Comics for Content Marketers

comics-for-content-marketers1-smOver the past three or so years, I’ve been getting up on stage and talking about visual content marketing and what web designers can learn from comic book artists. You can see one of my decks here: “Seven & a Half Tips to Jump Start Your Visual Content Strategy.”

At the end of my presentations, there are always a few people who talk about how they’d like to check out a few comics, but they don’t know where to get started. Or that they’ve walked into a local comic store, were overwhelmed by the choices, and left without buying anything.

Hence, I’ve compiled a list of a few comics that curious, intelligent adults may want to explore. All of this is based on my personal preferences, so your actual mileage may vary. Oh, and none of these have anything to do with content marketing, except that you probably saw me speak at a marketing conference.

Or maybe it’s brain candy that will help you become more effective at visual storytelling.

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Snikt! Wolverine Infographic Claws Way to Successful Content Strategy

Wolverine Infographic Cropped

Wolverine Infographic Cropped. Click for full-size image.

If you haven’t yet seen it, there’s a terrific infographic featuring the popular Marvel Comics superhero Wolverine. Much of the world became familiar with the Wolverine character through his portrayal by Hugh Jackman in the X-Men movies.

But Wolverine was a fan favorite, ever since his introduction in Incredible Hulk #181 (1974). The character exploded in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s and continues to be an A-list character in the comics and on the silver screen.

I discovered an infographic on Gizmodo.com and was impressed with the way the designer managed to incorporate the right amount of design, text, and layout to this rather complex character.

This was no average fan. This was a pro designer at work and this infographic was quickly going viral. At the bottom of the infographic was a cleverly placed URL that drove you to a website where you can buy costumes.

Yep, you guessed it, there are even costumes of Wolverine. This was a fantastic example of visual content marketing in action. They knew who the audience was, what would draw them in, and how to get them to their target website.

Two of the architects behind this content marketing campaign were Kate Willeart and Mark Bietz. They sat down for a brief email interview to discuss their content strategy tactic from a marketing perspective.  (Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series. Check out Part 2.)

 

BUDDY: To get started, can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?

Kate Willaert

Kate Willaert

KATE: My name is Kate Willaert, and I’m a graphic designer for Fun.com (and its sister sites HalloweenCostumes.com and T-Shirts.com). My job includes web design, creating t-shirt designs, and designing marketing materials such as infographics.

MARK: I’m Mark Bietz, VP of Marketing for Fun.com and I lead the marketing strategy here.

 

Just for context, there’s this great infographic that painstakingly details the costumes of the Marvel superhero character Wolverine. At the bottom is a URL for HalloweenCostumes.com. Can you describe how this project came about?

KATE: The Wolverine piece is actually the third in a series of superhero costume infographics I’ve designed, which previously included Iron Man and Superman. The inspiration came from an infographic I saw comparing the cost of Batman and Iron Man’s estates — their suits, their houses, their cars, etc. You get to the bottom of this infographic and see that it’s by an insurance company. I thought that was really clever. Continue reading

Marketing Obscure Comic Book References

Captain America The First Avenger Movie Poster

Superheroes are back! Well, at the movie theaters at least they are. Love ’em or hate ’em epic comic book battles are generating big buzz and big dollars on the silver screen.

As a marketer, it’s easy to observe the big, obvious things about movies based on comic books. There’s a built-in audience: check. There are usually top stars and/or directing talent: check. There’s usually some impossibly large budget: check. That’s the obvious stuff.

Then there’s the geek stuff. As you may know, I am a big comic fan, so I get into these tiny references that are like catnip for fans. It’s small stuff (and some big stuff) that won’t even register for the average moviegoer. But for the devoted comic fan, it can be pure joy. Continue reading

Google Doodles Will Eisner

Google Doodle Will Eisner

Google Doodle Will Eisner

In a pleasant surprise this morning, Google‘s logo was changed to celebrate the birthday of Will Eisner.

For those of you not familiar with the name Will Eisner or the Eisner Awards ceremony, it’s worth noting that Eisner is considered one of the original giants in the comic book industry. He was a prolific and influential comic book writer/artist who pushed the boundaries of the medium.

