I've been quiet about the concept of "Australian Comic Book Week", mainly because I don’t want to be one of those assholes that pisses on an idea without being constructive. Its annoying when problems are highlighted without solutions. Its easy to say what's wrong with something and its hard to fix problems. Easy is bullshit.
So what are my problems with the proposed 'Australian Comic Book Week'? Well, the plan from what I can gather boils down to release a comic in December. Since I’m an Australian comic junkie that buys pretty much everything local I can get my hands on, I want comics released every month. That’s a small self-centred point. In the current environment, creators wait till the various Supanovas (Sydney more so that Brisbane) to release their gear and practically and in the short term, that's a smart move. Creators get more money from books sold in Conventions (100% of cover) than in shops (50% of cover) plus there's heaps of people looking to buy. But it also means that comics come out in drips and drabs, if a comic is released annually, ie at every Supanova, there's a good chance customers/readers will lose interest. However if ACBW takes off then there will be 3 times a year books may get released, which is better than 2.
Having a lot of books released at once has its benefits; it shows people that there is a large variety of work available – presenting a lot of different styles and genres. It shows that Australian comics is not a genre where if they don't like one they won't like any. Plus an event like this hopefully will get people creating; when you are working to a deadline and in a group situation there is less chance of saying "fuck this - I'm playing xbox". There are other people that can offer support – it becomes fun, which is one of the few stated objectives of the event.
Lastly there is the opportunity of getting media attention.
Again, the opportunity for promotion is there, it would be great if the media got interested but what's the hook? Even more simply, what's the hook for non-creators to get involved, if not involved, at least interested?
I think a week centred around Australian Comic Books is great, but looking at what other industries do, the focus is wrong. The Orange Growers Association doesn't have "Sell an orange" campaign during Orange Week, they have "Buy an Orange" campaign. The Meat Industry spends its promotional resources getting people to buy meat, its spends less money getting farmers to produce livestock.
A problem with "Release a comic" is that the majority of shop owners may say "nah, not interested I still have a stack of Australian comics from 2 years ago" or "local stuff never sells" so if there is any publicity for the event and people do get interested they either won't be able to find Australian comics or they'll find old stuff.
Creating a demand is probably more important than creating a supply. With too much demand, you get sell outs and retailers and creators are happy (empty handed customers won't be happy but hopefully they'll be back). Over supply means that retailers get stuck with product they can't sell and get turned off local gear, just like what happened in the early 90s.
I think it should be “Buy an Australian Comic”, through it to the wider community. Creators still get involved because they have to create the books in the first place. With the wider focus though, the community can get involved (not just the creator community).
Problem with "Buy an Australian Comic", however, is why should I?
Back to the Orange and Meat example, the various industries explain that Oranges and Meat make you healthier, they improve people's lives and that’s why you should buy them. What does an Australian Comic do for me? How will it improve my life? If answers can be found to these questions; then "buy an Australian comic" is a goer. It has to be on some nationalistic ground. The only philanthropic promotional event I can think of that is of a similar nature (besides the generic Buy Australian) is Hole-Proofs campaign - "buy a pair of socks and help a sheep farmer" of the mid to late 80s when there was an oversupply of wool. It’s a hard road to travel because the benefits to the community are intangible, Australian Comics won’t make consumers richer, healthier or sexier.
If you had the time and money, yes you could have a campaign that comics make you sexy; (if they can make ugg boots sexy you can make anything sexy). But Time and Money is the ball breaker.
Otherwise, if tugging at heart strings or boosting egos isn't the way, then maybe bribery may work.
How will buying an Australian Comic make my life better? Well if you buy an Australian Comic during December you can enter a raffle and win stuff. Winning stuff makes life better. Every comic shop that sells local comics would provide entry forms with purchases, that get filled out with and sent to an address. A winner is picked and they get stuff. What stuff? I dunno - artists can donate art, people can donate money. That’s the relatively easy bit; getting shops involved, coming up with safeguards and the whole raffle laws are the main issues. But the benefits are, shops will see there is a demand and make money, readers might find something they like and buy more and creators may make some money too.
There’s about 30 comic shops in Australia, and if they average 300 regular customers and if only 50% enter to get an original Ashley Wood painting or their likeness in an Eddie Campbell comic or the chance to write a Da ‘n Dill strip or shit even $250 bucks cash, that’s about 5000 sales right there.*
If the "buy an Australian comic" isn't liked, then i'd probably suggest that "Release an Australian comic" needs to be done in conjunction with something else, like a gallery exhibition. When organised properly it appears these things go well. Creators can sell their comics there, direct to the public - getting a bigger cut of the pie and its something more interesting for the media to hook in to and write about.
I think having a week glorifying the coolness of Australian Comics is well deserved but the proposed plan lacks a goal, besides release a comic and have fun but then what?
But I’m willing to help out with whatever I can with whatever happens.
*(PLEASE NOTE I HAVE NO IDEA IF THOSE GUYS WOULD BE INTERESTED, THEY ARE ONLY USED FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES)