I often find myself thinking about how to grow the comic industry. I think of fictitious conversations I would have with the most interesting of people and how wonderful and insightful bits of wisdom would pour from my mouth like honey. Oh how they would pause and give reflection! What I do offer however, whenever presented with such an opportunity, are bumbling incoherent bits of drivel that only 37 years of self hating mediocrity could forge. Broken pieces.
Still, the ideas come, and this particular one I thought was worthy of at least posting here. Even if it may only be read by myself later this evening in a fit of critical rage. “Broken pieces of what!” I’ll shout.
One of the more obvious problems I see with the current state of the comic industry is not continuity, it’s not digital vs. print, it’s not even the price of entry - although, each of those points is certainly important, and in fact, each of those is addressed specifically in my solution. A solution I might add to a problem I haven’t even raised yet. “You’re already in the third paragraph you dolt!” I’ll shout. So what is the problem? New readers. This is no revelation. This is not a new idea. I am certainly not the first to point it out in big dumb flaming letters.
Well maybe the first to do that.
So if the problem is so obvious, what are we supposed to do to rectify it? The answer is to bring in younger people. This, it would seem, should be one of the easiest tasks to do. Kids love super heroes. It’s built in. I have three young children and more often then not if you go to a party or “play date” some kid is wearing a Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, or Captain America t-shirt. What they are not doing is reading the comics from which they were based. The problem, I believe, is how they are exposed to it.
The only means now is a direct one. A parent has to either take the kid into a comic store, order books from a web site, or buy a digital version for them. Each one of those steps requires a knowledgable parent, an active parent, to push a kid toward comics. This is great if parents are willing to do it, but let’s be frank, there aren’t a lot of parents who read comics. All of those scenarios too do not have the child discovering the book on his or her own. I did not get into comic books because of my mom. She didn’t decide one day that I might enjoy Detective Comics #526 and then watch as my mind was blown into a thousand pieces. ALL HIS ENEMIES?!? No, I discovered it on my own. In a little luncheonette in Shrewsbury NJ, on the most glorious of items, the spinner rack.
Spinner racks were great because they could indirectly bring people into the world of comics. They could be placed in locations where children would go, with their parents, and end up in their grubby little hands while their folks picked up a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter. They were in locations where the primary reason for being there WASN’T comics. Unfortunately In 2012, they no longer make sense. Spinner racks just aren’t practical or economically feasible. They take up floor space, issues are randomly placed, retailers are limited in what they can stock, and publishers get stuck with returns for books that don’t sell. The local comic store solved this problem, but in doing so we lost the ability to indirectly bring in new readers. That is why, in my opinion, we need to Bring Back the Rack™.
Spinner Rack 2000
For the reasons outline above, we cannot sell print products in rotating display racks but we can bring them back digitally - in the form of iTunes-like gift cards.
Adorned with large colorful illustrations of your favorite super hero characters. The cards would then be sold, not in your local comic book store, but rather at the registers of supermarkets and department stores. Right next to the candy and the magazines. At the eye level of an eight year old. The kid grabs the card, the parent objects, the surrounding patrons stare, and then the parent overcome with frustration throws the card on the conveyor belt and 15 minutes later the kid is reading Spider-man on his iPad.
You’ve just added a new reader.
Let me make another point here while I have your attention. These books? They can’t be the same comics adults are currently consuming. An eight year old shouldn’t grab a super hero book and then read about people getting their faces cut off. Rather, Marvel and DC would create an all ages line of digital only comics. One title per hero and a team book. You don’t need 55 Batman variations. Create great stories. Great stories that anyone can read. This is where your all ages books should go - not relegated to a back room of a comic shop under a pile of unsellable baseball cards. The stories should also be short- 15 Pages or so and release weekly. You could charge $1.99 for new releases when bought with the card (sharing 50% with the retailer) and $0.99 for back issues via the app.
Can someone make this happen?