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WAITING FOR TOMMY
By Richard Johnston

RICHARD JOHNSTON: Isn't there at least one bookstore in every town in the US? That strikes me as a great venue to sell comics...

JOE QUESADA: Actually no, I can tell you that where Nanci and I live in Jersey, we have to travel at least 15 miles to the nearest mall to find a decent bookstore and it doesn't carry a current selection of TPBs because it's not a big chain.

The world doesn't read much these days

RICHARD JOHNSTON: Ah. In the UK, Titan Books has pushed graphic novels into pretty much every bookshop. They've aggressively marketed their line across the UK. This has the unfortunate aspect that comics are thought of as coming from one publisher, and it's a bit of a ghetto, but walk into any bookshop in the UK and you'll see Preacher, Spawn, Buffy, Batman, Sandman, etc somewhere.

Jonathan Cape has used that network to push its own titles to some success as well. And when Jimmy Corrigan won the Guardian First Book Award, made bookshop retailers realise that comics could go elsewhere rather than just Titan's sci-fi/fantasy sub-section. These days Ghost World, From Hell and others can be stacked elsewhere, integrated with fiction.

There is at least one bookshop in every town, even if it's a WH Smith, which is also a newsagent/multi-media store.

NICK BARRUCCI: Slowly but surely the US is getting there with trades, but we need to see what we can do to accelerate this. Also, I strongly believe that just like in the '80's (when I started as a fan), that strong single issues can get buzz and get people in to the stores, just like strong story arcs can and then be collected. The reality is, that we need to get retailers to allow their stores to be compelling for casual fans as well. You and I have both been to WH Smith's, and we know how well racked and well lit that they are. But realistically, they don't have the ability to carry all trades - there's competition from all medium's. First and foremost, we need to get retailers to promote comics better locally, and that is part of this rollout. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It's one step at a time. We will get there (though I gotta tell you, it feels like climbing Mt. Everest naked and without equipment, and with a ball and chain on each leg).

Here's to getting to the top!

JOHN ROSS: Well, Joe just made some great points about addressing other issues, so it feels kind of silly to go into this, but full steam ahead!:

These are off the top of my head:

JOE MORGAN- Hall of Fame Second Baseman for the World Champion Cincinnati Reds and currently a Baseball broadcaster for ESPN. I personally used to mail him comics that he requested when I was at Marvel, as he had expressed great affection for Punisher, Conan, and I believe Thor.

NICHOLAS CAGE- Another guy I used to send free stuff to, his interest in comics is well documented. Changed his name to emulate Luke Cage. Weirdo.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL- The most famous (active) basketball player in the world, plays center for the 3-time champion L.A. Lakers. Still a current collector and reader, already known to most comic fans for his starring role as..ugh...STEEL!

FREDDIE PRINZE- Probably also already well known, he recently went into a diatribe on The Tonight Show about how he really wanted the Spider Man part, how he used to make up comics as a kid, he's writing an episode of Mutant X the television program, and perhaps a comic or two as well.

RINGO STARR- The former Beatle has really likes Felix the Cat and other humour comics.

ROBIN WILSON- Lead singer for the band GIN BLOSSOMS is a lifelong comic fan. Also is currently trying to develop a TV show combining rock and roll, sci-fi, and comic books.

I have a longer list I kept while I was there (almost 10 years ago) so I'll dig it out and pass it on. I also advise contacting these guys as I'm sure they have many more leads:

Ultimate Sports Entertainment - Ultimate Sports Entertainment, Inc. is a Los Angeles based entertainment company that creates, develops and publishes action/adventure/fantasy stories featuring well-known athletes in collectible comic book form using first-rate artists and writers. Ultimate Sports titles include famous athletes such as: Barry Bonds; Mark McGwire; Ichiro; Sammy Sosa; Cal Ripken Jr.; Derek Jeter; Alex Rodriguez; Roger Clemens; Mike Piazza; Ken Griffey, Jr.; Troy Aikman; Dan Marino; Brett Favre; Peyton Manning; John Elway; Terrell Davis and many others.

That's all for now, good luck! Any help I can provide let me know.

My wife brought up a point to me while discussing this, and it's a point she and I had discussed many times. Quick background: she's a non-comic reading teacher who can barely tolerate them in the house. Point is as follows:

Why don't we target teachers?

Most children don't read because they want to, they read because they have to. They're too busy with television, movies, CCGs, video games to read anything. Basically, they're only reading what they're assigned by their teachers, if anything at all.

Last year, due to my constant annoyance, she added a whole 2 month project to her sixth-graders curriculum--a comic oriented project. She had them read MAUS to tie in with the global history unit, Understanding Comics to help them with the medium, and it culminated in them creating a comic themselves, the class having bit divided into four groups, each group then split into writers, artists, colorists, letterers, and an editor. (Pedro & Me was vetoed by the principal as being of a too mature subject matter--she may try it next year with the 8th graders). I made an appearance one day with plenty of free handouts (lots of sh*t I had from Marvel as a kid, i.e. Spidey pins, Hologram covers, X-Force #1's) and by all reckoning it was a true success. She said it was the most interest her kids showed in anything all year, and when I came in that day, at least four or five kids expressed serious interest in pursuing it as a career, and many more said they went on to buy comics regularly as a result of the project.

Point is, a push towards teachers could have much the same results which seem to produce the desired effects: NEW COMICS READERS. Do they still make Classics Illustrated anymore? I used to gobble them up as a kid. Things along that line. There's potential there. A well-placed ad in a teachers trade journal might do wonders.

Something to think on.

Indeed it is. And with that the conversation ended (or at least my part in it). But now to that Photoshop donation I mentioned earlier.

I'm going to write some mock poster/print ads advertising comics. And I need someone to manipulate them for this column. Hopefully we'll be able to run one a week. E-mail me at rich@twistandshout.freeserve.co.uk for more details.

Rich Johnston writes Lying In The Gutters.

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