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ComicsPRO, the trade organization for direct market comic book retailers, held its annual meeting last week, welcoming retailers from all over for presentations and discussions with various comic companies and other industry reps.
“Advocacy is a vital and important cog in the ComicsPRO machine. Too often, the retail segment is absent when industry plans are formulated and partnerships are forged,” says Joe Field ComicsPRO president, on the group’s website. “As ComicsPRO grows, our goal is to give retailers an equal voice with our other industry partners, so we can take an active role in the decisions that affect all of us.”
Although the meetings are typically closed to the press, some information from the three days in Dallas has come out:
- Retailer Matt Price, who blogs at Nerdage, shared several tidbits this weekend from the show. Of note is the list of projects that publishers discussed at the show, which include Avengers vs. X-Men, Before Watchmen, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and an announcement from IDW that they’re planning an Artists Edition of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again storyline.
- Mike Richardson, Dark Horse president and publisher, gave a keynote at the event on digital comics, on how “changes have been a constant and necessary partner” for the comics industry.
- Speaking of which, iVerse Media and Diamond Comic Distributors announced a new Digital Comic Reader App at the meeting. “By adding the Digital Reader App into the Diamond Digital program, we’re completely removing our own digital store. This is a much cleaner solution for retailers and will give them the same kind of tools companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are using to sell digital on these devices,” said iVerse CEO Michael Murphey.
- Image Comics sponsored a lunch where Publisher Eric Stephenson spoke on independence and creativity. You can read his entire speech over at iFanboy.
- Thomas Gaul of Corner Store Comics and Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, Calif. was elected to the ComicsPRO board, replacing founding member Brian Hibbs.
- And speaking of Brian, he posted some of his notes on DC Comics from the meeting, including some digital information and the fact that they plan to release the full results from the Nielsen survey to retailers.
- Bob Wayne, DC Entertainment’s senior vice president of sales, was honored with the ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award.
DC Comics’ sweeping linewide relaunch appealed primarily to avid fans and lapsed readers, according to the unprecedented survey conducted last fall by the Nielsen National Research Group. The publisher presented the results Thursday in Dallas at the annual meeting of ComicsPRO, the direct-market trade association.
More than 70 percent of respondents described themselves as avid fans who visit the comic shop once a week, while more than 25 percent of in-store consumers were lapsed readers. Just 5 percent characterized themselves as new or first-time readers.
Ninety-three percent of respondents were male, and more than 50 percent reported an annual income of less than $60,000 — a figure that John Rood, executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development, told ICv2.com “validated DC’s attempt to hold the price point for most comics to $2.99.” Just 2 percent were under the age of 18, with an overwhelming majority of respondents falling between the ages of 18 and 44 (no real surprise).
Also worth noting: 50 percent of digital readers also read print comics, while just 16 percent of print readers said they read or purchased digital comics. Forty-eight percent of digital buyers were over the age of 35.
The three-pronged survey was conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 11, specifically targeting consumers who purchased DC’s New 52 titles. In-store questionnaires — you’ll recall Patton Oswalt’s encounter with a “pushy” Nielsen employee — accounted for 167 responses, while 5,336 came from the online survey. A third group of 626 was pulled from customers who purchased New 52 books through comiXology or the DC app.
