Joe Kelly on his X-Men experience

Writer Joe Kelly talks about quitting the high-profile gig of being the writer of the X-Men comic, back in 1999:

The final straw was when it was time to do the ‘Hunt for Xavier’ story. We hammered that out and again it wasn’t what they wanted, and we had problems. By the time we’d come up with something we could all agree on it was time to do the next big crossover story, which was this Magneto arc, and we were basically called up and told that the main office was gonna write the overall story for us and we were just going to execute it in the books. There are situations in which that works fine: soap operas and television series do it all the time. Except, that’s how it has to be from the start. To go from, ‘Hey, we want you guys to lend your voices to these books and make them different and unique’, to ‘We’re gonna write the stories for you’, you know you can’t go any lower. We had to quit. It became a self-respect issue. This was a fight that we knew we couldn’t win, because who do you argue with?

Selling comics at a gaming con

Over at Comic Book Resources, Brigid Alverson has a fascinating (to me) look at PAX East, the gaming convention started up by the Penny Arcade webcomic guys. While not a fan of their work, I’ve been quite impressed with their business acumen, and especially the success of their PAX conventions. Just check out these photos, which document a show that easily rivals some of the comic book world’s biggest conventions:

Show-floor-1-small PC-area-small

After reading the article, two things struck me. First, shows like this can serve as a great middle-ground for the general genre fan to be exposed to comics and graphic novels. Smart comic book publishers with books that will appeal to gamers are already at the show, introducing their products to a whole new audience (and market segment)”

At the publisher’s booth, Oni’s Director of Business Development George Rohac presided over a wide range of books; people are often drawn by the Scott Pilgrim books, he said, but then Oni’s other titles, such as The Sixth Gun and Sharknife, catch their eye.

At the Udon Entertainment booth, video-game art books and Street Fighter graphic novels were moving briskly; at the end of the weekend, Marketing Director Christopher Butcher said he had sold almost his entire inventory.

Gaming fans are just like comic fans: they love to spend money on ancillary products based on the games they like. We buy Batman statues and Spider-man hoodies, and they do the same for products based on the characters from their favorite games. So why not sell them comics based on their games? Or at least, in the same general wheelhouse? And in turn, if they happen to like the comics, they may continue to seek out more works by the same creators, or same publisher. The way I look at it, this is a perfect example of “a rising tide lifts all boats,” or as they like to say in the jargon-obsessed business world, a “win-win.” The comics publishers can expand their marketplace, while the game publishers expand their brand and licensing potential.

But what if as a publisher or individual creator, you don’t have the funds or the quantity of products to be able to field a (presumably expensive) booth at a show like this? Well, that’s the second thought that came to mind: here’s a niche for a smart, enterprising person to fill. You could potentially make a business of being the middle-man for parties interested in selling their comics at a convention like this, but who are limited by their finances, geographical location, or simply don’t have that many different books to make getting their own booth a viable option. You pay for the booth, have your clients ship you the books, sell them at the show, and take an agreed-upon cut of the profits. Theoretically, you make money, and your clients make money (or perhaps they just break even, but they consider the exposure and awareness boost a reasonable return on their investment).

Granted, there are logistical and practical problems galore, not the least of which is whether this scheme would even be profitable. But hey, that’s the job of the entrepreneur, right? To figure out how to make money from an under served (or ignored) niche market, and to take the chance.

So there you go, consider that a free business idea from me to you. Just remember me if you ever put this idea into practice, and give me the “friends” discount rate for your services, OK?