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Sunday Roundtable: How Would Get New Comic Readers?

JLA Roundtable raw more comic readersSundays are known for their talking heads sitting around a table talking about pertinent topics, and pontificating with their expertise. We gather the Graphic Policy Team each Sunday to do exactly that in our Sunday Roundtable.

This weeks topic, what can publishers and creators do to try to get new readers into comics?

Alex: Not relaunch their comics every five minutes?

Brett: Bwahahahahaha!

Elana: You don’t think the new readers more likely to pick up a comic book that says it’s number one in a series? Because I imagine that people are more likely to do that. People find it intimidating entering something at issue one hundred. That said when they’ve done some relaunches they haven’t been honest brokers and actually began something in a clear way from the first issue.

If your issue one is not new reader friendly and then why the hell is it issue 1?

I don’t recall how Marvel‘s .1 initiative went. It seemed like a possible solution. I figured the problem was that potential new readers didn’t know it was happening.

Alex: I think you hit the nail on the head there. Marvel’s .1 happened over such a long time that it was easy to forget it happened. And the constant relaunches aren’t as all encompassing as DC‘s New 52 tried to be (but even that was convoluted as to what did and didn’t happen).

If you’re going to relaunch something, don’t build it on, or keep referring too, stories new readers would not have read.

Also, with the amount of new number 1’s, nothing feels as if they’re going to stick around. If a comic makes it to 20 issues, then it feels as if it’s been a long running series…

Elana: How do you reconcile needing to have new number ones for people with helping people feel invested in something for a longer time? I still think that ultimately this is a real challenge. But if they stagger things so that there are some long-term pieces while there are other more contained comics and they can make it clear from the start was going to be what that could help.

Alex: That’s just it; there’s no good answer to that; you can ether have a long running series and whenever there is a new arc do what Valiant have been doing and have it announced in the cover, or have a mix of miniseries and some longer running comics (even a 12 issues maxi series could work).

How feasible that really is, though, I have no idea.

Daphne: The most prohibitive thing for me when I started getting into comics was not having an idea of where to begin. From an outsider’s perspective, when you look at the yearly events, the vast amount of characters, the ridiculous deaths and plot twists and retcons and alternate dimensions, it’s almost impossible to figure out where to start. Ignoring things like the fan culture around a given property potentially keeping new comers away (because that’s a whole other can of worms), the biggest thing for me was worrying I’d start with a story arc that ended up going nowhere or didn’t matter to the character’s backstory or plot, or get really invested in a character that was just going to get ignored for years or written out entirely.

I think a great way to get new people into comics would be to annually or semi-annually create some kind of summary of a property or franchise explaining the world and the current status quo. “Interested in getting into The Splendiferous Stilt-Man? Here’s everything you need to know!” Making something like that available to people would do a lot to alleviate the feeling that any given comic is slowly collapsing under the weight of its own canon and there’s no good point to start reading.

This, I think, is the one thing the MCU has done best. Whether I agree with all their decisions or not, the writers have been creating a very specific and clearly defined universe with what are for millions of non-readers now the definitive versions of characters. Not only is it easier to keep track of everyone right now but the writers also excised a lot of the weirder aspects of comics. “Ultron is an evil robot Tony Stark created who tried to destroy humanity and was defeated, then never came back” is way better than “one time Ultron uploaded his consciousness into the nanites in Tony Stark’s body and reshaped his body and armor into the form of a naked silver woman because he’s in love with Hank Pym”. Maybe some of the fun bits and pieces get lost along the way from time to time, but the popularity of the MCU films made it much easier for me to feel like I had a basic grasp on characters and plot and then go right to the new updated series for characters like Ms. Marvel so I could see how she’d eventually fit into the films. It makes it simpler for casual observers or people like me who want to get into comics but don’t have any idea where to start (and don’t want to ask online and get a million conflicting, argumentative answers) actually figure out what they want to read and where to begin.

Avoiding relaunching comics and massive yearly events that reshape the status quo but not really thanks to editorial mandates to bring back certain things would help too. But a basic “here’s this character, this is her backstory, her current plot line is this and involves these people” on a website or even in comic form would do so much.

