What's a Picture Worth — by Greg

In the last couple blogs, we discussed the current slate of superhero movies setting the summer box office ablaze and the inability of comic publishers to take advantage of this massive interest and of their seeming unwillingness to provide heroes in comics (like they do on screen) that are worth cheering for.
I mentioned my own experience with seeing the Avengers movie and walking out, surrounded by groups of wildly enthusiastic kids, bristling with energy and excitement, and how cool it would be if there were COMICS waiting in the lobby for them to clamor over.
A few days ago my friend Tara Pontani Schad posted a photo of her twin boys leaving an early morning showing of the Avengers in NYC. When I saw it, I about fell outta my seat. Well, as the old saying goes ... a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case it was like the entire theme of what we were discussing in the past couple of posts had literally come to life right before my eyes.
And so ... say hello to Kasey and Jackson, seconds after walking out of the Avengers movie.

As a comic book (and super hero) fan, this is perhaps the single coolest photo I’ve ever seen. I mean, come on. This photo encapsulates everything about why we all fell in love with superheroes in the first place. Check these two awesome guys out. Proudly wearing their Hulk and Captain America shirts, grinning ear to ear, ready to take on the world. Filled with absolute, unwavering JOY from watching their heroes kick some serious bad guy butt.
Think these two guys would benefit from some Avengers comics to look at in the lobby? Maybe a Captain America or Iron Man trade?
And furthermore, don’t you think the Schad boys (and the comic industry) would benefit from there being more superhero comics that tap into this sense of glee and empowerment that the Avengers movie did?
Tara said she is already experiencing frustration in trying to supply her boys with the superhero goodness they crave. There are comics made for little kids and then, bam, right into the blood, gore and gloom. There’s no middle ground. Again, no one is making the argument that there shouldn’t be the typical dark, depressing, fatalistic offerings that exist now. It’s just that there has to be an alternative. There has to be something else.
What the publishers of superhero comics (and ancillary properties) are doing now is tantamount to the classic sales technique of Bait and Switch. The superhero comics aimed at kids (the ones that are supposed to turn them into life-long comics readers) clearly demonstrate the classic archetypes of a hero, showing how they put the lives of others above their own, how they fight for what is right and good without any further explanation needed, and how they are honorable and noble and would never take another life, even those of the bad guys, thereby instantly turning themselves from jury to executioner.
And then, after selling kids this ideal for years ... surprise, the comics aimed for an older reading audience pull a terrible ‘switch’ by turning all those sensibilities on their heads. Sorry kids, heroes aren’t really heroic. They are psychopaths who smash, kill, maim and never smile or find joy in anything. Hope you have fun reading all about them!
Anyway, I’m done. Leave it to a writer to say a picture is worth a thousand words ... and then go on to spew words, words, and more words. Besides, there’s nothing else to say. Kasey and Jackson have said all that needs to be said in that photo. They want their heroes. And, you know what? They deserve them. The comics industry owes it to them.
So, if you are involved in the comic industry at all (or just love it), look at the photo again. No industry could ask for better emissaries than Kasey and Jackson. The industry should be honored to have them as (very enthusiastic) fans and it should be doing everything it can to cater to them. To keep them enthusiastic.
Feed them nothing but hopelessness and despair and you are going to lose them. Give them something to cheer about, something to hope and dream about, well, then, it might just be a better future for us all.

