by Megan Marsden

The “ComicsPro Board Member Industry Discussion” panel at New York Comic Con gave five members of ComicsPro a chance to talk about all things retail-related since their annual meeting in February 2023. The panel was hosted by ComicsPro president Jenn Haines and featured commentary from Katie Pryde, Django Bohren, Sarahti Gassmalla, and Shannon Live. The panelists had a robust discussion about the highs and lows of the retailer experience in 2023.

The panel started with Haines discussing the four prime examples of what the ComicsPro organization does, including advocacy for retailers to both publishers and distribution partners; education about products and best practices; promotion of products from retailers to shops; and connecting retailers to each other.

Haines implored interested retailers to join the organization, which they can do at a discounted membership rate until October 31. Retailer participation in surveys conducted by ComicsPro helps the organization relay information to and problem-solve with publishers and distribution companies alike. 

A highlighted topic of the panel was the “Commet Comics Metadata” project helmed by Pryde to ensure all comics metadata is collected and easily distributed within the community. The project team includes ComicsPro members, staff from publishers including DC, Marvel, Image, Humanoids, and more, as well as distribution companies Lunar and Penguin Random House. This collective hopes to have a white paper presentation about the data and plans moving forward on how to use it by the February 2024 ComicsPro meeting. The goal is to standardize all comics metadata across all distribution companies to offer complete and accurate sell-in data of comics, as well as sell-through data.

Results from a ComicsPro survey were discussed with the crowd, including retailers’ appreciation of shipping improvements from Penguin Random House, overall satisfaction with Lunar, and hopes of reestablishing the Wednesday selling of new comics for an official New Comic Book Day. Prior to DC’s move to Lunar and their Tuesday new-release distribution plan, every publisher released new issues on Wednesdays.

The panel members then went on to discuss the problems facing their locations over the past year, including having to adapt to multiple distributors; lack of available bags and boards not only to sell but to help keep their back issues sellable; having banks and finance partners see the value in brick-and-mortar comic book shops; and having shipping problems that remain unresolved.

While there were certainly negatives about the last year in comics sales, there were multiple joyful events such as DC and Marvel working together on the metadata project, hosting successful workshops in children’s literacy and zine making, and even shops moving locations and seeing a 33 percent increase in sales.

The panel wrapped with a roundtable pitch session from 21 comics industry-based companies and ComicsPro members aiding other retailers with community engagement ideas and publisher incentives. The next ComicsPro annual meeting will be held in Pittsburgh, PA in February 2024.