- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
After a turbulent 2020, comic book retailers have something new to look forward to in 2021: an online network of stores under the title the Comic Book Shopping Experience.
Created by Dynamite and Dynamic Forces founder Nick Barrucci and retailers Jen King and Jesse James, the Comic Book Shopping Experience will feature online programming created by retailers available across multiple platforms — Facebook, YouTube, and its own website — with the intent of not only selling comic books and related merchandise, but increasing the profile of comic book retailers as a whole. Programming will include creator appearances and virtual signings.
Plans are for four hours of content per day at launch, with an eye to expand to 24 hours by the end of the year. The Comic Book Shopping Experience launches with a virtual convention running Saturday through Monday, with regular programming beginning Jan. 19.
The Hollywood Reporter talked to Barrucci and King about the new project.
How did this idea come about? How did the two of you come together in support of the idea?
Jen King: I hadn’t really gotten to know Nick very well until last year at ComicsPro, where he was the keynote speaker. He spoke truth and from the heart and I saw in him then, a kindred spirit that wanted the best for the industry. Afterward, I ended up being invited to the same after gathering where I learned something I probably already knew but hadn’t put together in my head yet: that he was the collectibles on-air personality at QVC HSC for a long time.
Some time after the trip, Nick contacted me about his company, Dynamite, doing something with another company of mine that I co-own with Jesse James of Jesse James Comics, the Comic Book Shopping Network, and Jesse and I had been talking about this super exciting idea for a few years. I thought that with Nick’s experience on TV and his connections to publishing and manufacturing, he might be a perfect partner for The Comic Book Shopping Experience.
Nick Barrucci: As Jen mentioned, we met at Comics Pro, and my keynote speech seemed to touch a lot of people. I felt I needed to be blunt with retailers as they paid money to be at an event, and I wasn’t going to just placate or appease them just for personal affirmation. I didn’t know how retailers would react, but Jen was one of the retailers who came up to me later in the day and told me she appreciated what how direct my speech was. I like to follow up with retailers that I meet, and saw that Jen had created a great platform with Jesse James of Jesse James Comics, and I offered to work with them with some premium’s as part of their promotions. Jen and Jesse had reached out to me and asked if I wanted to work on something new with Jen taking lead and Jesse part of the team.
And while we’ve been discussing internally initiatives to grow our business and the market, when Jen and Jesse approached me with this new initiative, I paused the other plans as I could tell we saw eye to eye on how to grow the market. And it’s a great balance. Jen’s retail and direct to consumer experience and my publishing, manufacturing and direct to consumer experience make a great balance and team. Again, we both see eye to eye and have the same philosophy — the most important mission statement to both of us is to grow the market for everyone — retailers, publishers and creators.
It’s been a rough 12 months for the comics industry, but one thing that’s become clear is that comics as a medium and an industry were better placed to survive (and thrive, even) than many expected — even as stores were forced to adapt or die in the wake of the pandemic. While publishers and creators were able to bounce back to something approaching regular by the end of the year, the same isn’t true of brick and mortar stores just yet. Is what you’re doing something that can, if not return things to normal, then present a new normal allowing stores to thrive?
King: That is our fervent hope, that we can grow the market, bring more attention to local comic book shops, make comics as a medium easier for interested viewers to understand and to take the mystery out of that end of things for new collectors. With the success of entertainment based on comic books themselves, we want to do what hasn’t really been done yet: give a direct link and focus between the two and let people know where they can go get the source material. Their Local Comic Shop. They are the heart of the industry.
Barrucci: I feel that the comic publishers came back stronger because comic retailers remained strong. It’s a symbiotic relationship — they supported us and we supported them by creating comics that they could sell. We’re only as strong as the other. We support each other.
The goal with this initiative is to support the entire market as much as possible. We need every publisher, every retailer, every creator to have as much awareness as possible and be as strong as possible to allow the existing fans to have the best experience possible, and to bring in new fans for a great experience, hence the name of our new platform “The Comic Book Shopping Experience”. So, yes, we hope to strengthen and grow the market.
If the pandemic continues to hurt retail, we are here to help bring awareness to the retailers. If the pandemic passes sooner, then we are here to strengthen and grow the market. It’s job #1 regardless of the outside forces. And speaking of experience, we’ve done something that no one has done to date to help retailers deliver a great experience, which is to take a cue from other entertainment shows, and hiring a staff including full time producers to help produce the shows. This will help with the timing of the shows and the presentations and ensure messages promoting comics to a larger fan base and the direct market and retailers are delivered consistently well.
What does success look like for both of you with this project?
King: For me, it is a clear success if we help the industry grow and continue to be an inspiration for artists and actors, collectors and readers for many years to come.
Barrucci: Success is going to be measured with different metrics. There is not going to be one metric, and I can’t tell you the mix of metrics and milestones, only that there will be quite a few to evaluate.
Success will be our growing from four hours programming shows and entertainment a day, to 8 new hours of programming a day within 2 months, and 12 hours of programming within 6 months and hopefully 18 – 24 hours of new daily programming within a year and not long after 24 hours of new programing a day. Another metric will be if we have more partners excited to continue to create new content with us including creators, retailers publishers, other manufacturers and media companies. Another metric is in growing our subscribers, in having more sponsors, in ensuring we’re promoting smaller retailers by giving fans information on where to purchase comics, in successfully translating the billions of dollars of comics related movies, TV, action figures, video games, t-shirts, etc. spent on comic characters, and driving some of those fans to comic stores.
Growing up, the way the casual consumer became a comic fan was to be introduced to comics through candy stores and 7-11’s and other stores that young consumers frequented, and then those fans grew to be writers, artists, TV and Movie writers and directors and studio heads and gamers who took the mythos they read, and turned them into a larger entertainment industry — hence Disney buying Marvel. Now it’s time to take the awareness that’s been created for TV, Movies, Games, etc, and to expose those consumers to comics create fans and go full circle and create a cycle that grows for the comics industry, as those mass market stores introducing casual and new fans to comics aren’t there anymore.
This may sound a bit forward, but we plan on being one of the ambassadors for the industry; it’s more important than I can ever express. So yes, let me circle back and say, if we strengthen comic retailers and help publishers get the word out as well, and we grow the industry, that will be our most important metric of success. I have great partners and a great team in place. I couldn’t be prouder or more excited.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day