Eisner is credited with coining the term “graphic novel” as he published one of the first major self-contained, long-form comic book stories. He was the creator of the classic comic “The Spirit,” which still holds up today, unlike many other early comic book stories. Even by today’s modern standards, “The Spirit” is mature and intelligent, both in story and art.

Eisner was a passionate educator, who published multiple books on the topic of creating comic books, including Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative. These books treated comics like a legitimate medium, providing much-needed respect for the craft of sequential art.
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For Sale: Print

Marvel Comics on iPad

I have seen the future…and I am selling all of my books.

Okay, not all of them, but an awful lot of them. Books, comic books, magazines, and just about everything print. Y’see, I’ve had an Amazon Kindle 2 for over a year now. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing little machine.

But then I saw the iPad, and it changed the way I thought about books, particularly comic books.

Tablets have been around for quite a while. In fact, at work, we run tablet PCs with Microsoft Windows. It’s a nice technology, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t lend itself to reading full novels. Even comics were a little awkward, since you had to use a little stylus to turn the pages of a digital comic.

Apple’s iPad interface is amazing. It’s intuitive, pleasant, and fades quickly into the background. Admittedly, it’s not quite as good as the Kindle when it comes to reading plain text books. But it’s terrific for reading comics. And if they get that screen just a tiny bit larger on the next version — without increasing the total size of the device — it’ll be about a darn near perfect comic book reading experience.

Lots of comic book friends think this is just crazy, but I happen to think that it’s the way I’ll be consuming comics in the future. Sure, part of the comic book hobby is bagging, boarding, and saving your comics. But if you think about it, that’s just a tradition rooted in print and distribution.

Back in the early days, comic books were distributed on the news stand. If you wanted comics when you were a kid, you went to the nearest news stand, pharmacy, or convenience store and got your issues. The problem was that there were very few comic book stores, so it was difficult, and often very expensive, to find back issues of comic books. Scarcity increases price, so that’s the short version of why some old comics are expensive. More people want them than there are comics to buy, and suddenly, people are paying a million dollars for a single issue of Superman.

Because of this relative scarcity of back issues — and the fact that some comic book stories are one long serialized saga — people learned to buy and collect comics. A supporting industry sprung up that supplies bags, boards, boxes, and just about ever variation in between. Multiply that by a few decades of my personal collecting fervor, and I have a room that’s seemingly overrun with white boxes.

As I stare at the iPad, I wonder how many comics will fit on this device? Better yet, how many will fit on my Mac, which I can transfer over to an iPad or whatever device? How many boxes can I possibly clear out of my collection, and how much of my man cave will I be able to reclaim?

One by one, I have been getting rid of my regular books. I’ve donated them to book sales, shared them with friends, and have basically just purged many of my bookshelves. There are still keepers, but the vast majority have found a second life somewhere else.

High quality digital content is easier than ever to find. You can even do it legally through Amazon and Apple, which means that you’re not stealing from the pockets of your favorite writers or artists. The only thing that is changing is the distribution channel, and bookstores, comic stores, and newsstands are scrambling to adapt to this new profit model. Some will survive, but many will not.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my comic book collection. It’ll be a few years before everything in my current collection is ready in the digital format. It’ll start with the mainstream publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, but it will move quickly to independent publishers. I’m a traditionalist, so if publishers offer comics on DVDs with large runs of back issues, I’ll be buying those disks. They are so compact that it’s easy enough to store huge collections.

The way content — including ebooks — is popping into the Apple iTunes store, I think the future is happening sooner rather than later. And that’s just fine by me.

In the meantime, does anyone want to buy some classic comics? Cheap.

Old Videos from Wizard World

Back when I was at Wizard Entertainment, we produced a bunch of videos to promote the Wizard World Chicago Comicon, which the company had purchased. It was a great experience to produce these videos. Here are two that I uploaded to my Flickr.

Wizard World Chicago 1999

Wizard World Chicago 2000

See more stuff at http://www.buddyscalera.com

Tumor on Kindle – Comics as eBooks

tumorcover1As ebooks grow in popularity, we’re starting to see more ebook exclusive releases. What’s impressive is the recent announcement by Amazon and Archaia, a comic book publisher based here in New Jersey, (disclosure: I know the people at Archaia personally) to release a comic book on the Kindle before the print release.

