The Diamond Retailer Summit is back, in virtual form, for 2021. Given the timing, it’s a pretty important moment for Diamond and retailers (PRH is taking over distributing Marvel as of next month), but you’d never know it from the visible presentations.

I’ve probably attended more Diamond Retailer Summits than most retailers, Diamond employees or publisher marketing reps. Few members of the press attend every year and over the years the event has a ritual quality that has made it entirely predictable in a way that comics fans feel comfortable with. And while I never thought I’d say this, there is no substitute for bonding with other retailers over banquet stuffed chicken (you know the one) and open bar domestic beers. I miss my people.

This year’s virtual event is modest even by the standards of online zoom confabs: a barebones exhibit hall, scheduled video releases of publisher presentations and online chat. There are live Zoom roundtables for paid attendees (that does not include me.) There have also been some technical glitches – videos couldn’t be viewed on the standalone mobile app that was launched for this event, for instance.

I’m not going to be too picky, though. Diamond is going through a lot of changes and that they are putting this on at all is laudable.

There isn’t much news coming out, however the main message from publishers is that….comics are doing great! Aftershock announced that they are up 37% in sales from 2019, pre pandemic.

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Dynamite had similar numbers. From 2019 to 2020, sales went up 28% in units, and 29.85% in dollars. And in the first 38 weeks of 2021, comic unit sales are up 30% in units and dollars are up 42.4%.

Vault also said this has been the best year since they started publishing, without numbers. Not that it needs to be belabored but…these are periodical publishers and they are doing just fine. Comics are not dying.

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As for the elephant in the room, on Day 1, Diamond founder and CEO Steve Geppi came out for one of his pep talks. Nothing too newsworthy was said, although he pointed out that Diamond is working with top companies like Chase as their bank, DLA Piper, the biggest law firm in the US, as their lawyer, and PWC, a huge accounting firm, as their accountant. This support means a lot, he assured us. Without addressing any of Diamond’s changes – recently losing IDW to PRH as well – Geppi said “So many things are happening that are behind the scenes that I wish I could share with you right now.”

“The industry is growing,” he continued. “New publishers, new vendors, new exciting projects. And I’m happy to say that industry is strong, as strong if not stronger than ever. Also, as a result of the industry strength. I’m here to tell you Diamond is having a banner year, and it’s as strong as ever.”

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He cited PullBox (the online ordering system that now does not include Marvel or DC), which has more than 600 retailers using it, and 20,000 consumers signed up for more than 275,000 subscriptions.

EDITED TO ADD: I’ve seen been told that Pullbox does include all publishers, including Marvel and DC. The Beat regrets the error.

One thing I heartily agree with: Geppi noted that the comics industry had weathered the pandemic with surprising resilience. “Our industry stood out, we not only stayed in business, and had some adverse things happen to us, but we managed to be able to take that lemon and turn it into lemonade.”

Otherwise the talk was light on detail, although next year will be Diamond’s 40th anniversary, so some celebrations will be in order.

As for the rest of the vendors at the summit,  there were several toy companies presenting like Beast Kingdom, Eaglemoss, Boss Fight, but I’m just focusing on comics publishers.

Since this was the first retailer event I’ve been to in two years, I’ll just let it all run.

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AFTERSHOCK

In their video, Steve Rotterdam noted that Aftershock had their best year in 2021 with sales up 37% from 2019. After six years they have published more than 100 titles, and creators are coming to them as they leave corporate comics, lured by the Aftershock’s growing reputation. Their two best selling titles have been the Eisner nominated We Live by Inaki and Roy Miranda, Eva de la Cruz and Dave Sharpe, which has had numerous reprints, and Bunny Mask from Paul Tobin, Andrea Mutti and Taylor Esposito

 

  • Upcoming titles for next month: Scout’s Honor, Out of Body, Undone by Blood (Which has been optioned by AMC and Norman Reedus), Shadow Doctor, Beyond the Breach, Search for Who? and Almost American.
  • The 48 page premium One Shocks line is continuing with Eden, God of Tremors, 10 Years to Death and After Dark
  • Their YA line, Seismic Press, has launched with Rainbow Bridge and hopes to have at least one new title every quarter.
  • There will be a huge omnibus style collection of Animosity
  • For 2022 Bunny Mask is returning with We Live: Era of the Palladians.
  • For retailers, the Ambassador Initiative is in its second year: 42 brand ambassadors who check in monthly with comics shops who help with social media, promo items and more. Personality and product knowledge are among the traits they seek for new Ambassadors. They have two ambassadors at large to help stores that geographically isolated.

