When It Was Wise to Focus Group the Punchline

Bill Williams is the co-creator of Antarctic Press series Punchline, But how did he get there? And what did he do wrong? He writes,

When It Was Wise to Focus Group the Punchline

Big movie studios gather people together in small groups so that they can share their content and get feedback before a project is released to the general public. These focus groups help the studios tweak their projects and further strengthen their messages before spending big on marketing and advertising.

As an independent creator, the world is your focus group. I write an ongoing comic book series called Punchline that is published by Antarctic Press. I'm lucky to be paired with a talented artist named Matthew Weldon. We landed the spot on AP's schedule because I walked into a meeting and made a pitch for the series. Here's the one-sentence description that I used to sell the series-

Punchline is a coming-of-age story about a young girl becoming a costumed hero with the help of her mentor.

I'm lucky I had gorgeous pages in hand when I spoke to the room. That Log Line is flat and it makes the project sound like half of the comic book series on the shelf. And worse, that line does not accurately describe the first five issues of the series I had written. We were AP's FCBD comic for 2019 and we toured in support of the series. When I talked to people about Punchline, I got polite nods and that's about it. Not satisfied with those results, I re-read my notes from a screenwriting class and made changes to the pitch at conventions all across Texas. Here is the new description of the series, one that is more accurate-

Punchline is about a costumed hero that gets fired and then has to train her replacement.

By changing the summary of the story and making the events more relatable, I now have a line that connects with more people. That line also raises questions like… How does a costumed hero get fired?

Now, when I deliver that line to people from behind my table in Artist Alley, future fans nod in agreement. More people have been fired at one time or another and less people have been chosen to be a costumed hero. There is no substitute for meeting fans in person and talking about your project to grow the amount of connections you have and the fresh insight you have into your project.

The second Punchline collection, Super-Frenemies is available through your local comic shop. The creators are currently offering a crowdfunded version of the book that focuses on people that our young hero has a love/ hate relationship with like her mentor Mel, the Atomic Butterfly, Gridlock, Golden Girl, the Black Arrow and Rosevera Archyle.

When It Was Wise to Focus Group the Punchline

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.