall?  Don’t have one?  What about a Wal-Mart?  I’ll bet you’ve seen one of those “portable” kiosks there, right?   You know the kind – floating islands of retail, strategically placed in long corridors near exits and entrances – and what do they sell?  EVERYTHING!  From watches, to phones, to embroidery, to jewelry, to computers, to scarves, to calendars and more…but I’ve never seen one sell comics…!  Can you imagine if Marvel opened up a kiosk or two in your home town?  A small, convention booth sized place where they, for a limited amount of time (those places seem to disappear or rotate every six months or so), promote the latest books of the week to not just adorning comic fans, but the GENERAL PUBLIC!  And they’d be manned by Marvel reps (i.e. interns), who could focus strictly on the promotion of Marvel comics, characters and storylines.  Could lessen the continuity woes of backstory landslides to have someone fill in the blanks of what you need to know or at least what issues to look for to find answers.  And these things could be ANYWHERE!  Try not gravitating to a giant glowing green battery display in the lobby of your local cinema when Green Lantern comes out!  There’d be at least one day where’d I’d skip lunch in favor of hitting the kiosk near the lunch room or library at school (these ARE books and reading IS the goal, right?!)!  

And not to worry, Brodynoochies – our favorite shops would be safe and sound in this blitzkrieg of nationwide repositories.  The kiosks simply CAN’T hold much more than a week’s worth of releases, so the need for back issue storage would DRIVE folks to the “regular” comic shops
to inundate themselves with the comic swag they’ve been referred or just crave!  And there’s always the chance that the kiosk available isn’t your brand (or age group), biggity-bam -- a local comic shop like Dave’s Clubhouse is your savior! 

We can even take it a step further and have the retailers sponsor specific events (like that movie thing or Free Comic Book Day), “selling” the shop’s stock of books with a cut of the profits or some guaranteed promotions.  Might make for some pretty cool publisher/retailer relations, which can go towards signings, special edition giveaways and all kinds of other cool stuff!   

Going where the people are – that’s the key!  Even Ariel, the Little Mermaid, knew that!  Till next time…

Victor Dandridge is a comic creator from Columbus, O-H(I-O), where he self-publishes through his WizWorld Inc. imprint.  He once arm-wrestled Namor and Aquaman for dominion over Atlantis…at the same time.

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