06 May 2008

Free Comic Book Day 2008

FCBD was this past Saturday which is like three years in internet time but I'll get bloggy with it anyway. I think that my daughter and I have only missed one FCBD since it started. (One year I had to work that day so we went and got comics the next day.) This year we also took the baby with us for her first FCBD. When we lived in Snellvillistan I always drove to Oxford Comics in Buckhead. They usually had the books I was looking for. Now we live in VA so I had to drive about thirty minutes to Cavalier Comics in Wise, VA. It is a very nice little store and Brian is a super cool guy. How do I know he is cool? Brian, like all the cool kids, is going to HeroesCon. I'll be at Heroes too but I'll talk more about that later. They also let me drop off a stack of my FCBD entry, Four Feats of Wonder From the Old Testament.

The main book I wanted was the Gegika book from D&Q but Cavalier is a small shop and did not have that one. I was also sad to miss out on the Ignatz book and Top Shelf's Owly book. That is no slight to Cavalier. Even when I lived in Atlanta I had to drive forty-five minutes to Oxford or an hour to Bizzaro to get the indie freebies and on at least two occasions I had to go to the publishers themselves for the indie books.

We did get a lot of good books at my favorite price though. The six year old was excited about the Tiny Titans and Jughead books. She also wanted the All-Star Superman book because, well, it had Superman on it. The Neotopia manga was a nice thick book to hand the baby so that she did not need to grab toys or back issues to chew on. I was excited about the Gyro Gearloose book and the EC Sampler from Gemstone.

Some of the books raised some questions though. Don't worry. I'm not going to turn all Negative Nancy on a free comic promotion. I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. In fact, if you give me a gift horse, I'll probably hug it and kiss it on the mouth and call it Silver. I'll love that gift horse all day long but, I might ask it questions. I don't want to criticize the free funnies. I believe in the promotion and after having seen the pics posted at the Heroes blog, I really believe in it's potential.

The questions that come to mind are geared toward the publishers themselves. I'm not sure everyone is on the same page. I don't think there is a consensus idea of what FCBD should be. Is it (1) to get new customers to visit the direct market stores? Personally, I think that is what the promotion's goal should be. If so, then as the father of a six year old, I can tell you that the Tiny Titans, Gyro Gearloose, Marvel Adventures and Shonen Jump books are good efforts toward that goal. That is, if the direct market stores sold those types of comics. Some do, some don't. But the good thing is, it gets kids reading comics. If they like the comics a lot then there is bigger chance of them finding the direct market than if they had never been exposed to comics.

Or, is the goal (2) to reward your existing fan base with some freebies? Not a bad goal but it's not going to save the direct market or anything. Marvel's X-Men book covers this goal. Marvel already gave you a kids book with the Adventures book but they offer an X-Men book for the regular customers complete with those giant Emma Frost boobs the fan base knows and loves.

Or, is the goal (3) to just promote new crap to the already existing direct market customer base? Not a bad goal in and of itself but a far cry from the potential this thing could have.

Looking at a lot of these books, I'm afraid it is the third goal that most of the publishers are after and I think this is pretty unfortunate. The books from Top Cow, Dynamite and Virgin for example; there is no way you could hand that stuff to a kid and there is no way a person who does not already have a pull list is going to have any interest in them.
Tiny Titans is DC's shot at the first goal but the Superman book is DC settling for the third goal. All-Star Superman #1 is a great comic, maybe one of the best ever Superman comics but you couldn't hand it to a kid. Lex is just too crazy and the thing is about trying to kill Superman. You also could not hand it to a kid (and I may not let mine have it) because of all the morbid adds for DC's upcoming crossover nonsense. Adds about the end of the universe and Batman dying don't make for great bedtime material. This book is not a fan reward because everyone already bought this comic. All this book is for is to deliver house adds for DC's upcoming crossover's. I don't like to knock another man's hustle and advertising is part of the game but c'mon DC, you are better than that. You could have given you fan base something new and packed it full of adds at the same time. That fifty cent DC Universe 0 book could have been your FCBD advertisement vehicle. I really question DC's thinking on this thing. I have another question about DC. Is DC comics aware that there is a Batman movie coming out this summer? Do they have the internet over at the DC offices? Hello? Where is your let's cash in on/promote Batman comic?
Oh well, whaddoiknow?

I'm not saying the comics should all be for kids. Not at all. I wanted that Gegika comic. I want free grown up comics. They serve a purpose . They reward the current customer and entice them to buy graphic novels by the featured artists. I get that. My all time favorite FCBD books are the anthology format books that Top Shelf, Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly put out in previous years. I sought out and became a fan of several creators based on the samples I saw in those books. I'm also not saying the publishers shouldn't take advantage of the promotion to advertise upcoming books. By all means, promote your books. I guess my point is that if the publishers see the thing as nothing more than an advertisement delivery method then at least pack the adds in something that is either kid friendly and might accidentally build your customer base or something that is new and rewards the existing fan base. If Marvel can pull off both of those things then how hard can it be?

I'll step down off Stan's soapbox. For me personally, FCBD was a success. The girls and I got free comics, the six year old expanded her hero statue collection (those Heroclix things, we don't have any idea what do do with them as far as the game goes but she likes the little things) and we went for post-free-comic victory fries and slushies. It was a good day.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith

p.s. The best FCBD book I've read so far is available here for free download and you don't even have to burn any gas to go get it.

p.p.s. If anyone wants an express ticket to comic book heaven, hook me up with the Gegika, Ignatz or Owly books.
Post a Comment