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How Comic Books Influenced The Way I Work

Eeman Bulotano
May 17, 2021

Hooman Chief Digital Officer shares how comic books played a key role in his ways of work.

(Originally posted in Eeman’s LinkedIn)

This isn’t a nerd entry, I try to stay away from comic book talk every time a “geek” says he/she loves reading comics because frankly, this is divine to me and most of the time (unless I’m really excited or I like you as a person) I choose to enjoy these things privately. I’ve been reading comic books since my father bought me my first one.

Of course, I knew Spider-man, the Avengers, or the Hulk existed before my first comic but I wasn’t really fond of reading about them until I got my first actual copy of a book. Back in the 90’s the internet was yet to be available for mid-class families so the main sources of entertainment mostly came from TV, the radio, or most of the time, reading. My father and I were in a mall that one summer to buy some stuff and usually we’re not allowed to point at things to buy for ourselves like toys (He always taught us how to spend our money only on necessary things or work hard or save money if we really want to buy something. It’s a very useful lesson to be fair.), he always tells us “Oh, wag magtuturo ha?” (don’t point at things) before we go inside malls or markets but this day was somehow different. While we were looking for what we needed to buy for our housewarming party, I stumbled upon a shelf filled with comic books.

Mostly Spider-man comics. I got really fascinated by the amazing covers. This was the 90’s and the time when comic book creators started being “Edgy”, during this time, most of my memory of Spidey was from the animated series and the very old comic books we can see on TV or newspapers. There was this one particular issue of Spectacular Spider-Man, I was surprised that the design of his costume was somehow different from what we were used to. The spider insignia was larger and the blue shades were replaced with black. In short. It’s amazing.

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Yeah, and that guy he’s beating up? That’s somewhat a new version of the Hobgoblin (in the ’90s, of course). I just stared at it and froze at where I was in that mall I didn’t realize my father has been calling my name a couple of times now. I looked at him and told him I’m gonna catch up but he came to me instead and asked me if I wanted it. I was so shocked because this isn’t really something we usually do. He’s not supposed to buy me any unimportant sh*t.

At first, I hesitated because I thought it was some kind of test or maybe he was just joking so I asked if he was for real. He insisted I choose one comic book from the stand before we go so I got this issue and started opening it as soon as he paid for it. I started reading it while we were walking around the mall and reread it when we got inside his car and reread it again when I got into my room.

I didn’t really have any background about what’s really happening in Spidey’s life during that time so I didn’t really expect to learn a lot from one issue. Apparently, Peter Parker was cloned by some guy named the Jackal, eventually, there was a huge arc where they fought, and eventually, Pete and his clone got to terms and he retired from being Spider-man, passing the mantle to Ben Reilly (his clone). Hence the new threads. It was fascinating to feel caught up by just reading one issue.

Not really caught up 100% but you get to feel like you’re ready to dig in the story. This was my first comic book experience. Since then I always saved money to buy back issues and new ones. Then the internet came and now I’m always updated.

Comic books have always been in a special place in my heart. Somehow most of my life decisions are influenced by these small sheets of paper. In this entry, I’d like to note a few things I learned from comic books that have become very useful in my field. (Yes, I make long intros. Because of Simon Sinek. That’s Why. Ha Ha. Get it? That’s “Why”)

1.) Every Comic Book is Someone’s First

Remember that part where I said that I felt caught up even if I was just reading my first real comic book? Of course, you do. I just mentioned it a few words ago. Well, apparently, there was a strategy behind it. This was something I read from an interview with a Marvel writer back then. He said “Every comic book is someone’s first”, that’s why they write their stories in such ways that you don’t feel alienated when you open an issue. You instantly feel the need to dig in without the fear of getting lost. I think this kind of thinking definitely applied when they started making movies and obviously, it’s friggin working.

This thinking helped me a lot, especially in content marketing projects. Every content you produce is someone’s first time interacting with your brand. This helped me and the teams I worked with in creating content and materials that don’t alienate customers and audiences away. For example, if we’ll be releasing a digital infographic or a brochure about new technology, we make sure that we begin with something familiar to everyone. Like a good analogy or a recent story. We also never forget to express who we are and what we stand for in every material whether subtle or outright. As long as the platform or medium allows it, we do it. The first rule of marketing is to connect. If there’s fear or intimidation, resonation will definitely be difficult.

2.) Charts Can Make Explaining Anything Easier

I’ve been working as a digital marketing person for a decade and for digital marketing, content is KING. But if content is king, a proper brand identity is god. Without it, content will always be inconsistent and somewhat lacking in direction. This is why I’ve always been icky about creating content without proper guidelines or structure. So usually, I try to draw out what does the company I’m working for stands for before starting to figure out what kind of stories I can create for them. Before I even knew about the Golden Circle of Simon Sinek. I was reading (surprise surprise) comic books and one particular issue of Avengers I was reading a few years ago inspired me to do this charting thing I always do wherever I go. You see, back then I used to work for a company called MEC.

They have a lot of offerings so obviously, there were a lot of stories to be told. But there wasn’t really any documented structure back then and it was really hard for newbs to understand what they really do. While thinking of ways to simplify this, I took a break and read my weekly comic book.

