BLAARGH! Comic Book Advertising and the Lack Thereof

Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say“BLAARGH!“

Not bad, but it's lacking something. And I don't mean his biceps.

A while back I was flipping through an issue of the New Yorker and I came across something incredible. No, not Thacher’s bookmark. It was an ad for the Vertigo comic American Vampire. I’ll let that sink in for a second. An ad. For a comic. In something completely unrelated to comics. It totally blew my mind, and for the life of me I can’t recall the last time I’d encountered such a thing. You see, lately comics have been labeled a dying industry. Whether you agree with that or not, the fact is that less people are reading comics than in previous years, and publishers, especially the Big Two, have become obsessed with the elusive element known as “new readers.” Yet they seem incapable of putting out advertising anywhere other than the comics themselves.

As a comic reader, I’m well aware that Batman is setting up other heroes to protect their countries in Batman, Inc. Ads and previews have been plastered around other DC comics and various comic related web-sites. And that’s it. How would someone who might be interested in getting into comics, who might totally dig the idea and want to check it out, even hear about it? They probably wouldn’t. The lack of advertising done by DC & Marvel in other outlets is staggering. Especially with DC falling under the Warner Bros. umbrella and Marvel now being owned by Disney. You’d think their parent companies would care enough to run some print articles or television spots or something.

But perhaps the most egregious lack of advertising concerns the recent popularity of superhero films. That Thor poster up there is great, but would it really be too much of a bother to add a small “Thor’s adventures continue monthly in Marvel Comics!” blurb down by the credits? If stuff about novelizations and soundtracks can be included, why not the source material as well? Secondly, is there a more captive audience than movie patrons waiting for the film to start?While we used to just have previews of upcoming films, now we’re bombarded by ads for soft drinks, cars and even freaking laundry detergent. So why can’t comic films distributed by Warner or Paramount (and later Disney) attach short trailers touting printed comics? I realize this might be impossible for comic movies from other studios, like the X-Men over at Fox, but when the distributor is working hand-in-hand with the publisher, it seems like an obvious thing to do. How about a thirty second spot featuring images from Ed Brubaker’s run shown before Captain America? Or one spotlighting Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern work before that film? They don’t even have to be recent comics; good introductory books like Batman: Hush could be promoted before the next Batman flick so as to bring in new readers.

The bottom line is that there needs to be comic advertising outside of the comics themselves. I want to see an ad for Fables in some literary magazines. An ad for Morning Glories in Entertainment Weekly. A TV spot for Ultimate Spider-Man. I want young girls to see an ad for Birds of Prey in Seventeen. Because if something isn’t done soon, there might not be anything left to advertise.

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Who ARE these people!?

As one of the co-founders of Panels on Pages, Robert Eddleman will happily read any comic that catches his interest, regardless of publisher. Aside from comics and PoP!, his other passions include worshipping Joss Whedon, getting lost in TV Tropes, and watching muscled men hit each other with folding chairs.

Comments (8)

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  1. Superdoug says:

    Good article. However, both Marvel and DC movies production logos include flashes of images from the comics the movie is going to be about. Granted, it’s not a ‘Buy these at your local comic shop or retailer’ type of ad, but they do include static drawn images in the card for the companies.

    All in all, though, I agree. With the parent companies the Big Two have, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be pushing their printed product. Heck, even Archie Comics shills its products in other mediums!

  2. Ben Gilbert says:

    I remember back in the mid-eighties, Hasbro used to plug the G.I. Joe comic from Marvel at the end of their G.I. Joe toy ads. I have no idea why we don’t see more of this from the movie studios.

  3. John-Michael (Batman25JM) says:

    Great, great article. This topic really grinds my gears. I just don’t get what comic companies are thinking. I do not understand how they expect to get new readers if they only advertise in comic books. Sure, they may get people who already read comics to check out another book, but that’s not going to help them a whole lot in the long run.

    The way it is now they aren’t going to get any people who don’t read comics to start. Their approach now seems to be to cross their fingers and hope the general public just suddenly gets the urge to buy a comic. That’s not going to happen. As popular as comic book movies are they don’t translate into comic sales. You need to get your product out there. Show the people what it is you are selling. I honestly think that if they advertised on TV or before movies, and made the comics look exciting and not just something for nerds, that people would check it out even if they don’t have a natural interest in comics. I’ve tried many a product or movie that I didn’t have an interest in because of an advertisement. That’s just how it is.

    Marvels Point One project really doesn’t make sense to me. It’s been labeled as the perfect jumping on point and it’s main goal is to get new readers. Well, if they are only advertising it in other comic books how is that going to happen?

    Doug, I really don’t think the image flashes have any bearing on anything. They certainly don’t entice people to buy comics. They aren’t really even close to ads. I’d bet they don’t register with a lot of people.

  4. Shades says:

    Or, they could try to be a bit more creative and go the transmedia route, like the indies are doing: http://sotanaht.com

  5. Heytherejeffro says:

    Aren’t the movies advertisements for the characters themselves, and thus serve as the most effective (and expensive) “commercials” conceivable?

    • Robert Eddleman says:

      If so, then the books would see an upswing in sales when the movies are released. To my knowledge, that hasn’t happened yet.

  6. Robert Eddleman says:

    Doug: I’ve gotta agree with John-Michael in that the comics seen in the Marvel opening logo do nothing to promote the books. They’re more like an easter egg for fans.

    John-Michael: Right there with you on the “Point One” thing. I dig the concept, but I don’t think anyone who doesn’t already read comics even knows about it.

  7. Heytherejeffro says:

    All I know is that my store does get that upswing in sales (and foot traffic) whenever big comic movies come out.

    The best advertising these companies can have is when shows like the Walking Dead become smash hits; people tend to want to read source materials to things they enjoy.

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