Bleeding Cool readers may be familiar with Jesse James Criscione and Jen King's Comic Book Shopping Network, which promotes comic book stores selling their wares through live streaming videos. In 2021, that service will transform courtesy of investment from comic book publisher Dynamite Entertainment's owner Nick Barrucci into the Comic Book Shopping Experience.
Jen King of Space Cadets Collection Collection near Houston, Texas states "My sincere and fervent desire is to have The Comic Book Shopping Experience point directly back to Local Comic Shops, and give viewers the excitement and information they need when they arrive there, and to grow the market by reaching out to folks that have not yet been exposed to the awesome creativity that comics represent and what they have inspired in the entertainment industry."
Jesse James of Jesse James Comics in Glendale, Arizona adds "We are in a time of innovation and constantly pivoting in the comic book industry. The Comic Book Shopping Experience allows us to provide both entertainment and a plethora of product to customers around the world daily. There will be no better place to get your Comic Book Therapy than The Comic Book Shopping Experience, with all parts of the industry and pop culture at your fingertips."
Nick Barrucci, who had an interesting summer, stated "The comics industry has been part of my life for 39 years. I love it almost as much as family, friends, and life itself, with many people in the industry are like family as well as some of my closest friends.This has been a challenging year, but with challenges, there are those who strive to get past them. Many in the industry showed how strong they could be in the face of adversity. I was impressed with what Jen and Jesse were doing and how they were reaching their fans and customers with the Comic Book Shopping Network. We've been discussing internally and working on new initiatives for the industry, but when Jen and Jesse approached me with the idea of working together on something new, we discussed what it would mean. Can we do something that no one else has done on a grand scale? Can we create an initiative that supports the industry, retailers, creators and publishers and bring entertainment to the fans? Can we create an initiative that drives the billions of dollars a year generated with Comic Book Movies, TV Series, action figures, PJ's and other merchandise and help direct those consumers to the comic stores? The more we talked, the more we knew we are like-minded in agreeing that if we were to do this, it would help to grow the industry, and the idea for the Comic Book Shopping Experience was born. The stability and growth of the industry is the most important part of this initiative. When I sell on TV Shopping, I make it a point to talk about the importance of comics and Direct Market stores and promoting the industry by asking fans to visit their local comic store. Because nothing is more important than promoting as many titles and comic related projects in the industry as possible and the retailers who carry them."
The Comic Book Shopping Experience has also made Kyle Northrop Executive Producer, and plans to launch with its initial slate of programming on this Saturday, the 16th of January, a weekend-long virtual convention experience through to Monday, the 18th of January. The first day of standard programming will begin next Tuesday evening, the 19th of January. The Comic Book Shopping Experience states that it will offer opportunities for participation from retailers, creators, content creators, podcasters, brands, and more.
I asked Jesse James Criscione, Jen King and Nick Barrucci about their big new thing.
Bleeding Cool: Nuts and bolts. What can viewers expect when they first turn into the Comic Book Shopping Experience? What will they see, with whom, when and where and for how long?
Nick Barrucci: When the viewers tune in, they will be watching initially from 6 pm to 10 pm EST nightly beginning Tuesday, January 19th, and this will be nightly. There will be additional content leading into the 6 pm hour each evening from recorded interviews, spotlights on creators and other entertainment content. But the main hours are 6 pm to 10 pm EST to start. We will be expanding the hours over the coming months. They will see a mix of talent from Jen and Jesse as well as Christina Blanch, Chris Rupp, Brendan Wall, and Aaron Haaland. I will also be hosting shows. What they will see is a mix of sales and information and entertainment. Each hour the shows will have 16 minutes to promote the comics market and have some sponsorship. The Experience's main thrust will be to promote the comics market, titles, publishers, and especially retailers. We'll be promoting the 800 Comic Shop Locator service; we'll be promoting retailers and their stores. The fans will see the affection and love we have for the industry that we grew up on, and we feel we will bring more attention to the industry.
Bleeding Cool: What will they be able to expect to pick up? Any specific items of interest you know are going to be available from the off?
