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Darby Pops Off: “Does the Publisher’s Name Matter?” by Jeff Kline

Written by Kristine Chester | 1 Comment | Published on September 18, 2015
The content that follows was originally published on the Darby Pop Publishing website at http://www.darbypop.com/darby-pops-offs/darby-pops-off-does-the-publishers-name-matter-by-jeff-kline/

If a particular company makes a dress shoe you’re happy with, are you more likely to buy other formal footwear from the same company? What about a pair of sneakers? Or sandals? Or a jacket? Similarly, if you like a comic publishers’ books featuring costumed crimefighters, are you more willing to take a chance on Fantasy or Western titles they’ve released, too?  Or, is “brand loyalty” more narrow than that?  Is each release – be it a shoe or a comic book – its own entity, and the “brand” relatively meaningless when it comes to purchasing decisions?  That’s the question Darby Pop founder, Jeff Kline, raises this week.

If you have a thought on the topic of the week, please join in the discussion on social media at Facebook (facebook.com/DarbyPopPublishing), Twitter (@DarbyPopComics), or in the comments below.

Until next time,




Hey All –

Question for you habitual comic book readers out there: do you consider yourself “brand loyal?”

In other words, do you tend to purchase more Marvel or Dark Horse or IDW titles just because they’re Marvel or Dark Horse or IDW titles?

Do you find that each of the aforementioned companies has a “brand identity” – a “house” style, recurring theme or tone, or just a general (and desired) predictability when it comes to content? Do you think any of those company’s names alone convey anything that isn’t deeply connected to history?

I ask because we’ve been having this debate here at Darby Pop pretty much since the day we were born.

Coming from television, and seeing the changes in viewership habits with the proliferation of TiVo, VOD, streaming, etc., I am of the opinion that today’s reader has little use for “brand loyalty,” although Image seems to consistently counter that POV, and some smaller publishers (such as Xenescope) definitely lean toward a proven “type” of book.

Historically-speaking, you could argue that not so long ago, the broadcast networks had distinctive personalities – by design – and that same contributed to their choices re: programming. ABC was the “urban” network. CBS skewed older and had more rural affiliates. NBC aimed for the broadest-based appeal possible. And when FBC joined the party, well… they were definitely inviting a younger, hipper demo.

But, I don’t believe the same holds true anymore, or matters. Do you give a thought to or even care about which network carries your favorite show? Especially as you consume programming on your own terms – when you want, where you want, and (way too often) without paying for it? (Full disclosure: I fast-forward through the commercials, too.)

Similarly, I believe that – before the 80s – there was a discernible difference between the output from Marvel vs. DC vs. Gold Key vs. Harvey. But, does anyone pay attention to the publishing entity any more when making a purchasing decision?

I would hypothesize that the attached “talent” (writers, artists), the title’s preexisting familiarity (i.e. a licensed/known title vs. original i.p.), maybe even the cover, have more impact on a buyer than the publisher’s name and/or history.

Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Retailers ARE still “brand loyal” to a degree. When you have the space and budget for 100 titles, and are choosing from more than 500 per month, it’s pretty easy to fall back on old habits. And/or search for some less time-intensive way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Where was I going with all this? Oh yeah…

So, at Darby Pop Publishing, Managing Editor Renae Geerlings is always asking if a book we’re considering, or an ad campaign we’re going to run, is “on brand.” She believes in “brand building.” And “brand consistency.” Maybe because she’s a graduate of a number of larger companies (such as Top Cow), and – perhaps – because she’s been working in the trenches of the industry long enough to remember a different time.

Or… she could simply be right.

But, I find that I’m much less concerned about such things. I think all our books thusfar – and somewhat accidentally – have been of a certain “kind”: high-concept, cinematic, rated PG or PG-13. But, I would have no problem releasing an adults-only title, an all-ages “funny animal” book, a Latino anthology – whatever. Because, at least at this moment in time, I am of the opinion that the modern-day consumer, couldn’t care less about the name/logo in the upper left-hand corner. And rarely consider same when making a purchase.

What do you think?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks in advance.


Jeff Kline

Founder – Darby Pop Publishing

Categories: Darby Pops Off

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1 Comment

Dan Hosek says:

Hi Jeff,

Personally, I was always more of a “Marvel” guy reading comics in the 80s–but I think it had more to do with the creators working on the books (Byrne, Simonson, Miller, etc). But I also found myself gravitating toward DC with the Wolfman and Perez New Teen Titans run, and when they started doing things like Watchmen and Dark Knight. I almost did a complete shift over after Crisis when Byrne moved to DC and re-invented Superman and they relaunched their titles, which at the time was a pretty ballsy move that I appreciated. I do tend to have more of a connection with the Marvel stuff, even though I don’t really read anything from the “Big Two” consistently anymore. When I do check out the latest “event”, it’s usually a Marvel one, and usually ends with me regretting it.

Nowadays, I’d definitely follow a creator before a company, and tend to look for things I’d find interesting no matter who the publisher is. As far as “branding” goes, I do try and maintain a certain brand with my own very small comic company, but that mainly goes to the “look” rather than the “feel.” I try to use the same colors, same fonts, same icons, etc. over and over so that as we do develop a fan-base, they can more easily identify something that is “Castle Comics.” And I think, to a certain degree, since our comic is a blend of action and comedy, and personally, the other creators and I tend to be (or thing we are) humorous and somewhat self-deprecating, we tend to take a similar tone when we post to Twitter, Facebook, etc. and when we advertise.

On an unrelated note, I saw that you did the Fantacon in Albany! I was planning on attending (either as a ticket holder or in artist alley–I live about 4 hours away) but had some other things come up that prevented it. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for your next appearance and try to drop by. I know there’s going to be a 3-day show in my home town of Batavia, NY in November…


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