Hey Fandom!!! Welcome back to the Shop of Ideas. With all the buzz leading up to the recent Watchmen movie, it generated a lot of interest in the original graphic novel, especially among those who had never read it before and wanted to know what the talk was all about. One of our worries with all the lead up to the Watchmen movie was wondering where all the people who read Watchmen as their first graphic novel were going next. We know most everyone reading this column has read Watchmen and continues to seek out and find more great comics, but what about new readers? We expressed this concern to DC Comics way back in August, and their marketing department came through big time.
We also have gone on record as wanting a Vertigo Free Comic Book Day offering, since we do most of our outreach to adults. DC’s After Watchmen, What’s Next program is a big win on both those fronts. If you’re a long time fan, there’s probably something in the After Watchmen push you haven’t read, and there’s plenty to use to get your friends reading comics. If you work at a comic shop, check out how we’ve used this program to help newcomers find great assessable graphic novels and sample a few for free.
Shop of Ideas Video:DC Comics picked 20 graphic novels that they called “Award-winning titles for new fans just discovering graphic novels and established readers looking to try something new”. They broke it down into five categories: More books by Alan Moore, Books that push the boundaries of science fiction, Best-selling books from best-selling authors, books that redefine modern super heroes, and books for mature readers. What this does for comic retailers is provide a tighter focus. By racking these books together with Watchmen and using all the materials DC created, we got more crossover sales. It’s easy for an owner or employee to read and be knowledgeable on all twenty of these books. We created “Top Book” signs for all these books and built a rack for them and the Watchmen graphic novel across from our DC racks. Having a focus on a handful of books that anyone new to comics can get into really worked to make new fans feel comfortable and see a visual representation of all the selection of books they can try without being a “comic book guy”. Some of our long time readers went down the list of twenty, and the one or two they hadn’t read stuck out and became their next purchase. One guy wanted to know why I never told him about WE3; he was so well read I didn’t think to suggest older books to him.
The response to “After Watchmen” was great so we took stock of the entire store and picked the best Marvel and independent graphic novels. Marvel has several books that redefine modern super heroes, like Wolverine Origin. Also one of the best Indy science fiction books out there is Top Shelf’s The Surrogates. And the answer to the question “Who watches the Watchmen?” is Dynamite’s The Boys. This is a way to make your shop new-reader friendly while highlighting the best stuff for the regulars. As with most retail business, 20% of your product accounts for 80% of your sales. Focusing on the best fifty titles in the shop helps grow that. Do all your employees know the pitch for all the best stuff, or does one employee champion ignorance of all DC or all mainstream titles? Do you prioritize keeping your top fifty selling books in stock at all times? Do all the best titles get full facing with signs telling customers why they’re good, or are they spine out in alphabetical order so people who already know what they want can find it?
This is the first Free Comic Book Day after the Watchmen movie, and DC’s After Watchmen, What’s Next program provided us with five awesome comics to give free to anyone who saw Watchmen! From our point of view, that’s true. Watchmen’s a rated “R” movie, so people who liked that can enjoy mature reader books. Also DC printed single-issue comics of Preacher, Swamp Thing, Identity Crisis, Transmetropolitan, and Planetary priced at $1.00 each. Comic shops get them at the highest discount, so we pay 40 cents a pop for them. Most Free Comic Book Day comics cost us about 40 cents each! The big publishers’ main FCBD books are about a quarter a pop, but other than those we’re shelling out 40 cents. So why not give these After Watchmen, What’s Next books out to adults who come in on Free Comic Book Day? We’ve been giving these books free to people who’ve expressed an interest the whole time now because the potential return if they liked it is awesome. This is anecdotal, but we had a guy come back for all nine Preacher volumes. For the longest time now I’ve whined that I can’t get a mature reader Vertigo book to give away on the first Saturday in May, when my main mission is to get adults to read comics. Now in a round about way DC gave me four in one year and Identity Crisis has some pretty mature themes. Think about holding these books behind the counter and giving them only to adults you think will like them. They’ll have more perceived value than the FCBD books because they’re marked at $1.00. The Swamp Thing, Preacher and Identity Crisis dollar issues are still available for reorder.
DC Comics has announced another wave of five After Watchmen, What’s Next single-issues for July. This wave includes one of my favorites, Y the Last Man! Keep an eye out for them in the May issue of Previews. I’d suggest buying the heck out of Y the Last Man, putting a sticker with your shop’s location and website and maybe a 10% off offer on it for volume one, and leave them at college campuses, coffee shops, and tattoo parlors.
What books do you think DC should do next for the After Watchmen program? What books do you think people should read after Watchmen from Marvel or any other publisher? Would you like to get these After Watchmen books free on Free Comic Book Day? The After Watchmen program has been a great tool for us as retailers; hopefully you or your store gives it a try.We’ll be giving out After Watchmen comics free on Saturday May 2nd to people over 18 years old. That’s in addition to all to regular free comic book day books (DC’s Blackest Night and Marvel’s Avengers are both new material leading into their next big events)! Also, pin-up artist Joe Pekar will be on hand to do some “adult” sketches and help us prove that if you want to get people of all ages into comics, you need something for the adults too!
Joe Pekar’s site, http://www.joepekar.com/
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