Comics Should Be Good offered an essay yesterday by the extremely likeable comics creator Jimmie Robinson that, in his own typically rambling style, makes a good point but lays the “blame” at the wrong doorstop:
If you’re reading this, that alone makes you exceptional, makes you care about the medium of comics. You might even visit your comic store each week to see what’s new on the rack. You perhaps display a few trade paperback collections on your shelf at home. But let’s not split hairs here, while I applaud your efforts there’s no denying the fact; you are not helping comics.
…Creators, like myself, demand more from you than cover price. If you read my books, whether from Image, Marvel, or DC, then I expect you to share the love. Why keep it a secret? Why not tell others outside the “cottage”?
…Retailers listen to their customers, but most readers hardly talk to the storeowners, or clerks. Today’s retailer has hundreds, if not thousands, of titles to sell, but without your help that stock will tilt one way, or another. Retailers can’t read your mind, but they will try when they have no option. No help. What can you expect when so many are making a beeline to a book, to the register, and out the door? Stop, smell the roses. Show interest in books that you like, and let retailers know. Don’t merely hope it will show up on the shelf, ask for it by name.
First off, his condescending opening almost kept me from reading any further, but I like Robinson so I stuck with him. Then, he started demanding and pointing fingers, and I got a bit of a chip on my shoulder.
Creators are in no position to demand anything from their prospective audiences. Outside of religion, the choice to proselytize is exactly that, a choice, and one can enjoy a particular piece of work, or an entire art form, without being expected to become a missionary on its behalf. In fact, the kind of zealots Robinson is calling for can be incredibly annoying and actually turn people off from that which they love so dearly. (Is ADD still around?)
There is someone creators should be more demanding of, however, and that’s their publisher. It’s the publisher’s job to let retailers know about their books, to promote them to potential readers, and to ensure that their books are kept in print and as widely available as possible. Of course, this assumes the publisher has some ongoing financial incentive to do any of the above.
* ahem *
So, the problem with comics isn’t that there aren’t enough of us talking about Civil War or Bomb Queen or [insert underappreciated indie darling here] around the water cooler at work. The problem is that, even if we were, comics are still relatively inaccessible when compared to other forms of entertainment.
I’m not talking about the old “comics are juvenile” argument, either. While someone’s individual taste in comics might be juvenile, there are hundreds if not thousands of comics that appeal to a variety of mature tastes and the vast majority are not marketed very well, if at all.
So, Jimmie, if you’re looking for help, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
But your publishers won’t help…
…without your demanding they do it.
PS: Wikipedia offers a definition of viral marketing that I agree with and I think is particularly appropriate for this dicussion:
Viral marketing sometimes refers to Internet-based stealth marketing campaigns, including the use of blogs, seemingly amateur web sites, and other forms of astroturfing, designed to create word of mouth for a new product or service. Often the goal of viral marketing campaigns is to generate media coverage via “offbeat” stories worth many times more than the campaigning company’s advertising budget.
Whether it was his intention or not, Robinson’s essay is effectively a viral marketing campaign for both himself and his work, particularly Bomb Queen. Whether you agree with his opinion or not, give him credit for being a savvy self-marketer.
PPS: Per the cyncial * ahem * above, taken at his word, this is a potentially good sign: IMAGE’S NEW MARKETING GUY, MARK HAVEN BRITT