[Regular Beat commenter Torsten Adair attended the just-concluded Diamond Retail Summit in Las Vegas, sat through every presentation, and typed up his notes for us. A first installment ran yesterday in PW Comics Week with updates on the POS system, the Comic Shop Locator system and more. Here’s a summary of the rest of the announcements. Parsing through it, the biggest news, from a business standpoint, appears to be both Image and Dark Horse adopting the “Final Order Cut-Off” system through Diamond, meaning retailers can raise or lower orders for specific titles much closer to print dates, allowing more accurate ordering. The system has done well for Marvel and DC to increase periodical sales (retailers can order with more confidence) and could do the same for Dark Horse and Image.]
by Torsten Adair
• Diamond’s new warehouse:
At Monday’s breakfast, Cindy Fournier, Diamond Vice President of Operations, presented the new distribution warehouse moving from Memphis, Tennessee, to nearby Olive Branch, Mississippi. Six years ago, Diamond moved from Sparta, Illinois, to its present location in Memphis, renting a 225,000 sq. ft. facility. Today, they occupy three buildings with 350,000 sq. ft.
The new facility, built to Diamond’s specifications, will occupy 600,000 sq. ft. It will utilize modern technology, using Radio Frequency Identification and voice recognition software to assist with efficient distribution of product. Computer cartonization will calculate the volume of the product on each shipment and then select the optimal carton size, thereby reducing waste.
An implementation date for the new warehouse has not yet been publicized. Diamond plans to finish the move before the holiday season, preferably by late October. 6,000 skids, or 300 tractor trailers, of product has already been transferred. Diamond offers over 20,000 SKUs and 20,000,000 items, so reordering will be suspended for one week as non-comic book product is transferred, then later, comic books and graphic novels will be unavailable for six to ten days. New product will ship directly to the new warehouse, and won’t be affected.
Since the move is less than ten miles from Diamond’s current warehouses in the Memphis area, all of the warehouse management staff, and 98% of the warehouse employees will transfer to the new location. UPS shipping will continue from the current hub.
• Radical’s presentation
The breakfast concluded with a presentation from Dave Elliot of Radical Publishing. Although a relatively new publisher, their initial releases of Hercules and Caliber have been successful. An oversized hardcover edition of Hercules will be offered for $19.95 later this year.
Radical will continue their publishing strategy by offering mini-series of five to six issues, later collected in oversized hardcovers followed by a regular trade editions four to six months later. Elliot emphasized that they will not offer any titles until the quality of the story was perfect. Upcoming titles include:
City of Dust (a mixture of science fiction and horror)
Hotwire, scheduled for 2009, written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Steve Pugh
Shrapnel, a six-issue mini-series, completed and awaiting lettering
Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost, from Edgerton and Riley, due next Summer.
The Magic Flute – a graphic novel coming out this month.
• Viz presentation
The signature line will get its own website VIZSIGNATURE.COM and the Signature ine in general is getting more promotion. They showed two video promos: Ususawa’s Pluto, using Tezuka’s Astro Boy and creating a darker work, involving a robot killing other robots; 20th Century Boys (currently being filmed as a live action trilogy), which features a conspiracy created as a fantasy by a gang of young boys, and the actual mysterious implementation of their fantasy thirty years later.
On April 10, 2009, a live action American production of Dragonball will hit movie theaters, so that will also get a push. In addition to the many movie tie-ins which promote almost every licensed children’s movie, Viz will offer two box sets (one for each Dragonball line) as well as large hardcover collector’s edition which will retail for $19.99.
Viz will also launch a special holiday website, featuring many special products. Fans will be able to create a wishlist on the site, and either email to family and friends, or print it out. Among the many titles will be three complete sets: 21 volumes of Bleach, 13 volumes of Death Note (both 10% off the individual cover price), and 27 volumes of Naruto, which will cost 20% less than the individual volumes. Viz will also publish collector’s editions of these three titles, offering the first three volumes of each series in a large hardcover edition.
• Devil’s Due
Stephen Christy of Devil’s Due Publishing announced an ambitious publishing program. Restricted by what could be depicted in the licensed G.I.Joe comic, DDP acquired the rights to The Corps which will feature Rick Remender as writer and Mike Penick as artist. A special ninety-nine cent special will ship in October.
As previously announced, DDP will publish select titles from the French publisher Humanoids. Starting in December, 2008, DDP will only publish two titles each month in standard comic book size and format, each featuring little-known work of well-known American writers and artists. The first title will be I Am Legion, featuring art of John Cassaday, and writing of Fabien Nury. Other future titles include Sebastian X, Red Hand by Kurt Busiek, and Olympus by Geoff Johns.
DDP will also publish a complete, 500 page volume of Meta-Barons, retailing for $35.
Vampire Hunter D: American Wasteland is an American version of the popular manga title, produced by Jimmy Palmiotti and Josh Blaylock, available this winter.
Hack/Slash will be screened sometime in 2010.
Bionic Commando is the first of DDP’s new Capcom imprint. Justin Marks and Jean Diaz will produce, starting in November. Capcom will spend $15 million promoting the game, which will be cross-promoted with the comic; the comic will promote the game with cheat codes, and the game will promote the comic with an insert.