Lobbying For Comics — by Greg

So we’ve already established my crazy love for the Avengers movie. Fun, action-filled, strong character development and the final 45 minutes are, well, they’re almost impossible to be put into words. As I mentioned, several times I had to fight the urge to jump from my seat and cheer. And with that perfect final shot, I didn’t even try to restrain myself ... I let out a cheer and began to applaud. Sure, this went against my normally calm and restrained demeanor but what the hell, I’ve waited 40 years for a movie like this so I figured the deranged three-year-old behind me kicking my seat would forgive me the outburst.
When I left the theatre I was pumped, no question, as were a swarm of enthusiastic kids all around me. Buzzing. Talking excitedly about the movie. And the Avengers! At that moment, those kids were thinking of nothing else. Captain America! Thor! Iron Man! And the freakin’ Hulk!! As great as the movie was, these kids wanted more.
I’m sure they would have gladly dug the very last, grime-covered penny from their pockets to buy an Avengers-related item at that moment. Anything! Like, for instance, ... a comic book.
Yea, that’s right ... a comic. Those paper pamphlets that have been the inspiration for movies and television shows that have now generated tens of billions of dollars. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. Because, sadly, most of those kids haven’t.
That’s right. All over the world, there are people paying their hard-earned money to watch Batman Begins, and Spider-Man, and X-Men First Class and Superman Returns and The Avengers and Men in Black 3, all without having any idea that these movies are based on characters, situations and stories generated from COMICS.
And what better time to educate them than when they are a captive audience. How about one-minute films that run just before or after the previews that explain how comics are made — the writing, artwork, coloring, etc. How cool would that be? The answer is: Very! And more importantly, these films can explain that as soon as everyone leaves the theater, they can purchase these cool comics that will allow them to further thrill to the adventures of the characters they’ve enjoyed so much on screen.
And where can they find these comics? Well, for starters ... how about in the movie theater lobby?! Those amped up kids leaving the Avengers movie ... how much do you think they would have loved to be able to pick up an Avengers title right at that moment? Or a Captain America solo book? And how is it possible that this has not yet happened?
Comic books are the only mass media I can think of that has actually become more difficult to purchase over the years instead of easier. I can hop in my car and drive to at least 10 different stores within three miles from me that sell DVDs, 10 different stores that sell books and magazines, as well as a movie theater with 17 screens. But the closest place to buy comics is nearly a thirty-minute drive — a small comic shop on the south side of town.
We won’t get into a long discussion of the direct market right now, but, seriously, what kind of business model removes a product from stores where 90 percent of the population does its shopping and places them in remote, exclusive stores that only diehard fans visit? (Please don’t answer; I’m just being rhetorical).
When these youngsters are dumped back into the lobby after watching the Avengers, (or the Amazing Spider-Man, etc.) you can bet they’re not going to ask mom and dad to take them to the local comic shop. Because 99 percent of them don’t even know where the local comics shop is! But if there were comics right there in the lobby, perhaps they would buy them, take them home and read them ... and it would turn into a life-long love affair with comics as happened to all of us.
And then they would seek out the comic shop.           
Let’s do some quick math, ‘cause math is fun. Avengers has sold approximately $1.4 billion in movie tickets. If we use $10 per ticket as an average, then 140 million individual tickets were sold. Now, if just one person in ten purchased a single $3 comic in the lobby after the show, it would come to $42 million in revenue! Not bad for a struggling industry.
During a recent visit to my local Barnes and Noble, I was happy to see an entire display table devoted to the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, due, obviously, to the new movie just released. I was not nearly as happy when I saw that the table, devoted to one of the greatest characters ever created in comic books ... didn’t have any comic books on it! Yep, the table had a Spider-Man monopoly game, some toy web-shooters, coffee mugs, journals, sticker books, and even some Spider-Man bobble heads. But no comics, either in pamphlet or trade form.
This is what can only be described as a missed opportunity. And a huge one. Naturally, the Big Two comic publishers are owned by movie studios. We all get that. But why would you promote the movies so heavily without at least giving a little love to the comics that make the movies possible? Again, a group of teens passing by this table after having seen the Spider-Man movie would be left cold.
But if they were to miraculously discover a beautiful trade paperback at their local bookstore, or the latest issue of Iron Man or Batman in the lobby of their theater, no telling what that could create downstream.
Perhaps it would create the one true thing that can help the industry thrive: a passionate, life-long fan of comics.