Halloween is my favorite time of the year. I seriously get that old Andy Williams tune, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” going in my head, but with macabre lyrics. On Halloween night, kids will be out getting their annual candy haul. I’ll be doling the sweets out too, but I also dig through my comics collection and find a few extra issues to hand out as well each year. I’d love to see this practice catch on — better yet, I’d like to see the publishers get on board.
I started handing out comics to trick or treaters one year when I noticed I had doubles of a few dozen issues (a common occurrence when you’re collecting). The extra issues weren’t worth much, so instead of trying to sell them off, I figured kids might like them. It was a huge success. My favorite memory is of a group of teenage girls on my front porch arguing over who got Spidey and who got Superman.
Now, I’m no anti-candy crusader. There are certainly valid issues with giving out candy (most American chocolate uses African child labor at some point in the production process), but I mostly think comics are awesome, and a comic book in your trick-or-treat bag seems pretty cool to me. I’d have loved something like that when I was a kid.
One of the problems with giving out comics is that mainstream comics have become much more focused on adult readers in the last decade or so. That’s great except when you want to give a few issues out to random kids. I don’t want some angry parent coming back to my house (to date, I’ve never had a problem).
So here’s what I propose comics publishers do. Put out a Halloween trick-or-treat special issue (or a few of them) each year. Release it in early October. Make it kid-friendly. Give it some spooky Halloween themes. Showcase some popular characters. So you’ve got Spidey investigating a haunting, or Iron Man battling Frankenstein’s monster. You get the idea. Then sell the issues for dirt cheap. A buck apiece? Less? Make it easy for comics fans to buy a stack of them to give out on Halloween night. This would be an even better marketing tactic than Free Comics Day, because you don’t even have to get kids into the comics shop.
Marvel? DC? You guys listening? Comics fans, care to join me in the Comics for Halloween crusade? Spread the idea around. Maybe it will catch on.
[Update: I posted this article to Twitter, then sent it to Jeff Parker, current writer of Thunderbolts (my favorite comic for the last few years). Parker reposted it, and another comic writer, J. Torres, pointed out that a bunch of publishers did something like this, selling a bunch of Halloween mini comics aimed at kids (I'm linking to the Google cached version because the original article seems to have vanished).
I headed over to the comic shop yesterday and asked about these. I was told that they were solicited months ago and that the store didn't order any because no customers asked for them. I understand this from the shop's point of view, they run on razor thin margins as it is, so they can't eat a pile of books they ordered on the chance someone might buy them. But obviously no one's thinking about Halloween in July or August, so they won't ever get pre-ordered.
This leads us back to my original suggestion -- publishers should push these for ultra-cheap, and they should use big-name characters. They can be kid-friendly without being "kiddie books." That way, shops can order a stack knowing fans will buy a cool Halloween issue featuring Superman or Captain America on its own merits, and people like me who buy a stack to give to trick-or-treaters will just be gravy. The publishers can take a loss on these, because it's a magnificent marketing tool. Comics are struggling these days, and Halloween is a perfect opportunity to build the fan base.]