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Publisher Ad Spotlight – Valiant vs Aspen

by philhampton on 25 May 2012

This time round I thought I’d comment on the effectiveness of a couple of (very different) adverts for new comics in Previews magazine.

Doing this should hopefully give you an insight into how to structure your ads, whether they’re in a magazine or on a webpage.

First off…

Valiant Entertainment – Bloodshot #1

Well-designed advert for Valiant's Bloodshot #1

Here’s the ad that convinced me to buy into the whole Valiant line (discussed in my last article ‘How to Launch a New Comic Series’). To view a larger version of the image, right-click it and select ‘Open link in new window’.

Valiant have given all of its adverts this month a cohesive, simple layout:

Top 6th of page – logo + title.

Second sixth -  Description of comic + creators.

Bottom four sixths – pictures.

So how does this layout help to advertise their titles?

First off, having the same layout for all ads means less brain-work for the reader.  We are conditioned to immediately know we’re looking at a Valiant ad even before we’ve registered the logo.

Apparently, the human eye is geared to always reading across the top of a page first (whether it’s in a book or on a website), hence why they’ve allocated this space to tell you exactly what product is being sold.  They also point out that it’s a ‘Featured Item’, increasing the curiosity factor.

Then, common to both magazines and web-pages, the eye automatically moves down the right-hand side of the page rather than returning to the left-hand side of the next column.

So in this case, the reader next sees the names of the creators involved.  Because Valiant have hired some top quality creators, this helps to whet the appetite for what’s to come.

The eye then moves down to the main pic, which is an awesome cover image, further stoking expectation.

The reader’s eye has so far worked in a circular motion, so Valiant have placed three pictures of variant covers on the left-hand side of the page to help move the reader’s eye back up to the description, which is the last thing we read.  And they’ve done such a great job of wording the description (also discussed in my previous article), that it gives the reader one last ‘nudge’ to buy the book.

I mentioned previously that it was the Bloodshot advert that convinced me to buy into the Valiant universe, despite X-O Manowar and Harbinger being launched over the last two months.

It’s worth noting that the advert for X-O Manowar #1 had the description at the bottom of the page, and the advert for Harbinger #1 didn’t have any pictures on the left-hand side of the page.  I think in both cases, I failed to read the descriptions properly.  The Bloodshot ad is perfectly laid out to lead the reader on a journey of discovery in 3 parts:

  1. Tell them what it is.
  2. Seduce them with gorgeous images.
  3. Hook them with a great description.

Okay, now onto a slightly different ad:

Aspen Comics – Idolized #0

Aspen's ad for Idolized #0 - Ummm...

Okay, this is from the April Previews, but it’s the best contrast I could find.

In fact, there couldn’t be a bigger difference!  Aspen’s marketing team have tried to throw everything on the page rather than using the ‘less is more’ motto.  And the result confuses the reader rather than drawing them in.

Starting at the top-left, we see some black and white page shots.  But they’re also down the left-hand side of the page, which either draws our eyes away from the title, or our brain ignores the pictures and leads our eyes to the title.

It’s a good logo, but then, moving down the right of the page, we see the tagline ‘Be a star…A Superstar!’

My first thoughts were ‘Is this a competition offering the chance to star in the comic?’ This isn’t, in fact, the case, so it’s a tad misleading.

Then, there’s a photo cover of ‘Victoria’s Secret Supermodel Rachel Clark’.  That got me thinking: ‘Is she really a Victoria’s Secret model?  And she doesn’t really look like the comic image.’

Remember that I said that the eye works in a circular motion?  Well it’s also more attracted to pictures than text.  So rather than moving onto the description of the book in the bottom right-hand corner, the eye is more likely to focus on the variant cover pictures to the left, then move back up to the names of the creators centre page.

At this point, it’s a job to break out of the circle of images to read the description in the bottom-right.  I gave up at that point and turned the page.

Remember this – whether on the internet or in a catalogue like Previews, you have only a few seconds to capture the attention of the reader before they give up and move onto something else.

Throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the reader/viewer in an attempt to find something to hook them with can end up being a pointless act.  Better to sum up what’s best about your comic or merchandise and display it in a simple, logical way that gets your point across effectively.

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I hope you enjoyed this article.  Would you like to see more publisher ad spotlights?  Or would you prefer that I concentrate on other marketing-related stuff instead?

Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Best wishes,

Phil Hampton

The Comic Academy

Phil Hampton founded The Comic Academy to help and inpire comic creators and publishers to market their work effectively. Download your FREE exclusive report ‘The 7 Steps to Comic Creator Success’ at


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack May 25, 2012 at 11:45 am

I couldn’t agree with you more, Phil. The Valiant ad is better than the Aspen one in pretty much every way.
This is a rarely talked about point so I find your articles such as this very interesting.

Keep up the great work.

Jesse May 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Hey Phil,
great article on an often overlooked subject. Besides comics, i’m a graphic designer who specializes in advertising work and you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head with your breakdown between the two pages.
In the western world we read left to right, top to bottom so that 2 second stat you read about is the viewer looking at the page and looking diagonally from top left to bottom right and either being disinterested in the visual or being hooked to get the coveted 10 sec. second look where the viewer really begins to absorb what the page is about.
As you stated with the valiant page, even if they don’t read the description you still get “valiant, bloodshot, new comic, creative team, cool visual” then you’re off the page which is more than enough info for a person to retain to go back to later.
The aspen page on the other hand is what i like to call “Information Vomit”. Everything is thrown on the page with no order or context to the material, making it confusing – is it a comic or something about a VS model? do i get to be in the comic? the micro print description at the bottom not going to get read on the first pass and maybe not even the second pass – do you really want to have the last thing people see on your product be tiny print? With simple rearrangement all the Aspen info could be turned into a really strong advert.

Free Business idea – a marketing agency for comic companies – find a need and fill it!


houseofmuses May 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I’m curious to see what ads work and which don’t. I think it would be educational for a number of people, as I’ve seen some pretty rough ones out there of late.
houseofmuses´s last blog post ..Page 20 (No Comments)

Live Free May 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Very good points, Sir. Proper use of color and “white space” is so essential to a dramatic and effective presentation. Thank you for this article!

Justin Martin (@RsquaredComicz) May 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Personally, I like the “ad spotlight” idea, and would like to see more. It adds another valuable, practical component to comic marketing, which benefits me as a first-time comic creator. Thanks for the valuable info, and have a great weekend!

Lionel May 25, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Layout is important but I would suggest that layout in comics takes on added dimensions as it can be used cleverly to support action, atmosphere and emotion. As an artist I tend to either like a character or not either because of concept and/or how he/she is drawn.
The Valiant character with the two guns is decidedly unappealing and looks to me like a cross-dressing Lebanese terrorist whereas the Aspen character displays more intrigue in her simple stance and successfully displays a quiet courage and power. There is more of a cartoon style to her rendering which, to me, allows for a greater range of dynamics of the actual drawing. I personally like the incorporation of black & white page imagery as well. The layout could do with simplification to lessen the visual confusion and then generate the added visual appeal of the whole advert. The Valiant advert, though tidy in it’s layout can look a bit dull. Just a note, Aspen’s Mechanika character is great and they are producing some brilliant art work.

philhampton May 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

Thanks very much to everyone for your comments so far.

Looks like I’ll continue with pumping out these publisher ad reviews on occasion for the time being.

Lionel – I agree that the layout of the Valiant ad can look dull (and this is maybe I didn’t buy into the Valiant relaunch until the third ad). But a simple layout is often much more effective at getting the basic points across about a comic rather than a cluttered ad like the Aspen one. You’re right in that just a few simple changes in the layout of the Aspen ad would have helped to focus the reader on the main text more.

Kind regards,


Terrence May 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Yea I agree. I studied Graphic Design in college. Aspen butchered all 5 of them in one ad. Id definitely like to see more stuff like this. The crazy thing is, if i were to pick up the aspen ad, i wouldn’t of even thought it was wrong, it just would of subconsciously made me uncomfortable and i probably wouldn’t of finished reading it.
Terrence´s last blog post ..The Oni!

Jeff Burns May 28, 2012 at 8:02 am

Hey Phil! I actually am looking forward to Idolized, but I found the information about how the brain works and reads and processes information fascinating and would certainly welcome more of your analysis on this kind of stuff :)

philhampton May 31, 2012 at 2:45 am

Hi Terrence,

Thanks – that’s very interesting. Aspen’s marketers not using basic graphic design rules in their ads seems very strange for a visually-oriented company…

Kind regards,


philhampton May 31, 2012 at 2:46 am

Hi Jeff,

Thanks very much for your feedback. Glad you liked it – there’s more to come soon!

All the best,


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