Flint and Steel | The Messaging Power Of Digital Comics
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— The Messaging Power Of Digital Comics

Few Mediums Are More Effective At Sparking Empathy, Retention & Action

In terms of empathy and relevance to youth, few mediums are as compelling and as effective as the comic book. Marvel Comics, arguably the dominant player in the medium, was founded on the principle of imbuing young heroes with the foibles and concerns of everyday life. From Peter Parker’s perennial teen angst, to the X-Men’s role as avatars for misunderstood teens, comics and characters remain an ideal way to engage, educate and empower youth.

And content is only augmented by format. The visual storyline, panel form of comics is an ideal mechanism for interaction. Studies show that teens have 20% better retention of information from comics versus Health Department pamphlets. Additionally, research shows that comics were found to be most effective at increasing the knowledge of young people with the lowest educational attainment. The growth in interests and accessibility of digital or motion comics has only escalated with the influence of comics in teen culture.

Streetwize, MTV Voices and others have created some dynamic and meaningful digital comics focusing on pro-social issues for teens. Digital comics not only allow readers to access content in a variety of channels, they also allow for sharing and user-gen contribution. And digital comics penetration has been staggering – digital comic downloads increased 350% in 2012 from the previous year, and has steadily grown reaching 100mm in total sales in 2014. And the content is a provocative as the growth, with the introduction of some provocative and memorable storylines. Bashir Bari, the paralyzed star of “Silver Scorpion,” created by a group of American and Syrian teens, not only empowers people with disabilities, but also opens up cultural connections. In 2005, the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic was given to “Mom’s Cancer,” created by Brian Fies. It depicted his mother’s fight against metastatic lung cancer. “Pedro and Me” chronicled the friendship of Judd Winick and HIV-positive Pedro Zamora. Most recently, comics have taken on the charge of HIV awareness and education. DC has launched a storyline where Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy announces that she tested positive for HIV. Interestingly, a different Speedy was featured in the landmark storyline in 1971 that tackled teen drug use when it depicted the sidekick as a heroin addict. There’s a title called Lifeforce where five super-powered teenagers battle Agent Aids as well as an inspired comic in Israel that uses sign language to educate the deaf community about HIV prevention. And obviously, the CDC is utilizing motion comics to energize it’s own campaign around HIV awareness and prevention.

If the technique of “character populated” panels can compel young consumers to learn about such diverse and daunting topics, certainly similar retention could occur when touting the merits of a consumer brand.

So the interest and technique is there. So are the channels. There are three critical channels that can be exploited to get our message and content to the target. First, we can tap into the range of existing platforms and apps that distribute motion comics. Platforms like ComiXology are huge, as well as additional players iVerse, Kodansha, Graphicly and Panelfly. With manga and teen paranormal romance being the two fastest growing segments of publishing for teen girls, we can partner with the digital platform for Viz media which publishes 6 of the top 10 manga titles. We can also partner with Reading With Pictures – the organization created to revolutionize the role of comics in education. Diamond Distributor, the gatekeeper of all printed comics has launched a Digital program that allows readers to download digital comics with codes from brick and mortar comics.

Second, we can tap into the existing communities like Comics Accelerator, the newly launched crowd-funding tool and distributor, as well as mangablog.net, Comicon.com, comicsbeat.com, comicscontinuum.com and more.

Lastly, we can also tap into new technology like Madefire that provides intuitive technology for readers to create their own stories. The key ingredient in all of this is that the content is authentic and competitive within the comic space. At Flint & Steel we have long-standing relationships with award-winning writers and artists who are at the forefront of the comics industry, as well as key staff members who are fervent comic enthusiasts and have studied and contributed to the role of comics in marketing, messaging and cultural change.

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