Nick Barrucci: Each host will present the items they feel they can present well and bring the greatest variety possible. I will have a show on Tuesday's promoting Dynamite's and other publishers titles in stores that Wednesday. This will include promoting Dynamite titles in stores the next day and other publishers from Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW and Boom, and promote titles from smaller publishers and spotlight them. On Thursday's I'll be promoting original art and Saturday promoting Dynamic Forces. And while the Dynamite and DF shows are more focused on items that are or will be in stores, the original art shows will be bringing something new to the fans. Will Gabri-El of https://www.comicartpage.com/ will be co-hosting shows, and we will have special guests, including Spencer Beck of www.TheArtistsChoice.com during the shows. We'll have art available for all budgets and just have great fun and information on the shows. We're also discussing a sponsorship for and with The Kubert School for one of the segments, perhaps a 30-minute segment of the 2-hour show.
Jen King: Like many of the other amazing showrunners we have lined up, I have an enormous amount of curated backstock from my favorite publishers. I've spent a lot of time and energy to have large quantities of short series runs that will be a great way for viewers to try out a brand new storyline, for example.
Jesse James: The CBSE will have a Plethora of great product from so many of our great partners in this Industry. It will also have a Bounty of Exclusives tailored towards a great group of stores and the CBSE brand. Also expect a great amount of creator's participation in many of our shows, helping us sell their product in the future.
Bleeding Cool: Nick, you've been making home shopping network sales for decades, what are the biggest lessons you learnt from that, which you can apply to CBSE?
Nick Barrucci: There are many, which is why Jen and Jesse invited me to be a part of this. It will be everything from pacing and ensuring that we're promoting each other and the industry. We've hired full-time Producers to help run the shows as well as Planners. Each host will have a meeting the day before their show with their assigned Producer to discuss each hour's flow, graphics needed, graphics presented, art uploaded and created, and everything that we can create to build a professional show. Then there will be a meeting either shortly after their show or the next day for a postmortem with their Producer to evaluate what worked and what did not, and improve upon the shows. There will be format decisions that will help the shows, best practices, walking everyone through how to present items to appeal to the fans and drive them to the comic stores as I do when I'm on TV Shopping. We want the staffing each host at the stores have to be correct so that the shows are seamless. We don't want to see a host struggling to find items or to get answers. They should be prepared with staff to do the legwork during the show. Everyone needs to be prepared. A huge goal is to tap into the market of consumers who are part of the billions, and billions of dollars of comics-related items from Movies, TV, Action Figures, PJs, T-Shirts, Video Games, etc., and get them into comic stores. All of the money generated to creating comics-related items, and the comics and comic market itself is not promoted as well as it can be. My experience, with Jen and Jesse, will address that and change that.
Bleeding Cool: Jesse and Jen, you've been running CBSN a lot less, timewise, but it's been a lot more concentrated. What lessons do you bring to the new CBSE? And what is the actual difference between the two?
Jen King: CBSE is different because it will feel much more like actual TV because it's built the same way a television broadcast is. All of the shows have producers and production meetings to give us a professional look and feel. Also unique are the entertainment parts of the channel. It is designed to inform with its news shows. Challenge with its game shows.
Jesse James: When Jen and I created CBSN, its sole purpose was to take care of orphan customers across this nation. Including providing additional income for stores in time of need. Creating a Third market has allowed us to take what we have learned, both failed and successful at, to the CBSE. Since CBSN is focused solely on sales (over 1000+ books are sold a day), the CBSE will focus more on inspiring customers worldwide to get out and support your local comic bookstores. Offering a great experience of entertainment in all spectrums of our industry and beyond. The customer will be able to buy, binge-watch, laugh and be more involved in our industry than ever before. This will be a gateway to just enjoy comics and pop culture.
Bleeding Cool: Visually, how will the Comic Book Shopping Experience differ from the Comic Shop Network?
Nick Barrucci: From my position, the Producers will have a good deal to do with this. Graphics will be planned out, and whether it's graphics that the hosts' stores provided or the graphic team internally will create, the pacing will be different with message breaks, commercial breaks, the expectations and positioning of each show will be greater as we want the retailers to present the comics market to a more mass-market audience. We'll also have messages to promote the comics market and retailers, and there will be "ticker" messages at the bottom promoting The 800 Comic Shop Locator and single comic retailers. For example, hosts will be naming stores that fans should go to if they live in an area, and support as many retailers as possible. Effects for the shows will be planned. We require as great of lighting and presentation as possible. Again, we're reaching out to a larger audience. We expect this to be the greatest opportunity to be ambassadors of the comics market to new fans. There are quite a few things, and we'll be learning as we go. Jesse The CBSE will be a snowball effect from the first show to the last show every day. The customer will see a constant crossover from show to show. They will be able to see promos, bumpers, ad spot, sneak peeks, and their favorite creators catered to getting them hyped more than ever. Visuals, are controled and constantly updated by a Producing team, Marketing and advertisement team, including a reach out sponsor team. This will keep the channel fresh and the customers coming back. As it becomes a regular rhythm to their daily routines
Bleeding Cool: How many stores will be part of CBSE on launch?
