The annual ComicsPRO meeting for comics retailers and publishers is taking place virtually February 24-26. Yesterday we saw lots of news from Boom! and DC and more presentations are taking place today, along with a keynote speech by Raina Telgemeier.
Presentations are prerecorded but there are live roundtables and online gatherings. The press is barred from attending this annual meeting, however, it is known as one of the most useful and proactive industry gatherings of the year, and this one – hopefully the last one held in a Zoom call – should be no different.
Among the news bites:
• Publishers/vendors attending the virtual exhibit hall include Aftershock, Ata-Boy Inc, AWA Studios, Battle Quest Comics, BCW Supplies, Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC), Black Mask, BOOM! Studios, Cartoon Books, Comics and Coffee, Comic Shop Assistant, ComicsHub, ComicSuite & PreviewsWorld PULLBOX, CBLDF, Dark Horse Comics, DC Entertainment, Diamond, Dynamite, Heavy Metal, IDW Publishing, Lunar Distribution, Mad Cave Studios, Manage Comics, Marvel, Oni Press, PaperCutz/NBM, Penguin Random House, Rebelion, Scholastic, Scout Comics, Simon and Schuster. Skybound, The NPD Group, Valiant, Vault Comics, Viz Media, Yen Press, and Zoop.
That’s a lengthy list but one name is missing: Image Comics (Skybound is involved however.) No idea why that is, but it is….interesting.
• Boom put their presentation online for all to watch (or read it below.) Some top points:
- Boom president Filip Sablik recommends meditation. (I concur.)
- Since October 2020, BOOM! Studios has had its six BIGGEST consecutive quarters of all time, increasing market share 200% in two years, led by the success of House of Slaughter, BRZRKR and Something Is Killing The Children.
- SIKTC has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and BRZRKR has sold almost a million.
- “The last two years don’t represent a momentary disruption, blip, or bubble…. To continue to thrive in 2022 and beyond, our industry needs to not only accept this new normal, but embrace it.”
- Boom is expanding its staff by 33%, including two new Direct Market Sales, and new hires in Editorial, Production Design, Marketing, Operations, and Finance teams – and a renewed commitment to marketing on social media and elsewhere.
- Boom is adding exclusive and returnable BOOM! Guarantee variant covers on establish series as part of its very successful Boom Guarantee returnability program.
- A long list of creators at Boom included The Batman screenwriter Mattson Tomlin, artist Lee Bermejo and The Walking Dead’s Charlie Adlard – so some excitement there.
- Upcoming titles in addition to lots more Erica Slaughter: (Sizzle reel here.)
• Grim by Stephanie Phillips and Falviano
• A new volume of the popular fancing romance Fence, by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad.
Hollow from Shannon Watters, Branden Boyer-White and Berenice Nellie
For those who don’t like watching videos, here’s Sablik’s complete speech:
“Six years ago, I started a little habit that changed my life.
In 2016, I sat down for the first time one early and brisk February morning and tried meditating using an app called Headspace. Meditation always sounded like a concept for people who name their crystals and grow their own wheatgrass, but a book called 10% Happier by Dan Harris finally made me see it through a lens that appealed to me.
It started off with just 10 minutes that morning, but has grown into a thousand sessions and 300 hours over the last six years. I could tell you what a major positive impact it’s had on me as a husband, father, and leader, but that’s not why I wanted to start this year’s presentation talking about meditation.
Meditation is first and foremost about breath. You know, that thing that all of us do and most of us never really think about. Until I started meditating, I never realized how much I held my breath.
Which I think is the perfect metaphor for what the last two years have been like for many of us in the comics industry – holding our breath. Especially those of us responsible not just for our own livelihood, but the livelihoods of so many others like employees, as well as the customers, creators, and larger comics community who are all impacted by the decisions we make.
After COVID-19 changed the world in March 2020, many of us in the comics industry wondered if our businesses and the industry itself would survive intact. Then, in 2020, when the industry showed signs of not only surviving, but thriving and growing, we wondered when the other shoe would drop. But what if this is the moment where we stop holding our breaths, and instead lead the charge to one of the most significant periods of change and growth for the industry in decades?
Starting in October of 2020, throughout 2021, and now 2022, BOOM! Studios has had its six BIGGEST consecutive quarters of all time, resulting in our company becoming the fastest growing comic book publisher, with a market share increase of over 200% in just two years! In 2021 alone, House of Slaughter and BRZRKR were two of the top three best-selling comic books of the year, and Something Is Killing The Children was the #2 best-selling collection.
A big part of our shared success over the last two years is due to the explosion of James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera’s Something Is Killing the Children franchise. Not only was Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1 our top selling collection of 2021, the top selling single issue of 2021 was the launch of SIKTC spinoff, House of Slaughter #1. Both of these extraordinary successes speak volumes about the incredible momentum the franchise has in comic shops thanks to the work you’ve done putting it in the hands of new customers. In just two years, Something Is Killing The Children has sold over 2 million copies worldwide, and begun development on a streaming series at Netflix, proving that Erica Slaughter and her kin are just getting started!
To thank you for your support, each ComicsPRO attendee will receive a limited edition Something Is Killing The Children #21 Ashcan that will also go out one per account through Diamond to get everyone ready for the return of Erica Slaughter on March 30th.
Another part of the success we saw in 2021 was, of course, BRZRKR by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, and Ron Garney. Thanks to your support, BRZRKR was the highest ordered comic book in the direct market in 30 years. The first collection, released just a few months ago, is on track to be one of our best-selling collections in the history of the company,. In less than a year, we’ve sold over 1 million copies of BRZRKR. And just like Something is Killing the Children, it’s got a film and anime series in development at Netflix, so Keanu and B. are just getting started. . .
2021 wasn’t just the story of two record-breaking franchises! BOOM! Studios continues to add MUST READ titles to every comic book fan’s list with hot new licenses and creator-owned stories you can’t get anywhere else!
We added Magic: The Gathering to our licensed slate, alongside fan favorites Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Dune, launching the global hit franchise seven times higher than the last series at its previous publisher.
Original series like Eve by Victor LaValle and Jo Mi-Gyeong, Dark Blood by LaToya Morgan, Walt Barna, and Moisés Hidalgo, and Eat The Rich by Sarah Gailey and Pius Bak not only showcase the diversity of talent and subject matter available to readers in the comic market, but also hit new sales heights for BOOM! Studios.
And of course, the highly acclaimed The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V. and Filipe Andrade became Ram’s highest selling debut, as well as one of the best reviewed series of 2021.
To celebrate the amazing growth of our Must Read original series, every attendee will also receive an exclusive edition of Faithless III #1 by Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet. Faithless #1 was the series that kicked off the last three record-breaking years for BOOM! Studios, so it’s fitting that the groundbreaking trilogy will tell its final chapter this year.
But BOOM! Studios wasn’t the only publisher to experience terrific growth in 2021. Comic book sales grew even more rapidly last year with nearly 50% more copies sold than the prior year! What’s even more exciting is the market share of this growth appears to be more widely distributed across a variety of publishers than ever before, rather than being concentrated in the top two publishers in the market.
Despite our industry’s record-setting sales growth, there’s a sense of frustration and exhaustion that permeates many of our conversations and online interactions, which is heartbreaking given our industry is filled with passionate, hard-working people.
There’s no way around it: this historic success comes in a time of unprecedented uncertainty and chaos. The world and our industry have absolutely changed, becoming more complex and more unpredictable. But that’s not why we’re frustrated.
We’re frustrated because our expectations aren’t being met. The expectations we have from 2019 of how the industry should work. Expectations of how our industry should run. And perhaps even hope that things will go back to the way they were.
The last two years don’t represent a momentary disruption, blip, or bubble. Two years is enough time for new customer habits to form, new ways of doing business to take root, and new opportunities to be realized. They reflect a new normal taking shape before our eyes. To continue to thrive in 2022 and beyond, our industry needs to not only accept this new normal, but embrace it. We should let go of that breath we were holding, lean in, and use our growth from the last year to invest in shaping the future.
BOOM! Studios is doing just that by expanding our team by 33% in the first quarter to nurture and develop further growth in 2022. You can meet two recent additions to the Sales team – Josh Hayes, our Vice President of Sales, and Harley Salbacka, our Retail Sales Coordinator – during the “BOOM! Meet The Team” session this evening. We’re expanding our Sales team with two additional Direct Market Sales team members dedicated to the comic book shops. We’re also adding new hires in our Editorial, Production Design, Marketing, Operations, and Finance teams to ensure BOOM! Studios continues to be comic shops’ gold standard for publishing partners.
We also recognize that we serve an increasingly diverse group of customers and comic shops. So we’re leaning into the new normal by offering a variety of programs and incentives to support our retail partners. As the leader in returnability, that includes continuing to make multiple issues of numerous series, collections, and graphic novels fully returnable through the BOOM! Guarantee program. To further strengthen the BOOM! Guarantee program we’re adding exclusive and returnable BOOM! Guarantee variants on series with established audiences. We’re pairing that with thoughtful, curated incentive cover programs designed to speak to the customers, particularly series with strong collector fanbases. And if a title sells out we’ll support it with subsequent printings to meet demand.
Additionally, we are expanding our marketing efforts and available tools for our retail partners to help you maximize your sales. This includes our weekly #FOCFriday posts to over 120K followers on Twitter, #NewComicBookDay and #BookBirthday promotions that go out to over 400K followers on multiple social media platforms, and a steady stream of video content including trailers and our conversation show with creators, BOOM! Chat, that are available for your use in store and online.
Of course, the best way we can support your sales and growth in 2022 is to continue to build momentum and excitement for bestselling creator-owned series like Something Is Killing The Children, House of Slaughter, BRZRKR, Once & Future, Seven Secrets, and We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, as well as celebrate important milestones for fan favorite licenses like the 25th Anniversary of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in March, the 20th Anniversary of Firefly in September, and a milestone moment for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers later this year!
And BOOM! Studios has never been one to rest on our laurels, so here’s a sneak peek at some of the exciting, fresh hits driving customers into your stores this year . . .
Exciting, right?! With all these incredible creators, iconic characters, and thrilling new stories, you can expect the next Something is Killing the Children or BRZRKR to hit your shelves this year.
At BOOM! Studios, we’re not holding our breath. We’re exhaling and leaning into the excitement and possibilities of 2022 and beyond. We believe that there is even more room to grow as an industry so we’re investing in and embracing the new normal to build a bridge to a stronger and better future for ourselves, our retail partners, and our community.
We invite you to join us! We look forward to deeper conversations during the conference about how we can help our retail partners make 2022 your best year yet!