We live in the age of the Geek. As little as 20 years ago people who worked with computers, or played video games , or read comic books past the age of 18 were mocked, ridiculed and marginalized by the greater populous. Today everyone is free to discover subcultures that in the past would have been inaccessible to them. Comics have become more and more accepted in society as a valid form of art and literature. In spite of all this, the sales of comics in general continue to decline. We as comic book enthusiasts are a dying breed in a world where we should be thriving.
The question seems to come up often: How do we bring new people into the comics world? What I think about is how I as a reader can share my love of comics with others. How can I be a good spokesman for the comics I love and get people who aren't your typical fans of the medium interested? People say that you need to know your audience. More often than not the general public thinks comics are for kids, and mostly about super heroes. How do we show people this isn’t the case and get them interested?
I already have personal factors working against me when trying to convince someone to try reading comics. I'm a full time IT professional, I.E. "The Computer Guy" which is frankly a strike against me. When the conversation begins I'm already working from a deficit. Sales people will tell you to know your customer, know what they like, know what they want and sell them your product based on that. This is how I approach sharing comic books with potential new readers.
The people who usually end up asking me about the comics I read are friends, family and co-workers. People I know well and already have an idea what they might like. My friend Sophia is a prime example. Sophia is an avid reader, on average reading 2 or 3 novels a week. She had never read a comic book, graphic novel, etc. before we became friends. Each Wednesday when I would come from the shop to work she would see me and began to ask me questions about them. Like most typical non-comics readers she assumed comic books were all super-hero comics written for kids. I know Sophia well enough to know she doesn't care about super-hero books, she and she isn't a science fiction reader. I knew that she liked to read romance, fantasy and mystery novels, so when she began to ask me about the comics I was buying I immediately began to think of what titles fit best with the books that she read on a regular basis.
I ended up giving her two series to read to start out with, one being my first 5 trades of The Walking Dead and Blankets by Craig Thompson. After a couple of weeks she told me that she had read both books and loved both of them. We had a long discussion about each book, what we liked about them, what we didn’t and what else there was out there like these. That was the start of her new found love of comics. These days Sophia is reading 10 regular series a month and we have frequent discussions about the comics we're reading. Knowing the person I was selling my "product" to helped to get them interested in books they might never have discovered, and created another fan of comics.
What I have learned about sharing my love of comics with people is this:
- Don't be pushy, no one wants to do something they feel is being forced on them. I'm passionate about comic books, but I have learned to dial back the enthusiasm to be able to talk with someone about why I love comics and what they might like about them too.
- Show your love of comics without shame or fear. If you go to work after buying your books for the week, carry them in, read them in public on your breaks. Lead by example. People's natural curiosity will bring them to you if you show your passion for comics publicly.
- Have a mental list of your "go to favorites". A variety of books you love and would recommend to people depending on their interests. Remember, that trade, stack of issues, or graphic novel you loan to someone will most likely determine if you have made a new fan of comics, or turned someone off of them forever.
How do you share comics with people? How have you learned to show what’s great about comics to people who have never read them before? What mistakes have you made in the past and what did you learn from that? It’s up to all of us, the community of comic book fans, to bring people into this wonderful world we have discovered. The more people we have to enjoy comics with the better it is for all of us, so be the best salesfan you can!
I keep asking my husband for comic suggestions, but he's ignoring my pleas. Do you have any suggestions for a really lonely stay at home mom?ReplyDelete
Jennifer Blood by Garth Ennis :)Delete
One mistake I have made, and probably still do, is very similar to being pushy, and that is forgetting not everyone wants to dive into the deep end of the pool! I love and devour comic after comic, but others are not built that way and simply just want something they can read with little pre-explanation and then not get an avalanche of books following that because they liked that one.ReplyDelete
I love your third suggestion of creating a small section of your shelf to "shit to hand to anyone who wants to try out a comic" of stuff you really enjoy and think others would. I know the comic Daytripper would get thrown on there for sure. Not everything is going to be for everyone, but still nice to have a starting point for YOUR search for a comic they would like.
I would also recommend writing reviews on Amazon and other places for collections you really enjoy. Those reviews really do help, and often are more persuasive than the writeup in the description section. In my head it is like the comic shop owner or someone who also shops at your local comic shop recommending something. I know I would have never picked up Umbrella Academy without some of the Amazon reviews.
I completely agree, I really have to check myself in giving people a huge stack of stuff to read. I start out with the books I think are most accessible & that I can talk with them about the best. Great suggestion about the amazon reviews, that's very true that the general public looks at those and will probably make a choice based on well written reviews. Thanks for the feedback!Delete
Sorry, not sure if it will say or not, but that last comment was from me :)ReplyDelete
Now we know :) Thanks John!Delete
Funny thing happened last night, as I went through my Previews book...ReplyDelete
My housemates and friends were all sitting around the table and having a few beers as I was checking off comics and trades that I'd like to pick up. After enduring a brief interrogation, I was asked, "But aren't they all just super hero stuff?" To which i replied, nonchalantly, "Nah, there's a ton of stuff out there."
I remembered a tweet I read from Fabio Moon or Gabriel Ba (can't remember which brother) which stuck with me: "Comics aren't for everybody, but there's a comic out there for everybody."
I'm not sure if that was the exact tweet, but the sentiment rang true. There are tons of comics out there just about any person with any sort of special interest in anything! It's not all super heroes and capes. Sci-fi, horror, romance, zombie, vampire, monster, drama, thriller, mystery, pornographic, steampunk --I mean, you name it, and it probably exists.
So, of course, my first instinct is to unload all my comic knowledge and pair it with a loan of a stack of comics. But, I held back and allowed their curiosity to unravel...
After the dust settled, I got one interested in checking out "Grim Leaper" and another into "Y: The Last Man". Also told them about my comic shop to pick them up at.
I think the stigma of comics still exists today. People still think that comics are nerdy, super hero books that will rot your brain. But with the huge success of super hero movies and TV shows like Smallville and The Walking Dead, the whole world is getting a taste of the excitement we have for comics and are getting curious.
I think we just need to foster that curiosity and point them in the right direction.
Its so true that comics aren't singular in their style and focus. Thats why I think they are so important as a medium and art form. Thats why its so important to find comics for those people you are introducing them to that are right for them. Its planting that seed that comics can be for anyone that will grow and let them explore all they have to offer.Delete
Good post on an important topic! I was thinking as I was reading if there is a corollary. Music? Sports? Movies? One can be enthusiastic about any topic and therefore turn someone off due to such enthusiasms. I think your point is sound: don't over-sell. Perhaps, 'cultivate' is the right word. You don't want to drown the new reader or over-do it w/ the fertilizer either. There's a shit joke in their somewhere, but I'm not awake enough (yet) to make it.
I think other mediums can be approached similarity, music you love, movies, games but id say most people have their own experience with those mediums, you aren't going to be introducing something completely new to them like comics. You probably aren't going to show someone "music" but you might share an album you love with someone. For a lot of people that comic you show them will be their first experience with the medium, so keeping that in mind its up to us to show them something they will like, not just your all-time-favorite.ReplyDelete