Nick Barrucci: There are 8 or so to start, and we can build on that. We truly feel that these stores will learn from our mission statement and help show other retailers the best way to move forward and build.
Jesse James: All I can add is, these are extremely seasoned teams we have brought on. They are vetted and bring the best customer service out there—very complimenting personalities.
Bleeding Cool: How can other comic shops participate – and how much will it cost them?
Nick Barrucci: Other comic shops can apply and show us their videos if they've done these shows themselves. If they fit into our vision of presentation, beyond just the looks, the flow, then there's a discussion to be had. If they have not done these shows, we have the discussions with them and assign a Producer and Planner to walk them through how a show can work, create test shows, and work with them. We'll need to ensure that they promote the comics industry in their shows. It's job #1. Right now, it does not cost retailers anything. Jen, Jesse and I are funding all of the money invested in the shows. We're not looking to monetize through retailers just yet. We have sponsorships being set up for that. We will not be looking to charge retailers till we build it to where it needs to be, and evaluate the need for funds to handle growth, overhead and marketing. We want to stay competitive and grow the industry. When we get to a certain size and the track record is there, we'll sit down to figure out how to monetize to grow this initiative. The goal is to grow this for the comics market, build it to drive new fans to the market, entertain them, and make the retailers who are a part of this more money. So we'll see how we need to monetize from thereon.
Jesse James: As you know all of us, Rich, you know we are never going to leave a store behind. I think we can help stores to better their social networking and personalities. As Nick said before, we will always be able to vet and coach all simultaneously. Their immediate cost will be their time to learn how to do this and provide us with a demo show. This is a very hard process to learn. However, the rewards for the store will be amazing.
Bleeding Cool: How do you plan to screen participants? What if Donald Trump calls in to talk about how he wants to make Captain America great again?
Nick Barrucci: I think that there's a bit of risk there that someone may call in and say nasty stuff. It will be up to the Producers to screen to the best of their ability. On some levels, it's not much different than a news site having fans post. You can't control what they post, but you can address case by case. Should someone call who is being rude or argumentative or worse, we disconnect the call as quickly as we can. We'll learn as we go.
Jesse James: I think the way we have learned how to pivot and not engage in any type of hate speech or derogatory comments. This is a simple fix with an amazing production team and a cast of great personalities. We can move past something like this and continue to provide the customers with continued awesome entertainment experience.
Bleeding Cool: How will this weekend's convention event compare to the likes of DC Fandome, NYCC Metaverse, San Diego Online or the Digital Thought Bubble?
Nick Barrucci: Not having seen Thought Bubble's event, I would say ours is similar to DC Fandom in that there will be only one creator or group of creators per hour. It will be more personal for fans and the creators. Some of the creators we have include John Romita Jr, Bob Layton, Scott Hanna, Mark Bagley, Jim Starlin and Jaimes Jameson, Howard Chaykin and many more artists and writers including indies.
Jen King: I'd add that this convention is focused on the love of comics, comics retail, publishers, creators and less on general pop culture. And like a convention, there will be after-parties! We have a DJ (Brainy Singh) spinning for us one night, and we have a big gameshow for the other.
Jesse James: What's great about those events. We have learned very quickly what works and what doesn't. Those events had a great tradition and culture built up, with extremely high expectations. CBSE will be more of a celebration of all that. However, we will be more socially active. The fans' experience will be more catered to keeping them entertained and inspired to support CBSE and other LCS worldwide after the event. We are not a seasonal or once a year weekend effect.
Bleeding Cool: Do you anticipate any issues with the Brits as a result of new Brexit rules?
