Remember how for years and years everyone said “If we could only advertise comic books on TV, everything would be solved!” Well, as announced on Vertigo’s Graphic Content blog, Vertigo is doing just that with a TV spot for their initial Crime Line releases that is currently running on BBC America. You can view the spot here.

What with advertising on cable TV being, in some places, very, very affordable, this is indeed a bold move into mainstream marketing for books with a mainstream appeal.

We don’t have it in front of us, but Vertigo is also participating in some sponsorship opportunities with some New Yorker magazine events (the imprint ran some print ads a few weeks back.) so they are clearly trying to get the word out about the Crime Line in as many places where regular crime/mystery readers would be found as possible. (You could say that the ID Channel, home of crime, mystery and forensic programming, would also be a good channel for the message, but given crime line author Ian Rankin’s big following in the UK, BBC America makes sense as well.)


  1. While I can’t see advertising on television for EVERY comic book series, you would think DC and Marvel would develop spots for major events. At least BLACKEST NIGHT promotional featurettes were added to the GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT and SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES DVDs.

  2. Hum, yes. So far, comics seem to be advertised safely within the confines of the “Comic Reading Silo”. An Ad in Previews catalog. A web ad. A guy talking at a convention.
    Safe, low risk, and immeasurable results.
    DC comics doesn’t even advertise during the Smallville TV show.

  3. “If we could only advertise comic books on TV . . . .”


    Was there a policy or agency prohibiting comics from being advertised on radio or TV? At least in the USA? I mean, jeez, it’s not like they’re cigarettes. (Though cost for a single issue is getting dangerously close to forking out for a pack of Luckys.)

    Does anyone have background on why comics haven’t been hawked via the airwaves?

  4. “Does anyone have background on why comics haven’t been hawked via the airwaves?”

    I’m going to guess because it would be cost prohibitive. You’ll notice Vertigo isn’t advertising the December issue of Unknown Soldier or Greek Street, but their line of 19.99 graphic novels.

  5. I just hope the upcoming crime line is, at minimum, as good as Criminal. My brother is a big crime novel reader and he took an interest in it. Your typical prose novel reader has a much higher standard than the typical superhero reader trying a crime book. If they are aiming for that market, they’ll be competing against John Grisham and not Brian K Vaughan.

  6. I think after seeing the ad, I understand why there hasn’t been more television advertising. I thought it was a SNL parody. How could any one take this as serious; the low gravelly narration, the saxophone playing in the background, the quote, “Sex, greed, debauchery, I love it?” How about this line, “There’s rich, and then there’s filthy rich”… its pretty cheesy. It does seem perfect for some porn site though, along with the title “Dark Entries.”

    The biggest question is, will this interest new readers? Isn’t this always the quandary? I would like to know if DC’s promotion to bring in new readers after the Watchman movie had any success. I think it’s pretty much a closed audience, it is what it is. People who drink Diet Coke aren’t going to suddenly change, and start drinking Diet Pepsi. Comics is not a growing market.

  7. Sure, the bang-to-buck ratio for pimping individual issues would be too small to warrant. But back when Kellogg’s Pep (the super-delicious cereal!) sponsored the Superman radio show, they always ended the broadcast by reminding listeners Superman adventures were also available in DC Comics. Why not promote the entire line or specific titles on TV?

    Which begs the question why haven’t Marvel and DC been promoting the floppy book end of things while their various cartoon shows have been running on TV. No cross-promotion between Teen Titans and Tiny Titans?!? Is it short-sightedness on the side of the comics companies. Do they believe, like in the golden age of wireless, that the shows sell comics? (And do today’s sales numbers reflect that?) Also, why haven’t the comics companies picked up ad time in front of the superhero movies being released?

    Is it a matter of working with a that’s-not-the-way-we’ve-done-it mind set? Or is there something larger (e.g., FCC policy, network policy) behind the absence of comics from TV spots?

    (Although there were those early ’80s TV ads for G.I. Joe comics. Per “marketing agencies . . . were restricted by the networks from showing an extensive amount of animation in toy commercials because of the fear that the lines between fantasy and reality for a product would begin to blur. However, there were no rules in the National Association of Broadcasters voluntary guidelines about comic book advertisements.” With the advent of video games and CGI films, those guidelines have got to be pretty far out the window by now.)

    If it’s OK for the young’uns to see commercials for “wholesome” products like performance enhancement pills, hot dogs, and NASCAR (no Freudian connection there, thanks), why haven’t we seen more/recent TV ads for comics?

    (Oh, and the result of the G.I. Joe animated comic campaign? “Reaction came swiftly. By nightfall, devoted parents had stripped toy store shelves bare of the new Joe line, and store managers from Boston to San Jose were on the phone to Hasbro, placing reorders. At noon on Sunday, in a drugstore in Battle Creek, Michigan, two brothers snatched up the last remaining copy of G.I.Joe #1, as out-of-stock newsstands and comic shops besieged distributors for more copies.”)

    Now that it’s been pointed out, the whole thing seems kind of obvious.

    As far as the literary “standards” of prose readers vs. comics readers, that likely comes down to perception or plain ol’ snobbery, either the reader’s or the apologist’s in the comics industry. (I am NOT accusing you of being either, Jamie!) Mystery readers, readers of any genre or form for that matter, have had to chew through pages of D-Grade horse meat before biting into something tasty. Give mystery prose readers a copy of Scalped or Darwin Cooke’s adaptation of The Hunter, and they’ll have their heads turned. (Haven’t read Criminal, so can’t chime in on it.)

  8. Here are the New Yorker ads.

    Vertigo ad in New Yorker

    There have been at least two Vertigo graphic novels briefly reviewed in The New Yorker, but (n<10) reviews over several years isn't much.

    I'd think there'd be as much gained by having books reviewed in The New Yorker or in other publications as there would be by placing ads. Advertising adaptations would be questionable, because if a mystery fan is interested in a particular author, he’s likely to have read the novels already.


  9. Here’s why the ad works. In the space of 30 seconds a new brand and, as far as the overall BBCA viewership is concerned, a new concept (“graphic mysteries”) are introduced. Images from each title are quickly sampled, establishing that these are neither prose novels nor motion comics. Positive review quotes are featured on-screen along with selected narration — quotes that give some indicatiion as to the nature of each narrative (with less than 12 seconds to devote to each book). For obvious reasons, the badge value of Ian Rankin is leveraged. Emphasis is also placed on the books’ covers and trademark spines throughout the spot (after all, in most bookstores, they’ll be shelved spine out). And, most importantly, the spot makes it very clear that these books are available in bookstores AND COMIC SHOPS everywhere. It seems pretty clear to me that the spot was designed to pique the attention of the BBCA viewer and compel him/her to look for the books (without giving anything away) on their next trip to their preferred bookseller. The music and intensity of the read is certainly cliche — but just because its cliche doesn’t mean it won’t work. I guess they could have used a foppish British voiceover, maybe one who had nothing else to do that day, but that would have been pandering.

  10. You’d think that there’d be room in the budget for a proofreader. They blurb George Pelecanos, but misspell his name (in the TV spot, not the New Yorker ad). I mean, really. If your target is the type of reader who likes Pelecanos, your target is the type of reader who knows how his name is spelled.