Free Comic Book Day - One Week Later

Free Comic Book Day was one week ago, and for seven days I’ve been meaning to do a write-up on the artists and creators I discovered there. But now, a week later, I’m almost glad that I didn’t write sooner. I’m happy that I got some distance. Because, see, here’s the thing: I was impressed as all hell with the work of the people I saw last weekend. But now, now that I’m visiting the places these people live on the Web, I’m actually finding myself frighteningly disappointed.. And that’s got me thinking about the differences between promoting yourself online and promoting yourself face-to-face, and the difference between focusing on the selling and focusing on the work.

The folks at Project Exposure certainly know how to promote in person—their Catwoman and Batgirl models were all over the place at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Rochester, last Saturday. But, as of this writing, their Website is a mess in Safari—an ad featuring scantily-clad girls shows up center-screen, and their main content is thrust off-screen altogether, unless you scroll—and that’s not to mention that I have no idea what kind of writing or art they publish, because there are no free samples, only a button to subscribe or buy now. Their Website is obviously low on their priority list, and I can’t help but wonder why. It seems to me like they might have a great product, but I have no way of knowing, and I, like many others, can’t spend money unless I know for sure.

Severed Head Comics is doing a little better. Their incomplete Website directs you to visit their MySpace page. But here’s the thing about that: their MySpace page features art that, on the whole, isn’t at all indicative of the quality I saw being produced in person at their table last weekend.

Robert Quill’s Website isn’t half-bad, and seems to represent his art fairly well, but it’s Flash-based, and that means that when I visited it from the hall last weekend on my iPhone, I got nothing. Now, I’m not saying he should be designing his whole site for my iPhone. But it would be nice if the first page warned that we were entering a Flash-site, and if that warning first page had a drawing or two on it, so that anyone, Flash-enabled browser or not, could get a glimpse at who the artist is, and what he is about.

Jason Casey’s Website portfolio ain’t bad, but it isn’t as impressive as the stuff he had on hand in Rochester. The slideshow on his MySpace page is far more indicative of his work. And that was what was really interesting to me, as I moved through the stack of business cards I picked up last weekend—a lot of folks are relying on their MySpace pages as their primary homes on the Web. Heidi Brunelle is another example.

deviantART seems like the more logical choice for comics artists, and I wonder why so few of the people I met aren’t using that instead. cheshyre-drops is the only person I met who is using deviantART instead of a MySpace page as her primary vehicle. And what’s nice about that is that, even though it’s not her own site, the focus is absolutely on her art. The design is clean, I can tell what I’m there for, and lastly, and most importantly, the art style I saw in person is reflected well here.

Why are artists who seem so competent in person so poorly represented online? I’m not sure. I mean, sites don’t have to be overly complicated or flashy. Folks like cheshyre-drops and Greg Moutafis have simple, clean, understated online homes. Is it really that hard?

I think what it comes down to is this: the Web is not everything in these artists’ lives. Their art is everything, and promoting it comes second. Eventually, they’re going to have to learn how to promote themselves online—maybe by attending events like NH Media Makers, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this weekend—but, for now, they’re focused on what counts. And so, in the end, these peeps who I find have a lot to learn about promoting on the Web, have taught me something: get back to work, and close the damn browser; take care of your Website later.