The Kindle 2 handles images pretty well, but it’s still black and white and, well, pretty small. So most people who create comic books (including me) are trying to understand how to best format their existing comics for ebook readers.

What makes the Archaia deal so interesting is that their comic book will be formatted specifically for the Kindle a full six months before it is released in print. That gives the publisher plenty of time to decide how to package the print edition.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, the first issue of the comic book “Tumor” will be free and then the next seven issues will be 99 cents, bringing the total to $7.92 for the whole series. The print edition will sell for $14.95.

When you consider that many new comic books retail each week for $3.99, you have to wonder what’s going to happen to that core business. And when high-quality color ebook devices become available, will many people still be willing to pay $3.99 for a print comic when a 99 cent version is available?

Now that comics are going to the Kindle, get ready for even more interesting changes in the comic book publishing industry.

McCloud Talks Tech on TED

Scott McCloud is a comic book creator who wrote a brilliant book called “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art,” which is an amazing read, even if you don’t like comics. He masterfully breaks down the medium so that it becomes clear why comics connect with the brain to communicate stories.

A few years back, McCloud gave a talk at TED (Technology Entertainment Design), which is an annual conference in California. Not only is McCloud a smart guy who knows a lot about comics, technology, and science…he’s a terrific presenter.

Check out this video as he discusses how comic books and computers are evolving to leverage new technology. Good stuff. It’s especially compelling considering the implosion of traditional print publishing.

Batman Isn’t a Comic Anymore?

In “Why Comics Are Doomed,” I argued that for comics to survive, we need to stop marketing them as “children’s entertainment.” We need to position comics as entertainment for adults.

Here’s proof why. In the newspaper, there are “movie capsules” that encapsulate the movie. Here, dear friends, is the description for:

“The Dark Knight”
Batman isn’t a comic book anymore. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes and engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, and because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production. The key performance in the movie is by the late Heath Ledger, as the Joker.

The first sentence reveals a preconceived notion shared by many people. They expect comics to be campy, mindless entertainment for kids.

The second sentence goes  further when it notes it is “a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes and engrossing tragedy.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Batman always been an engrossing tragedy? Not every issue, sure, but some of them, right?

To this writer, “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” are simply grown up versions of comics. Storytelling flukes created by sophisticated master filmmakers. Nothing in traditional comic books can come close.

For all of you 40-year-old virgins, this is how many people think about comics.

How many people saw “The Dark Knight” and then went to the comic book store to buy Detective Comics? Probably not many, since the assumption is that the movie is for adults…and the comic books are for the kids.

If we keep marketing comics as children’s entertainment, the medium is doomed. Even Hollywood cant save us from ourselves.

Why Comic Book Publishing is Doomed

Here’s why comic book publishing is doomed…

Stopped at the local library today and thought it would be fun to see what comics and graphic novels they had on the shelves. And for some reason, I made the mistake of asking the aging librarians where to find…well, let me just tell you how it went.

ME: Hi, I’m looking for comics and graphic novels.

LIBRARIAN: What?

ME: Comic books, graphic novels. Do you have a section for them?

LIBRARIAN: (loudly to other librarian) He wants to know if we have “comic books”?

And in that moment, I regretted even asking. I could feel their harsh literary judgment scalding me, and I  wished that I’d asked if they had a porn section.

LIBRARIAN #2: Graphic novels? YA.

ME: Thanks. I see it…

LIBRARIAN: Go over to that section marked “YA.” That’s for “Young Adults and Teens.” That’s where we keep graphic novels.

ME: Thanks.

LIBRARIAN: Teen section.

ME: Thanks.

Okay. Back to the “doomed” part.

Comic book publishing is doomed if the industry continues to market comics and graphic novels to kids. Kids don’t buy comics like they used to. By and large, adults are buying comics. Don’t believe me? Go to the comic store and observe who is going up to the register to buy comics.

And let’s face it, what adult wants to be shopping or even browsing in the “teen” section of a bookstore or library.

Stop marketing comics as teen literature and make it easier for adults to shop for comics.