How to almost sell a comic book.

§ December 11th, 2014 § Filed under retailing § 5 Comments

So an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed over the last month at the shop is the enormous attraction DC’s Lego variant covers have had for customers. And I mean customers of all ages…little kids to full-grown adults just zoom right in on those comics. They are appealing…bright, friendly images that bring smiles to the faces of everyone who sees them. “Ooh, look, Lego!” and variations thereof I’ve heard plenty of times.

These covers are doing the job that, alas, many covers of late have not: catching the customer’s eye. Unfortunately, it’s bit of a bait-and-switch, since the contents are the business-as-usual superheroics and not Superhero Lego Adventures of Lego Green Lantern or, you know, whoever. These customers saw Lego Superhero covers, wanted Lego Superhero comics, and were almost universally disappointed not to find any Lego content at all beneath said covers.

This isn’t me busting on DC’s superhero comics…they sell just fine to the folks already inclined toward buying superhero books. I enjoy several of them myself. But this feels like a huge missed opportunity, particularly since many of the people attracted to these covers weren’t necessarily typical consumers of what DC and Marvel usually offer. I hope this didn’t poison the well for any future theoretical Lego Superhero comics, in that people disappointed before by the false promise of those Lego variants may see an actual Lego Superhero comic on the stands and think “nah, that’s just a different cover on a regular superhero comic…that’s not what’s inside” and give it a pass.

I’m hoping there will be some kind of comic book tie-in to the forthcoming Lego Batman movie, but I also hope DC and Lego don’t wait that long to capitalize on that desire from the funnybook-interested public, at least at my shop, for capes ‘n’ tights ‘n’ plastic brick adventures.

(On the plus side, at least these Lego variants were freely orderable and I didn’t have to jump through the usual hoops to get them!)

5 Responses to “How to almost sell a comic book.”

  • Dave Carter says:

    This seems like it would be a problem generally with these variant theme covers, like in Batman 75th anniversary month with Batman on all those covers but not inside (well, at least on half of them…). Or this month with those awesome Darwyn Cooke covers but standard New 52 fare on the inside.

    And yeah, a LEGO Batman comic seems like the most obvious thing to do, with the character being a fave in the LEGO Movie and the video games doing so well. I’m sure there are licensing concerns, but those should be able to be ironed out when there’s $$$$ to be made. I’d like to see either Ty Templeton or Jeff Parker write it.

  • I had spent the past several years working with children (special needs children mostly, but not always), and while superheroes are nearly ALWAYS a link to the inner wonder of a child – Lego superheroes proved even more of a draw.

    One bright boy loved the Lego batman games so much (and delighted at my detailed knowledge of all things superhero, while also being inspired by my shOwing to the class some of my artwork from my comic artist days) that he wrote and drew an awesome Lego batman comic for me!

    He had an amazing grasp of linear illustrative storytelling, and even without words all the story aspects were really very well laid out.

    I’ll have to scan and post it one day.

    But to the point, superheroes went straight to the core of most kids, but Lego…that stuff is gold. Accessible and friendly for the kid within us all.

  • thedarkbackward says:

    There is a massive missed opportunity here for the Big Two – and they brought it on themsleves. The formula really should be simple:

    – Create a line of all-ages friendly comics, with solid story telling and bright, colorful art
    – Print the comics on old-school cheap newsprint
    – Price ’em at a buck
    – Drop them at non-direct market locations…places like convenience stores, drug stores, toy shops

    This hobby is in a holding pattern and soon enough all of the old farts that buy the sturm und drang decapitation-fest comics are gonna die off. When that happens, there won’t be anyone to replace them.

  • Mikester says:

    Unfortunately, the price difference in paper stocks at that scale is negligible, so printing them on newsprint would only make the comics appear to be less value for the money while not actually reducing publishers’ expenses. And stores in general don’t want to carry comics…too low a price point for the space they occupy and the maintenance they require.

    Distribution in new markets would likely require more upscale packaging…$7.99 to $9.99 squarebound books, sized and designed like other children’s books. I know DC’s has tried recently with a line of young reader illustrated prose books, but not so much with just straight-up comics, far as I know.

  • Chad says:

    Good points made, Mike. I remember being excited for about a second when I saw these in Previews, before I remembered that no matter how much my son would love the covers, the comics beneath them wouldn’t really be OK for him to read. Didn’t Marvel do a similar month of Lego covers last year?

    @thedarkbackward: I think the comic-reading hobby will be fine — my son, my daughter and their pals all read TONS of comics in graphic-novel form, just not a lot of superhero comics, because, as you note, they’re mostly not aimed at them. But there’s a whole universe of well-done comics aimed at kids through non-direct-market-focused publishers. Maybe Image and other indy publishers will reap the benefits in a few years?

    Given their dad’s proclivities, I’m able to keep my children supplied with a decent number of superhero comics that are kid-appropriate — Marvel’s Epic collections are a godsend — but the superhero kids’ comics they have enjoyed are usually tied in to a cartoon show, and when those shows get cancelled, the comics go away, too. Which can be a real shame. And don’t even get me started on the fact that it’s been years (decades?) since either company published a kid-approprIate superhero comic starring a female hero. Will Squirrel Girl fit the bill?