Today’s comic sales are way down compared to their glory days in the Silver or Bronze age. Companies used to sell hundreds of thousands of titles a month. Today, the number is in the tens of thousands. That’s pathetic. Comics are a great medium for storytelling and today they’re merely an afterthought.
I’m going to write a few essays on how I think companies could improve comic sales. To begin, I’ll look at the covers of the magazines.
ENTER THE IRON AGE MAN
Today’s covers are technically superior to the ones that existed when I was kid, but they lack what made comics great; dramatic focus. If you look at the examples I’ve shown, you can see images of Iron Man. They look cool, right? While they look cool, they’re missing something, dramatic focus.
Since the 90s, comic cover design focused on gimmicks and pin-ups. (Pin-ups are images of a character in action.) The Iron Man covers are just examples. You can find numerous other examples that follow suit in both Marvel and DC.
Avengers titles will show you the team in an action pose as will Batman, Superman, Justice League, Teen Titans and so on.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m saying it’s not as dramatically powerful as covers used to be. They’re technically perfect, but not dramatically perfect. Ask yourself this question, if you were an Iron Man fan, which of those issues would you buy? All three have basically the same cover; Iron-Man is blasting something/someone off page. Who’s he fighting? What prompts me to want to pick up and buy the book? Nothing. At best, I’ll pick it up, leaf through it and put it back on the shelf.
THEY CAME FROM THE BRONZE AGE
What do I mean by dramatic focus anyway? Well… dramatic focus pulls you into the action of a comic book right away. A great cover will show you what’s inside and compel you to not only pick up the book, but buy it. You need to find out what happens to the hero and the cover promises (hopefully) there’s action inside.
If you look at the examples of dramatic covers, you can see that they focus on action and give a hint of the story inside. As a reader, you want to know what happens and the comic goes from a casual glance to a must read. Looking at those examples, if you were an Iron Man fan, which would you want to pick up? Which would you want to read? Answer: all of them.
Are these the best way to create or design comic covers? No. The newer examples are great if you want to attract the attention of people from a distance, the dramatic examples (from the Bronze Age of comics) show a key difference in design and function.
Today’s comics focus more on the return purchaser of comics rather than attracting newer readers. Newer titles are merchandise and not the byproduct of storytelling. Such titles lack the spirit of fun that comics used to have.
If your goal is to sell more comics, start by looking at the covers. What do they say about the story inside and to whom are they’re being marketed to?
In the next essay, I’ll write about another issue with comics: intention.