Mishler’s Manifesto

In the latest issue of Comics & Games Retailer, editor James Mishler makes an excellent point about one of the big differences between selling comics and selling games. These days, people buy comics because of the writers and artists involved with a particular book. With games, few people have any idea who the creators are.

Some comics creators have attained rock-star status. Much of this happened on the merits of their own talents, of course, but also because the comic-book companies realized that this could be a strong selling point for them. Sure, Batman books sell all right, but put names like Frank Miller and Jim Lee on a Batman book (All-Star Batman and Robin), and it sets records as the best-selling book of the new millennium.

With games, that’s impossible to pull off. Only a few noted creators have earned instant name recognition, but even then their names don’t always guarantee big sales. James argues that this has harmed the game industry. At the very least, the publishers have missed a huge opportunity.

I tend to agree with him, although I’ve seen publishers work the fame angle well. Back at Pinnacle, we used to make a huge splash at Gen Con every summer. When we released Deadlands: Hell on Earth and Brave New World, we had lines that sprawled around our island of booths and beyond. At the Brave New World launch, I signed well north of 250 copies of the core book.

At the last Wizard World Chicago, though, I sat behind Jim Lee in the DC autographs booth and watched him sign books for nearly an hour. Jim handled himself like the perfect gentleman he is as he signed stacks and stacks of stuff, posed for pictures, shook hands, and more. However, you had to have a wristband to get into line, and even then they limited the signing to an hour so that Jim could make it to other events at the show.

It stunned me. I sat there and stared, soaking in the reflected limelight. Jim’s a true talent, no doubt, but an amazing cult of personality exists around him, and every one of those fans stood on its front lines.

And, man, does it help sell books. Games too? Hard to tell, but it’s worth a shot.