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Why I Focus on Guys Like IDW Publishing and Boom Studios

One of the questions that seems to come up a lot — both directly to me and filtered down through the “grapevine” — is: “Why do you hate IDW Publishing so much?”

Variations of the question will include names like Boom Studios, Top Cow and others I have mentioned in my various posts on the failings of the marketing/sales efforts of comic book publishers.  I also get the random “Why do you hate ME” from comic creators working for those companies.

At first, those statements made me chuckle.  Now they come up often enough where I feel like I should address them all at once to clear the air.  Let’s start with the big one first.

Joshua Fialkov.  I didn’t realize referring to you as “That Evil John Byrne Looking Guy” was going to be taken as an insult.  I’d seen you at a few cons, but had no clue who you were and, amongst people I knew, that was how I referred to con sightings of you.  You were my “Bigfoot.”  I Tweeted about it because I was excited to finally figure out who you were.  Even more excited because we actually travel in a lot of the same circles (ask Eric Calderon about me) and I’m a fan of your work.  I loved Tumor and am enjoying Echoes.

That being said…if I came across that animated gif of you acting like a character in “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out” anywhere but on your website, I’d have said, “Wow, what’s 1985 John Byrne doing in an animated gif?

Moving on to the slightly less important question: “Why do I hate IDW Publishing, Boom Studios, Top Cow or (fill-in secondary comic book publisher name here)?”

Honestly?  It’s the exact opposite.  I am one of the biggest comic book fans you will ever find, and I will defend that statement to my dying breath.  I own 150,000 comics. I ran the first comic book conventions in Hawaii back in the 80s as a kid. I used to co-own a comic shop. I went to comic book school, drew comics and published comics!  Heck, I learned to read because of comics (I’ll refrain from bringing up again that my first comics were “Warlock #14” and “Marvel-Two-In-One #18” back when they were new).

Even more relevant to this particular discussion, I’m a big fan of both IDW and Boom.  By “fan” I mean, I actively spend money purchasing their books every month.  I buy every art book that IDW puts out, and pick up quite a few of their comics (loved the FX stuff, read the Hama GI Joe, enjoy their Doctor Who work, etc).  Same for Boom — for me, their Darkwing Duck series is one of the best things on the market.  Also, I love that Mark Waid is essentially doing a 1980s Comico/Pacific Comics super hero book with Irredeemable and has convinced fans that it is something new and fresh.  I’m a big fan of that era of comics, so it’s a treat for me.

In terms of Top Cow, like a lot of artists, I felt that Marc Silvestri was, hands down, the most talented artist of the Image founders.  I was a big fan of their stuff back when they were in the business of producing and supporting comics.  Now that they’ve become a TV/Film pitch company, I’m not really picking up any of their stuff.  Nothing against what they do or their creators, I’d just prefer a company more interested in supporting their product than in trying to get movies made.

So there you go. Big fan. Still spending hundreds of dollars each month on comics and have been for decades.

I’m guessing the follow-up question would be: “If you’re such a fan, why are you so hard on those guys?”

It’s because I am a fan — and a fan who happens to have a bit of experience in comics and comic publishing, and a ton of experience in Internet/niche marketing — that I am so hard on them.  I do not want to see companies who currently produce the majority of the comic books I buy go the way of Devil’s Due Press, Crossgen, Valiant or Dreamweave.

When I see companies like IDW or Boom, who produce some of the highest quality product on the market, conducting business like amateurs, it annoys me.  These guys are spending money on marketing, PR and sales people who are taking that cash and giving them nothing beyond sending in Previews solicitations or attending comic conventions in return.

So I talk about it.  Some might say “complain.”  I prefer “talk” or “discuss.”

I take it a step further and give them free advice on how to fix their sales/marketing/distribution issues — advice that I’m generally hired for ridiculous amounts to give companies.  Advice based on my own experience as an Internet marketing guy who sent out more than $5,500,000.00 in sales last year alone.

The truth of the matter is this, IDW and Boom (and Ape and every other licensed publisher out there) are not only throwing away money on their big licenses, but they are also leaving money behind by ignoring basic, first year marketing techniques.  With just a little bit of a marketing plan, and no real extra cost, they could be taking advantage of the single largest sales and marketing channel on the planet and, more importantly, take advantage of an established consumer base versus trying to over-milk the comic book industry.  Sure, selling comics to a rapidly decreasing comic book market is easier and takes less thought/work/initiative, but it also limits your sales.

At a meeting with the fine folks at IDW recently, one of their guys was rather proud when he told me they were producing more comics with fewer people than Dark Horse.  My thought was, why not produce fewer titles and focus on building sales instead?  Wouldn’t that be more cost effective and much healthier for the business?  Interestingly enough, most of that meeting seemed to be about their marketing guy making excuses as to why they weren’t able to do real marketing work there at the company.  The man had obviously been rehearsing the speech.

That attitude is why I focus on those guys so much.  Seeing companies ignoring even the most basic of marketing and branding techniques just ruffles my feathers as a marketing person.

I long for the day when two of my favorite comic companies finally pull their heads out of their asses and start doing smart, logical business.  Until then, I plan to keep poking fun at them and hoping for a miracle.

In spite of what Eric Powell said in his video, the problem with the comic book industry isn’t too many superhero comics, it’s the lack of basic business sense in the companies, all of the companies.  Comic publishers aren’t able to sell more comics because they really don’t want to.

-Mat Nastos, Super Genius

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Mat Nastos
TV, Film, comic book, fantasy & steampunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. You can find his work on Smashwords or at his Amazon Author Page.

4 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    Really good article, but here’s my question/problem, as someone who does graphic design, it seems the smaller comics publishers simply don’t hire or even want people to work corporate design,there are so many other things that these companies could do, but simply don’t. It’s frustrating, especially since a lot of the advertisement in comics seem half-baked and are simply pin-up pieces with a title slapped on them.

    • Mat Nastos says:

      Thanks for the comment. It’s a bit off-topic. I think most self-publishers (I’m assuming that’s who you’re talking about here) really just see ads as space filler to make up whatever number of pages they need to hit the standard 32 page total. For the most part, and you’ll probably be pained to hear this, professionally designed ads would be a waste of resources for the majority of indy publishers. Again, totally off-subject, so I’m going to end this particular tangent here.

  2. Jim MacQ says:

    You’re exactly right as always. Even DC and Marvel have forgotten that it’s possible to sell comics outside the established fanbase and dedicated retailer channel. The smaller companies don’t even believe it’s ever been done.

    Re the off-topic discussion, advertising design is really the responsibility of the advertiser. The publisher generally asks for camera-ready art or charges a design fee for creating the ads.

  1. February 2, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mat Nastos, James Ninness. James Ninness said: RT @niftymat: New blog post about my love affair w/ @IDWPublishing, @BoomStudios & more – http://bit.ly/e7H5eo […]

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