Blog: Diamond Comics Retailer Summit 2018

C2E2 is open for business, a weekend-long convention that has taken the Midwest by storm and is quickly becoming THE go-to show for those even outside the region. But what about the show before the show? This year, Diamond Comics Distribution held their retailer summit in Chicago, sharing C2E2’s hosting venue at McCormick Place, which invites comic and gaming shop retailers to hear the latest news from publishers and distributors alike, get summit specific deals and freebies, and….well, get to complain a little.

As I shared in my last post, the comics industry is struggling, and some of the factors involved in that mess are quite parallel to the world’s woes: corruption and greed. So of course, as with any opposition to these things, voices rise up, and groups gather together to express their concerns and work to change the system.

Even with that looming tension, there’s still some positive to take away from an experience such as the Summit, especially for someone who is continuing to grow into the industry as it is (not as it’s wished to be) and to learn how to best adapt to the struggles we work against. As with all things in life, as with all difficulties we face in our lives, there is still magic out there, and to me, there is still magic in the world of comics, flickering, but present. The people I work with, both staff at the shop, creators of independent works, publishers and beyond…if they didn’t love what they did, what they made and what they helped to bring other people, they’d move on. They’d find something else to dedicate their passion to.

Yet, that passion remains here, within them, and within me. So, to the summit!

I started my morning bright and early getting into downtown Chicago and was met with a great breakfast and a line-up of publisher presentations. I won’t go too deep into spoiler territory, but there were some really exciting announcements that I can share that I hope you’ll all be interested in as well! Action Lab Comics, TokyoPOP, and Titan Comics were first up:

Action Lab announced a new imprint of comics called ‘Action Lab Discover’, focusing on comics for all ages, and I MEAN all ages. Their titles will have reading levels as early as ages 4-8! This is HUGE news, because up until now, there’s been little to no options available for parents who are trying to get their kids interested in the medium from a very early age. Next, TokyoPOP announced support for comic shops in relation to Free Comic Book Day (coming up the first Saturday of May). With the free preview comic for Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero’s Journey releasing on said holiday, they are also offering the series’ first issue for shops to sell to encourage further reading and help small businesses make a little bit back on their community investment! Finally, Titan Comics showed off their new line of video game comics like ‘Dark Souls’ and ‘Life is Strange’, plus a big feature for the greatly anticipated 13th Doctor’s premiere in comic format. Talk to your local shops and pre-order these bad boys, because they’ll go fast!

Next up in the schedule was a great line up of interesting marketer presentations and tip sessions, and that led us into the DC showcase!

As Action Lab offered, DC discussed further details on their new imprints of kids and young adult titles through the new imprints ‘DC Zoom’ and ‘DC Ink’. The titles have a slew of fantastic talent involved, offer diverse representation without being simply pandering…but as has plagued even their regular line of books, delays will keep these comics from releasing in prime selling opportunity, instead pushing to the first quarter of 2019. There was a little talk about the adult line DC Black Label, the new Sandman universe books, Mad Magazine’s relaunch, but the big reveal came when they announced pre-order numbers for their two upcoming big-bang titles: 500,000 units of Action Comics #1000, and a whopping 1,000,000 units of DC Nation #0! We’ve been holding out for market-saving numbers like that, and DC, despite their in-house issues, are driving the charge forward. It’s going to be a fascinating 2018 for DC fans with all sorts of upcoming works that both continue the powerful, building legacy of their ongoing Rebirth titles, but also presenting new content that specifically harkens to the classic age of heroes like Superman and more!

A few more workshops and a nice lunch later, we had Marvel’s panel, which was the uproar of the Summit. No new announcements were forthcoming, but we were shown some artwork never featured before to give us a good idea of progress on their new line of Fresh Start titles, and let me tell you, they look GOOD. Yu’s pencil work in particular is a welcome friend to the Captain America series, and the insane scale offered in Jason Aaron’s upcoming Avengers title is sure to delight current readers and hopefully entice old ones to come back. C.B. Cebulski was also present beside Aaron and shared with us a new effort on his part as editor-in-chief to spend time on the front lines, working several days a year with comic shops all across the States to see just what the demand is, what retailers need the most support with, and so on. It was a great sentiment met with applause, but the elephant in the room also needed addressing: Amazon and Comixology selling Marvel titles, best sellers and new stories no less, for just $0.99. Also, what the heck was going on with stopping those silly percentage/incentive based variants? Unfortunately, Marvel had no answers to offer, and what had been an uplifting feature ended on quite the sour note.

Some other smaller publishers stepped in to offer their saving graces, like Penguin/Random House’s upcoming Dungeons & Dragons ‘Art and Arcana’ tome featuring years of fantasy art collected over the game’s lifetime, and a big reprinting of the kid’s comics ‘Hilda’ series, which is set to get a Netflix original cartoon this year! We were also shown some brand new publishers like ‘Dead Reckoning’, who has a focus in military comics, both reprints of obscure classics and new indie tales, given a huge list of manga recommendations from Kodansha and VIZ Media, and a few new tools that Diamond as a distributor would be implementing to lessen shipment shortages, and make subscriptions much easier to manager for customers as well. I’ll be trying to do some follow up this summer on all of this, so stay tuned!

In the end, as with all things, there was good and there was bad. Regardless of the struggles we still face, there is nothing that will stop me from loving this medium, from seeing the movies and trying new series day in and day out. And frankly, there’s a LOT of other people out there who feel the same as I do. Comics are a labor of love, from idea to execution to sales. I’m excited for the possibilities this summer has to offer, especially following the release of Avengers: Infinity War in theaters, and I’m ready to take a trek on the next adventure with all of you fans, creators, retailers and customers.

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