Gail Burt of Metropolis Comics in Downey, California saw our article on the move of Spider-Man 2 off the first weekend in May (see 'Spider-Man 2 Debut Moved To July 2004'), potentially affecting Free Comic Book Day next year, and had this to say:
ICv2 posted this news on Friday, Mar. 28:
...Even worse for pop culture retailers, the change in the opening date for Spider-Man 2 could mark the end of a convenient convergence of a major superhero film debut and Free Comic Book Day in early May. This year for example, many comic industry insiders like Marvel EIC Joe Quesada wanted Free Comic Book Day to coincide with the release of Ang Lee's highly anticipated Hulk film in late June, rather than with the X-Men sequel in May, but retailers, including Joe Field, who originated the FCBD concept, pointed out that a May date at the start of the summer selling season makes much more sense for retailers. Perhaps one of the other Marvel films in production can be readied for an early May release in 2004, but it will face stiff competition from Van Helsing, the Universal Horror film that moved its debut up to May 7 as soon as Sony/Columbia announced that Spider-Man 2 was moving to July.
I just want to respond to this by saying that, while it's nice to have a big comic-related movie tie-in for Free Comic Book Day, I don't think it's 100% necessary, particularly since that will be the third time around for FCBD. I used to work in the advertising industry, and I am sort of qualified to assess the coming situations. Let's look at some facts:
(1) Using the first weekend in May as the annual FCBD date has the great benefit of being at the end of the school year, while college students are still around, being early in the summer season -- which gave us a bump through the entire summer last year, don't know about the rest of you -- and makes sense in terms of creating an annual event. Heck, think about the fact that the San Diego Comic Con started out with no such convergence of media, and has done okay up to this point. What that has had is nothing more than an annual date that has happened fairly close to the original date since the very first time. It's grown steadily every year it's happened.
(2) Van Helsing, contrary to the beliefs of some, actually is a genre movie. At my store, many to most of my most ardent comic customers tend to be avid fans of other genres: horror and sci-fi chief among them. While it would be optimal to have Spider-Man 2 working that weekend, I instead think that now that we know we will not have Spider-Man 2 to work with in May 2004, we can all start gearing toward Van Helsing as the tie-in movie. It looks to be a big deal, in the first place, and in the second place, it does tie in nicely with most of our regular customers anyhow.
(3) It's really about comic books, not about movies. Like I said, while a movie tie-in is cool and really advantageous; and while it looks really good for comic-based movies for the next couple of years, eventually, we're going to have to make this thing stand on its own. Think Pokemon, kids -- nothing lasts forever. The most important thing we as retailers can do for this event in its early stages is create a sort of 'brand name' around it -- I know this as a former advertising professional. If we can create a set time, an annual event around FCBD, eventually, people will begin to remember it. It will start (probably around year five) to enter their conciousness and beging to tickle their anticipation around Easter time. They'll start to say, 'Isn't that Free Comic thing happening right around this time of year?' It's important that FCBD have its own identity eventually. Last year and this year's tie-in to the big movies has been a great boon to the notion, but I don't think we have to worry that it's going to be a bust without the tie-in.
(4) If we can catch the wave in the early part of summer 2004 with FCBD 3, that should hold us pretty good until the next wave of the summer brings Spider-Man 2 with it. If things are humming along nicely by then, if we did ourselves right with promoting FCBD 3 early in the summer, certainly Spider-Man 2 added to the mix will only cause that swell to rise again, and carry most of us right into Christmas of that year.
FCBD is going to turn out to be a 'GIGO' type event no matter what: Garbage In, Garbage Out. In other words, you're going to get out of it what you put into it. Last year, I put a couple hundred bucks toward purchasing the comics to give away, about $50 on flyers to promote it, about half an hour to visit the theatre multiplex which is in walking distance to arrange a small theatre/store coupon swap (we offered a coupon for a dollar off a soda and popcorn combo to our customers who went to the theatre to see Spider-Man, they had a bunch of flyers and comeback coupons for FCBD available in the lobby), and $85 for one of the banners. For my close to $400 investment and the time we spent telling customers about it, we had our best day ever and got a sales bump that lasted till fall. This year, we're timing a series of tv spots on cable to heighten awareness of our store, a listing in the FCBD locator service (the Diamond Comics locator service is tied in), we already have a big window splash on our window announcing it, and have been handing out flyers for a week. I think it's going to be so big, I'm worried I haven't ordered enough giveaway books, and I know that with this being the second year, next year will be even bigger with little or no effort on our part. As FCBD begins to live a life of its own, every participating retailer will benefit from it.
So come on guys, not to be a Pollyanna -- but it's much better than being Eeyore. We may face a new challenges next year, but first, let's get through this year. We'll face next year when it comes. If we get another Marvel movie to work with, great! If we get a DC movie, great! If we get Van Helsing, we can work with that! We're comic retailers -- if we can survive the 90's, we can do anything! It's LENT after all -- rather than giving up chocolate, how 'bout let's eliminate negative thinking instead?