Thursday, March 12, 2009

How To Advertise Noir Comics and Washington Comic Shops

I have a special affinity for Washington DC since spending the better part of three years flying between the American capital and Toronto to romance my future wife. So when I received a LinkedIn note from DC (both the capital and the comic book company) artist Shawn Martinbrough directing me to the myspace promo for his book, How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling, I checked it out.

The preview for the book is quite clever. The video does not actually feature much artwork, but rather serves as moody, short film bringing viewers (and potential readers) into the worldview Martinbrough takes to his work. In essence, he's suggesting that we have to understand how to look at the world in order to draw the world.

**Since writing this, Shawn sent me the following note:

"Here's an inside fact, I didn't spend a dime on that commercial. My partner and I grabbed a digital camera and over the course of a weekend, we ran around NYC, shot and edited it all together!"

That's encouraging. With video so easy to edit now and sites like Youtube and MySpace designed to upload video, you can do it too. Just try to take a step back and make sure your ideas and message are clear and don't muddy the work.

Martinbrough is talented artist in several disciplines, having extensive experience in the corporate world and winning several awards for his short films. You can see them on his slick company website at Sadly, my poor old computer could not run his films without skipping (I have trouble with sites full of Flash bells and whistles) but what I did see of them showed a high level of quality.

There's no mistaking Martinborough has the artistic chops, storytelling ability and excellent taste. He cut his teeth on advertising campaigns and Vibe magazine, as well as Milestone Comic's Static, Blood Syndicate and Shadow Cabinet before moving on to the Challengers of the Unknown, The Creeper, Detective Comics, Batman: Evolution, Angel Town, Morlocks and World War Hulk: Frontline.

I hold up Martinbrough's efforts to gain more sales for his book as an example of multi-levelled thinking we can all learn from. He's got interviews, he's got film, he's got great art and insight. And most importantly, he's not selling his book just to comic fans.

Martinbrough wants everyone to know about his work and so he focuses beyond the shrinking comic book direct market. His experience hustling in the corporate and film words has given him much insight into the marketing side of comics and publishing. It also probably gave him enough to spend on some of this marketing.... These efforts are pretty dang smooth on all levels. Promotion like this is an area where most independents fall flat. Check out what he's done and see for yourself.

This interview appeared in the Washington Post around the time Martinborough debuted his book at the New York Comic Con last year. It includes a video clip featuring Martinborough demonstrating his technique that he and his company presumably made to accompany their press kit.

Thanks for the heads up Shawn!

This was meant to be a quickie post but a little research turned up some interesting Shawn Martinbrough Canadian Content! I'll have that posted soon.

While I'm talking Washington, I'd like to give a shout out to the Comic Shops I got to know while I was living there part-time...

Few Comic Shops can match the Graphic novel selection, organization, friendliness and customer service of Big Planet Comics in Georgetown. They also have two stores in Maryland (including the original Big Planet, which opened in 1986) and one in Virginia so some of their excellent stock must come from the buying power four stores brings. On every visit I found the staff to be helpful and courteous and enjoyed the Big Planet Orbit newsletter, which they publish every month.

I can also give big props to both of the Fantom Comics locations. Their Tenleytown location is kind of hidden away beside a Best Buy and The Container Store (which, I must admit, I am kind of obsessed with). It's tiny but well-organized and the staff is extremely helpful with finding stuff and ordering anything they don't have. They're also quick with the recommendations for other things you may enjoy based on your preferences. It's bright and simply laid out without being overstuffed. Customer service is top-notch as well.

Thor gives Fantom comics a big Hammers up!

I purchased a Green Llama collection there which had a number of pages printed upside down. Since I couldn't get back to that particular location they suggested I try to their Union Station store. That store is quite small and focuses on graphic novels only but as they are located in a major Metro and train terminal on Capital Hill they are there for a great many commuters eager for a comics fix, looking for a cool gift, or just curious to try something new. I suspect they'll be seeing a few Secret Service agents stopping by to pick up a few things for their new president.

I cannot, in good conscience recommend Big Monkey Comics on 14th Street NW. Truthfully, I'm kind of ashamed I even bothered to link to it here. After walking many blocks to check them out I was dismayed to discover an unfriendly, disorganized store filled with Gamers playing against the displays who made no effort to allow me access to product, perhaps feeling it was "their space" or lost in their matches. In the half hour or so I spent there looking bewildered, eager to find something worth purchasing, not a single person appraoched me or even spoke to me.

The only verifiable employee I saw spent the whole time trying to find a way to wrap up a purchase for a customer (a large Hawkman model which was too big to fit back in its original box). After so much time spent without help or acknowledgement I replaced the items I had selected to buy and left. How could I possibly reward such indifference when I could drop the same money at Fantom or Big Planet and be welcomed and respected? I think the fact that their website still advertises a podcast whose last episode was in 2007 says a lot. just so i don't end on a complete downer, I have to say Big Monkey's logo is far and away one of the the coolest of the lot.

Beavers up!

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