For those who have asked, here are my best guesses at what's next:
The immediate future
My immediate goal is to sell more PEACE PARTY #1-2's. I still have a large stock of them to go.
The key is getting the word out. To that end I'm pursuing the usual multitude of initiatives. Posting to newsgroups and mailing lists on related subjects. Getting listed in the Net's search engines. Sending press releases to media outlets. Doing cooperative ventures with people like Carlos Reynosa. Selling the comic through eBay and other online sites. Speaking at gatherings and conferences. Etc., etc.
But even the article in Indian Country Today didn't generate a surge in sales, so that may not be enough. We have to create a buzz, not just awareness. If we could get a fraction of the buzz around, say, the Harry Potter books, that would be enough. (Both are fantasies for the young at heart, so why not?)
But people are resistant, lemme tell ya. The response I got from Mesa Verde National Monument is probably representative. The museum association there turned down PEACE PARTY for their shop.
Why? According to my contact, because kids can get PEACE PARTY elsewhere (not necessarily). Because it doesn't fit the museum's educational purpose (they should be educating people that Indians aren't museum pieces). Because it doesn't cover "their" region (this is what the descendants of the Anasazi are doing now: working as lawyers and artists...keeping the peace on Pueblo reservations...opposing environmental ruin...etc.)
You can see what we're up against. No one's judging the comic on its merits or giving customers a chance to buy it. Sellers of comic books don't think people want to read about Indians. Sellers of Indian products don't think people want to read comic books. Meanwhile, Tony Hillerman sells a few hundred thousand of each of his Native American-themed, popularized-but-mostly-authentic, action-adventure-and-mystery-filled books. Which is the same potential market for PEACE PARTY, as far as I'm concerned.
Ah, well. Anyone who has an idea on creating more awareness or buzz about PEACE PARTY, please let me know. Your name will go down in history if you come up with a brilliant marketing ploy.
More PEACE PARTY
Right now PP #3-5 are in various stages of incompleteness. I hope to get pro artist Rob Davis to complete them. We'll probably compile them into a trade paperback (TPB), with lots of extra stories and features. I'll seek an established publisher or (if necessary) publish the TPB myself.
A TPB has several advantages over a comic magazine. While dealers have already removed PEACE PARTY from their shelves, they'll keep a TPB there indefinitely. People will take a risk since they know they'll be getting a complete story arc. Most important, mainstream bookstores and Indian shops will be willing to carry it, expanding the potential market manifold.
Since Rob Davis will be working on PP in his spare time, it may take months. It may take a year (or two). That isn't necessarily bad.
For starters, it'll give me more time to sell PP #1-2 and earn more money. That'll be important if I have to finance the TPB myself. Also, it'll allow time for the buzz about PEACE PARTY to grow. By the time the TPB comes out, I hope hundreds or thousands of fans will be asking for more PEACE PARTY.
Before I published PEACE PARTY #1, I did some marketing, but not nearly enough. I've heard that you have to conduct an awareness campaign six months before debuting a book to be successful. We'll do that this time. We'll have galleys so all the book reviewers can review the TPB as it comes out. We'll schedule interviews to run as the TPB comes out. And so forth and so on.
The TPB should sell better than the comic has sold. If it sells well, we'll do more TPBs. If I get more artists and writers involved, we can do TPBs as fast as they'll sell.
While we wait, I'll continue to post new stories and features online at least once every other month. That way the PEACE PARTY franchise will live and grow. And anyone who has a PP craving can get a fix.
At the same time, I'll begin laying the groundwork for a new, related project: a Native American team of superheroes a la the X-Men. This team will include Billy and Drew of Peace Party, but they'll be just two of several team members. The heroes will come from all over Indian country.
Whereas I crafted PEACE PARTY to appeal to those tired of typical comic book fare, I'll do everything to make this book appeal to the masses. An edgy title. Stylish costumes. Striking male and female characters, including a couple of young rebel types. A Xena-style warrior as the leader. The whole heroes-against-the-world mentality made popular by X-MEN and countless imitators.
But have no fear: I won't adopt these things as marketing gimmicks. They'll flow naturally from the concept and characters. And the story content will be largely the same. The stories will be more about the characters, their values, and how they deal with a multicultural world than about tough-guy posturing, mindless battle scenes, and plots for world domination.
If this series does better than PEACE PARTY, we'll continue it, with PEACE PARTY stories as part of it. If both series do well, we'll continue both. If neither series does well...well, that's something we just can't let happen, can we?
Everything is proceeding apace. Rob Davis is working on stories, as are writer Danny Donovan and writer/artist Ruben Chavez. While they work on scripts or art boards, I'm adding material to BlueCornComics.com (trying to create that buzz mentioned earlier) and seeking aid: a publisher, public and private grants, gaming tribe support, anything I can think of. It may not be obvious, but we're working hard to make more PEACE PARTY happen.
Everything is still proceeding apace. We're working on the core stories, a prequel, and several short stories to supplement the package. Writer Danny Donovan is joined by retailer/writer Steve Bates and scholar/writer A. David Lewis. Artists Rob Davis and Ruben Chavez are joined by Patrick Rolo and Marty Two Bulls, among other possibilities. We're juggling all the pieces while getting more publicity and seeking grants and other funding.
I've begun working with Victor Rocha of PECHANGA.net. He's extremely well-connected and is introducing me to leaders in the Indian and gaming communities. Their help will be instrumental in getting more PEACE PARTY published.
As I wrote in Are Comics Dead?, the future of comics is questionable at best. I've questioned the viability of comics for years. The basic problem is that they're not cost-effective. Who wants to spend $2.95 for a 15-minute comic when they can spend $8.00 for a two-hour movie or an eight-hour novel? (Almost) no one who's interested in quality writing or literature, that's who.
While I continue working for PECHANGA.net and making contacts, I'm rethinking the PEACE PARTY model. I still intend to publish graphic novels in trade paperback format. But rather than do strictly comic-book stories, I may do a mix of formats: straight prose stories and illustrated prose stories as well as traditional comic-book stories. That will make the package more attractive to mainstream readers, and it will let me do more of the work myself. From my standpoint, the idea has everything to recommend it.
How to help
Ways you can easily help
Blue Corn Comics to serve Native projects
PEACE PARTY grant proposal
Marketing a small-press comic book
The future of comics
. . .
All material © copyright its original owners, except where noted.
Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.
Copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act,
which allows copying for nonprofit educational uses including criticism and commentary.
Comments sent to the publisher become the property of Blue Corn Comics
and may be used in other postings without permission.