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Kelly Spencer's Blog


Zap! Wham! Kapow!

Published: March 23, 2009 5:55 pm ET

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Comic book enthusiasts. Before you snicker at the mere mention of them, consider for a moment their best attributes: Obsessive and committed. Sound like anyone (or everyone) you know in this industry?

My friend *Greg has been squirreling away comics, hockey cards and assorted memorabilia since he was a wee lad. For the past 15 years, he’s worked at the local comic shop every Saturday, taking his pay in merchandise. His obsession may have cost him some face time with the ladies during our youth, but he’s amassed a kickin’ collection. (And, he’s now happily married to a collector of Wonder Woman and Hello Kitty.)

When I envision the perfect target demographic for the growth of harness racing, I picture Greg. He’s obsessive and committed to this particular passion, so we know he has the potential to go gaga for harness racing. He’s also 33, plays team sports and videogames, and savours the occasional draft. He’s in touch with his adrenaline-side. And, he spends his disposable income faithfully on the things he loves most (comic books).

If we can’t convert the comic geeks, maybe we can at least tap into one of their fabulous ideas.

Since 2002, the comic book industry has celebrated the first weekend in May as Free Comic Book Day. The industry bands together to:

1) Introduce everyone to the joys of reading comics
2) Call back former comic book readers
3) Thank current comic book buyers for their continued support

On Free Comic Book Day, participating comic book store retailers give away specially printed copies of free comic books, and some offer cheaper back issues and other items to anyone who visits their establishments. Retailers do not receive the issues for free, but they purchase them at a reduced rate from publishers.

Typically each major publisher produces one special edition comic geared to most likely attract new non-comic readers.

The event leverages publicity and momentum from the timely release of a comic-based motion picture (such as the recent release of Watchmen).

The comic-book industry and harness racing share a lot of parallels. Both were once kings of their respective worlds, eventually marginalized by an evolving sophictication of society and reduced to a romantic notion aka nostalgia. Realizing they’ve missed a generation of child readers, they’re playing catch-up. So too is harness racing. Is Free Comic Book Day a concept that can be translated (or mutated) to serve our industry?

Or would it take superhero powers and utter doomsday to convince us to work together?

P.S. Thanks to SC I.T. Geek *Fred for suggesting this blog topic.

*Some names have been changed to protect the identity of the uber-geeky.

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