Let's Get Comics Back in Business!

For those of you who don't know, the comic book industry is in a sad state. Sales (in terms of volume) are lower than almost any other point in comic book history. You may have heard some people fully expect the entire industry to collapse by 2003 unless something drastic is done. The problem is, nobody's quite sure what to do.

Since their inception, comic books have wavered in and out of public favor just about once every decade. Comics were popular in the '40s but not in the '50s. In the '60s but not in the '70s. The reason has a lot to do with children growing up and losing interest in such "childish" interests as comics. Then a new batch of readers discovers the medium and the cycle begins anew. Several problems, unfortunately, cropped up in the late 80s and created an artificially inflated marketplace. The customary decade dip didn't occur. Comics continued to sell. But then, once people began realizing that it was an artificial market, the industry crashed. Hard. Now we are faced with either resurecting a left-for-dead horse or sending him out to graze for the last time. That, my friends, is where you come in.

You're here because you enjoy comic books. The industry needs more readers and it's up to us, the fans, to create them.

"But, Steve," you ask, "how can I help an industry that can't help itself?"

Well, in the first place, many industry professionals are doing everything they can to help the comic book market. But we substanially outnumber them and, if we all work together, we can make a difference. If every comic book fan was able to introduce comic books to just one other person, the entire market would obviously double.

"But, Steve," you ask, "what can I do?"

Well, that depends on who you are and who you know. I've broken down some suggestions into different categories of people. Some ideas are easier than others. Some of them may not help at all, but it couldn't hurt.

For Adults

  • Take a dozen or two copies of Comic Shop News (available for free at most comic book shops) to work. Leave them out in the break room or cafeteria for people to read while they microwave their burritos.
  • Make it clear that you read comics. Read your new issues on your lunch hour in plain view. Especially ones that are visually exciting. If people ask questions, be curteous and generous with your time. Let them flip through your books. Offer to let them borrow them if they seem interested. Don't push the comics on them too much, however. If they're not interested, they're not interested.
  • Comics make great gifts for children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. You might want to focus on more popular characters, especially wholesome ones like Superman. Also try to give them whole storylines, Trade Paperbacks collect a whole storyline of comics into one publication and are readily available either through your local comic shop or via online book shops.
  • Instead of candy, hand out comic books at Halloween. Although it could be costly, you might try haggling with your local comic book dealer to buy his ENTIRE quarter bin. Even if you couldn't bring down the price, that's still only $75 for about 300 comics!

For Students

  • Although I understand peer pressure makes it enormously more difficult, don't be so quick to hide your comic book hobby. Read them in study hall or at lunch.
  • If possible, do a book report on a series. A whole story arc or limited series, mind you, not a single issue. Make sure you clear it with your teacher ahead of time and then take your report seriously. Focus on interesting plot devices and character development. Do not comment on how cool you think artwork is.
  • History papers can focus on the evolution of comic books as a medium. Again, clear the subject with your teacher first and take your paper seriously. I know of a high school English teachers who was quite impressed with a "senior thesis" that was presented on the history of comic books and the person got an "A" for the semester.

For Store Owners

  • Donate a small stack of comics to area doctor and dentist offices. Even just one or two issues a week. Maybe the ones that you'd like to see sales increase on. Maybe ones like Pokemon that are excessively popular. Slap a "Property of" and "Courtesy of" label over the bar code and watch business grow!
  • Host a movie night that features comics-related movies. Legally, you couldn't charge admission, but with proper advertising, you could get people into your store.
  • Pick a Saturday, such as Fox's or WB's upcoming season premire of cartoons, to host a "Breakfast with the Super-Heroes." Or, you could play video tapes of old Super Friends or Spider-Man cartoons. Having Superman or Batman make an appearance would almost certainly help too.
  • Cross-promote with local theaters whenever comic-related movies come out. Perhaps you could set up a small kiosk or booth in the lobby to sell related merchandise in exchange for them being able to use part of your store for promoting other movies.
  • Cross promote with hobby stores. There isn't that far of a jump between baseball cards and comics.
  • Have a contest. Maybe the best "If I owned DC Comics..." submission gets a free copy of Superman: Peace on Earth.
  • Have a mega-contest (or perhaps a raffle) where a handful of winners get a free trip to Comic Con International in San Diego. Expensive, sure, but it could generate some good media attention for your store if done properly.

For Web Site Owners

  • Spread the word! Place a copy of this page on your web site to promote the idea or write up a page of your own promoting comic books.

Of course, these are just a few of the ideas I've heard of. None of them will turn around the industry by themselves, but if we all work together, we can make sure that comic books are around for a good while longer.

Regards,
Steve Younis