Libraries | A middle school library in New Brunswick, Canada, has been asked to remove Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series for review after the mother of a 12-year-old student complained about the depictions of sex and violence in one of the volumes. The CTV News reporter goes for the easy gasp by showing the scenes in question to a variety of parents, all of whom agree they don’t think the book belongs in a school library, and in this case the mom has a good point: The book received good reviews but is definitely not for kids. [CTV News]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller has been looking at the fine print in old comics — the statement of ownership, which spells out in exact numbers just how many copies were printed, how many were sold, etc. One of the highlights is Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, which sold more than 1 million copies, making it the top seller of the 1960s. “It’s meaningful, I think, that the best-seller of the 1960s should come from Barks, whose work was originally uncredited and who was known originally to fans as ‘the Good Duck Artist,’” Miller concludes. “Fandom in the 1960s was bringing attention to a lot of people who had previously been unheralded, and Barks is a great example. He changed comics — and now comics were changing.” [The Comichron]
Digital comics | ICv2 estimates the total value of the digital comics market in 2011 as $25 million, triple the 2010 figure, and boldly predicts that digital will account for 10 percent of the entire comics market in 2012. Digital sales grew faster in the second half of the year, which ICv2 attributes to three factors: DC’s decision to release its New 52 comics digitally the same day as print, the industry-wide trend toward same-day print and digital releases, and the proliferation of different platforms on which to read digital comics. As for digital taking away from print, the publishing executives ICv2 has spoken to over the past few months don’t seem to think that is happening. [ICv2]
Retailing | Retailer and journalist Matt Price takes the temperature at the ComicsPRO Annual Members Meeting, which kicks off today in Dallas, noting that members remain interested in DC’s publishing plans, and report “very strong sales” for Image’s Fatale and Thief of Thieves. [Nerdage]
Internet | Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman joined with Trent Reznor, Aziz Ansari, OK Go and 14 other members of the creative community in signing an open letter to Congress against the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. “We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result,” the letter states.
Warren Ellis and Fantagraphics have also come out against the bill, while Peter David, who is against the bill in its current form, takes aim at those who “endorsed the piracy, supported the piracy, enabled the piracy, felt their own actions weren’t piracy, and now refuse to accept the consequences of their own actions.” ComicsAlliance has posted an editorial against the bill and rounded up webcomic reactions to the blackout. [NeilGaiman.com]
Creators | The Hero Initiative offers an update from colorist Tom Ziuko, who was hospitalized earlier this year for acute kidney failure and other health conditions, and then returned to the hospital for emergency surgery about a month ago. “I can’t impress upon you enough how frightening it is to actually come up against a life-threatening medical situation (not to mention two times in less than a year), and not have the financial means to survive if you’re suddenly not able to earn a living. Like so many other freelancers out there, I live paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford health insurance. Without an organization like the Hero Initiative to lend me support in this time of dire need, I truly don’t know where I would be today,” Ziuko said. [The Hero Initiative]
Publishing | CNN asks the question “Are women and comics risky business?” as Christian Sager talks to former DC editor Janelle Asselin, blogger Jill Pantozzi, Womanthology organizer Renae De Liz and others about the number of women who work in comics, the portrayal of female characters and why comic companies don’t actively market books to women. “Think about it from the publisher’s point of view,” Asselin said. “Say you sell 90 percent of your comics to men between 18 and 35, and 10 percent of your comics to women in the same age group. Are you going to a) try to grow that 90 percent of your audience because you feel you already have the hook they want and you just need to get word out about it, or b) are you going to try to figure out what women want in their comics and do that to grow your line?” [CNN]
The American comic retailer organization ComicsPro recently released the results from an internal poll questioning which incentives from publishers do the most to increase their orders of a particular book.
Although ComicsPro’s Amanda Emmert didn’t elaborate as to how many retailers responded, the percentages reveal a lot. According to the survey, 63 percent of comics retailers who responded said that discounts for larger orders of a book are the most effective incentive for them. This outpaced other incentives by a 3:1 ratio, with returnability and free additional comics coming in at around 20 percent each. Of all responses, none said alternative covers were an effective means to stoke retailer’s purchase orders.
Emmert added at the end that smaller comic retailers might be more welcoming of free copies and returnable comics, while “larger retail accounts look more for deep discount offers, although the correlation was anecdotal.”
It’s worth a look for anyone working in the publishing — or creative — side of the comic industry, and even armchair comics quarterbacks like you and me.
