by Beau Smith
They say that everybody deserves a second chance. My question is, “How about comic books?”
In the case of comic books we’re actually talking about multiple chances, but that’s okay; in entertainment, it applies.
Being a writer and a comic book marketing director, there’s not a week that goes by when this question isn’t asked:
“Why aren’t there more/any western, war, romance, crime, science fiction, humor, adventure, or fill-in-the-blank-here comic books?”
Some try to give the answer: “Well, they don’t sell.”
As a 25 year marketing director I can tell you, that answer doesn’t cut it. That’s the answer someone looking at the short-term picture gives you. They are not looking at the long haul.
For our industry to truly grow we need to diversify our product. Yes, we do have some of the above mentioned genres, but we don’t have enough. We have more than enough superhero books, which I enjoy, but as I enjoy a good cheeseburger, I don’t eat them every day. Publishers will chime in that they aren’t in the business to lose money and that they aren’t a charity. That’s very true, but they’re also here to make money and expand their ability to make even more money with the very best product they can produce. That’s not a bad thing.
To expand their business they need to have something for everybody, or at least come as close to that as possible. If you are a niche publisher, then fine, be the best at supplying that small part of the market that you’re producing for. But if you are a large publisher, then get in for the long haul. Don’t just promote for the direct market only, try and hit every household that you can, drive those people to the direct market comic stores, use the internet to enhance your books of different genres. If I had unlimited space and time I could go on for thousands and thousands of words to explain this route and long haul journey, but I don’t, so I won’t. (Besides, that would cost. I’m not a charity either.)
If I had to pick what publishers I thought were doing an excellent job on a smaller scale of what I talking about, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios and Dark Horse Comics head the list. By smaller, I mean they don’t have the massive corporate backing of Marvel and DC Comics. These publishers are willing to do what they need to do to make sure there are not only licensed properties, but creator owned, historical, and as many genres as possible for the public to buy. They are willing to try new ideas and venues to get the word out and haul money and readers into the direct market as well as the mass market.
Technology and the way we consume entertainment changes not just every day, but every hour. Right now there are no limits to what can be attempted to get comics, all kinds of comics, out there and into the hands of people and their devices. Shame on any publisher that doesn’t have enough red meat aggression to get out there and take a large, bloody bite out of expansion and revenue.
My free and personal suggestion to Marvel and DC Comics about superhero comics: if this genre is your flagship, great, just don’t make it your anchor. Every superhero story and character doesn’t have to be sour and depressing. Your characters can be likable, because that’s what’s gonna bring new readers in and keep old readers. If you don’t have likable characters that readers can relate to a little, then every galactic, Earth breaking situation that you put them in isn’t going to matter. If readers don’t like fictional characters, then they don’t care if they die. If that happens, then your story is dead. If it happens over and over, then your business is dead. You don’t want that. None of us do. It’s dark in here, turn on some lights.
If your superheroes aren’t cracking a smile, laughing, having a day off, then you’ve got nothing but super fiction, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Take a page from what the movies did with The Avengers and Iron Man, make these characters likable.
Things are changing. Your readers aren’t dopes. Entertain them for the long haul.
Diversify or die in the panel gutters…Your choice.
The Flying Fist Ranch