 

Upcoming titles:AfterShock Comics Announces New Dark Comedy Series 'Chicken Devil' – COMICON

 

  • Chicken Devil by Brian Buccellato and Hayden Sherman: A man who runs a chicken restaurant gets involved with the mob.
  • Cross to Bear by Marko Stojanovic and Sinisa Banovic. Jack the Ripper fled to the Old West of America and descendants of the Crusaders must thwart him.
  • AfterDark: a horror anthology by Cullen Bunn, Jim Starlin, and more.
  • The Heathens by Cullen Bunn, Heath Amodio and Sami Kivelä – Pirate Queen Lady Shih, Lucky Luciano, Bumpy Johnson, Sofia the Golden Hand and Billy the Kids team up to return evil doers to hell.
  • My Date with Monsters by Paul Tobin and Andy MacDonald – Monsters stalk those who dream, but a Monster hunter can save the world by finding true love.
  • Miskatonic: Even Death May Die by Mark Sable and Giorgio Pontrelli – A sequel to the supernatural thriller.
  • Maniac Of New York The Bronx Is Burning – by Elliot Kalan and Andrea Mutti – Maniac Harry is in high school in this horror satire.
  • Tales Of Mother F. Goose: by Frank Tieri and Joe Eisma – A one shot of updated fairy tales told Tarantino style – another One Shock prestige format standalone

 

AWA:

Another periodical based publisher that is doing well. Not All Robots a social satire from Mark Russell is doing well and sold out, but no reprints planned for now – but possibly a $9.99 trade collection to help new readers catch up.  Other upcoming or recent books:

Knighted; What if an Ordinary Guy one day accidentally kills the citiy’s only superhero, The Knight. And now he has to step up and fills the shoes of the superhero. The OG is aided by a butler who is more Bernie Mac than Michael Caine.

Telepaths: J. Michael Straczynski’s take of what would happen in a real world environment if telepaths existed. After an event, about 10% of the world population can read minds. Hoo boy.

Hotel: A second series from writer John Lee is coming. It will be bigger, bolder and scarier than the first volume.

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Crimson Cage: also by John Lee, a retelling of Macbeth set in the 1980s southern wrestling territories. (OK SOLD)

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not all robots by Mark Russell and Mike Deodato Jr. : a future world in which robots have taken all the jobs. There is one robot to each household as a breadwinner to help families survive.

OUT by Rob Williams and Will Conrad the story of a bunch of allied POWs in WWII who learn that the Nazis are trying to weaponize a vampire.

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Dynamite

Alan J Payne told us thing were booming at Dynamite. From 2019 to 2020, sales went up 28% in units, and 29.85% in dollars. And in the first 38 weeks of 2021, comic unit sales are up 30% dollars are up 42.4%. They have seen an incredible increase in orders. Sme newsy bits.

  • The Boys Omnibuses have been consistent sellers and they monitor levels to keep them in stock.
  • The Boys: Dear Becky a one shot by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson and Russ Braun.

Newly announced titles – which will have the return of RETURNABILITY:

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Pantha #1  by Tom Sniegoski and Jeanine Asheson, with art by Igor Lima. It’s Pantha’s first new series in a decade.

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Hell Sonja #1 from Christopher Hasting with art by Pasquale Qualano, covers by Jae Lee among others. Something about taking people to hell.

Jim Butcher’s Dresdon Files: Bigfoot by Jim Butcher and Mark Powers with art by Joe Cooper. Coming in Q1 2022  and set in official Dresden Files continuity.

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Dynamite will also launch a kids line in Q1 ’22 via their partnership with Curiosity Books – including Paws Patrol and Baldwin’s Big Adventure. Two new projects: Thunderous by two Native American writers, Mandy Smoker Broaddus, the poet laureate of Montana and Natalie Peeterse, about a young Native American girl who is transported to the spirt world.

The Legion of Forgettable Super Villains Society – somewhere between the MCU and Dog-man, surely the most profitable elevator pitch ever.

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  • Investigators by John P Green is doing gangbusters for Dog Man readers and will come out twice a year.
  • The 12th and final book in George O’Conner’s Olympians series is out: Dionysus.

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  • Upcoming: Pinball by Jon Chad – a social history of pinball machines.

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Mad Cave:

This publisher is ramping up for 2022 as we’ve been telling you. Upcoming books:

  • The Last Session: a group of friends reunite to finish a D&D session which gets interrupted by a newcomer.
  • Speed Republic: In a dystopic future people struggle to win a race.
  • Obsidian Tomb: A prison drama
  • Potions Inc: A young potion maker time from another rworld travels to Seattle in 1992 to save his world.
  • Mad Cave also has a kids line Maverick, which is launching:
  • Nightmare in Savannah: a high school drama, complicated by fairy blood

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  • World Class: A teenaged Columbian soccer star goes to Europe to play on a junior team and must adapt to this new setting.
  • Good Game, Well Played: Saving a video game store from landlord troubles

 

Valiant:
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  • Harbinger is relaunching in January: a great jumping on point for new readers but with call backs for old fans. This will have a 1 in 250 metal variant cover, but when you order it you also get a very cool gift pack with a slipcase and other goodies.

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  • Shadowman by Cullen Bunn is coming back – Deadside wants to walk the earth and that means trouble. The Shadowman Book One trade is out in October – just in time for Halloween.