Who is the target audience for your comics?
If you don’t know, and you’re planning on selling your comics, then it’s time to figure out the answer to that question. When there is an eager group of readers that is ready and waiting for the kind of comic book you create, it’s much easier to sell your work when it’s done.
The idea guy
Early in my career, I worked with a partner in the comics industry. He regularly made suggestions for product ideas.
One idea was to produce socially aware comics which would address divisive issues and socio-political views.
Another time, he suggested a calendar featuring pin-ups of nude and semi-nude models. In the calendars, the models would be wearing only the digitally painted costumes of super-heroines that we would design. They would then accompany us to conventions to attract attention to our area and to help sell the calendars.
If we had never before published anything, and were starting fresh, these ideas may have had merit. Although, realistically, we would have had to sell a lot of calendars to pay those modeling fees.
Why these ideas didn’t work for us
We had already been publishing for some time, and the comic books we had published were for children, to engage them in reading. Our company’s brand had already been established.
We went into schools to promote youth literacy. We produced our line of comics fashioned with an eye back towards the Silver Age books. Our books were aimed at an all-ages, family audience.
To have scantily-clad women sitting at our convention tables, or to engage with angry activists who disagreed with the messages in a politically charged comic, would work to isolate and destroy the audience we had made so much effort to establish.
You have to know your audience and create your products for them.
If you respond “everyone” when someone asks about your target audience, that means you don’t really know who you’re making comics for, and it makes it far more difficult to sell them. Some products and characters have a broader appeal than others but there is no comic book or series that will be universally popular with readers.
For example, those who read Deadpool are not as likely to appreciate a classic take on Superman. People who read independent and underground comics will be less likely to purchase books in the DC or Marvel lines, because of the difference in the kinds of stories they publish.
How do you establish your target audience?
If you want to enjoy the creative process, the best way to create your characters and comic books is to think about what it was that got you interested in reading comics. Produce comics you’d enjoy reading, and pull your natural audience toward you, instead of trying to force your work into a box.
In other words, if you’re a bouncy optimist who loves stories about fairy magic, don’t try to write a story about an underworld demon that is bent on the destruction of humanity just because that’s what’s selling.
If you write and draw comic books that are enjoyable to you, there will be a natural feel to your characters and plots because you are writing from a place you know and understand. When you are part of your target audience it makes it easier to understand them, and it will be more likely that they become buyers.
One note: this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create characters different from yourself, and it doesn’t mean you’ll only connect with people exactly like you. It just means you share the same likes and dislikes as your readers when it comes to character types and subject matter.
Wide range of tastes in comics
People who never read comics probably think of comic book readers as one giant blob of humanity interested in nothing but super heroes.
Those of us who read and love comics, though, know that nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, some of us love our superheroes, but there is a rich variety in comics, and tastes in comic books range as widely as they do for novels and movies.
Even within genres, readers may be drawn to some kinds of characters and dislike others. It’s your job to know what makes your readers tick; what they love and why.
The core blueprint for creating comic books already exists, and as creative and original as we all want our work to be, most ideas are derived from that blueprint. That’s not a bad thing.
Basic story structure has been the same since humans were able to communicate, no matter the genre or medium. From cave drawings to Shakespeare to Spider-Man to Star Wars, we all recognize a good story. The story structure is pretty much the same for every work of fiction.
However, story execution leaves room for endless variety, and that’s what allows you to let loose with your original creativity.
- Your characters and the relationships between them
- The plots you dream up
- The themes you choose to explore
- The way you present your ideas visually
How successful your comic book will be depends on how closely all these elements match what your readers like.
Figure out the appeal of your genre
Look at the characteristics, the styles, and the colors that establish the genre of book you’d like to create.
If you choose to write children’s comics, study what made specific children’s comic books successful. What is it that makes stories featuring Mickey Mouse, Archie, or Tiny Titans intriguing to kids? Why are books that feature Batman, Wolverine, and Spawn selling to their market?
Readers can often tell when a creator is having fun with their work and it can become contagious.
When you give your readers what they want, they will keep coming back for more. A comparison of the Deadpool and Avengers movies contrasted against the Green Lantern and The Fantastic Four flicks makes this point crystal clear.
Your core audience is the foundation for your success. Understanding what that group wants from the books they read is imperative to a long-term feature. Every creative decision that takes your book away from the heart of your story will send readers away disappointed. Stick to the things that touch your readers and you increase your chances for success!