They can get movies made. They can get toy lines produced. They can even get executives at major corporations to listen to them. Who are this group of consumers? Housewives Nope. They’re Comic fans.
Over twenty-five years ago, in the mid 1980’s the comic fan was a powerless individual. While the industry was in the middle of a boom comic book publishers and retailers comic shop owners and vintage toy sellers had all the leverage and dictated the terms of business to the customer. In the pre-internet days of comic and toy collecting comic shops and toy show vendors often jacked up prices on toys and comics and gave comic book and toy collectors some of the worst customer service. It wasn’t common for shop comic shop and newsstand owners to mock and ridicule a comic book buyer and call them a nerd and a fanboy and laugh at them as they took their money.
The market for comics soon began to peak in the mid 1990’s. And when 50% of the comic shops in North America closed, it led to a major paradigm shift in the superhero collectibles market. While lots of publishers suffered losses during this market change, larger businesses like toy stores began to benefit from the change in the migration patterns of collectors. With many unable to get to a comic shop, newsstand or a drugstore for their comics, they began heading to chain toy stores such as Toys R Us and Kay Bee Toys to pick up action figures of their favorite characters. And they began using the emerging Internet to talk about these toys.
While the comic book market of the mid 1990’s was declining, the market for superhero merchandise was growing. And when comic fans began going out in masses to buy action figures from toy stores like Toys R Us and Kay Bee Toy stores, big business began to see the growing economic power of the comic fan. As big business began following the dollars that came into their store, they realized how much of their profits were coming from comic fans and collectors and started offering them store exclusive toys.
Over the last two decades, comic fans have come to understand their economic power as consumers and are now using it to dictate their terms to comic book publishers, movie studios, toy stores, and toy companies. With many toy and film studio executives being comic fans themselves, they’re aware of the power of the comic fans’ dollar on the bottom line.
And thanks to message boards such as superherohype.com, comicbookresources.com and thefwoosh.com, Facebook and Twitter, executives at toy companies, movies studios and comic book publishers have a direct line to hear what their customers are saying about their products.
When comic fans talk these days, most companies are listening. This is why toy companies make an effort to exclusives products to comic fans during and after conventions like San Diego Comic Con. This is why studios present teaser trailers for their superhero movies at comicons across the country. And it’s why companies make a serious effort to produce exactly what comic fans ask for in a toy line or a movie.
Most comic publishers large and small know the power of the comic fans’ dollar. This is why they make every effort to publish quality stories in their comics. Most know the average comic fan spends anywhere from $30-$200 a week on comics. And if the quality is NOT on the page, the comic fan will take their money elsewhere.
Toy Companies also see the economic power of the comic fan dollars. They’ve made efforts to produce retailer exclusive toys to cater to this large audience of customers. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target know when the toy collector goes on a hunt they spend money.
And lots of it. It’s not common for a collector to spend anywhere from $200-$500 on a toy haul. And after they spend money, they go online tell their friends where to find toys. Money in the bank for a retailer.
Nowadays some online retailers like BigBadToyStore.com and Enchanted Toy Chest even allow fans to pre-order sets of toys so they won’t miss out on a short-packed figure. This was unheard of 25 years ago when comic fans had to stake out a Toys R Us or a Caldor just to search the toy aisle for a short-packed action figure. But it shows the tremendous economic power of the comic fan on the toy business.
Hollywood sees the economic power of the comic fans’ dollar at the box office. When executives saw how Comic fans turned the Avengers into a billion dollar franchise movie studios realized they had to take the comic fans dollar seriously. This is why we see so many plans for superhero movies over the next few years.
Moreover, Hollywood also understands they have to produce products that meet the fans’ standard. The same economic and social network that made The Avengers into a multi-billion dollar franchise also turned Halle Berry’s Catwoman into one of the biggest flops of 2004 and got Birds of Prey Cancelled after only one season.
If a product does not meet the standard of comic fans will not only get vocal in their protest, they follow through by voting with their wallets. Products such as Halle Berry’s Catwoman, the WB’s Birds of Prey and DC Universe Classics and DC Comics New 52 comic line have all suffered losses as a result of comic fans using their economic power to make a statement about poor quality and a companies’ unwillingness to listen to the customer.
Gone are the days of telling comic fans they have to take substandard product at higher prices and poor customer service. For example when Mattel offered its DC Club Infinite Earths program last year, they began running games out of the old school comic shop playbook of higher prices and poor customer service. For the first year comic fans put up with poor customer service from Digital River, the company Mattel hired to expedite the shipping of figures to subscribers.
However, after much complaining on message boards like TheFwoosh.com, in the second year many collectors began to get tired of Mattel’s excuses about character selection, quality control and shipping. Many more didn’t renew their subscriptions and when others saw the prices for shipping and figures getting into the $30 price range for a single action figure they began to balk on day of sale leaving lots of stock to languish in the Digital River warehouse.
In the third year Mattel sought to further gouge the customer with a pair of Doomsday action figure exclusives. However, When collectors saw that some of the initial figures for the subscription wouldn’t meet their standards for quality and that prices for shipping and the figures themselves would be $40 for a single figure, most comic fans balked and refused to subscribe again.
As a result the Club Infinite Earths line was cancelled and Mattel learned not to take the dollar of DC Comic fans for granted. Moreover, other companies such as Hasbro and NECA who have action figure lines that cater to collectors have learned from watching Mattel’s mistakes not to take the comic fan for granted.
The comic fan is now a powerful block of consumers with tremendous economic power. On their word a toy line can be made or broken, and a movie can be made into a blockbuster or a flop. Big business has come to understand the value of the comic fans’ dollar and most are realizing that they have to do business with comic fans on their terms.
Twenty years ago the comic fan was on the fringe of society, mocked and ridiculed by society. However, with the help of social media the comic fan has come to understand the power of Group Economics. Today comic fans are organizing and using their economic power to get what they want from comic publishers, toy companies and movie studios. And Thanks to Comic fans showing the world their money businesses today know better than to calls then nerds, fanboys geeks and try to take advantage of them. Instead most businesses treat them as valued customers and show them the respect human beings are supposed to receive.