Elana: They can start freaking advertising them in the first place by doing advertisements on Facebook for example. We have long said that everyone who says they like the Avengers movie should be seeing Facebook ads for Avengers comics that are new reader friendly. This is marketing 101.

They can let the public know they have diverse characters and genres and tones and bring on more diversity in the writers and artists so that people who have assumed that comics aren’t for them can see themselves represented.

They can also do a better job of making it clear which comics are aimed at children and getting those in to the book market would go a long way.

No more mega crossovers.

Alex: When I first started reading comics, and in many ways when I’m thinking of new series now, there were no big events happening on a yearly basis. Yeah, there were multi part stories, but those multipart stories were almost always contained within the comic. Like Daphne and Elana have said, the major events are turning people off from getting into comics (or starting new series).

Christopher: Honestly, I think a large chunk of it, has to do with proper marketing and advertisement. Especially given the popularity of superhero/comic book based tv shows and movies. However, Marvel and DC both really need to stop with the reboot/re-launch things, it kind of screws people over who are just trying to get into comics. Even third parties like Image, Dark Horse, Vertigo, Action Labs, etc; aren’t as well known as their mainstream counterparts. That may be a better place to start, since they don’t tend to do reboots. Also companies should embrace apps, like comiXology, iBooks, Kindle since given the accessibility of most technology,it would make a good point to start there, with introduction series.

Monique: Personally I would simply say advertising outside of the comic book environment. I never see comics advertised unless I’m at a comic con or comic book store. When advertised in these environments, it’ll be hard to gain a lot of new customers. (Assuming the majority there are already into comics). The only way I find out about other comics is by when I’m reading them and I see the ads in them. Plus since it’s already something I love, I will take the time out to see what is out there.

Furthermore, I find that the people who aren’t really into comics aren’t around the people who like them. For example, my father is a huge comic book fan and that definitely has had an influence over my love for the comic book universe.

Alex: I’d never really thought about the advertising, or lack there of, of comics outside of the comic book community, but that makes absolute sense. Rather than spread your existing readership thin, advertise elsewhere an bring in new blood.

Do you guys think television ads would work, maybe for trades, or billboards…?

Christopher: Probably start with billboards, with a mix of advertisements on it. TV ads may reach a lot larger of audience but with. TiVo and such things, who knows if they are actually watching the ads

Elana: Facebook ads are cheap, targeted and infinitely scalable. The Shield TV show should run ads for Shield related comics. But generally let’s start with a sane contextual marketing campaign in Facebok.

Daphne: I could see television ads working. “You’ve seen the movies, now get the WHOLE story. Marvel’s Civil War, blah blah blah…” is a pretty logical opening for a commercial.

Brett: What about just an ad/url during movies or on the tv shows? Or doing a digital comic tie-in with Fandango (or printed comic to hand). I think I’ve seen the latter two, but doesn’t feel like it’s common.

Alex: Walking Dead has their Second Screen app to use during live tv screenings. Obviously this couldn’t work during a movie in the theater, but you could probably program something to work during a Blu-ray viewing.

Monique: I think an add/url during the movies would be great as it puts an emphasis on the fact that these films and TV shows were originally comics.

Daphne: Plus, free stuff! I’d love getting a free comic with a movie ticket. I used to beg my parents to see things like the Pokemon movies when they were giving away free cards. It’d bring in even more younger fans and curious newcomers too.

Brett: So interesting spin on this. When The Walking Dead hit, folks I know who have never read a comic, grabbed trade paperbacks and started reading those comics. But, have don’t that with the Avengers. There was a point I’d see multiple people with Walking Dead trades in my commute. Why did that show clearly bring people in, when other comics, it’s not quite as clear they have?

Monique: I always assumed it was because DC And Marvel have had comics since late 1930’s and The Walking Dead collection doesn’t look daunting? Because when i started buying comics sometimes I felt like as if I needed some previous comics from many years ago.

Daphne: I think it’s definitely because TWD has a much less daunting, more simplistic premise compared to a decades-long superhero epic. People who’ve never seen a zombie movie still know how zombie movies work. People who’ve never read a Black Panther comic book usually don’t know what his powers are or how he works.

Brett: Both very interesting points.

Alex: You can also read the entire The Walking Dead released so far in a reasonable time. It’s a cohesive story that isn’t mired in continuity. Plus it has zombies.

Brett: And as far as solid marketing, we see “street teams” with so many products where they go out and do some grassroots marketing, where’s that for comics?

Daphne: For better or for worse, I think comics and nerd culture in general have the opposite – the die-hard fans aren’t usually the ones trying to share what they love with other people, they’re the ones angriest when comics try to become more mainstream or diverse or accessible to newcomers. Just about every girl I know who isn’t into comics but wants to be avoids it because the fan base is so insular. It’s the reason I do all my comic shopping digitally – I worry about how a girl in a comic book store is going to be treated. I’ve heard too many horror stories.

But I was hesitant to bring that up because it feels like it’s big enough to be a whole topic all to itself.

Brett: A topic for another roundtable!

Elana: Daphne if your ever in NYC I’m taking you comic shopping!

Daphne: Deal!

Christopher: I think the closest thing that the industry has to this, is Free Comic Book Day. While it may not be a large thing in the mainstream media, it certainly does tend to bring in “newbies” for comics. Downside the comics offered seemed to have a mixed audience appeal. However maybe instead of getting into comics as an adult getting them as a kid may end this unnecessary elitism

Alex: I think that in many ways, and for better or for worse, we (comic book websites, blogs and the like) serve a similar function as the street teams. But we don`t reach the non comics fans in the way an actual team would do, and really, while we want to encourage people to read comics, we`re not going to blindly advertise a comic that we think is awful or offensive.

So really we`re not like them at all. I had a point to make here, and I’ve lost it.

Brett: Is the issue at hand that the publisher’s goal is to sell to stores and not directly to customers, which is the store’s job?

Monique: Both perhaps?

Alex: Aye; the publisher just wants to move units and may not be thinking as much about an audience as they probably should be. The bigger the publisher, the less likely it will be for every comic to be read, unlike smaller publishing houses like (to an extent) Valiant, 21 Pulp and Action Lab.

Brett: And with that, we’ll wrap up this roundtable. Sound off with what you think in the comments below!

Understanding Your Readers

Below is a guest post from Damian Wampler, creator of the comic Sevara – the Mangement

art of Sevara copiesIn the process of writing and creating my first comic book, I had no idea who my future readers would be. As a 38-year-old man, I’ve long since lost touch with the world of today’s teenager or even twenty-something. Facebook statistics helped me understand my reader’s demographic and focus my marketing, as well as adjust the tone and themes of future issues.

I wrongly assumed that my major audience would be 28-year-old men. I just took my own age, hacked of 10 years, and figured, ‘sure, a younger version of me would love to read this, because I’m the one who’s writing it’. Not only that, but my main promotional image features a full frontal shot of an extremely beautiful, and barely clothed, goddess. I assumed that 75% of my readers would be men.

I was partly right. 77% of my Facebook fans are men. The age set weighed heavily in favor of the 18-24 range, with strong representation in the 25-34 range and a healthy number of 35-44 year olds. The number of people reached and people engaged is about the same, because they are drawing on my fan base. But when I look at my ads, who reach out into all of Facebook, I see a different story.

fanpage demographic

When I began to promote my comic’s ComiXology link with Facebook ads, my adsets featured images of the same strong beautiful women as in my comic. I figured 77% of those clicking on the images would be men. Yet when I looked at the statistics, I found that only a little less than half of the clicks to my ComiXology page were women. At some parts of the campaign, men and women were at 50/50. On top of that, the overwhelming majority of those who clicked the ads were in the 13-24 range. Almost no one else clicks, ever.

first ad campaign showing clicks first ad reached more women

Maybe it has a lot to do with the images that I selected. They women are in poses that display strength, and sexuality without sleaziness. Indiecomix.net reviewer Derrick Crow remarked that Sevara’s design has, “a sexualized look but not once did I see her in a sexual light.”

