Monday, June 27, 2011

Archie's Comic Book Fairs

I spent much of last year working with Craig Yoe on his coffee table history of Archie Comics--orderable now elsewhere on this page. I interviewed George Gladir, Stan Goldberg, Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz. I spoke with Craig Boldman, Jim Amash and Paul Castiglia. I wrote about Bob Bolling, Dan DeCarlo, Samm Schwartz, Frank Doyle and Harry Shorten. I transcribed Craig's interviews with Jon Goldwater and Vic Gorelick...but somehow in all that I completely missed Nancy Silberkleit until I saw the final, printed book!

Nancy is currently the co-CEO of Archie Comics. Although she's quickly become an expert, she doesn't really have a background in comic books. Her background is in education. As such, she sees her position in the company as ideal to further that interest. She has done this by creating something that I myself have talked about for years! Comic Book Fairs for schools!

Back in the eighties at Waldenbooks, we would arrange bookfairs for many local schools. The teachers and/or librarians would come in, choose some titles which we would then catalog and have shipped to the school. Sometimes we would work the book fairs ourselves, sometimes not. Ultimately, the schools would get to keep 25 percent of whatever was sold to the students so they only had to pay us the difference. Comics fan that I am, I lobbied to have comics included in the book fairs as I knew that kids--especially of a certain age--would gravitate toward them. Having taught myself to read because I HAD to know what was happening in a comic book I had, I knew from personal experience that comics can be educational.

Waldenbooks would hear nothing of it--first of all, magazines (and thus comic books) were ineligible as they were purchased at different discounts and in different manners than books and therefore could not be discounted to the schools. Okay, I got that. Secondly, though, their attitude was that the book fairs should lead kids AWAY from "junk reading" like comics.

Now, along comes Nancy who has co-opted the full support of her company to not only allow comic books in book fairs but to exploit the fact that this WILL encourage kids to read...period. With that single thought, Archie, the company now has a full Comic Book Fair division!

When my son wanted to brag about my involvement with Craig's book, he found that not one of his eighth grade classmates was familiar with Archie Comics at all. And yet Archie is hot again. In fact, Archie is--dare I say it--trendy! So a comic book fair works for the company, too, in that it vastly increases product awareness in what has traditionally been the company's target audience. With comic books and the new LIFE WITH ARCHIE magazine (wonderfully written by Paul Kupperberg) as well as inexpensive graphic novels of all the classic Riverdale characters and licensed product such as Sonic the Hedgehog, students who don't normally read have a wide choice, all with characters who are or who could become familiar.

Nancy provides the product as well as promotional items--posters, stickers, bookmarks, etc.,the school turns the students loose, the students purchase what they want for anywhere from 3 to 15 dollars each and the school keeps not 25 but 40 percent for themselves!

So let's recap:

Benefit to Archie: Increased product awareness, unlimited potential new and future customers and small monetary profit.

Benefit to Schools: Archie does most of the work, schools become more aware of the power of comics and schools make money.

Benefit to Students: Introduction to new but time-tested characters and formats for a potential lifetime of reading enjoyment.

So if you're in the educational field or perhaps married to or otherwise related to a teacher or school librarian, I highly recommend Archie's Comic Book Fairs. Feel free to send me your name and school info and I'll be happy to pass it on To Ms. Silberkleit so this next year your school can get in on the ground floor with a Comic Book Fair.

9 comments:

Chaplin Saint said...

I have met Nancy and Find her story to be an inspiration. Thanks for posting this

TsuMommy said...

What a wonderful idea! My kids love comics. I'm going to make sure our elementary school has one next year. We've done book fairs though, at least for my kids, they don't always read the expensive books we buy them :( Thanks for putting together a fun educational program that won't break the bank!

Todd Keeler said...

It is great to see Archie making a comeback. Or is he just being rediscovered? Either way --as an educator, I find it is refreshing to see this positive literacy trend among young people; but I definitely have seen older people reading Archie recently; this is great to see as well--takes me back.

Bousvaros said...

These comic book fairs are a wonderful idea. They will expose kids to all kinds of comics and graphic novels at an earlier age, offer an alternative to TV and video games, and promote literacy.

MADD Online said...

Nancy and Archie have been so helpful to MADD in spreading the word about our underage drinking prevention program. We know that Nancy will bring the same energy to the Comic Book Fairs, all with the intention to make our world a better place.

Galactic Quest said...

This is fantastic! It's great to see Archie comics focusing on the next generation of readers. Comic shops need to order up! Big opportunities await.

BGKYguy said...

Great job Archie. Keep up the good work Nancy!!

Reading Rocks said...

I am a librarian in Louisville, KY and have been trying for several years to get in touch with Comic Book Fairs. I can't leave a message because the inbox is full and no one will return my emails. I am very interested in hosting a Comic Book Fair at my school. My students would love this opportunity. Please contact me at 502-541-1660 so that I can discuss scheduling a fair!
Thanks so much,
Denise Sales
Librarian
Kenwood Elementary
Louisville, KY 40214

Steven Thompson said...

Denise, I'm not certain they're still doing them but I forwarded your message directly to Nancy who was behind the program so cross your fingers.