On Business: A Mysterious Comics Company?

By | Monday, January 29, 2018 Leave a Comment
One day, you receive in the mail a small package from a law firm with a letter stating that, after a great deal of research and some minor legal battles, they have determined that you are the rightful and soul heir of the estate of somebody you've never heard of. The letter goes on to state that some of the estate's effects are included in this package, and you'll be receiving two additional mailings with the remainder of the estate. You look through the package you received and find some newspaper clippings, a few pages torn out of some reference book, an old portrait photograph, some postcards, several typewritten pages that look like diary entries, and a small stone that looks like it was carved into a beetle-like shape. As you read through the paper materials, you realize that their original owner -- the person who evidently somehow willed this to you -- was an amateur Egyptologist and, a little over 100 years ago, was about to embark on an expedition to find a previously unknown tomb based on some of some clues she's found. But there's a rival who's seen the same clues and is more interested in the possible tangible riches there, and they set off in a race to get see who can get to it first.

Sounds a little like an Indiana Jones story, right?

This is basically the lead-in to one of the packages offered by The Mysterious Package Company. The idea is that you purchase one of these packages as a gift for someone. They get the aforementioned letter and ephemera and, over the course of the subsequent packages, follow the story of some harrowing adventure through a series of "found" artifacts. The story isn't relayed in simple start-to-finish prose, but through this variety of materials that paint an overall narrative that the recipient essentially has to piece together themselves. So it feels very much like you're learning about someone's life based on the effects they left behind. The materials all appear to be authentic; papers are crinkled and aged, ink has faded. For all intents and purposes, everything looks to be exactly what it's presented as. And while it all is indeed fiction, the recipient doesn't know that. So they get absorbed into an adventure that happened before they were born. (After the final mailing, they do get a follow-up letter saying it was actually a gift from so-and-so, and everyone hopes you enjoyed the adventure, etc.)

I found out about it a little over a year ago and ordered a package for my folks. I remained intrigued and more recently ordered one for myself. While I am in on the hoax by sending one to myself, I still found their storytelling to be brilliantly executed and the materials completely absorbing. I spent literally hours with each package's contents sprawled across the kitchen table as I tried to piece together the same clues that my ostensible benefactor did.

So how does this relate to comics?

One of the trends in marketing the past several years has been that people are less interested in stuff and more interested in experiences. I talked to this a few years ago, and noted at the time that the bigger companies have a budget advantage to create a bigger, more impressive experience for their audience by making a more immersive environment. But what if you made something like what I described above, but for comics? "You're the legal heir of Art Rosen; here are his effects." And you get a 50-year-old uncashed check from Atlas, a page of original comic art, some correspondence from a comics editor, a page from a ledger showing some job numbers and deadlines, and a dried-out brush and empty bottle of India ink. Maybe the story revolves around a rights dispute over some character and while Rosen ultimately won control, it was never published.

Or what about getting something from the estate of an artist who ghosted for Bob Kane?

Or something from a Bill Blackbeard type who collected comic strips in the 1920s?

Or the diary entries and some gifts from a woman who frequently modeled for artists at the Eisner-Iger Studio, and for whom some of the artists competed for her affections?

I think there'd be plenty of stories you could generate and incorporate a heavy comics angle to. If the materials were put together well (as the ones from The Mysterious Package Company are) you could craft some brilliant and totally believable storylines that could be just as entertaining and engaging as the ones I've seen so far. I don't imagine it would be particularly cheap to set up, but I don't think it would be impossible either. Certainly more realistic than trying to put together something like The Marvel Experience or the Justice League: Alien Invasion ride. Maybe something that could be Kickstartered.

Whoever opts to go start something like this, be sure to tell me about it, though! I'll want to sign up right away!
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