ComicsPRO conference: Comics retailers retrench after up-and-down 2016
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Comic-book retailers had a tougher year in 2016 than in previous years.
But when times are tough, that's when it's time to find strength, said ComicsPRO keynote speaker Ross Richie, founder and CEO of Boom! Studios.
"What you have to do during time periods like this is not lose your faith," Richie said. "You need to take chances because you can find the next big thing."
Richie's Boom! Studios publishes "Lumberjanes," which has sold more than 800,000 copies and has been optioned for a film at FOX and for a prose spin-off through Amulet Books.
Retailers at the ComicsPRO annual members meeting and retailer conference heard from dozens of publishers and vendors, and met in small groups last week in what is the largest gathering of comic shop owners, managers and employees each year.
Diamond Comic Distributors announced that, when combining comics and graphic novels, sales were slightly up for 2016, by .3 percent in dollars and 1.1 percent in units. This is despite the closing of the Hastings chain, which was one of the largest comics vendors. Periodical comics themselves dropped 1.1 percent in dollars, with a 1.02 increase in unit sales. Graphic novels, or book-form comics, made up the difference with a 1.24 percent dollar increase, and 2.1 percent unit increase.
Retailers indicated sales early in the year were strong but that a rough second half of the year had many refocusing their efforts.
Estimates from DC Comics later in the meeting indicated that comics across all channels remained a growing, thriving business, with the heart of that business remaining the comic shops that make up what's called the comic book direct market.
Two former Okies had comics promoted at the conference. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer, formerly of Norman, is the writer of the comic "Secret Weapons," set for June release from Valiant Entertainment. And Amy Chu, formerly of Edmond, is the writer of "Summit," coming in December from Lions Forge.
Marco Davanzo, executive director of ComicsPRO, reported the organization remains on strong financial footing, and that the organization will continue to organize and promote Local Comic Shop Day. The date for the next Local Comic Shop Day was announced as Nov. 18.
Industry awards given
The ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Awards for 2017 were given out Friday at the meeting.
The memorial award was given to Darwyn Cooke, who died in 2016. His brother, Dennis, accepted the award on Darwyn's behalf.
The industry award was given to former DC Comics editor Karen Berger, who at DC Comics, recruited Alan Moore to Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman to Black Orchid and later Sandman, laying the groundwork for what became the Vertigo line of comics.
"I wasn't a comics fan when I walked in the door at the beginning of her career," Berger said, "but I quickly fell in love with the medium."
Dark Horse Comics announced that Berger would be returning to comics with a new line to be called Berger Books, released through the publisher.
ComicsPRO members voted on two board seats at the meeting. Peter Dolan, owner of Main Street Comics, in Middletown, New York, was re-elected to the board of directors and will continue to serve as president. Steve Olsen, of A Little Shop of Comics in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, also was elected to the board.
Other board members include Jamye Foster, vice president; Chris Brady, secretary; Ralph Mathieu, treasurer; and members Patrick Brower and Jenn Haines.