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What the Fans Say About the #comicmarket

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On Twitter I recently recounted my experience at three different comic book shops in the Washington, DC area and the vast difference of customer service I received to the #comicmarket.  While much in that Twitter conversation has to do with what comic book shops would like to see from publishers, but what is it the fans want to see?

Comic book fans on a listserv were asked to share their thoughts as to “What pisses me off about the industry?”  Here’s their answers.

“pretty much everything. I’m mad for comic books but the entire infrastructure of print comics and comics stores seems to be tailor designed for self foot-shooting.  Many stores still retain a snide and socially awkward clique staff; the quality of artwork, dialogue and overall thematics of titles ostensibly set up as landmark series (such as Astonishing X Men) vary wildly; physical store product, layout and content scare off new female readers: and editorship is laden with gimmickry and misogyny.”

“Long-term readers are punished with senseless retcons and new readers lack an access point outside of the cinema.”

“What tweaks me about the industry: tunnel vision.”

“The sheer volume of insipidly monotonous content dressed up with great visuals, definitely the lack of diversity, and the dearth of informative, engaged (in a social/political sense) work being produced, though this is changing (albeit slowly).”

“the invisibility of cartoonists in most media coverage. Talk shows interview authors (often boring academic ones!) but rarely cartoonists.”

“The industry’s distribution, format and diversity tunnel-vision is beyond frustration.  Also. I’d say the lack of the kind of rich critical establishment that you get spoiled by being a music nerd, is fairly depressing.”

“The endless number of spin-off series that go along with a big event series from Marvel/DC but don’t really add anything to the story, racism/sexism/homophobia in comics — particularly if it’s hidden, anything conservative making it into the comics realm, lazy storytelling and art, the fact that the industry might destroy itself and I won’t get to read the stuff I like anymore…”

“Lack of genre diversity in comics.”

“i don’t really give the industry as much thought as i should.”

“Mainstream industry is not very supportive of women, POC.”

“Retcons and needless event deaths (say, offing Blue Beetle and/or turning Maxwell Lord into an evil criminal mastermind after all these years.)”

“Editorial cartooning is dominated by horrible work based on lame gags and labeled metaphors. I hate it. And the general reluctance of magazines and websites to run editorial cartoons or comics journalism.”

Having worked in a comic book shop, worked retail for a major game publisher, and now get to sit on the outside as a fan, I can tell you the stores bare as much responsibility for the state of the industry as publishers.  Shops should be professional, but as I showed in my visit at three stores, that’s simply not the case.  Shops need to step up, use the resources at their disposal and do everything they can, especially before laying blame towards publishers.  It’s a tandem effort.

I asked #comicmarket what stores were doing to get their customers to market for them.  The response was crickets.  I see discussion of how stores are marketing to their customers through events and some are using social networks, but what are those stores doing to get their customers to talk to their friends?  Are stores building an email list to market to?  Are they advertising on Facebook?  But more importantly, are they professional when customers enter the store.

I worked for a major game publisher that had stores of their own.  It was a workshop of sorts (figure it out yourselves).  Every Sunday, the staff of the store was brought together to go through sales scenarios.  We were drilled to engage customers.  We had an employee handbook we needed to follow.  Is your store doing that?

The typical comic book store stereotype is they’re dark, smell, dirty and feature an register jockey who can’t engage customers.  Forget what publishers are doing, what are we all doing to make sure we break that stereotype?

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  • Well written and thought provoking. I wrote a column about how fans are responsible for the state of the industry (according to creators as well) not just opinionated about it. Feel free to comment and I think the articles are very complimentary to each other.

  • I’m glad someone pointed out the need to have a strong critical foundation in comics. I’ve believed that for awhile myself. It’s a way to keep the feet of publishers and creators to the fire. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good critics out there, but most of the reviews I see come from a fan’s perspective, not a critic’s. The format is always to recap what happened, then discuss why it was so awesome. And that’s it–there’s no real critical faculty there.

    The problem, of course, strikes at the root of many of the industry’s problems–the inundation of titles, and the rapidity in which they are released, is absolutely dizzying. There’s no time to really digest a week’s worth of single issues and trades, there just isn’t. It’s nearly impossible to sift through all the unnecessary and ancillary titles that clog up the shelves. By the time you do (and think of something thoughtful to say) it’s Wednesday again, and last week is a distant memory.

  • The comic shop experience starts with customer service. There’s lots to get in order in the #comicmarket. A good place to start is at home. I can appreciate the difficulty most shops must experience – small space, limited financial and marketing resources, limited staff, few readers (in some cases), etc. Good customer service and engaging every person who walks through the door is easy and free. On another note, I’m especially appreciative of the #comicmarket conversation taking place on Twitter. I believe it will help comic shops and publishers and creators make improvements more quickly. Cheers for a great article.

  • Solid article, Brett, and a nice reminder that comic book stores ARE retail stores and need to be run professionally. Customer service is key, as is suggestive selling. In my shop, I’m always looking for ways to make the customer experience better and welcome customer feedback.

    I think that all retailers could use some suggestions when it comes to asking our customers to help market comics and our stores, but I also think that comic book readers need to realize that we are all in this together – publishers, creators, retailers and fans – as far as growing the industry.