Monday, May 03, 2010

Free Comic Book Day Post-Mortem

Yes, I know. It's probably a little bleak to use the term "post-mortem" to describe what's supposed to be the big, exciting, happy holiday that gets everyone into comics stores. But honestly, when I look at FCBD, I can't help but see one more botched marketing opportunity masquerading as a great idea. The problem with FCBD, as with pretty much every marketing opportunity everywhere in the comic book industry these days, is that it's targeted primarily at the people who are already walking into comic book stores...that is to say, the people who don't need to be told to go into comic book stores. If it was me running Marvel, I would make damn sure 'Iron Man 2' was contractually obligated to open April 30th, not May 7th, and that it was contractually obligated to carry an ad right before the start of the movie touting "Free Comic Book Day at your local comic store!"

Depending on your local comic store, of course. Of the two I visited, one had no free comics available at all. Admittedly, it's mostly a collectibles store that also sells comics, but still... Luckily, the other store had the freebies (and a nice sale going, but I'm keeping a close eye on the budget right now. Next year, for sure.) What did I grab?

DC Kids Sampler: On the one hand, it does lose a few points for being the beginnings to several stories. I don't really like being so overtly teased by a free comic; I'd rather get a self-contained story that makes me want to pick up the next issue than a "To Be Continued". That said, it gains loads and loads of points for being kid-friendly, entertaining, and having some top-flight talent working on it. Well done.

Del Rey Showcase: The "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" sample is worth picking up, the rest is sort of filler. Not bad, just sort of filler. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I was more of a Stephen King fanatic and less of a zombie lover, though.

Green Hornet: Wow. People really weren't exaggerating when they said that Kevin Smith's Green Hornet comic was utterly unreadable crap, were they? This was only six pages, and I found myself wishing it had stopped at one. Smith has an absolute tin ear for dialogue, making every single character sound like they stepped out of 'Clerks', and the section of plot we see couldn't be a more hackneyed and lazy introduction. The Matt Wagner Green Hornet: Year One section is much better, but I was already pretty soured on the concept by then. The rest of the comic feels almost too unfinished to grade...which might be part of the problem. Very much undercooked.

War of the Supermen: Why does it always seem to me when I read a DC comic published in the last decade that DC hates their own flagship character? They seem to have a vested interest in portraying him as an ineffectual, whiny, useless relic of an outdated moral code. I'm aware that this is meant to be a prologue to the actual story, and that this is meant to be the "darkest before the dawn" moment...but it seems like DC has played that card non-stop ever since "Identity Crisis", and it's tiresome. Not to mention, it's another "introductory comic" where nothing happens. I'm calling this one a failure.

Iron Man/Thor: I'm very much torn about this one. On the one hand, it reminds me of everything I've hated about Iron Man for the last four years, now; he doesn't ever seem to connect the bad things he does with the bad things that happen to him. "Huh. I designed a weather control machine capable of slaughtering tens of thousands of people in artificial catastrophes. Now someone is using a stolen weather control machine to slaughter tens of thousands of people in artificial catastrophes. How could I possibly have foreseen that outcome!?!" On the other hand, it does show Tony being genuinely heroic in dealing with said "unforeseen" outcome, there's plenty of good action, and there are some good bits of banter between him and Thor. And I liked the ending. "You're trespassing on private property!" "So take us to Moon Court."

Radical Comics Sampler: A random sampling of comics from a company I've never heard of, picked up on a whim. None of it really grabbed me, to be honest; Driver for the Dead seemed kind of interesting, but not enough to make me pick it up; Time Bomb was too short to detail its own elaborate concept; After Dark seemed bland and uninteresting; and The Rising felt like a by-the-numbers "human resistance" story. The art was nice, though.

Fractured Fables: This was very cute, and exactly how a sample comic should work. It was light and entertaining, self-contained, and showed off enough of the premise of the comic it's advertising to get you interested. I could very easily see myself picking up this collection when I have a little money.

Bongo Comics Free-For-All: Likewise, this is a good job at putting together a comic that showcases the output of the company, while still giving a good experience in and of itself. If you like The Simpsons enough to buy a Simpsons comic, this will probably convince you that they're doing a good job at Bongo Comics. (I don't think I'm quite that much of a Simpsons fan, but was entertained nonetheless.)

Overall, I'd say that there's still a major lesson to be learned by the Big Two. They need to remember that the hook for any series is the character, and it's important to give you something to root for...and to have things happen. Oh, and sell the event outside of comics stores. It's designed to get people through the doors, after all.

7 comments:

KAW26 said...

I'm a fan of Clerks, but yes, Green Hornet is a pretty bad comic, at least for the first two issues. I might not get the third.

John Seavey said...

You're a lot more patient than I am. :)

Anonymous said...

it's not just your local shop, John. For the last few years my shop hasn't participated. I've heard that they have to pay for these comics that are free to us, the customers. If these comics are just getting picked up by people like us, then it isn't really worth the financial trouble. And i agree with them. Even the people who aren't customers aren't going to come back the next week.

chiasaur11 said...

So, you didn't snag Atomic Robo?

Too bad. I liked it.

Honestly, though, if the mere fact it's about Dr. Atomic Robo Tesla doesn't sell you, it's probably not the kind of thing you'd enjoy. Probably.

John Seavey said...

I don't recall seeing it; they might have already run out by the time I got there. (The bottom two rows or so were pretty suspiciously empty...)

Jason said...

I tend to agree about the missed opportunities of FCBD. The biggest one, to me, is that it's only at your LCS.

Comic fans can be reached all year round. We can find out about titles through the internet. Hell, the less ethical can find entire comic book runs through the internet. The companies don't need to focus on selling comics to guys who read comics.

FCBD should be taking place at other venues. Like you said, comic book movies should open in advance. The theaters showing them should get promotional comics to give away. Video sales and rental stores likewise. The goal should be to rope in new readers, not give us nitpicky comic readers a chance to pick apart titles we wouldn't buy.

And definitely - a free comic book should contain a story. It shouldn't end with "Want to see what happens? BUY THE BOOK." But I think that's something better handled once companies realize that advertising at the place people go to buy comics doesn't actually expand your market...

Walter said...

I've been enjoying Kevin Smith's Green Hornet. Sure it's been very cliche, but it's been entertaining. I've also heard generally good reviews for it, so I'm curious where you heard all these negative comments.