Lots of comics retail thoughts brewing in my headspace these days, and not a lot of time to make full articles out of them. So? Occasional blog posts.
Whenever there’s a big comic convention, a lot of comic publishers like to unleash a few choice bits of news to ride at the top of the pop culture tidal wave – and this weekend’s New York Comic Con isn’t really different.
There’s been a lot of cool things announced so far (I’d keep an eye on my Twitter feed for some of the choice bits), but one of the biggest has been the news that Dark Horse will be cornering the Avatar comics market after nabbing a 10-year licensing deal for James Cameron’s Avatar series of movies. Naturally, the internet had some opinions – and so do I.
One thing that can’t be argued: this has the potential to be big. Whether you loved, hated or are indifferent to James Cameron’s Avatar, that movie was seen by a lot of people, and has become a part of the pop cultural landscape. The audience for this can, and should be ridiculously huge. The biggest problem the series faces? Marketing.
For all of the good product they put out, Dark Horse is pretty terrible at marketing. They announce books and completely discard any sense of marketing once the orders are in – and in some cases, they discard the marketing before that point. A new issue one came out from them this week. Can you name it? And what’s it about? I was surprised to see it in the shipment, and I order the damn things for a living and take special care to keep an eye out for new beginnings.
Honestly, a lot of Dark Horse’s books sell on the idea itself, and the creator’s ability to maintain and mobilize a fan base. Hellboy, (which my autocorrect insists upon calling Shelby), Umbrella Academy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Avatar: The Last Airbender are all series that have fairly rabid and entrenched fans – and this has been cultivated by the creators, and how they’ve handled either the property as a brand, or themselves as a brand. Their success comes from people wanting to talk about the books, and not because there was any prompting from Dark Horse itself. It’s honestly why you’re seeing such a sizeable gap from what Star Wars is selling now at Marvel, and what Star Wars was selling under Dark Horse. Even with high profile books like The Star Wars, which adapted George Lucas’ original bonkers Star Wars script, the needle didn’t rage ping off the charts. The books were always good (Dark Horse books usually are), but the efforts always stop there.
If this new Avatar venture is to be successful, Dark Horse is going to have to dig in deep. They’re going to have to find some marketable names, and form a solid publication plan – but more than that, once they have that in place, they have to do a full court press on getting word out. Not just “look at who we have writing this, isn’t that cool?” They have Greg Rucka writing an upcoming Dragon Age book, and I’ve forgotten about it’s existence several times over – and I love Greg Rucka. And let me tell you: Marvel hasn’t offered me one opportunity to forget he’s writing a Star Wars tie-in right now. Both are properties I don’t normally care about otherwise. See the communication gap?
This could be huge. It could bring in a lot of eyes – but people need to be aware. And yes, it is my job as a retailer to make people aware, but it’s always hard when a publisher doesn’t make the effort to keep noise going and build interest.
And yes, there’s absolutely more to explain here, but work is about to start. Must go off and sell comics to the wonderful people.
Hey, did you know that Greg Rucka will be writing an upcoming Dragon Age book? That’s pretty cool.