How Zoom Suit Sold 20,000 Copies
By Valerie D’Orzio
How Zoom Suit #1 Got Orders For Over 20,000 Copies (in my humble opinion) by Valerie D’Orzio
Silver Bullet Comics – My first impression upon setting eyes on Superverse Comics’ Zoom Suit #1 was the quality. It should have been the merits of the storytelling or the “heart” of the piece (and it’s got those things going for it too), but being trained as a comic editor I tend to immediately look for Quality. And creator/publisher John Taddeo has produced one damn fine looking book.
With multiple covers by the likes of Bob Layton, Bill Tucci, Bart Sears, Jim Starlin, Keron Grant, Gene Colan, and other legends, unique MetalFXR color technology (think an overlay of metal cover-to-cover), gorgeous art by Billy Dallas Patton, and high-grade production values & cover stock this is how an “indie” comic that wishes to compete with the “big boys” should be done. And the numbers have bourne this out orders for the first issue exceeded 20,000 copies! This is incredible for a small comic publisher and made the journalist side of me take notice. The big question is how did Taddeo do it?
“You mean my little brother can actually read this comic?”
It starts, I believe, with Heart. I realize that sounds like just so much sentimental clap-trap in a comics world filled with billion-part crossovers and characters getting their arms torn off and slapped upside the head with them. But Taddeo’s story of a lonely teenager who has his prayers answered when an alien suit of armor literally falls at his feet contains that sense of wonder and innocence that started with Superboy (the non-limb ripping version, of course) flying around Smallville and continues today with books like Robert Kirkman’s Invincible. With Zoom Suit we get the cutting edge art & presentation of a Wildstorm/Top Cow type project coupled with a tale that both the young & the young at heart can enjoy. Bottom line: you need not worry about your little nephew or niece reading Zoom Suit and finding this or that lurid interlude in it. Like the more successful superhero movies such as Spiderman or The Fantastic Four this is a great way to introduce a kid to comics. For John Taddeo to take the high road and make something that can actually bring in new young readers takes Heart and obviously it has begun to pay off for him (paging the Big Two, please pay a little attention…)
“I’d kill for this paper stock!” (Or: The Well-Dressed Comic)
However, without the successful execution of that noble idea–that comic book with Heart–you might as well keep it in the flat-file and use the money to buy yourself some lottery tickets. Zoom Suit boasts DC/Marvel quality art and coloring that in my opinion surpasses a great deal of the mainstream. Kudos to Billy Dallas Patton, whose art made me hearken back to the fun of Ed McGuinness’s Superman & Mr. Majestic, and MetalFXR Technology, whose Universal Process and Spot Metallic Color System makes the Zoom Suit armor truly jump off the page. Add great paper stock & hip graphic design (including a nostalgic trade dress that subliminally prompts us to ask the question: “remember back when comics were fun?”). All these elements convince me that John Taddeo very deliberately molded this book to be a winner.
The whole Zoom Suit multimedia project (I’ll explain shortly what I mean by this) is one of the most well-conceived independent comic productions I’ve ever seen. It took a lot of planning, an obvious investment in production values (a financial risk for even the big companies’ (when I was working on JLA we woulda killed for this grade of paper), and top talent (it doesn’t hurt that former Marvel employee Taddeo is buds with some of the industry’s most legendary talent & hot newcomers). And that’s a lot but that’s what it takes to reach 20,000 in this market.
Breaking the Panel Barrier and Conquering New Worlds
Okay, so you’re the creator/publisher of Zoom Suit and you just got orders for 20,000 on the first issue. Now what? What’s your long-term strategy? A #1 always tends to sell well how about #3? Here is the next factor that makes Taddeo’s Superverse Comics so unique & successful: Multimedia & Interactivity. Multimedia is just what it sounds like: multiple media. Why simply have your fabulous new characters remain in the comic format alone when they could be hopping & bopping in their own movie or video-game? Let’s face it: comic books unfortunately do not have the same wide appeal they had when we were kids. Back then, you could nag your parents to buy you an issue or two at the local supermarket or drugstore. It wasn’t a specialized hobby as we all had comics back then, they’re what kids read (instead of that Harry Potter jazz). Now we have more adolescents playing with PS2 or loading their iPods than giving that four-color magic a chance. And what is the solution??? Simply appeal to the adult “fanboy” fanbase and skew the books dark & violent? Or try reaching that elusive young audience through another medium?
Enter the Zoom Suit animated movie short. Released well in advance of the first issue coming out, the cartoon (which can be found on www.superverse.com) garnered a built-in audience of over 500,000 fans to date to me, another crucial reason why the orders were so unexpectedly high. And I was fascinated by how successfully the short translated the actual comic (or rather, vice-versa). How one story can be presented in two different media. It’s a lesson that prospective independent comic publishers who want to reach “Big Boy” numbers should definitely learn. Though the investment in quality computer animation will be a significant expense, the rewards in terms of viral marketing on the internet are obviously worth it you know, one web site posts the link & then another, and another (and then you email the guys at work with the link, etc. etc.). Plus, the Zoom Suit cartoon has been shown in many mainstream, non-comic oriented film festivals and even won “Best Animation” from the Palm Beach Film Society. Such outreach into other media and venues is absolutely necessary for the small publisher to thrive & build a significant imprint.
Now let’s briefly discuss the topic of Interactivity and the capacity of the comic book (or other medium) to “interact” with the reader/viewer. A big key to the success of the video game is its interactivity. Heck, it’s all about interactivity. If a hyperactive 12-year-old has to chose between passively reading a comic or getting “involved” somehow in the action (if only in a small way), well it’s no contest. Thus Superverse Comics “encoded” Zoom Suit throughout the book with a “alien language” that has to be deciphered. Here again we see the appeal being made to kids – what child doesn’t want to figure out a secret code (as long as it doesn’t go the “Christmas Story” route and spell out “Drink Ovaltine”)? Once they decipher the messages, the book has become that more special to them, they feel more involved. And to appeal to children in the age of 3-D video games, that sort of out-of-the-box thinking (as quaint and “low-tech” as it might seem to the more jaded among us) makes the difference.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this column, my experience in comic book editing (and production & marketing) naturally leads me to access new comic projects with a rather objective (ruthless?) eye in terms of their ability to succeed. I found Superverse Comics’ Zoom Suit to be a textbook example of how to do it RIGHT. The first issue of this four-part mini-series just hit the stands last week, and #2 will be out next month (featuring glow-in-the dark variant covers – now that brings me back to those days when I was in comics retail & we shut all the lights so we could see that particular Ghost Rider cover shimmer). Buying new comics in the era of the almost four-dollar single issue is a chancy thing as it was much more easy to take a chance on something new when you just had to plunk three quarters on the counter. But for $2.95 you’ll at least get something substantial with Zoom Suit and heck, when you’re done with it your little brother or sister can read it too.
This is Kamikaze Girl signing off, advising her readers to don’t go picking up no alien armor off the floor (or at least wash your hands when you’re done). Peace!