On Business: Foil Covers, Take 2
But I'm sitting back here at Kleefeld HQ, and watching the various debates around gay characters in Archie, racism in Captain America and sexism in Batgirl; and there are a lot of interesting points being brought up. "You were okay with Frog Thor, but not okay with a female Thor?" "Is this going to be a Black Captain America, or a Captain America in blackface?" "How are lace-up boots less practical than spandex and high heels?" And so on. Lots of valid points being made there, as I said.
I've seen a few other people note that all this buzz isn't going to do much good because the books are pretty impenatrable to new readers. The Archie issue evidently has two full pages of backstory to get people caught up to speed. Two pages! On Archie, what has historically been one of the most consistently accessible franchises in the past 40-50 years!
So people hear some of the buzz, and call their LCS and maybe pick up a copy or two. Because it's important. Because it's significant. Because it's a piece of comic book history. Because it's collectible.
And therein lies my concern. You know, it was a nice bit of marketing a few years ago when Marvel killed off Captain America. They got some good PR out of it, and it got a lot of people to pick up the book who might not otherwise. But that was done pretty much in isolation. It happened to be a slow news day, as I recall, which helped but that was pretty much the only comic announcement of consequence for some time on either side of that date. It was an event because it stood out as an event.
But with all the publishers jumping on the "we have a PR-worthy event" bandwagon, it cheapens the importance of all of them. How much has the Batgirl talk died down in the wake of a female Thor? Hell, the most I heard about Batgirl after that were jokes about how DC was making these super-timid advances, even compared to Marvel's pretty timid advances.
But that whole "everybody's doing something special which makes nothing special" idea? That was last seen in comicdom when we were inundated with a flood of foil covers, embossed covers, die-cut covers, neon ink covers... And, as you'll recall, that led to a pretty nasty collapse when all the non-comics people realized that they were buying gimmicks that ultimately wouldn't be worth the fortune they thought they would be and stopped buying altogether.
Now, granted, a good story in a comic is more likely than a foil cover to pull in a reader for the long-term, even if the initial hook is pretty gimmicky. And all the announcements we've seen could potentially lead to good, even great, stories.
But, we've heard retailers weigh in and talk about how they would get a flood of phone calls after, say, Spider-Man teamed up with Barack Obama, and a bunch of people would rush in to buy the issue, and the retailer would never see those customers again. So the question I'm wondering is: will these media event stories be the cause of another comics industry implosion? I certainly hope not, but it's something I'll be keep my eye on to see other signs for.