DDP continues to work closely with John Landis, offering Halloween The First Death of Laurie Strode as a monthly starting in October. The current Voltron series will be collected in Spring. Mercy Sparx, will also premiere in October.
A five issue mini-series of Rest, featuring the work of Mark Powers and Shawn McManus. Covers will feature notable artists, with the first featuring art by Tim Sale. There will also be special photo covers featuring series creator Milo Ventimiglia, of Heroes. The comic will also benefit from product placement, as the new season of Heroes features a local comic book shop.
• Dark Horse
Ending the lunch presentations was Dark Horse, lead by Dirk Wood. David Scoggy, Vice President of Product Development, showcased many wonderful items from the Dark Horse Deluxe line. Buffy, Domo, Tara McPherson, Vampire Hunter D, and the Spirit wil all be featured prominently, but the most interesting product was the Umbrella Academy umbrella. (There will also be a beautiful PVC set of figurines.)
Mike Mignola will be writing and drawing a one-shot Hellboy comic. He will continue to draw the covers for each issue.
Beanworld, launched recently on MySpace, will be collected, and there will also be a holiday special.
Dark Horse will reprint older titles of the collective CLAMP, and there will be a simultaneous release of their new title, premiering in the Spring in Japan, Korea, and the United States. A Clover Omnibus will soon be published.
Buffy variant editions will now be available as distinct items, orderable separately from the original cover.
Chris Warner will return to the popular “Aliens Vs. Predator” series in Summer 2009.
Eric Powell could not attend this year’s Summit, so he appeared via satellite, poolside, promoting his title, The Goon, in his inimitable fashion.
• Wizards of the Coast
The Monday dinner commenced with Wizards of the Coast announcing a new Magic series title “Shards of Alara”, featuring five connected realities, each with specific creatures, magic spells, and characteristics. WotC emphasized the need to make card games accessible to new players, and each starter deck of the new series will come packaged with a fold out explaining the specific series as well as rules on how to play the game.
• Upper Deck echoed this sentiment, and featured the new World of Warcraft miniatures game.
• Penny Farthing Press reintroduced themselves to the audience, and featured two new titles: Shadrach Stone by Stuart Moore and Jon Proctor, and Anne Steelyard, created by bestselling author Barbara Hambly.
Image Comics introduced many interesting titles. Darwyn Cooke will write and draw Madman #14, to be published in November. Both Firebreather and Mice Templar will appear on Cartoon Network. To celebrate twenty years of Michael Linsner’s Dawn, Image will publish two new books, as well as offer special merchandise each month.
Jimmy Palmiotti appeared on stage to promote his new title, Back to Brooklyn, created with Garth Ennis.
In October, Spawn #185 will feature artwork pencilled by Whilce Portacio, inked by Todd McFarlane. Joe Keatinge then remarked that Image will strive to make sure their most popular title, Walking Dead, will ship on a consistent basis, and then gave his phone number, asking any retailer to call.
Numerous slides of Image Unitedwere featured, showcasing a six-issue mini-series to be published next Summer. The six remaining Image founders will all participate, with each supplying artwork and story.
Just as Dark Horse announced earlier, Image Comics will participate in Diamond Comics’ Final Order Cutoff program, beginning in the First Quarter of 2009. Encouraging retailers to exploit this new tool, the following eight titles were suggested:
Firebreather (recommended for readers of “Invincible”)
I Kill Giants
Dragon Prince (a title which would appeal to many ages, about a boy who discovers he is the last dragon on Earth)
Dynamo Five (five teenagers, fathered by a deadbeat superhero dad, discover they have superpowers)
Impaler (what if Vlad the Impaler was actually a vampire hunter)
•Wizard Entertainment showcased their upcoming issues, and announced that Stan Lee will be a guest of honor at Wizard World Los Angeles in 2009.
• Marvel Comics began their presentation with the theme, “Embrace Change”, which stems from events presented in “Secret Invasion”.
A second volume of “Marvel’s Greatest Collections” will be offered.
Marvel will soon launch their Marvel Retailer Resource Center website, a resource for retailers needing up-do-date information, and assisting stores in creating websites.
Two television ads, one promoting Secret Invasion, the other Stephen King’s The Stand, will air, although no specifics were mentioned about the campaign.
Following the success of “The Invincible Iron Man”, Marvel will introduce a new Wolverine title to coincide with the release of the movie next Summer.
Kick Ass has become such a popular title that Marvel is reprinting all issues. Second printings of Amazing Spider-Man were also mentioned.
Ultimatum, penned by Jeff Loeb and pencilled by David Finch, will commence in November. After this event, both Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four will cease publication. Ultimate Avengers, written by Mark Millar, will begin after the event.
Three “What If?” titles, each connecting to a Marvel event, will be offered. X-Infernus, slated for December, will feature the return of Illyana Rasputin, who was considered dead. The third Marvel Zombies series will take place within the normal “616” Marvel Universe. Psylocke will also return. Amazing Spider-Man #600 will explain what is happening with the new revamped Spider-Man. Sinister 666 was teased, but not explained. Marvel will soon celebrate their Seventieth Anniversary, with details to be announced later. A new Marvel Index series will be published. The Marvel Masterworks line will soon feature trade paperback editions, one each month. The hardcover series will continue. Preliminary pencils of a female Black Panther were teased. Cable will crossover with the X-Men in the “Messiah War” storyline. A new line, Marvel Noir will feature new, darker versions of the X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Wolverine. To counteract this, Marvel Illustrated will adapt L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, featuring writing by Eric Shanower and illustrations by Scottie Young. In addition to the animated version of Stephen King’s “N“, Marvel will also publish a comic book version.
Brian Michael Bendis then explained what was planned once “Secret Invasion” finished. Starting in December, Dark Reign, written by Bendis and illustrated by Alex Maleev will continue the events currently taking place in Secret Invasion. A special “Secret Invasion Dark Reign” one-shot will bridge the gap between the two series. Mighty Avengers #20 will be Bendis’ last issue, as he will begin writing “Dark Avengers” the next month, with art by Mike Deodato. Bendis and Maleev will also team to present a new Spider-Woman series. Because of secrecy regarding the ending of Secret Invasion, Marvel will print a special “Dark Reign” edition of Previews which will present all of the redacted information from previous issues. Bendis reiterated that contrary to rumors, Ultimate Spider-Man will continue, and that readers can expect the return of the creepy Spider-Woman, Kitty Pryde, and Gwen Stacy. The Ultimate Spider-Man Annual will deal with Peter Parker’s virginity, and the introduction of Ultimate Mysterio, although Bendis was coy about how the latter affects the former.
Volume Two of Powers will end with #30. Volume Three will begin late next year, will have guaranteed shipping dates, and that the interim will feature hardcovers, paperbacks, and an “Art of” book. Powers is also in development for television. A retailer inquired about the Marvel MMO videogame, and Bendis explained that it was a result of Cryptic and Microsoft canceling the project.
•Wizkids followed, showcasing both Marvel and DC lines of Hero Clix, and giving each retailer in attendance a special Clix figure of the Joker.
• DC Comics
The final presentation was given by DC Comics, featuring the wry wit of Bob Wayne, Vice President of Sales for DC Comics. He started his presentation by announcing that “The Dark Knight” had earned $512 Million domestically, $447 Million overseas, for a grand total of $959 Million worldwide. As for Watchmen, Wayne thought that the 100,000 copies that were printed just before the trailer was enough to fulfill any demand, and that he was only off by a factor of ten. Most retailers felt the consignment program offered by DC in July was successful, so DC will repeat it again before the movie premieres. A fourth printing of Absolute Watchmen was nearing completion, but that demand was already accounted for, so a fifth printing will soon begin. The international version of the Watchmen trade, featuring a new cover based on archival art from Dave Gibbons, will be offered as a Diamond Comics exclusive. A 12-copy floor display will also promote the title, and DC will publish a facsimile of the first issue of Watchmen #1, with the same cover price of the original, $1.50.
In February, the first eight issues of Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing will be collected into a hardcover edition.
DC will also offer a new hardcover series, known as the DC Comics Classic Library. Retailing for $39.99, the various titles in the series will be non-returnable in all markets.
Jimmy Palmiotti then returned to announce a new Power Girl series, produced in collaboration with Amanda Conner.
Billy Tucci, writer and artist of the forthcoming Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion, explained the background of the story. On October 23, 1944, Allied troops initiated Operation: Dogface to break through German lines in the Vosges Mountains of France. However, the Germans knew of this mission, and a battalion of the 141st Infantry were surrounded by the Germans for a week. Supplied by airdrops, this “Lost Battalion” persevered until Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team broke through enemy lines, suffering over 800 casualties to rescue the 211 members of the 141st Infantry. The 442nd RCT was staffed by volunteers from American internment camps, second generation Japanese Americans who were classified as “enemy aliens”. This regiment holds the distinction of being the most highly decorated military unit in United States history, including 23 Medal of Honor recipients. Mr. Tucci then introduced
two members of that regiment, who were welcomed with a standing ovation. In this story, shipping during Veteran’s Day, the “Lost Battalion” includes Sgt. Rock and the men of Easy Company, and was heavily researched by Tucci.
Following the success of Marvel, Diamond will import the fortnightly DC figure magazines from the United Kingdom. British newsstands regularly feature magazines which include inserts, in this case, miniature sculptures of DC characters.
Air, from the creative team of Cairo is an ongoing series from Vertigo. Wildstorm will publish a six-issue miniseries titled Gears of War. CMX will launch Fire Investigator Nanase. The trailer for Frank Miller’s “The Spirit” was shown, and DC announced that there will be a second anthology, showcasing the various femme fatales of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and that the “Best Of” anthology was undergoing a third printing. A special Gene Ha cover will grace the Diamond exclusive edition of Heroes volume two. Bob Wayne then concluded the evening by announcing that DC Comics would sponsor an entire day of programming at the next ComicsPro meeting in March 2009.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.