Saturday, August 07, 2010

How to put the Comic back in Comic Con

This has been floating around my various social networks for the last two weeks. I wrote it when the show was fresh in my head...but it's finally landing on my blog. Enjoy

Over the years I've had mixed feelings about the transformation of Comic Con from an all access pass to the world of Comics to the Super Bowl of Pop Culture Marketing. As a person who set up at the show for a great many years I was eyewitness to the transformation. It was a gradual slide but eventually there was a tipping point and the show became a marketing show for Hollywood and the video game world. In terms of making a profit and getting the message out on your Comic, Comic Con has become a difficult place to navigate. Despite all that, I've grown to appreciate the spectacle of a double decker bus driven by David Hasselhoff with Bay Watch girls hanging off of it. I don't even mind last years Twilight folk. If we can except a hunky Wolverine why can't we accept Vampires that sparkle. Comic Con is all grown up and has a diverse set of tastes. It's not your dad's Comic Con and let's be honest it hasn't been his convention since the the late 90's.

It's no shock that the average Comic artist with his 2d hand drawn art can't compete with life size Bummblebees and Odin's golden throne. Don't get me wrong for some Comic artists Comic Con is still a booming business. I hear stories of certain artists selling so much original art at Comic Con that they don't have to work the rest of the year. I'm sure you can count those guys on one hand. I also see incredibly talented artists staring into space with nobody in front of their artist alley tables. I think often Comic creators see the lights of Comic Con and think "I want my part of the pot of gold." just to find out that the audience attending the show is huge but maybe 10% are hardcore Comic fans. With those numbers it would still be a huge number for a Comic show...now disperse those fans over a football field and over the entire creative Comic community. Well you get the idea. It's just not easy to sell a comic in the numbers you need to make Comic Con profitable. Taking all that into consideration I still think it's a show every comic artist should go to. Here is why. If you can mentally switch gears and see Comic Con as an opportunity to build your brand rather than a place to sell your comic you are half way to turning the show into a useful tool.

#1 Comic Con has the biggest concentration of Comic media out there. If you want to set up face to face meetings with your favorite Comic book site journalist this is the time to take the money you would spend on a table or booth and use it to buy key people beers and create a genuine relationship with them. Marketing Comic books are about the personal touch so getting to know people in the industry should be a top priority. Being chained to a booth or table is not going to make that easy, being flexible time wise will. Ditch the table and go mobile.

#2 Give your comic away to other Comic creators. Nothing creates buzz in Comics faster than other Comic artists talking about your work. There are some that may not read it or give it the time of day but most people who make Comics love comics so they will be happy to give it a look. Although it might not get you promo/buzz it may get you a job. If an editor or art director is looking for a style that an artist doesn't do, often times they will mention an artist that does. That could be you and your style thanks to them learning about your work through the Comic you gave them. It also puts you on the radar of writers. It's the nature of Comic Books that writers need artists. Want to be on the next big book with a well know writer? Give them your comic!

#3 Make yourself and your Comic available to mainstream media. Mainstream media is crawling over Comic Con begging for content to fill up the 24-7 news cycle. Find the camera crew talk to their producer give them your book. Have your pitch down and see if you can get on G4 pimping your product. Won't mom be happy when you show up on Entertainment Tonight!?!

#4 Social Media. Get on Facebook, DA, Twitter and update what you are doing at the show. Say who you met, what you are seeing. It's an opportunity to push your message and your brand. Many people can't make it to Comic Con so they like to read what's going on at the show. You may get the chance to introduce your work to people who may have not heard of it when your tweet shows up with #sdcc behind it in a search.


I know Comic Con has reached it's limit in terms of space but going forward here are a few things I think Comic Con can do to put the Comic back in Comic Con.

#1 Expand the artist alley section and let in younger less accomplished artists by giving cheap tables. Think of it as an American Comicket. These artists will benefit by sitting next to established pros and it will breath new life into the show. It will help create the next generation of Comic creators by giving new creators a place to show their work on the biggest stage in Comics. I went to the Anime Expo here in LA. The artist alley section is vibrant and filled with people buying art and trying new Comics/Manga. This is essential for bringing in a youth movement to the Comics industry. If Comics are to survive and grow they need to appeal to a larger audience. How do you appeal to a larger audience? Cultivate new voices that appeal to diverse groups of people. Comic Con should make room for the future talent in the industry and brake down the barrier between Pro and Pro Am.

#2 Comic Con is almost like the Cannes film festival so why not hold a Comic Con Best In Show Comic Prize. Creators (established or not) submit their comics a few months before Comic Con for selection. Every comic that is selected is printed and put in the giveaway bag so people can read the comics that are selected. Have a group of judges select the winner and have winners in different categories. I know the Eisner's are held at Comic Con but the immediacy of having a book that is debuting at the show and the fact that the people attending the show will see it there first will bring a sense of enthusiasm and excitement to the Comic side of the show. It will also get mainstream coverage and make it a place for new Comic voices as well as established Comic creators to have their creations and ideas shown to a larger audience.

#3 Free Comic supplies! Comic Con needs to get sponsors to put Comic making materials in every giveaway bag. The show owes it's existence to the voices of Comic creators so why not give attendees a chance to experience what it's like to actually make a comic books! Having larger workshops/demos of the materials by the companies and sponsored creators showing off what can be done with the supplies would be an amazing win/win for attendees, the companies that make the supplies and the next generation of Comic creators.


Back to the Comic-preneur grind, because Comics don't sleep.


-karl


Also a little how to I posted to you tube. Learn how I create Kirby Krackle.

Kirby Krackle "How To" in fabulous HD

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