With the release and success of the Avengers over the weekend, I thought that talking about barriers to entry into comics would be a good topic. You are most probably wondering how these two things correlate and I will enlighten you as to the connection. Everyone is aware that Avengers is a comic book movie but the amount of people seeing the movie exceeds the number of people that read comics. The success of the movie provides a nice gateway into the hobby but I can see two major barriers to converting the audience into comic readers. I am not going to say that they do not read, though this is a barrier that all printed materials share. Instead, I am going to say that the difficulty will be in them finding where to pick up comics in the first place and what to do with them after they’ve read them.
Finding where to purchase comics is the first barrier facing new people to the hobby. You can not just go to Walmart or Barnes and Nobles to pick up a comic book and for some areas it can be a trip of 45 minutes just to get to a comic book store. This problem was highlighted for me at the Avengers movie over the weekend. The movie-going experience has long included commercials before the feature presentation. These commercials range from nothing more than a slow slide show with music ran over top to almost TV-show quality productions. The thing that I didn’t see at any of my three viewings of the Avengers was an ad for a comic book store. There weren’t even any fliers in the lobby. The audience is already in the mood for comics in some fashion and providing them information where to find them would breach this barrier as they are primed to explore something that they have enjoyed. If it had been mentioned that Free Comic Book Day was on Saturday at the Avengers, there would have been no difficulty in getting movie-goers to find a comic book store to get their free stuff. I understand that advertising at these venues can be expensive and that prior comic book movies have not performed as well making it a risky investment. If people had been made aware of their local comic shop, an increase in customers and readers would have easily resulted. They just need to know where to go.
Even if they had been directed to their friendly local comic book shop, new readers would have been faced with the dilemma of what to do with the comics after they had read them. This may not seem a big issue but I am not a big fan of spending $3 dollars for something then just throwing it away a half-hour later. The nature of comic books does not lend itself to easy storage unless you are willing to commit to the long boxes that collectors use.Thankfully this is a barrier that is somewhat easy to overcome as well. Recently, Marvel and DC have begun embracing the digital age and have released their comics in digital format on the day and date that the physical copy is released. This adoption of a digital model addresses both barriers equally. You no longer have to figure out where to pick up comics in your area as you can just turn on your iPad or other digital device and get your comics on new comic book day. You no longer have to fret about where to store them either as most methods of purchase have a cloud storage option. If you are averse to picking up your comics digitally, as is Tim on Funnybooks, there are still options for you. My answer may not work for everyone, but I donate my comic books to my local library. The librarians in my area are big supporters of graphic novels specifically and comics in general and I try to reinforce this by sharing my comics with them in hopes of creating future generations of comic readers. A less altruistic option is also available in most markets as used book stores will buy comics. The full purchase price will not be recouped but a little back is helpful in purchasing next weeks comics.
These are just two of the problems facing people wanting to get into comics. What I would like to know is what you think are barriers and what are some answers to these problems? Hell, What do you think about the barriers I’ve mentioned? Tell me what you think in the comments.