The Comic Company:
Marketing Comics on Mobile Devices Since 1984

“Location, location, location!” This is the mantra of of real estate investors worldwide and was a dilemma we faced as we planned a promotion strategy for our first full-color comic book publications, Matt Wagner’s Mage and Judith Hunt and Charles Dixon’s Evangeline.

 

Our first 2 color publications

 

Comico had proven itself as an aggressive marketer of its black-and-white line by advertising in all of the major fan magazines at the time. Bill Cucinotta made sure that full-page ads were regularly seen in the Comics Buyers Guide, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Journal, and David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview.

 

 

Our decision to begin publishing in color raised the bar significantly. We could no longer survive if our titles sold just a few thousand copies each. We knew that publishing in color would automatically cause our sales figures to rise dramatically but we had to sell around 30,000 of each title to see black ink on our ledger sheets.

30,000 seems like a good number when looking at the monthly sales figures of comics today but in 1984 when Marvel and DC were still selling comics for 75¢ we could not compete with a $3-4 cover price. At $1.50, our profit margin was a lot slimmer than it is for books in the current market.

We had great faith in the product and rightfully so. Creators of each comic have gone on to become industry giants but at the time they were all virtual unknowns.

We felt that in order to succeed we needed to promote our product at the point of purchase; in the comic shops themselves.

Bill, who had worked many years in retail at Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt in Philadelphia, knew first-hand how valuable the real estate was in comic shops which were usually quite small.

When he, Phil LaSorda, and I discussed the possibility of posters in the stores to promote our comics the question was, “Where would the retailers hang them if they hung them at all?”

Retail walls were usually covered, floor-to-ceiling, by shelves displaying hundreds of new comics. Valuable older comics in mylar bags were displayed on walls also.

If a poster were to go up on any of the limited wall space that might be left, you could bet that it would be reserved for a Marvel or DC product.

We talked about post cards and rack cards but agreed that counter space and rack space was as much a premium as wall space in the tiny comic shops.

Hell, the only space left was the ceiling and how would we convince retailers to staple our poster on their ceiling?

Inspiration from above

Maybe it was from years of kite flying, model rocketry, and hanging plastic airplanes in my room. Maybe it was from marveling at Alexander Calder’s masterpieces in art school. The idea of creating a mobile that the retailers could hang from a single tack or hook soon gave rise.

We would command a virgin, uncharted territory smack in the center of the ceiling in virtually every comic shop. We would boldly go where no man had gone before!

 

Mobile Ad

 

The Comico Mobile, which was promoted as “The First in a series of Promotional Mobiles,” was a simple elegant design though it would be the first and only one of the intended series. It was a cardboard disc that was 18 inches in diameter printed in full color on both sides, Mage on one side, Evangeline on the other. At the top was drilled a tiny hole from which it could be hung.

There was a limited number of 100 that were signed and numbered by the creators and the rest were sent to distributors where retailers would place an order to get theirs for free with their shipment of Comico comics. Just in case they missed the offer we ran ads in the trades to make sure no one was left out.

The Comico line of color comics was off the ground. The proof was on the ceiling!

 

A Comico Mobile still hangs in my studio today right next to my inspiration for the Comico Blimp, a toy airship hanging from a string.

 

CO2 Mobile Command Centre

 

On the wall behind my desk, however, is a new banner proclaiming CO2 Comics, our exciting new foray into the digital world of comics.

Today’s digital environment adds a completely different meaning when speaking the term “mobile.” Computers and mobile devices like smart phones, iPads, and e-readers are quickly changing the landscape of all publishing including comics.

CO2 Comics will give Bill and I the chance to pioneer again but we will still look back to the term “Location, location, location,” only this time we will be looking for a good Wi-Fi connection.

Making comics because I want to

Gerry Giovinco

 

 

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5 Responses to “The Comic Company:
Marketing Comics on Mobile Devices Since 1984”

  1. Jenn Dolari says:

    I remember seeing those ads for the mobiles in early Comico books, and really wanted one, cause…well…it was unique! Sadly, I didn’t see them till about mid to late 80s, and by then, they were all gone. Nice to see them in color for the first time!

  2. Tina Garceau says:

    Gerry, pure marketing genius!

  3. [...] discussion of early Comico Comics promotional material, including that swell Mage mobile we used to have here in the [...]

  4. [...] The Comic Company: Marketing Comics on Mobile Devices Since 1984 [...]

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