Saturday, March 23, 2013

Good Merch vs. Bad Merch

Although I love sites like CafePress and Zazzle, but sometimes people create too many products. It’s not that there aren’t some good ideas out there, it’s just that sometimes not enough thought was put into the idea. In essence, the creator creates some merchandise that should not be created. Just look at some of the scarier superhero merchandise that has been created over the years, and you’ll quickly see my point. You don’t want to make something that will be a joke years down the road, so there are some things to keep in mind.

Don’t betray your comic: If you run a kid’s comic, there is always the temptation to do something more risqué. By the same token, there is always the temptation to do parody material with serious material. The former is a bad idea, whereas the other can work rather well. The former idea betrays the comic; it takes the comic into an area that you may not want it to go, and more to the point may come off as sort of weird. If you’ve set up certain themes in your comic try to continue those themes in the merchandise as well.

This is why parodies work; it gives you a chance to look at those themes by going outside the normal lines of your comic. There’s a line of shirts where the TARDIS shows up in front a Disney princess; it works because of The Doctor can and usually does show up in weird places, and the added whimsy of the princess as a potential Companion works out rather well while exploring how much they need to be paired with someone. When we see Gabe as a carboard-tube samurai it works; Gabe can be a jerk, but seeing him imagined as a samurai speaks to how gamers see themselves as noble warriors, and still falls within the theme of Penny Arcade poking fun at gamers.

Ask a friend to look over the idea: Sometimes in the rush to create something you may overlook some simple considerations and a new set of eyes can catch something weird that you may have missed: an out of place innuendo, a simple spelling error, even something as simple as too many fingers. Just knowing that someone else will be looking it over may kill some of the stress of completing it in the first place. But always have someone else go over the idea.

Don’t put your logo on everything: Just because you can have thongs doesn’t mean you should, especially if your comic emphasizes innocence and purity. If you can create a great Christmas ornament, go for it; otherwise don’t worry about it. Just because something is possible, doesn’t mean that it should exist; just be true to the comic and you should be okay, and don’t force into areas that it doesn’t belong in just to make a buck, or you will find that the comic itself will suffer.

The merchandise should expand the comic: It’s a weird idea, but this can actually help your comic. If you have one-panel ideas that really work for the characters, such as a couple snuggling or a family snapshot of all the characters, but just wouldn’t work in the comic, a T-shirt or a calendar may work out well. You can always run it as an extra in the trade paperback, but sometimes you want to get the image out there, and putting it on some kind of merchandise works.

Keep these ideas in mind and your merchandise has a chance. You just don’t want to put your artwork on everything or it comes off as you are schilling your comic, and that’s never a good idea.