Retailing | Borders Group began liquidation sales over the weekend at 200 stores, discounting items 20 percent to 40 percent. As Publishers Weekly and Blogcritics chart the 40-year rise and fall of the retailer, PW’s Jim Milliot looks at the effects the bookseller’s bankruptcy will have on the publishing industry: “The trickle-down impact will affect everyone from manufacturers to agents. Borders accounted for about 8% of overall industry sales, a higher percentage in some categories. A downsized Borders means publishers are likely to receive smaller orders and in turn place smaller first printings, resulting in less business for printers. The likelihood of lower print sales, one publisher said, means that books acquired one or two years ago when Borders was much bigger will have a more difficult time earning the advance back and that less shelf space could mean lower advances.” [Publishers Weekly]
Retailing | Tracey Taylor has details of retailer Jack Rems’ plans to resurrect Berkeley, Calif., institution Comic Relief as a new store called The Escapist — a nod to the Michael Chabon character — possibly at the same location. [Berkeleyside]
The first news to emerge from the ComicsPRO annual meeting in Dallas is that Lee Bermejo, the critically acclaimed artist of Joker and Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, will write and draw a Batman graphic novel for DC Comics.
Titled Batman: Noel, the holiday-themed book will mark Bermejo’s comics-writing debut. It’s edited by Mark Chiarello, DC’s vice president of art direction & design.
“I’m totally excited by this project, and not only because Lee Bermejo is such an astounding artist,” Chiarello tells the DC Universe blog The Source. “Sure, the work he’s done in the past (Joker OGN, Wednesday Comics) has been pretty brilliant and I’d expect nothing less from Lee, but the added bonus of Batman: Noel being drawn and written by Lee is extra cool. In other words, I knew Lee could deliver the goods artistically, but I never knew he was also this great of a writer!”
No released date was mentioned.
The meeting of ComicsPRO — the Comics Professional Retail Organization — continues through Saturday.
Publishing | The 61st volume of Eiichiro Oda’s insanely popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first three days of release, according to the Japanese market-survey firm Oricon. It’s the fastest-selling book in the Oricon chart’s nearly three-year history, breaking the previous record set by the 60th volume of One Piece, which sold more than 2 million copies in four days. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald talks to Dave Bowen, Diamond’s director of digital distribution, about the newly announced deal with iVerse Media that will allow retailers to sell digital comics in their stores: “The retailer will login using their Diamond retailer login and be presented with the opportunity to create store-specific, item-specific codes in whatever quantities they need. Then we’ll use some approved cryptographically secure method to generate random codes for the retailer to use. And we’ll format those in a PDF which they can then print out. Likely what will happen is, it’ll print easily on Avery 30-up laser labels. So what you have is a sheet of Avery laser labels with a bunch of different books and codes on individual labels. In that case the retailer takes that material and secures it and then when someone wants Transformers #16 they simply ring the sale and give the label or sticker or cut-out to the consumer. [...] It’s really very simple. Then the consumer that has that code, which is live, they could literally step out of the line, pull out their iphone or ipad or whatever other device and redeem the code and begin reading the material.” Meanwhile, Todd Allen dissects what he describes as “a particularly silly digital download scheme.” [The Beat, Indignant Online]
Publishing | Citing “distribution concerns,” Marvel has canceled plans to allow members of the ComicsPRO retail trade organization to sell the first issue of author Orson Scott Card’s Formic Wars: Burning Earth on Feb. 15 rather than Feb. 16. Announced last Friday, the move was designed to take advantage of Diamond Comic Distributors’ new day-early delivery program, which allows direct-market stores to receive comics on Tuesday for sale on Wednesday. It’s what just this week enabled the early release of the heavily publicized Fantastic Four #587. According to Rich Johnston, complaints from DC Comics and other publishers over that promotion are what led to cancellation of the ComicsPRO incentive.
