Listen Up, Newbie!

Dammit Vivian, its Wednesday, June 15, 2011, the weather has cooled, and this is The Side. After some nasty heat last week the weather is being much more pleasant this week. As it was I thought I was going to lose ten pounds just from sweating. Saw an article this morning about Sunspot activity going into a phase of non-existence, which it does from time to time. They writers were all concerned that the cooling effect would offset global warming and give us all a false sense that the horror of global warming had been defeated.

They're writing that the Sun has an effect on the warming and cooling of the planet, and yet that global warming thingie is still all our faults.

Sometimes I think Al Gore's superpower (besides hypocrisy, being fat, and being a complete joke of a human being) is getting media people to completely buy into his bullshit.


Let's talk about gaining new readers. As I've been talking about on here, DC will be undertaking a massively ridiculous stunt in an attempt to gain new readers. This stunt has gotten media coverage and quite a few articles in the news. I'm not just talking about the funny book news beat. The Associated Press has covered this, and there's been a few articles popping up on Yahoo. So this stunt has gotten noticed. That's not a guarantee that it'll generate new readers. I've checked out comments on these articles, and the changes and renumbering DC are going to implement are not going over very well. A lot of people think its pretty stupid.

They're doing this to try to gain new readers, but its alienating existing readership. I'm not the only person who won't be buying DC comics soon. The people that aren't reading comics don't care. This "event" is stillborn. There is an important question to be raised here:

Is it up to the comic book publishers to acquire new readers?

Not entirely. The comic publishers job is to get the books out, and advertise the books. Editorial's job is to make sure the books aren't entire clusterfucks, and are the best products that the talent can deliver. The talent (writers, artists, letters, etc.) are responsible for doing their best to put together a quality product that people will want to buy. The talent doesn't have to go to conventions or be accessible online to the fans. Editorial sure as hell shouldn't be involved it writing stories or dictating what they want to see to the talent.

This is supposed to be simple. The talent have something to offer. The editors and publishers makes its its the best it can be and get it out for people to buy. Then they get feedback. They get to see the numbers for sales. They see people talking about these things online. They hear about it at conventions. Hopefully they they take this feedback constructively and go with what works and go back to the drawing board with what doesn't. That's not the case here, because they want readers, and they need new readers.

They're hoping that people who don't buy comic books will suddenly start buying comic books because all these issues have a number 1 on the cover. The problem is is that they're trying to assume all the responsibility for attracting new readers and it not the case.

What DC needs to do is what every comic publisher needs to do: put out the books and make them good. "Events" don't draw new readers. They are aimed at existing readers. The average guy on the street doesn't care about Barry Allen or Hal Jordan. If its Kyle Rayner and Wally West appearing as Green Lantern and the Flash respectively that is not going to have any bearing whatsoever as to whether or not someone who isn't reading comics will decide to pick it up. The cover needs to look cool and if they flip through the book it should look like something neat is going on in there. That's all they can do.

As for gaining new readers, I had two experiences recently that I want to share.

The first involved one of my students at Karate. I was getting ready to take my kids home and one of the younger students was sitting in the foyer looking pretty bummed out. Her father was in the adult class and she had forgotten the book she was reading, so she had nothing to do for an hour. I went to the car where I had a couple of comics in there. The student was an eleven year old girl and I gave her a recent copy of TEEN TITANS. Nicola Scott's awesome artwork and a solid story by J.T. Krul. The next week when I saw her she told me how much she loved it. She had never read a comic book before. She might start reading them if she can get out to a comic shop (unfortunately there's not one close to her house).

I didn't start reading comics because of an event. I started reading them because my grandparents, bless them, gave me a FANTASTIC FOUR comic. I didn't know if they got it for me, or if Gran'dad is a secret FF fan, but he gave it to me and I loved it. The next time I visited he gave me an IRONMAN comic. I was hooked. I cherished those books. I was three or four when I got them and I still have them somewhere.

Like the noble zombie, readers create new readers. You can't push comics onto a non-reader, but if we want the medium to grow fans we have to be observant and look for those who may be open to giving a comic a read. If you approach someone with a "dude, you've got to check this out", you're not going to get anywhere. Enjoy your hobby, and if someone takes an interest be nice and let them read one of your comics. Don't be a weirdo about it either. Those goofs in the book stores getting weird over their manga and acting like I'm the nutter for not knowing everything about their favorite manga aren't doing manga itself any favors.

The second incident involved my buddy's son. He's four. He knows who Superman and Batman are through pop culture and cartoons, but he hadn't read a comic. They live maybe two miles from Comic Kings. His parents asked me to let them know the next time I was going to the comic shop so they could take him and i could show him around. Once they got there the red carpet was rolled out for the kid. It was obvious that this was his first time in the shop. I showed him where the kids comics were and after checking out everything he picked one out, SCOOBY-DOO, which was a bit of a surprise since he really likes superheroes. He was offered some of the free posters and stickers the shop had for promotions. He was interested in the Pokémon cards so they let him have a couple from the 5 cent bin. They even gave him a T-shirt. So the kid thought it was the greatest place ever.

Comic shops build readerships. The shops have to be clean inviting places. There's one in town that's just an absolute pit. Its not terribly clean, and there's hardly any natural light in the place. In contrast, Comic Kings is nice and clean. They have a lot of merchandise on the walls, but you don't feel like you're walking into a dungeon when you go in. The staff are helpful and friendly, and that's important. If someone is a new reader and they go walking into a comic shop for the first time it should be a pleasant experience. They don't need to feel like its a hassle of weird to get their comics.

Having a kids comics area is a great way to go. Most mainstream comics are geared towards 18 to 35 year olds. But there's a lot of really good kids comics out there as a well and having a nice section just for them makes them happy and makes the parents feel better about taking kids to the comic shop. Its not like when I was a kid. I can't wring 60 cents off my folks for an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA at the 7-11. Another local shop, Local Heroes, has a great kids section complete with a little chair for them to sit at and read the books. My daughters love it.

Having events at the shops can go either way. Comic Kings got on the news for giving away 2,000 copies of the Obama SPIDER-MAN comic. People were lined up out the door. News crews showed up. Yes, it was good publicity, but it didn't generate any new readers. It didn't even give the store a sales bump that day. It was a bunch of Obama fanboys lining up for something free. But doing things like having hosting TCG tournaments and making a big deal out of Free Comic Book Day can pull in a new reader or two.

In conclusion, DC's latest stunt won't do what they want it to do. The problem is what they want to do isn't really all on them. If we want to medium to grow in readership we have to do it. Not aggressively, but in a rational inviting manner. The many comic book movies don't translate into new readers, but play it right and readers and shops can use them to get a few. There's not going to be a massive influx, so go for a few. These numbers add up, especially if you're patient.


Caught this on the video channel my TV randomly grew.

That's it for today. I actually had a dream last night in which I was told I must buy more comics for the good of the industry. I'd say DC is hiring telepaths for their sales staff, but if that was the case you'd think they'd know their stunt is doomed to failure by now. Oh well. See y'all Friday.

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