Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Brought to You By the Letters A and E

Posted by Don MacPherson on July 19th, 2009

As I typed away on my keyboard, preparing some reviews for the site in the coming days, my wife piped up and told me to check out the TV. She’d been watching the latest episode of Gene Simmons: Family Jewels on A&E, and just before a commercial break, Simmons and his son Nick Simmons take a moment to pimp the lad’s latest project: a comic book. The comic in question is Incarnate, and for those who pay attention comics news online, it doesn’t exactly come as news. Simmons (both elder and junior) have had an interest in comics publishing for a while now, having released titles recently through IDW Publishing. It wasn’t along ago that Radical Publishing announced plans to publish Incarnate, written and illustrated by Nick Simmons. The publisher is premiering the new title is at this week’s Comic-Con International San Diego, with both Gene and Nick appearing at the Radical booth for signings and at other special events.

So the broadcast announcement about Incarnate isn’t telling us anything new, but what’s of interest is how it’s being promoted. A&E has set up a mini-site on its own online home for Nick Simmons specifically to promote Incarnate. Now, A&E may not be one of the big American networks, but it’s no slouch in the world of broadcast entertainment either. Furthermore, Family Jewels is syndicated, so it has a longer reach than just the A&E crowd.

The question is, though: will a de facto ad on primetime TV move comics? Will it drive non-comics buyers to seek out Nick’s comic and perhaps others if they enjoy the experience?

Page from Incarnate #1It’s not as though TV ads for comics are unprecedented in the North American marketplace. The G.I. Joe Saturday morning cartoon in the 1980s featured prominent ads for Marvel’s G.I. Joe comic book. Filmmaker and occasional comics writer Kevin Smith pimped his Spider-Man/Black Cat comic book on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2002.

Did these ads/plugs help those titles, direct-market comics retailers or the comics publishing business in general? I think it’s safe to say no. Those promotional efforts are little more than curious footnotes in comics history, not milestones. I’d say mainstream news coverage of comics “events” — from the “death” of Superman to the Spidey/Obama “team-up” — have had a greater impact than TV advertising or celebrity plugs.

In this case, though, I think there’s a definite benefit to be had, but it’s one that will be enjoyed by a select few.

The biggest winner will likely be Radical Publishing (or Radical Comics, as it’s sometimes called). Many Family Jewels fans have a real interest in the “characters” from the show, especially when it comes to Simmons and Shannon Tweed’s kids, Nick and Sophie Simmons. The A&E mini-site is definitely going to generate some extra business and some extra demand for the Incarnate comics book (at least the first issue) and the ancillary merchandise, such as T-shirts. Radical is tapping into another sales venue to which other publishers don’t have access.

Maybe there won’t be that many people seeking it out right away, but as we’ve seen in a past episode or two of Family Jewels, the show’s cameras are going to follow the Simmons clan to San Diego. Quoting from the latest news release on Radical’s website:

Coinciding with the weekend of San Diego Comic-Con 2009, Radical Publishing, Gene Simmons and Nick Simmons will be hosting THE RADICAL EVENT AT THE HARD ROCK HOTEL in San Diego; An exclusive invitation-only rock concert extravaganza promoting the release of Nick Simmons’ first comic-book title Incarnate. The event will feature live performances by Gene and Nick Simmons as well as a surprise performance from some very special guests.

The event will be filmed by A&E TV, who will also be filming around Radical booth #3735, and will air on the hit television show Gene Simmons: Family Jewels.

Comics, and Incarnate in particular, will soon enjoy more primetime promotion, and this time, it’s going to last more than 10 or 20 seconds. Nick Simmons will no doubt reach more readers as a result, and Radical will likely keep a decent backstock on hand to meet any demand it gets from A&E’s online division.

Will the celebrity push help the medium in general? Unlikely. We’ve seen other celebs venture into the realm of comics publishing with limited success. Will the Incarnate promotion help comics retailers? While Diamond Comics Distributors’ comic-book locator service is mentioned on the bottom of the A&E Incarnate page, the main gist of the page seems to be to get fans to order the comic and associated merchandise directly through the A&E site.

Sure, any kind of additional promotion for comic books is something people in the industry (as well as industry watchers such as myself) will welcome, but history’s taught us also not to hang our hopes on Hollywood’s brief attentions to bolster business or transform the marketplace.

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One Response to “Brought to You By the Letters A and E”

  1. Evan Meadow Says:

    The funny thing is, Incarnate was supposed to be published by IDW when they had the deal with Simmons.

    And that whole thing just fell apart for no explained reason.

    I’ll probably pick up the trade. Radical’s stuff seems interesting. Enjoyed Caliber and I’ve got to read my copy of City of Dust.