At the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai, I found even more gender differences while ‘manning’ my booth in artist alley. Roughly 70% of my sales of the preview book The Art of Sevara were to women. And at this convention, most of the women were college students from Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, or Saudi Arabia, dressed in partial or full-body hijab. I finally stopped trying to interact with the male young browsers, who never bought anything, and focused all my attention on selling to the women. Maybe the men were embarrassed to pick a book with such a striking woman on the cover? But the women felt right at home with a copy of Sevara in their hands. They wanted to look at images of strong beautiful women, and read stories about strong beautiful women. That’s what I try to deliver in Sevara, I just never realized how thirsty my female audience was for women they could connect with.

Comic Fans Flip Out Over Ads in a Comic… Which are Pretty Much a 22 Page Ad

DC Twix ad 1As reported on a few sites, DC Comics will be changing up their ads a bit on their June comics. Instead of full page ads on their own page, the publisher will have half page ads on the same pages as art. As could be predicted the internet exploded with rage and overreaction, without being presented with all of the facts.

Here’s actual quotes from comment sections, I’m not even going to look on Twitter:

I’m out. I was down to two DC comics, and I’m dropping them.

Guess my days of reading DC are over. I myself have just started a comic book publisher called Ecliptic Comics Publishers. I would never be so money hungry to place adds on the same pages I have story. DC has really stooped to an all time low. Kind of glad, makes it easier for companies like mine to work our way up when DC is ticking off their customers.

Another reason I gave up on DC.

Except here are the actual facts, that weren’t gathered before most of the click-bait was written,

  1. As confirmed by DC talent, this is a one month thing and as one said “My team found it easy to work out on both books.”
  2. Its been done before, not just in magazines, but in comics!

DC Twix ad 2This is actually smart for DC Comics. June begins their Divergence kick-off, their next big launch and direction. As such, it’s likely the print run for all of their series will run on the high side of things. More comics out there, more money they make in advertising. This is a strike while the iron’s hot moment, as the second, third, and fourth issues will not have the same circulation as first issues.

This has been done before, and is done now in magazines, so this isn’t anything new. The difference now is click-bait sites who post sensationalist stories without getting all the facts, as well as the internet for people to vent their “rage.” And the comics haven’t come out yet. Who knows how it’ll actually read.

To quit reading DC Comics over this is both childish, and idiotic. Personally, I find the ads made out to look like a comic are far more irritating.

The bigger irony is comics are advertisement as a whole. You’re being advertised characters after which you go see their movie, buy clothes with them on it, get their toys, collectibles, watch the television show. To object to an ad is to object to a lot of what you’re reading and watching. Remember, the original Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons were really just 24 minute ads.

Now, questions are out there. Is the page count as far as story the same? How will this play out in digital?

In today’s comics, this sort of layout is more “experimental,” and businesses need to do what they can to raise revenue and remain profitable, and maximizing advertising is part of that equation. Without advertising, cover price will be forced to rise again.

So, as a reader, which would you rather have, an ad that might be intrusive, or paying even more for your comics?


Awesome Con’s 2015 Commercial

Watching the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead on Sunday, I was caught off guard to see a highly relevant local ad. Washington, DC based convention, Awesome Con, launched their 2015 advertising push with the above spot to raise awareness of this year’s convention. Having the ad run during this show was great targeting that put it in front of an audience who would likely be highly interested. Facebook pegs the fanbase for The Walking Dead at 96,000 within a 25 mile radius of the city.

The convention, in its third year, has previously bombarded the Washington, DC area with ads, including posting them on the metro and previous television spots. You have to applaud when someone is doing it right!

This year’s convention runs May 29 through 31.

So, for folks in other regions, anyone else take advantage of the show and run ads for conventions or comic stores?

Keyleaf Comics Expands Free Advertising

Keyleaf Comics is now offering FREE ADVERTISEMENTS to comic-based websites and comic conventions. Keyleaf Comics is already offering free advertisements to all retailers, both brick & mortar, as well as online-only. Websites and conventions will be given a permanent advertisement in all properties released in a particular month. The advertisement will never be replaced, existing within said issue(s) for as long as they are offered.

Keyleaf Comics CEO Benjamin Gilbert had to say:

Our free advertisement campaign has received an overwhelming amount of positive response. We’ve also gotten many requests from websites and conventions that want to advertise. The obvious answer is, ‘Why not?”

Keyleaf Comics is not asking for anything in return. All comic-based websites and comic conventions are eligible. Interested parties need only send an inquiry to Shannon Forrey, Keyleaf Comics’ Design and Marketing Lead for the 1/4 page template. Once the advertisement is complete, websites and conventions will be allotted an upcoming month and see their ad on every title released within said month.

Around the Tubes

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Some more political comic book related news yesterday as the Minnesota GOP decided to put Neil Gaiman square in their sites. We’ll have more about it later today. While you either checked to make sure your credit card wasn’t being used by thieves (after yet another Playstation break-in) or participating in the Gaiman dust-up, here’s the news you might have missed.

Around the Blogs:

Kotaku – Week in ComicsKotaku gives us this week’s new release highlights with a video game focus.

IGN – New Ultimate Hawkeye SeriesI keep asking, but is it time for me to check the Ultimate universe out?

Bleeding Cool – New Green Lantern Ad Wants Our Help In Finding The TruthLove the fact more movies and comics are embracing alternate reality tie-in games.

IGN – Indie Comic Kills Bin LadenIs this going to be the new Obama in comics?  Everyone capping Osama?

Around the Tubes Reviews:

Seattle PI – After Dark, Hot Wire and Ryder on the Storm #3

The Ars Legendi – Batman: The Killing Joke

ICv2 – Blue Exorcist Vol. 1

The Fandom Post – Empowered Vol. 1

Comic Booked – Very Near Mint

Graphic Novel News – We Kill Monsters

Around the Tubes

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Another day and a lot of news is out there.  Find out all the news other sites covered.

Around the Blogs:

Egyptian Uprising – Egypt’s banned graphic novel to be published in EnglishLook forward to reading this one.

Bleeding Cool – DC Expands Co-Op Advertising Scheme To Facebook And Will Pay Stores For “Featured” TitlesWhere’s my money!?

Bleeding Cool – DC Nation Moves To TelevisionThis one I look forward to, but it’s all in the execution.

The Beat – What does Avatar’s partnership with Boom! mean?I’m biting my tongue to prevent the joke I want to say.

Comics Alliance – Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited to Stream Free at Starbucks StoresNext thing you know hipsters will be reading comics and wearing t-shirts with comics… oh wait…

ICv2 – Kurt Busiek on ‘Kirby: Genesis’Nice interview, worth checking out.

The Beat – Best press release of the day: Wizard does somethingI’ll have to re-read this press release.

C2e2 Coverage:

Platform Nation – News From C2E2 Part 1

Bleeding Cool – A Comic Shop – Back From C2E2 And Loving It!

CBLDF – CBLDF Sweeps Through the Windy City During C2E2

Around the Tubes Reviews:

Bleeding Cool – FF#1 and The Dark Knight #2

The Hub – Foiled

Comic Book Resources – Local

Bleeding Cool – Neonomicon #4 and Hellraiser Prelude And #1

Daily Titan – Watchmen

GeekWeek – Xombi #1

Complex – The Best Comic Books This Week: Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America and More!

Revolver – Anthrax Guitarist Scott Ian Shares Five Of His Favorite Comic Books

Kotaku – Week in Comics

Friday Fun – Tom McAn Gets Sexist

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Numerous companies have created comic books to promote their products and in 1958 Tom McAn did so to promote their shoes.  Called Crisis at the Carsons!, the story focuses on Suzy and her breaking her shoe before an important date.  It’s pretty impressive in how sexist it is.

It’s an interesting throwback to a time that many women have nightmares about today.  Now if only her chest was the size of her head and she was wearing tight spandex, this comic would have it all when it comes to insulting women.

Crisis at the Carsons

You can read the full comic at http://www.ep.tc/problems/36/index.html.

Thanks for http://www.ep.tc/ and it’s amazing collection of these fantastic nuggets of history.