The story of Chris Romberger’s comics vending machine reminded me of an idea I had kicking around my head a couple of weeks ago: Here in Los Angeles, there has been something of a food-truck revolution going on for the past several years. And then I saw that last summer, Penguin Books launched a book truck. As Book Riot pointed out, bookmobiles and other ways to bring books to the people are nothing new, so I thought, why not comics?
A comics truck would be a fun way to spread the love of comic books, graphic novels, manga and all things sequentially artistic. It would probably never really be a replacement for a comics store, due to space limitations, but it could be effective as an outreach tool to drive buyers back to shops — plus be a dynamic retail outlet that can carry specific titles for the readers it will reach.
I know what some of you may be thinking: For many areas, food trucks have been, or are still, associated with cheap but gross food with questionable sanitation. But in some cities, notably Los Angeles, a renaissance has taken place. Newer regulations have improved the food quality, and have also created rules about how the trucks operate within a city. Several cities have a growing food truck scene, but none quite like LA. In fact, in August Forbes‘ Kathleen Rooney considered Los Angeles the model city for how to regulate food trucks to allow that industry to thrive, and as she stated, “with it the many benefits food trucks bring, such as increased economic activity, new job creation, and increased foot traffic that makes streets more enjoyable and safer places to visit.”
Food trucks have become such a thing, that foodies take delight in tracking their favorites. An urban treasure hunt is part of the appeal. Once you stumble upon a food truck that you like, you can follow it on Twitter, where you can often get a discount code, or use a website like RoamingHunger.com to find out where it’s parked on different days. The collector element of comics plays right into this. Think of the comics truck as the chase variant comic book store. You have to be in the know to find it. Or maybe it’ll find you first when you least expect it.
A comic truck would have plenty of opportunities to insert comics into people’s everyday experience: It could park outside a movie theater on a big comic book movie opening weekend. Imagine having one parked outside the famous ArcLight in Hollywood next month for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or right now at the Chinese Theatre for 300: Rise of an Empire. It could also recreate a comics-themed spin on the classic ice cream truck experience. Kids could discover new comics by finding a truck in front of libraries or schools, or even at a Toys “R” Us.
The comic truck could also establish its own regular stops around the cities. On Mondays, it’s near the Third Street Promenade of Santa Monica. On Tuesdays, it’s in downtown Burbank. On Thursdays, it’s in downtown LA. Maybe on Wednesdays it could even do a variant on the home-delivery service offered by Midtown Comics in New York. How awesome would that be to have your comics delivered to you by a comics truck? You could get the comics you ordered and also check out other titles to add to your list. That might not be entirely practical, as the truck would spend more time driving from house to house than it would being parked and selling comics. But there’s something to the idea of comics coming to your neighborhood.
But why stop there? Like the Penguin Book Truck and Cart, the comic truck could do a tour, regionally or even nationally. Finally, those large swaths of Middle America that are without a comic book store would get a taste of wonderful comics. That could lay the groundwork for establishing markets for new stores in new neighborhoods. The truck could partner with a network of local stores to get the word out – so when the truck leaves, the people are left with a bookmark or some kind of information about where to get more. Or maybe team with comiXology or DCBS.
In each instance, stocking the comic truck smartly would be crucial. Plenty of Ed Brubaker’s take on Steve Rogers for the Captain America opening, plus other appropriate Marvel books, and more general superhero and espionage comics and graphic novels. Lots of Frank Miller, war comics and similar fare for the 300: Rise of an Empire stop. And of course nothing but all-ages material for the stops at kids locations.
Along with this swapping out of stock, the comic truck might be able to adjust its looks to match. Similar to how comic stores use posters and window clings to grab the eye of street traffic, a comic truck could use decals, magnets or a wrap that could be swapped out for others depending on what the truck is carrying that day. For example, put up images of Spider-Man and Batman for the superhero crowd. Use images from The Walking Dead for a horror crowd outside of the Days of the Dead convention. Or recognizable comic strip characters or cartoon characters for kids.
These are just the ideas I’ve come up with. I know I’m not the first person to think of a comics truck, but it has yet to happen to my knowledge; it’s time someone changed that. The world isn’t just ready for a comics truck, it needs a comic truck.