Another great comics holiday is over, the fall counterpart to Free Comic Book Day, Halloween ComicFest! This one is still picking up steam, but shops that capitalize on it can make a splash with fans in their community. I visited 3 shops and they had varying degrees of participation, I’ll talk about each and let you draw your own conclusions on how successfully the day was leveraged by each.
First the free comics: I ended up with 17 different comics. The 15 pictured above and 2 I got in my regular order from DCBS last week & forgot to include in the photo. A couple of these appear to have been older ones that got brought out for the event. I ended up with all 12 of the fill-sized comics for this year, and 3 of the 7 mini-comics (I didn’t get the Angry Birds, BOOM!, LBX, and Mermin comics). I’ve read through these and overall a good batch of comics, most keeping with a Halloween theme and being all-ages accessible. I’d call Extinction Parade, Grimm Fairy Tales, Rachel Rising, and Afterlife with Archie not really appropriate for kids, but all the others were. I really liked the Black & White treatment in the Afterlife with Archie #1 reprint, really moody. I was pleasantly surprised by Vamplets from Action Lab. I really enjoyed this and am going to have to seek out some of these comics. The Marvel & DC reprint choices were solid choices and should go over nicely with kids that have never read these before. For myself, it was fun reading these stories again! I also thought the Aspen comic was a fabulous offering for young kids and highly recommend it for anyone with little kids. Lots of coloring & activities.
My first stop today was my regular LCS, Comics Toons’n’Toys in Tustin, CA. You can see where they were handing out the comics in the picture above, 4 comics to a customer (& my wife was with me today so we got 8!) A great atmosphere in general, lots of people,and they were running a spectacular sale that they had been promoting for a while. 50% & 75% off on a lot of things, plus lots of books and toys priced at $5, $3 and $1.
They had an “Artist’s Alley” set up out front with local creators selling prints, original art, and doing sketches. Add the tremendous sale they were having and it was like attending a mini-convention! There were a lot of people there, including kids in costumes (who got extra comics for being in costume) and there was a really fun/positive vibe. This, in my opinion, is a shop taking full advantage of the event to drive sales and fan/customer involvement and generate good will. Excellent!
Here’s a sample of the stuff I got: The oversized Womanthology & Starstruck HCs were 75% off ($12.50 each), I got the Authority RPG and Bringing up Father HCs for $5 each, Pixu (with work by Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, & Becky Cloonan) was $3, as were the HC Marvel Annual from the UK and the Maakies HC by Tony Millionaire. I rounded this out with a Skyscrapers of the Midwest HC, Bayou TPB, and 3 comics creator interview HCs (Oeming, Doran & Talbot) all for $1 each!
And, of course, I couldn’t resist these Planet of the Apes Pops for $5 each…
After lunch at our favorite BBQ joint (Smokey Fred’s in Orange, CA) my wife suggested we check out some shops in the area that I’d never been to before. The Comic Shop Locator suggested 6 shops in the area, 3 of which I’d never been to before, so we were off! The first stop was the Comic Book Hideout. Absolutely no signage on the outside about Halloween ComicFest or about a sale, which is a HUGE missed opportunity, in my opinion. On the plus side, as soon as we walked in we were greeted by a very friendly clerk who explained they were having a 50% off sale on all back issues and toys and that we could also help ourselves to 1 free ComicFest comic per customer.
I’ve never been to this shop before but I’ll be back! Aside from their lack of advertisement for Halloween ComicFest they had a great sale running and a superb selection of back issues (for my purposes they had a deep stock of old indie books I NEVER see in comic shops). Books like Baker Street (Caliber), Dirty Plotte (Drawn & Quarterly), Milk & Cheese (SLG), Palookaville (D&Q), Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman (I found the last 2 issues from Deep Sea that I’d been seeking for about 15 years!) and Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur. Really obscure stuff, but comics gold to me. I really appreciate a shop that stocks this kind of variety in their back issue bins.
Overall a nice shop, they also had several cool pinball & arcade machines, as well as some couches where customers can sit & watch movies or read. But poor advertising for Halloween ComicFest and as a result very light foot traffic in the store. I was browsing back issues for about 90 minutes, very few people came into the store. This shop is on a busy street with a local street fair going on about a half mile away. Some signage or getting someone down at the fair should have been able to drive a lot more business into this shop today.
The next shop I went to (that I found on the ComicShopLocator) is no longer there, Zero to Hero Comics on Commonwealth in Fullerton. Just an empty storefront & when I called the # they told me the shop was out of business & they were operating out of a stall at the Frank & Son warehouse show, so that was a bust. So, on to the last shop, Comic Hero University near the Fullerton train station:
Looks pretty desolate, right? At least there’s a sign about it being a comics shop. Inside, no acknowledgement from the clerk who was embroiled in a conversation with a customer about the trailer to the X-Men movie. They did have some Halloween ComicFest comics but I had to interject into the conversation and ask about them. There were no sales of any kind going on that I could see and the clerk didn’t do anything to inform me about anything. This shop was a complete lost opportunity as far as I could tell. No advertising of the event. No sale to leverage along with the event, and aside from the regular chatting about the Avengers movie trailer, no other customers… I spent a decent amount of money at the sales in the 1st 2 shops I visited. That was not repeated here.
My completely non-scientific observation of Halloween ComicFest was that stores get out of the event what they put into it. Advertise. Put up extra signage. Host some kind of event, hold a sale. These seemed to drive customer attendance and sales. There were a LOT of people at Comics Toons’n’Toys who had done all of these things. Very much fewer at the other shops that did not. At least the sale got me to hang around and spend some money at the Comic Book Hideout and I’ll return to that store. I see absolutely no reason to return to the Comic Book University.
At the end of the day (literally as I type this), I had a fun time at Halloween ComicFest and picked up a lot of great free comics as well as a lot of great comics on sale. I have quite a lot of additional reading to catch up on, but I’m sure I’ll have a wonderful time doing it. Now; 6 months until FCBD 2015!
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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