Comic Store In Your Future – Your Typical Free Comic Book Day In 2017

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Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics, writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

Free Comic Book Day has come and gone. It was the typical Free Comic Book Day.

It was a record sales day. Though before people go well then Free Comic Book Day works a little note to go with the day for us. We are having new carpet and painting the store at the end of the month so we are moving out to move back in. We wanted to cut down on the time it will take to move and try not to have as much breakable material for the move. So a lot of the bigger items we auctioned. Such as statues. No one brand new to the store who came in to pick up free comics won a statue or some other big ticket item. Some new customers did win auctions for trades for $5. Hopefully they like the trades they won enough to come back someday.

Though I did notice something with new people in the store. The Guardians of the Galaxy of the Galaxy Free Comic was a hit. It’s free. They were interested in Guardians of the Galaxy since it was the weekend the movie came out but they did not know which Guardians of the Galaxy or characters comics they should get for purchase. The All New Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians Dream, Guardians Mother, Guardians not your mother, Rocket Raccoon, Star Lord, or Gamora were all on the shelf to pick from. I tried to focus on All New Guardians of the Galaxy since it was new and hopefully will be an ongoing monthly series that would last longer than 12 issues this time? Various people said they didn’t like the cover art. Then came the explaining of limited series for the other two Guardian titles. Then came the awkward explaining that Rocket Raccoon was canceled but coming back out as Rocket. And then with Star Lord was the awkward that was the last issue. Explaining all this I could see that some of them were thinking that’s a lot to take in and a lot of comics. A lot of comics means a lot of money. And on Free Comic Book Day no one has ever come in saying I am here to spend a lot of money since the mentality mostly is to get freebies and maybe buy one comic since they are getting so much free material. The new people that are actually interested in picking up Guardians of the Galaxy as a purchase at first thought it would be easy. They most likely thought there would be just one title to pick from. But Marvel doesn’t make it easy.

On May 3rd three different 1st issues of Guardians of the Galaxy comics came out. Star Lord had just been canceled the month before. So comic wise interest in the Guardians wasn’t that high to start with. Why? Part of it is because Marvel is busy promoting and hyping an event while on damage control with Secret Empire 1 which also came out on May 3rd. Even though Marvel says limited series don’t sell and Secret Empire is a limited series. Though as I have pointed out basically for the last few years all of Marvel’s comics have been limited series since they re launch so often.

So I have come to the conclusion that Marvel’s biggest problem is Marvel itself. If they have a title that is a “hit” they spin it off. If a comic character has an upcoming movie they launch a new title because of the upcoming movie. Not because sales are growing on say Amazing Spider-man and maybe a new Spider-man title will be a hit but because there is a movie coming out. Yes, the $9.99 Amazing Spider Man comic was the number one selling comic for Marvel according to Diamond for the month it came out. Now watch the following issues drop in sales over the following months. A $9.99 issue needs to feel worth it. Not just filler material and a money trap. Captain Marvel over the years has not been a character that sells well. But there is a movie coming out so she keeps getting a series. Shouldn’t sales be the reason a title keeps getting published?

Fantastic Four was canceled because of Marvel.

Inhumans who keep getting cancelled keeps coming back. Not because of demand or sales. But because they have a T.V. series. Royals based on the Inhumans is going to go the same way that the Agents of Shield comic series went and previous Inhuman series. Canceled and forgotten.

How to lose your fan base? Ignore them. Ignore sales data. Bring back Mockingbird after being truly dead for a long time. Why? Because she is going to be on the small screen. On T.V. Not because the character was missed. She had been gone so long a generation of comic fans didn’t even have a clue who she was. Have her quickly divorce Hawkeye because on the T.V. show Hawkeye will not be appearing with her. Hawkeye is in the Avengers movie after all so no chance of him teaming up with her on either the big or small screen.

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Have Nick Fury have a previously unknown son. Have that son lose an eye. Have this all done so there is a Nick Fury that looks like the movie Nick Fury. Nick Fury’s sales on his new comic? Dismal.

