Beauology 101: Comic Books: Let’s Play Pretend

Beau Smith

Beau Smith


by Beau Smith

Before the comic book business had a Direct Market, information on upcoming issues was hard to come by. Using Marvel and DC Comics as examples, they were pretty much your only source for hints of what storylines and characters were going to be in new issues. Marvel Comics was a bit more generous with “talking” to the readers then, they had to be, they were the upstart comic book publishers doing only about 12 books a month and they needed your attention in a major way.

A Bullpen Bulletins page

A Bullpen Bulletins page


Stan Lee was brilliant at selling, hyping and promoting Marvel’s upcoming comics. His use of The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins Page, The Mighty Marvel Checklist, Stan’s Soapbox and The Letter Columns, were amazing, cutting edge and smart. There were times when as a reader, those were the first places I checked when I bought a new Marvel Comic. DC Comics followed suit a few years later. When Marvel started gaining ground on them, they produced the Direct Currents page in their line of comics, it was their answer to The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins Page. Direct Currents didn’t quite have the same personal friendliness of Marvel’s Bullpen Page, but they were making an attempt to finally get to know their readers.

DC Direct Currents

DC Direct Currents


Please keep in mind that in the 1960s and 1970s, there were no true comic stores, television had only three channels, the national news was only on for 15 minutes in the evening, print magazines on comics were nowhere to be found except through rare and hard to find fan self-publication…AND….the internet hadn’t been invented yet. Unless you were pen-palling with another comic book reader, you really weren’t getting much info on what was happening in the next issue of Captain America or who the shocking guest star was going to be in the Batman story. Guess what?

THAT WASN’T A BAD THING!

I understand that with the invention of the Direct Market retailers had and needed to know as much information on storylines, creative teams and guest star selling points as possible. I get that and support that, but at the same time, that craving for more and more advance information (Along with former print magazines and the internet) has somewhat ruined the allure of comic books to readers.

When you know too much or in some cases, everything, you begin not to care as much. The comic book loses its value and it becomes a little sterile. I also relate the lack of the thrill of the hunt as a major reason comics have lost readers and sales. Being able to get any comic book you want almost instantly has made the romance of the comic book less attractive. Sometimes we won’t or don’t admit it to ourselves, but it’s true in a large number of cases.

Do we really need to know everything about the future storylines? I think the art of writing solicitation material has become lost. In marketing comic books for over 25 years, being able to write a compelling solicitation without giving the cake away is so very important. Let them smell it, but don’t let them eat it yet. It’s not a cruel tease, it’s building a foundation for a long term publisher/reader relationship. That’s why none of the current and recent storylines have no true selling or buying impact. The cat’s not only out of the bag, it’s scratched the furniture and gotten out of the house before you saw what color it was.

Word of mouth is still THE most important and impactful form of advertising and promotion. Getting it is the tough part. I truly believe that bloggers are a very important part of getting the word out on what comic books are good and what ones other readers should be paying attention to.

DCU Relaunch

DCU Relaunch


Let’s play pretend for just a moment like we used to do as kids. Recently DC Comics has announced that they are rebooting and renumbering a lot of their comic books, just pretend, that they didn’t announce it and were very, very vague in their solicitations, not even saying that they were renumbering the issues let alone changing everything up. Can you imagine the word of mouth this would’ve gotten from readers, from the press, on the web? Think of how many people would be scurrying to find these issues and read them, it would be huge. While you’re pretending, also imagine that the readers would seriously read the books and comment on what they really thought about them, good or bad without any pre-release fertilization to sway their opinions. Needless to say, it’d sell a lot of books and get a lot of attention. DC Comics would find out right away if the new changes were compelling enough to interest readers. Talk about taking real risks….oh, that’s right, we’re only pretending.

Keep this in mind, regardless if the REAL change works or not, DC can and probably will go back to the original numbering and characters if things don’t work out the way they planned. In the comic book business every changes to remain the same another day.

Your never changing amigo,

Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

www.flyingfistranch.com

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  1. Joseph Tages Says:

    As usual, I can’t argue with your logic, compadre. Like the old song goes, “the thrill is gone.” Things were a lot more interesting and personal back in the mini-mart days. The comic racks of yore have proven to be a magical experience yet to be unsurpassed by all this danged technology.