With the annual ComicsPRO retailer conference kicking off in Pittsburgh tomorrow, the Hot Stove League of Comics** is over and the news cycle is about to kick into high gear.

The comics industry doesn’t really pack up after the convention season ends (more or less) in October…it just feels that way.  But the annual ComicsPRO meeting is where publishers and retailers meet up for the first time in the year, and plans are announced, news is broken, and socializing is held.

Sales conferences, are of course, a feature of most industries. As Milton Griepp noted in his brief history of comics sales conferences, comics based events go back to at least the early 80s, with distributors like Diamond and Capital hosting retailers in various cities across the US for years, allowing publishers to speak directly to the retailers who sell their books. 

After the distributor consolidation of the 90s, Diamond’s annual Retailer Summit became the only regular business meeting in the industry. I have covered these summits in great detail over the years, but as Diamond’s vendor list has shrunk – with DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse and IDW all leaving for Lunar or PRH – the summit also shrank, and one planned for this year was cancelled entirely. 

Meanwhile, ComicsPRO was founded in 2005 as a trade organization for retailers, with the goals of promoting advocacy, education, and opportunity for members. The date of the first ComcisPRO conference isn’t easily findable (although I must have mentioned it here at The Beat) but the event quickly got a reputation as the most energizing and optimistic comics event of the year. Retailers generally raved about how productive it was, and publishers saved up big news drops for their presentations.

ComicsPRO as an organization and as an event has continued to grow. Current ComicsPRo president Jenn Haines of the Dragon in Guelph has guided the organization through the tumult of the Pandemic Years, and the org is now working on a metadata project that the industry is eagerly awaiting.

The press has traditionally been prohibited from attending ComicsPRO – as the veteran of a score of Diamond Summit chicken and baby carrot banquets, I’ve always been eager to test my mettle at ComicsPRO, but I’ve respected their goal of privacy, and have done my best to cover the goings on without breaking any confidences.  

This year, I will be attending however, a first that I’m incredibly excited about! I may not be live tweeting the event, but I expect a lot of news to come out, and I’m eager to talk to retailers about what is really happening on the front lines.

And here’s a what of what to expect at this year’s event, which runs from February 22-24.


• Marvel’s Dan Buckley will deliver the keynote. Buckley’s official title is President of Marvel Comics and Franchise, and I haven’t seen him speak at an industry function in a long time, so this is definitely eagerly awaited.

• More than 40 vendors will be participating, including Platinum Sponsors BOOM! Studios, ComicHub Limited, DC, Diamond Comic Distributors, DSTLRY, Lunar Distribution, Marvel, PRH Distribution, and Scholastic.

• Other participating vendors:  1First Comics, A Wave Blue World, AHOY Comics, Alien Books, Ata-Boy, Inc, Bad Egg Publishing, Battle Quest Comics, BCW Supplies, BINC, ComicBooks For Kids!, Comic Shop Assistant, Comic Shop News, ComicsBurgh, Dark Horse Comics, Dead Mimic Games, Dynamite Entertainment, EvansArts, Ghost Machine, ICv2, IDW Publishing, Ironguard Supplies, Kodansha USA Publishing, Mad Cave Studios and Papercutz, Magma Comix, Manage Comics, MyFutprint Entertainment, Nacelle Company, NBM Graphic Novels, Oni Press, Rebellion Publishing, Rocketship Entertainment, Silver Sprocket, Square Enix, Street Noise Books, Tony Fleecs, UDON Entertainment, VIZ Media, and Yen Press.

•  The schedule includes two and a half days solid of networking and educational events, with an emphasis on “quantifying the direct market and addressing industry challenges.” According to Haines, “[It’s] also the best place to have direct conversations with publishers and distributors so that we can work toward industry-wide solutions. We are so excited about the overwhelming number of responses we’ve had from publishers and distributors wanting to attend. This is going to be our biggest meeting ever!”

• Perhaps most interesting to many, according to Executive Director Marco Davanzo, “ComicsPRO will be unveiling results of a retailer survey which we hope will give retailers, publishers, and distributors a better understanding of the scope of the Direct Market. This survey will also help determine industry challenges going forward, as perceived by comic retailers.” Question involve variant covers, content, and much more. 

• The meeting has an impressive online component – all those pandemic era zooms and meet-ups upped everyone’s online game. Members can view presentations or even schedule online meet-ups.


• The Book Industry Charitable (BINC) Foundation has awarded $750 scholarships for the the meeting to to Miranda Nordell at Dreamers & Make-Believers Books in Baltimore and Drew Sullivan at Ash Avenue Comics & Books in Tempe, Arizona. They can use the funds for travel, replacement wages, lodging and meals; ComicsPRO will cover the registration fee for the meeting.  “We are pleased to continue our support for comic retailers with these scholarships,” said Binc’s Executive Director Pam French. “We look forward to seeing everyone in Pittsburgh.” In addition, Jean Michel at Megabrain Comics in Rhinebeck, New York, will also attend. He was awarded a scholarship in 2023 that was deferred until this year.

• A few prominent names are missing from the vendor list above, most notably Image Comics. I guess one company had to stay behind in case there is a disaster of some sort.

• A big The Beat thank you to Oni Press for sponsoring our coverage of ComicsPRO this year.

This event opening up to press coverage couldn’t come at a more fascinating time – for all the reasons I’ve been talking about for a while. The industry is changing, and where it goes from here may not be completely clear this week, but we should get some more clues for finding the way.

** I use the “Comics Hot Stove League” analogy all the time, and just in case you are not a baseball nut, it refers to the time between the end of the World Series and the start of Spring Training, when fans would (in olden times) gather around a hot stove in the winter to discuss possible trades or player performances. According to Wikipedia the phrase goes all the way back to the 19th century. Obviously, now we have Instagram and TikTok and can see our favorite players in their bathing suits hanging out with their families, or playing winter ball or going to hockey games or whatever. Comics “Hot Stove League” mostly consists of looking back on the fun times you had at conventions, gradually segueing into excitement and anxiety over planning for this year’s events.