Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Modest Proposal...

Let's make comics easily available to average Birminghamers

What do you guys/girls think of this... Let's establish a network of independent retailers locally who will let us put our stuff in their stores. Just because the big companies abandoned the newsstands for the comic shops doesn't mean we have to!  :-)

I'd like for people to see comics around in stores, rather than having to make a special trip to a "comic shop". Granted 99.9% of Birmingham would only care about a comic if it had Nick Saban on the cover, and then only for a split second - still there is that .0001% who might be interested! Kids especially are not yet as set in their ways about what is acceptable entertainment, and might buy a comic if it looked interesting - but they might never think to go to a comic shop in the first place if they don't come from a comic book family. We must not let such unfortunates miss the opportunity to have their minds warped forever!

It's also just a lot of fun to put your comics out in the regular world, outside the comics ghetto. I've become better acquainted with the clerks at my local grocery, City Supermarket here on the Southside, through putting my comics in their store. Jim Reed at Reed Books was nice enough to take some as well, though I'm way behind in supplying him with the newest release (also need to follow up with Homewood Toy & Hobby.)

We'd have to work out the details of making or finding some sort of small display rack for 3 or 4 "titles" (maybe it would be designed to hang from counters or walls.) I'm not sure how many of us are self-publishing anything right now? Off the top of my head, I think Chris Garrison and Chris Fason have print comics/GN's available (or something ready to print in small #'s if not?) Maybe this idea would encourage others to do a small print run as well.

Even if you don't have any comics ready to distribute, you can help with ideas about the display, or suggesting possible retailers (or talking to any retailer friends you might have, such as the independent coffee shop you go to, etc.) I know we don't usually get much discussion here, but feel free to comment, I'd like to know everyone's thoughts on this, pro or con, or questions etc. Would you be interested in distributing a comic this way? Do you have any ideas for the display, or retailers we might consider? 


Chris_Garrison said...

A noble dream, Tim!

Firstly, I think we need to harangue Stan at Kingdom Comics to make an Alabama Artists shelf. It could hold:

Your comic, Pete Moss; 99 Reasons to Hate Cats by Tom Briscoe; Hero Happy Hour stuff by Chris Fason; Greyman by Andy Gray; My Small Diary stuff by Delaine Derry Green; Blackout Drunk by James Hislope; Beyond Human by Hal Jones; Tales from the Bog by Marcus Lusk; i535 Comics by Frank Patriot; The Jennifer & Bueno Collection by Andrew Willmore; my Jakey the Jerk and Onion Puss comics; maybe some Howard Cruse and Mark Martin stuff, if you want to include ex-pats (which I guess you should, if you want the shelf to look as good as it could) ... Oh, and stuff by non-Salty 'Hams, like Genius by Afua Richardson, and 12 Gauge Comics (not sure if they actually have any "Alabama Artists," though).

Have I left out anybody? Any Salty 'Hams with stuff in print that I forgot or don't know about?

Whether Stan does it or not, you should ask Vero at Naked Art to put in an Alabama Artists comic shelf, too. I think she would.

The hard part would then be drumming up enough enthusiasm from the artists to get them to actually bring out their comics to put on those shelves. Wrangling Salty 'Ham Cartooneestas is a lot like wrangling cats, so I think you'd have to take a lot of initiative and pretty much do this by yourself. You'll have to harangue the cartoonists, via facebook, email, etc., then physically go to them and pick up the books, then take the books to the retailers, then deliver the money to the artists. That's my guess, anyway. Maybe you'll get lucky and find that they're more cooperative than that.

If I'm right, then adding a list of small groceries and such to your route is just more work for you. It's a lovely vision, to imagine we'd see our local comics all over town, but it might not be very realistic. And also not really necessary, because here's what I think:

If you did manage to institute an Alabama Artists comic shelf at Kingdom and/or Naked Art ... even if it only had 4 or 5 artists involved ... I believe you could easily get an article about it into Birmingham Magazine or Portico or Weld or Black&White or the Birmingham News. Maybe more than one of those. And then maybe a bunch of people would actually go and buy those comics, and keep the shelf going.

Now get to work!

Chris_Garrison said...

I should've also said the Birmingham Free Press, obviously, since we have the hookup through fellow SHC Stephen Smith!

TimR said...

Well it is a noble dream, ha, but it's all about putting regular people eyeballs on those books, not art type people or comic type people. Although of course I'm all for the shelves at Kingdom/Naked Art too.

News articles might be good, but would that create sustained interest? To my thinking, if the comics are in everyday public view, then the covers are advertising the books. "Onion Puss" has a great cover, e.g., I can imagine somebody curious picking that up to check it out. I have actually sold some comics like that, with b&w covers whose design leaves much to be desired.

I like the challenge too - trying to design a cover that can get the average schmoe to sit up and take notice! That's what Mr. Basil Wolverton had to do back in the 40s and 50s. Not these easy mark, comic shop dopes. Let's try and get a pill from Trussville to buy a comic, or a fook from Mtn. Brook!

I'm not wrangling anybody though! Only looking for people who like the idea of returning comics to public view and actually *want* to be part of that! Maybe it's overly optimistic, just throwing it out there.

Chris_Garrison said...

So far, I've pretty much failed at selling any comics, even to people who LOVE comics. So trying to put them over on laypeople sounds even more daunting. But count me in, if you form any specific plans.

dsart said...

If you approach any retail venue, your best bet is to come with a complete package: More than one or two artists. Plenty of inventory. A spin rack or shelf system that looks good, and fits into the layout of the store. Content that fits within the established clientele.

Otherwise you're just begging for a handout, expecting the proprietors to do your work for you. If you're serious about this, make it easy for your retail hosts. that includes bookkeeping, and regular invoices.

If you do it, add Lil Professor to the list.

TimR said...

dsart- Sounds like great advice. I'm not sure we can meet quite those standards at this scale, unless any well-heeled investors get involved. Maybe I have to aim for the more down-and-out, ramshackle business owners (with whom I feel so sympatico anyway.) But I wish we could do it with the style and class you propose. I wish I didn't know in my bones that spinner racks probably cost ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Or might as well.

Little Prof rejected my b&w comics when they were by their lonesome- they were like "No handouts for you, bucko!" Maybe a presentation such as you suggest would change their minds.

Chris- I will definitely let you know, if I flip the switch on this distro. (meaning, I guess, if I find some cereal boxes to use as display racks or something...)

Cheese Wiz said...

This is an awesome idea. I don't really have any print comics but this concept makes me wanna create some. I've had this idea for little 6 page mini comics that you print on one sheet of 8.5x11 and fold up in to a cute little book.