But publishers weren’t alone in protesting Tuesday releases: On the retail-oriented news and analysis site ICv2.com, store owners complained about “special treatment” for ComicsPRO members, and criticized Marvel for already authorizing day-early sales. “At this rate, by the end of the year, Tuesday will be new comics day,” wrote Ed Sherman of Rising Sun Creations. [Marvel]
Creators | Artist Alan Kupperberg shares word that colorist Tom Ziuko has been hospitalized as he fights acute kidney failure and other health conditions. “The good news is that the doctors seem to have finally stumbled on a series of treatments and therapies that have Tom seeing some light at the end of the tunnel,” Kupperberg said in a message to Daniel Best. “The bad news is that Tom, uninsured and unable to work since the beginning of December, is in a tough financial bind.” Kupperberg is accepting donations via his PayPal account — email@example.com — and adds, “I will pass 100% (plus) along to Tom.”
Ziuko worked in DC Comics’ production department before going freelance, and colored comics like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Batman, Action Comics and History of the DC Universe, to name a few. Todd Klein remembers their time together at DC. [20th Century Danny Boy]
Creators | Artist Paolo Rivera suffered a broken cheekbone after intervening in a domestic dispute. “The good news is I’m all right and—most importantly—my vision is intact,” he wrote on his blog. “… I had surgery on Monday and have been taking it very, very easy since. All things considered, I was very lucky. My eye looks horrendous—the white of the eye is blood red—but I can still see (thank goodness) and should make a full recovery. I also have a pretty rad haircut right now due to surgery… it kinda looks like the one I had circa 1995.” [The Self-Absorbing Man]
Broadway | The Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark canceled both Wednesday performances to test new safety measures following the Monday-night fall that left a stuntman hospitalized with broken ribs and internal bleeding. The cancellation of the sold-out evening show was announced just three hours before showtime at the Foxwoods Theatre. Tonight’s performance is expected to go on as planned.
Producers and creators met privately on Tuesday with the entire company to address safety concerns about the $65-million musical, the most expensive and technically complex in Broadway history. Although accidents in theater productions aren’t uncommon, it’s unusual for there to be four injuries before a show has officially opened. MTV offers some context. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]
Publishing | No comic cracked the 100,000-copy mark in the direct market in October, with the top title, Marvel’s Uncanny X-Force #1, selling an estimated 96,500 copies. Diamond’s graphic novel chart was led by DC Comics’ Superman: Earth One hardcover, which sold more than 16,000 copies. Retail news and analysis site ICv2.com notes that was the best number for a graphic novel since new volumes of Scott Pilgrim and The Walking Dead shipped in July. The website also pursues John Jackson Miller’s recent analysis of comics that don’t make it into Diamond’s Top 300, concluding: “Sales below the Top 300 may be growing in importance, but when we look at a fairly long period (10 months) either they aren’t big enough in the aggregate to make much difference, or their sales are changing at about the same rate as the Top 300’s. If anything, looking at year to date numbers, sales on titles below the Top 300 are shrinking faster than sales in the Top 300, at least in periodical comics.”
Conventions | Wizard Entertainment has announced its acquisition of Central Canada Comic Con in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Johanna Draper Carlson also picks up on rumors that the company is adding Mid-Ohio-Con to its growing stable. [press release, Comics Worth Reading]
I’ve been writing about comics for over five years now, and one of the things I’ve learned is always know who the experts are on any given subject. Whenever I have an article that would benefit from the insight of a retailer, one of the first people I turn to is Joe Field.
Field is the owner/operator of Concord, California’s Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff. He’s the president of the comics retail organization ComicsPRO, founded Free Comic Book Day, worked as a marketing person for Stan Lee and also ran one of the biggest regional conventions, WonderCon, for several years. Over the years I’ve called and emailed him numerous times with a stray question or two, but never got a chance to sit down and pick his brain — until now.
Chris Arrant: First thing I want to ask you about is ComicsPRO. Not many people outside the retail side know about this — I bet even some publishers and journalists don’t. Inform me, Joe — what’s the next big event for ComicsPRO coming up?