Nick Barrucci: Now that it has happened, I need to learn a lot more about how that will affect our retailers and us. My understanding is that the UK Government and the European Union have worked out more of the challenges, and it was worth the extra time needed.
Jesse James: There will be a lot of pivoting and understanding both platforms and how to conduct business worldwide.
Bleeding Cool: While this may be a lifeline for many in lockdown or restricted physical sales, with vaccines rolling out across the world, is one of the big appeals of the service about to disappear? Won't people prefer to go back to a physical shop rather than watch a virtual shop on YouTube?
Nick Barrucci: That would be a great problem to have. Again, the big goal is to tap into a larger audience to grow the industry. If existing fans visit comic stores more often, that's a win! We hope more fans will go to Comic Shops. That is the end goal. We plan to grow the market and direct new readers to comic stores. We are creating has never been done before, and we have well over 100 years of experience between the 3 of us, plus the experience of the hosts, producers, planners and marketing team. Jesse and I have been in the direct market almost since the beginning of the direct market. This will be complimentary and grow just as (A) the direct market formed as the place to be for fans, (B) mail-order has grown which complements retailers by servicing fans who need mail order, (C) Trade Paperback and Hard Cover collections in book stores and (D) digital complements sales for the fans. We'll just be the next evolution of complementing the industry, but with the bigger push of promoting the direct market retailers to new fans. My greatest dream is that the vaccines will help people go out and go to their comic store and that we will send new fans to them by exciting them on comics. We lost 93 retailers if I remember correctly due to the pandemic. We want to grow the industry to recapture those retailers either with new retailers or drive more money into the retailers' registers that are here and grow their base. This is far bigger than the effect of the pandemic. We will be bringing an experience to fans that will excite them to be a bigger part of our industry. Hence "Experience" part of the name of our new company.
Jesse James: The selling and service world has completely changed. Since I started in 1982, we have always evolved to serve customers more efficiently and make sure their time is more important than ours. Keep in mind CBSN started way before the Pandemic reaching customers around the world that don't have a store to walk into regardless of the virus. There are more customers worldwide without comic book stores within driving distance then have an LCS close by. We are here to provide those customers with the best customer service on the planet. Those that do have comic bookstores will have a chose. They can support their LCS, or stores, publishers, and creators worldwide and the convenience of their fingertips from their couch. Keep in mind that people like to be part of groups and enjoy the company of others that are like-minded.
Bleeding Cool: So, adding "entertainment news programming" with Kyle Northrop. are you going to be a competitor to Bleeding Cool then? And if so, what are we doing talking about you?
Nick Barrucci: Well, I think that there's a huge fundamental difference with Kyle's doing 3 segments a week for 15 minutes each picking and choosing what news he wants to bring to the fans, and much of it being "stale" news by then. A news site such as Bleeding Cool that brings breaking news to the fans and industry as it breaks each story as they happen. I would think that Kyle can cover 6 items that he picks in a 15-minute segment in a recap with his personal spin/feelings on it do not compete, and Bleeding Cool probably runs 5 or more times that in a day through your different categories.
Bleeding Cool: More like twelve times that…
Jesse James: Well, Rich, as you know, I have done over 100+ articles or participating articles over the last 10 years with you. Down the road (way down the road) we might be able to say " Hey, let's be competitive against Bleeding Cool" Right now you continue to be a great beacon for LCS and Publishers around the world. I think we can complement the industry and provide a small part of editorials and opinionated pieces. However, we won't be on a level that you do every day providing great information to comic book fans, pop culture and Wrestling fans. Like you do daily. In some way or form, you helped us create this great new adventure by always providing hope with your page. So we at CBSE can move forward.
Other creators appearing in the shows include John Romita Jr, Bob Layton, Scott Hanna, Mark Bagley, Jim Starlin and Jaimes Jameson, Howard Chaykin, Afua Richardson, Mog Park, Onrie Kompan, Krista Gehring, William Doc Grant, William Miles, Xing Xin, Russell Nohelty, Dan Jurgens, Krista Gehring, William Doc Grant, William Miles, Xing Xin, Dirk Manning, Drena Jo, David Pepose, Zack Kaplan, Cory De La QGuaardia, Don Nguen, Nicole Fernandez, Travis Gibb, William K Holland, Matt Hawkins, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and more. The Comic Book Shopping Experience can be found on: