On History: Marketing Your Way Backwards

By | Tuesday, December 17, 2013 Leave a Comment
In working on my comics library (still in progress) I'm coming to the table with several notions of what I want it to be. First, of course, I need ready access to my collection. Pamphlets, graphic novels, reprint collections, magazines, books about comics, original art... Everything that I may use in some way for my writing and/or research. Secondly, still related to that, it should be a working library. That is, I want to be able to use it not just as a place to read, but also a place to write. It should be a decidedly functional workspace where I can, while writing something, quickly reach over to grab any volume so I can verify a fact or cite a quote properly.

Third, I want to celebrate the comics that I love. I want people (myself included) to walk in and see a variety of comic materials that represent the spectrum of comics. To that end, my decor for the room hits on a lot of different aspects of the medium. The original art on the walls comes from four webcomics, an independent graphic novel, an editorial cartoon, a steampunk Western, and a mainstream superhero comic. But I've also got a poster celebrating newspaper strips, a print of one of Jack Kirby's weird sci-fi concepts, and a movie poster/signed cast photo from the never-released Fantastic Four movie by Roger Corman. Finally, I've got some vinyl wall decals up: three small ones of the Avengers, a large Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and a large Asterix & Obelix.

What I very much do NOT want this library to be is a shrine to superheroes, as I've seen so many personal comics libraries become.

But here's something it's lacking so far: real comics history. One of the Avengers decals I've got is Captain America, and the newspaper strip poster utilizes drawings of Nancy & Sluggo and Dick Tracy, but all of them are more contemporary iterations. Aside from one repro sign promoting the Batman newspaper strip and the editorial cartoon, there's nothing visible that really pre-dates 1975 or so.

I recognized this a while back and have tried keeping an eye out for things, but there's really not much out there. A few posters reprinting old Little Nemo strips, and a few repro superhero covers from the 1960s is about it. Dark Horse did run a line of old comic strip character statuettes, but those only ran a few inches high. Barely noticeable in a room full of comics. Bowen Designs did three character statues from EC's heyday, but those are really pricey. Same with the couple of Spirit ones.

But what is there not even that much of? The Yellow Kid. Krazy Kat. Li'l Abner. Pogo. All of those great characters that have seen a great resurgance in reprints the past decade or so. You can get books reprinting their stories, but there's about nothing beyond that.

Now, of course, I understand that the Yellow Kid doesn't have the same commercial resonnace he once did. After all, there hasn't been a new strip in over 100 years! But with the increasingly widespread use of print-on-demand products -- both flat and three-dimensional -- I would think there would be a small, but profitable, market for that type of thing.

And, geez, with print-on-demand, the Yellow Kid in particular would be extremely well-suited to that since you could customize his nightshirt to say whatever you liked! Think of it! Every person could get decorate their wall with a Yellow Kid, each one proclaiming something different! Hully gee, indeed!

Someone get on that, would you? They're not going to sell to the same extent that Chris Hemsworth in battle armor is going to, but I think it'd be great if you could cater to an audience who's less interested in the intellectual property du jour, and wanted to honor something a little older and more historically significant. You're telling me that "We have met the enemy and he is us" is less significant than "For Asgard"?

I'm not saying we need a full line of action figures and under-roos, just that some of the classics could do with a little marketing boost. Has anyone actually done market analysis research on this? There's got to be a way this can work financially. Someone figure this out!
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