Comics appearing as part of consumer magazines are nothing new but the approach is fairly unique for a b-to-b magazine. In May, American Towman
, a 30,000-circ monthly serving the towing and recovery industry, debuted a comic detailing the adventures of the “everyman” tower. Since then, the comic has prompted enthusiastic response from readers and advertisers, including one brand that is now requesting their ad appear opposite the first page of the comic each issue.
The comic began as a way to recognize the perils of the job;an average of one towman is killed on the job each week, according to publisher Steve Calitri. For 17 years, American Towman
has been awarding the American Towman Medal for heroic acts. “We get a lot of after-action reports but it’s tough to get photos of what happened,” says Calitri. “With the comic, we knew we could capture certain things the towman could relate to, but rarely see photos of. It could be fun but also touch a sense of pride. It’s a different kind of visual, it stands out from everything else in the magazine.”
Advertisers have embraced the comic as well. “Suppliers say they go to the back two pages as soon as they get the magazine each month, which is exactly what you want an advertiser to say,” says Calitri. “With trade magazines, it’s tough to get the average advertiser to actually look at the magazine cover to cover because the majority of the content is not for him;it’s for the reader he’s trying to sell to. They usually give it a cursory glance and go to the page their ad is on. The comic can speak to them because it’s a story;these stories reach everybody.”
The response has prompted Calitri to consider doing the comic as a full standalone issue next year. “We haven’t decided whether to do it as a 13th issue going to full 30,000 circ or to just a select few;we have 5,000 paid subscribers,” he says. “We may even distribute the issue to comic book stores and see how it does.”