What has Marvel done that is fan driven? Creativity driven? Heck just plain old fun?

DC just announced a project where Nightwing kills his follow superheroes. An Elseworld story but not an official Elseworld story. At least it looks that way in the previews. A gritty no powers allowed world and he is the enforcer. The reaction here in store. Nightwing? Nightwing has a strong fan base. But Nightwing as a hero killer is not working for the fan base. One person hit it on the head. It sounds like a Marvel story.

Long ago Marvel was the House of Ideas. Now not so much.

Marvel’s issues isn’t because DC offered returns. Or diversity isn’t something fans want. It’s Marvel getting in its own way. Black Panther is a hit. So let us have three Black Panther titles and wonder why all three will get canceled instead of having one Black Panther series that sells. He has a movie coming out so we have to milk him out for all we can.

Artists don’t move the sales needle? Marvel has been trying to get artists just to fill out their quotas for the latest new title. Any artist will do it seems like. Meaning they are putting out a new book with a previously unheard of artist or an artist with a small fan base. Same with the writer. Marvel’s talent pool is so depleted they are having trouble moving the sales needle.

What are Marvel’s standards for writers and artists? Anything goes just get the book out?

Valliant’s X-O Man O War has their fans excited. They enjoy the writing. They like the art. As I have harped before the Avengers are known by millions thanks to the various movies, cartoons, and being around for years longer. Yet XO Manowar somehow now outsells the Avengers here in store? Putting “All New” or “Marvel Now” (yet again) isn’t going to increase sales for Marvel. It’s time for more popular writers and artists on their books.

Another reason Valiant is liked here in store is because it has a small core group of books. One could pick up the whole Valiant publishing output each month and not spend that much.

Marvel through their variants and discounts knows how to get us the comic stores to buy their product. Though that seems as far as they go. Often times online I do not read about a current Marvel story arc based on the story itself unless it is their latest mega event limited series crossover. Meaning I don’t hear or read that storyline in say X-Men Blue is just so cool. When it comes to Marvel I don’t get asked did you read the last issue and see what they did? Marvel has lost touch with the readership. Make people want to read your books. Have people asking us for more Marvel material available in store.

I feel like a broken record. Why do I keep harping on Marvel? Because I worry if enough time goes by people will be out of the habit of buying Marvel and into the new habit of not buying Marvel. Sales dropped by 13 percent from last April even with Secret Empire 0 and the Flash Batman crossover being released. I want all the publishers on their A game. I want all the publishers putting out comics that people want to read. Not only did comic sales drop in comic stores so did toys.

The free Secret Empire comic did help sell some of the Secret Empire comics at least. People were a lot less confused than when it came to the Guardians since as of Free Comic Book Day there was only one Secret Empire comic if they wanted to buy into Secret Empire. DC Superhero Girls was very popular. More popular than last year’s issue even. Bongo Comics made kids happy with their Bongo Comics freebie. IDW’s Star Trek Mirror Broken showed there is still a Star Trek fan base. The free Zelda comic was a very big hit.

Biggest surprises was how slow moving the Doctor Who Free Comic was. I remember for a previous year’s Free Comic Book Day Doctor Who blew out of here. This time not so much. Same with Attack on Titan. I also thought Wonder Woman would do better even though it is a reprint.

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Do wish I had kept a copy of the Spongebob comic. Had no idea it had a funny bit about Free Comic Book Day in it.

All the left over stock for Free Comic Book Day I donated to the local movie theater to give away. The free comics being there have a better chance of getting new people into comics at least.

What else did I learn on Free Comic Book Day? We combined our Rod Deals (an event in itself along with 20 percent off) this year with it to make a very crazy day. The biggest thing learned though was that the Wizard World giveaway comics that we raffled that they gave to us on Free Comic Book Day got more new people to return than Free Comic Book Day itself ever did. Who thought I would be saying that? What happened? Wizard World at no charge unlike the comics for Free Comic Book Day sent us and other stores in the area free variants of Walking Dead 1 along with raffle tickets to raffle off tickets to Des Moines Wizard World. I decided instead of giving away the variants to the first people in line I would just have the Walking Dead variants be a part of the raffle. The first 5people are in line to make sure they get as many freebies as possible anyway. And the first few hours are always the most packed so no need to encourage a longer line and more crowding. With Rod Deals going on that day I did not have time to start drawing for the raffle till hours after we had closed. Meaning after Rod Deals is done we usually have to stay a few hours to get everything taken care of. We raffled off the Walking Dead variants along with the Wizard World tickets and other material and called and told people to pick them up by end of the day Wednesday. Those that didn’t pick the comics up or contact us at least then we will redraw and see if those people want the comics. New people that had only just been in our store actually returned to get what they won. And some of them actually bought something.

Pretty darn simple idea by Wizard World. Take advantage of Free Comic Book Day to promote their convention. I liked it sense we received truly free material to give away along with the raffle tickets. Again more new people returned to the store thanks to the raffle than because of Free Comic Book Day by itself. The auctions got new people to return. Granted it is only Wednesday night as I type this up so that may change. People ask why I have Free Comic Book Day and I am truthful. We would be the only store in central Iowa not having it and that would look bad. That isn’t a great reason to have Free Comic Book Day. Kind of like the comic book peer pressure reason. The other reason is I treat it more as a customer appreciation day. Giving back to my customers I can do. A thank you for all their support. If Free Comic Book Day was a business generator for comic stores why did SHIELD Comics in Ames, Iowa have their last day be on Free Comic Book Day? I am not picking on them by any means. I want to point out that if it was this big money maker then wouldn’t it have provided a money boost for them to stay open?

I say this not to trash Free Comic Book Day but to try to push everyone involved to evolve Free Comic Book Day. Make it better. A publisher could simply put a ticket in their free comic book for an exclusive variant or to come back next week for the follow up issue or something. A comic book version of a Willie Wonka golden ticket even. And if they win they come back to the store to get what they won. These are quick ideas of the top of my head. Ideas I stated in a past column.

What is Free Comic Book Day? Advertising by comic publishers that the stores pay for? Savage Dragon had its own comic on a previous Free Comic Day. It didn’t move the needle on Savage Dragon’s comic sales. That is sadly the story with a lot of the comics on Free Comic Book Day.

I remember one year talking with a person whose company had a new comic line coming out. They wanted their comics to be truly free to comic stores for Free Comic Book Day. He told me Diamond told them not to that. That they had to charge something to the comic stores. They were Red Giant Entertainment. They put out various books briefly years ago. One was called Tesla. Featuring Nikola Tesla.

Is Free Comic Book Day just a chance for Diamond to make some extra money? I read online various articles. Went even to the FCBD online page. Maybe it was just me. I didn’t read any reason given for Free Comic Book Day. Other than it being a day for people to get free comics. Was the goal of getting new readers into comics simply given up on?

You have this big Free Comic Book Day event but it hasn’t grown or improved hardly at all over the years. Did Free Comic Book Day just give up on getting new readers into comic stores? What is the point of Free Comic Book Day now?

Wizard World came out the big winner of Free Comic Book Day with ease for us this year because they got us repeat customers. Granted some of them may only be two-time customers and that is it. That is still better than what Free Comic Book Day has done for us in the years we have had it and raffling Wizard World comics one time beat out the various times we have had FCBD. And who knows maybe I will be surprised and next week or even next month people who were here because of Free Comic Book Day may return.

On Free Comic Book Day next year should I just hold a raffle again and not even have Free Comic Book Day? Offer an alternative to Free Comic Book Day? Raffle Day? The cost for me would be a box and raffle tickets which would be less expensive than buying comics for Free Comic Book Day to give away. I have plenty of inventory on hand. And the winners would at least make a return trip to the store. Plus with central Iowa having so many comic stores maybe something different would be even more popular.

I am just a simple comic book store owner. I look at Marvel and think they can easily turn things around. And I look at Free Comic Book Day as this big event that could do so much more.

Comics and More Raffle Day……. hmmmmm…..

Comic Store In Your Future – Your Typical Free Comic Book Day In 2017

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