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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cover Matters 2

Graphic Novel Covers

If you want to earn the favor of someone, you have to speak their language. You have to present to them what they expect of you, whether they be your parents, your friends, a lover, or an employer. This is a crucial part of the marketing mix. To be able to connect to what your audience is looking for is a foot in the door towards making a sale.

So far, in the comics industry, you know a comic book when you see one. The covers are pretty standard, pretty traditional in execution. There's a whole culture surrounding it. Despite the innovations we've seen over the past decade, the overall sensibility remains the same. And this sensibility has been successful in drawing the comic book crowd in.

However, it's possible that these covers reinforce the stigma surrounding the medium. If we're looking to attract a non-comics reading crowd to our work, we need to speak their language. Our closest point of reference is the bookstore.

With that, the graphic novel covers shown above aren't real. I cooked them up as an experiment. (Trademarks belonging to Marvel.)

If, the moment you first laid eyes on these make-believe covers, you've been hit by at least squint-level curiosity, then what does this say about the power of a cover to get the attention of a passerby?

Granted, the Scarlet Witch and the X-Men are somehow familiar to comics fans, but what these covers seek to do is to rip these characters out of context and present them in a different light--one that doesn't scream superhero. To the comics person, these covers may seem baffling. There's no image of any character on the covers. There's no dynamic pose, no speed lines, nothing to suggest a superhero story.

But I'll go back to what I said in the first installment of Cover Matters. The cover is a promise, and the promise can be as fundamental as red shoes. To some of you, the Scarlet Witch cover can be mistaken for a piece of "chick lit." Think "Devil Wears Prada" or "Shopaholic," in a genre that I'd suppose could inspire an interesting superhero-drama story involving Wanda Maximoff.

Wanda: "You don't understand how I feel! You're incapable of feeling anything!"
Vision: [attempting to compute]

The X-Men cover moves the mutant superhero story well into the sci-fi realm. This cover can may as well fit in the science fiction section of a bookstore. The story can contain the usual flashiness of an X-Men tale, but the cover envelops the story in a non-superhero context. For these two covers, the only thing that gives them away is the tag "A Graphic Novel." There's no deception involved.

So will these covers really attract a non-comics reading audience? I honestly don't know. But what I do know is that if you want your graphic novel to reach a new audience, you need to think out of the box. And a good place to start is finding out what your target audience is looking for in a book cover.

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At October 3, 2008 at 10:03 PM , Blogger Caleb said...

I really like both covers, particularly the first one. You say you designed them yourself?

At October 11, 2008 at 6:49 AM , Blogger Comics Creator said...

Thanks Caleb! And thanks for visiting. Yes, I did both covers, though I don't know how receptive comics creators are to this kind of treatment. Hopefully some out there have or are trying it out. :)


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