I can remember that day when I was at our pantry minding my own business and constantly trying to ignore people who get in to ask what I’m doing. This should be obvious because I’m staring at my iPad!! Anyway, I was reading this issue of Avengers World where Steve Rogers and Tony Stark thought they should be prepared for the worst and should start making the Avengers bigger and more scalable. They made the “Avengers machine” which is basically an org structure. But unlike most org structures, it’s not a pyramid. It’s ATOMIC <3

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Made by my favorite writer, Jonathan Hickman, This chart was used to represent how they are expanding from the core team to more specialized teams for more specialized missions. Icons represented each member and lines explained how each is connected. I mean, man, just seeing this chart can tell how massive the story’s gonna be. So yeah, this inspired me to build and organize the structure of MEC from a mostly product-centric approach of representation to an offering and category-based representation. Which also made the tagline more visual (More than Distribution, We Provide Solutions)

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But that was a more company-centric design where the company is at the center of the system. The chart explained how our offerings are used with our many competencies to help in different project phases that are used by different tech trends for different industries. Eventually, I learned about the Golden Circle and the Why should always be at the center of things and applied it to my work back at REX. This eventually led to the creation of our visual representation of our own golden (but actually red) circle:

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This actually helped a lot in structuring our stories and how they explained what we do in quick but precise ways. Simply, they were dedicated to helping secure the success of learners by engaging and enabling our partners in education with our symphony of learning solutions.

And of course, eventually, this approach helped me build the structure of our own company, Hooman:

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3.) Continuity is ALWAYS important

As mentioned in the first part, every comic book is someone’s first comic book. But that doesn’t mean every comic book should be a first issue. That also doesn’t mean you have to reset continuity or the story every year. We can’t erase history. It will always be there and nothing can change it. The only thing we can change is ourselves. Marvel has always believed in this and their stories have always been ongoing since issue number one of everything. But yeah, Spider-man and the others don’t age the same way as us because of course, time runs differently in comics but the point is, what happened in previous issues, whether it be nice or not, it happened and it has effects in current and future issues. Just like in real life.

This lesson’s super true too when it comes to producing content and communication materials. Everything we release is something someone has seen/read somewhere and whatever new version of it we do, the old one will always have a count. So ideally the structure mentioned above and a nice calendar of plans is really essential when building our storytelling infrastructure for our brands. These easy to make tools help us in plotting out the timing and the implementation of how we connect with our customers. If done right, this works to our advantage since the customer will have a deeper understanding of the company and its offerings the more he/she interacts with the org.

4.) EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED

By this time, a connected universe isn’t really something new to most of us. The Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced us to the possibility of interconnecting stories that creates repercussions with each other. This has always been true to comic books. Every now and then a character from one book visits another and vice-versa. It’s fun and it makes you feel that everything that’s been happening is really working towards a bigger story.

This, I think is one of the best marketing techniques ever used. It’s using their own brands (characters) to promote or test others to different audience. While having crossovers tell the audience that “Hey, you know what, we don’t just have X-men, we also have the Mighty Avengers (available now at your nearest comic book shop)”, it also allows the creators to test the interest of their customers to other brands.

This kind of thinking really helped me in creating content that doesn’t just affect the audience of whatever segment the content I’m doing is for, but everybody else. Especially now in the digital world, the whole world is potentially your audience. This kind of thinking plus the “Every comics is someone’s first” thinking can really help in building and maintaining the brand’s identity and key message even when telling product or program specific stories or presentation. It has to connected. Because everything really is connected.

5.) With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility (and CONSISTENCY)

Lastly, I think this won’t be just useful for marketing. I think this applies to everything. Remember how Spider-man’s the first comic I ever had? Yep. Spidey’s become my all-time go-to superhero. Yeah, he’s not the strongest or fastest or smartest or anything but he’s definitely the most heroic hero ever. The greatest line of all time given to him by his late uncle Ben: “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” is has always stuck with him.

I think it means one thing, we all have powers and we’re all responsible. Knowing is power and knowing that something’s wrong and not doing anything is being irresponsible. That’s how Spidey stories have always run. The struggle between his life as a teenager/college student/photographer/scientist (or whatever he’s doing) and being a superhero. He keeps bumping to situations that will require him to make the hard choices and he does them anyway. No matter how hard the choice will hit him sometimes. I think in this current “free” world we’re living in, a little more responsibility would be nice.

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Work-wise, The Great Power line and Spidey’s character is one of the best examples of branding I have ever seen. There have been a lot of Spider-Man comic books throughout the years.

Different versions, different timelines, name it, there’s a Spidey comic about that. Though issues will sometimes differ in tone or direction, the theme will always be the same. Peter Parker is a hero and with great power comes great responsibility.

This consistency in character is very important for brands to achieve true resonance and connection with the audience. Through the Spider-books’ consistency, readers have always been related to the character and the stories regardless of era or version. And I think that’s one of the most important things a brand should have on its checklist.

 

aaaaaaand cut. I started writing around 10:30 and now it’s almost 11:00 PM. I think that’s it for today. Man, I made a pretty long entry, didn’t I? Oh well, I should be because I haven’t been writing for myself for a while.

Anyways. I hope whoever’s reading this finds this useful or at the very least, entertaining. But to be honest I really wrote this for myself so I can remember and share how these amazing things changed my life. Hopefully, it does the same things to others too.

(Originally posted in Eeman’s LinkedIn)

By: <a href="https://hooman.design/team/eeman" target="_blank">Eeman Bulotano</a>

By: Eeman Bulotano

Founder and Chief Digital Officer. Full Stack CX Design and Development. Digital Experience Professional. Business Development / Design. Branding. Beat Making.

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