Marc Alan Fishman: Merchenstein
With the mighty C2E2 upon me and my li’l company, we were at an odd impasse. Due largely to biting off more than we could chew – an new issue of the Samurnauts containing a transforming motorcycle exo-suit, zombie cyborg pirates with jetpacks, steampunk Samurnauts, and an attack on the Crystal Palace of the 19th century World’s Fair – it would seem Unshaven Comics would hit a con floor without a new book to pimp. Now, working in our favor is the fact that C2E2 is a huge show, and last year, we did not have Curse of the Dreadnuts #1 (which we’ve had only since August of last year). So, at very least, for the folks who haven’t caught us elsewhere, there’s still something new to be had.
But what about all those who have seen us?
Well, at our weekly Unshaven meeting, I uttered words I truly never thought I’d utter. “Boys… it’s time we sold merch.” You could practically hear the thunder clap in the background. Kyle started crying. Matt bit his lower lip, and balled up a heavy fist… a stoic grimace crawled across his embittered maw.
For a good long time, Unshaven Comics was about one thing: original comic books. While yes, we have custom t-shirts (which we don’t stock or hock willy-nilly), and yes, our first few cons had us pelting the crowds with packed-in stickers… we’ve never been much for outlaying a table chock full of non-comic bric-a-brac. Not that we have anything against those that do, mind you. Simply put, we have always felt as a company that our best foot forward was, is, and will always be the comics themselves.
This year however, we have a new goal in mind. Money. And lots of it.
Not for nefarious purposes mind you. Our big goal is to get to Valhalla next year. Or as it’s more commonly known… San Diego Comic Con. And for three Chicago boys to get out west (with our very awesome wives) to party with Michael Davis? It takes scratch. And now, we’re back to the topic at hand. Our master plan? Expand our empire beyond the shores of books, to offer a myriad of crap that might appeal to our slowly growing fan base. I write this to you, not in hopes of shilling mind you; I write it because it’s a leap of faith for a small business owner trying to make sense of group of people I claim to belong to.
Comic Cons have slowly grown to appeal to a wide berth of those who would claim themselves nerd. And while my first convention was peppered with a retired wrestler, D-list sci-fi celebrity, or some sundry less-than-comic-related minutiae, now it’s simply par for the course to include it all. And with that expansion has grown a fan-base that is not driven by comic book lovers alone. As Unshaven Comics continued to add shows to our yearly calendar, we’ve come to note that it’s the expanded “non-comic fan” that is coming to our table. Beyond Kyle’s vaudevillian show to get people to stop, our pitch for the Samurnauts has slowly showed us that the appeal may travel beyond the boarders of the panel.
The Samurnauts as a concept was built, tongue firmly in cheek, to be merchandisable. Given it’s roots in our childhood – one built by intellectual properties that started out as toys – we thought it’d be a hoot to pay homage with a series that took itself serious even if we couldn’t pitch it without a smirk. And every show we went to, came with it the crack of the crowd. “Where’s the posters? The stickers? The tee-shirts?” We’d scoff, smile, and sell them the book. Faced now with the notion they’ll say “I have it. So now what?” we might as well let them leave with a bag full of Samurnik-naks. No?
For all intents and purposes, this is an experiment. The sundries we plan to offer are all custom designed. They are lovingly made. They are produced with vendors who have a passion for their products. In other words? We’ve found people who love their sticker/buttons/posters/tee-shirts as much as we love our comic books. If people buy them? All the better. If they don’t? We’ll have a ton of great pack-ins when the next issue hits the con floor. See you there. Bring a few bucks.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
MONDAY: Mindy Newell