The second and final day of the 2021 virtual Diamond Retailer Summit wrapped up yesterday, remaining low key. My favorite reason for attending these summits over the years has been when a Diamond rep would give industry statistics, and this time they did deliver them, in barebones fashion. But the news was good: Despite everything, Diamond sales are up!
These charts represent Diamond same publisher sales Jan ’21 – Aug ’21 vs. Jan ’19 – Aug ’19. Overall sales were up a healthy 18%, while some categories showed pretty impressive growth. Graphic novels were up 45%, with periodicals up 19.5%. The most spectacular growth was trading cards, however up 135% – which is no surprise given how red hot that collectible segment has been.
Alliance Games was also up — this is Diamond’s games distribution arm, and its overall health is very important for Diamond’s future.
Other than that, we’ll run through the publisher presentations from day two below, but the message was mostly the same: Thanks for hanging in there through such rough times. Even in these rough times, individual publishers all reported some spectacular hits: At IDW some 650,000 copies sold of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin, Kevin Eastman’s mega turtle saga. And 1.1 million copies of Something is Killing the Children sold for Boom.
The biggest, sort of, news was that Image Comics, Diamond’s biggest remaining publisher, was nowhere to be seen. This was brought up a few times in the “spatial chat” reception. No one had an answer for their absence, but given the modest aims of this summit, I can kind of understand why they didn’t attend.
Also missing: anyone from Diamond hanging around in the chat reception. Given the looming departure of Marvel, again, I understand why. I should point out that there were private roundtables with publishers that were only open to paid attendees (again, I was a guest) which were very useful so, yes, business goes on. The group chat I attended was only a few dozen people, but I got to catch up with some old friends and that was nice.
It was also nice to see what publishers are pushing and think is important, even if it was videos accompanied by stock music riffs — sitting at home with your inbox filling up every day is fun, but it’s more informative to see new books presented with enthusiasm.
One thing almost every publisher brought up was returnability — this was mostly suspended during the worst of the pandemic lockdowns, and Diamond has been trying to cut down on endless variant covers and returnability, but it’s back for just about everyone, and remains a very key tool for publishers, and retailers also. Taking a chance on new books is part of the reason why sales have continued to rise.
So on to the presentations!
Publisher Damian Wassel said they’ve seen record sales, and he noted that over the last year “the comics community rose to the occasion.” As noted, Vault is going back to returnability and incentive covers — “the orders on these speak for themselves,” he pointed out — and they aim to be “a zero risk publisher.”
“If you want to see returnability become the new norm for the comics market, you need to signal that undeniably with your orders,” he urged. “Order Rush and Radio Apocalypse in a big way.”
He also noted that in 2022, they will only launch one new title a month, to make each more special;.
• The Rush: A Western horror by Si Spurrier and Nathan Gooden ships next month, fully returnable.
• Radio Apocalypse: The Eisner-nominated team behind Blue in Green is back, Ram V and Anand RK, in a post-apocalyptic story about hope and the power of music. Fully returnable.
- A Heathen omnibus is coming, collecting the lesbian Viking saga.
- The kids’ Wonderbound line launches this fall You can read a lot about that right here at The Beat.
New retail sales manager Henry Barajas made his Oni summit debut — and it was also Oni’s debut as a Gold sponsor at the summit. Continuing the familiar theme, he noted that “Comics shops kept the industry alive in the last 16 months.”
- Chef’s Kiss: Queer debut graphic novel about a college-age writer who gets a job in a kitchen by Jarret Melendez, Danica Brine, Hank Jones and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. March 2022
- A Quick and Easy Guide to Asexuality by ace creators Molly Muldoon and Will Hernandez – a new book from Limerance Press.
- Meteor Man – an expanded edition of the popular book by Jeff Parker, Sandy Jarrell, Kevin Volo. February 2022 Underground by Parker and Steve Leiber is already out, meaning we’ll have more of the Jeff Parker oeuvre available, always a good thing.
- Witchy Vol 2 – by Ariel Slamet Reiss – This Ignatz award winning title webcomic collection is will sell well as a YA or LGBTQIA+ GN. October ‘21
- Eighth Grade Witch: A Choose your Own Adventure C. E Simpson – There are 28 different endings can you find them all? By Andrew E. C. Gaska, E.L. Thomas, C.E. Simpson, Valerio Chiola, and Thiago Ribiera
- More CYOA is coming – some underwater!
- Rick and Morty Corporate Assets – a standalone story so you don’t need to read all the R&M comics to get what the heck is happening. By James Asmus, Jeremy Lawson, Jarrett Williams and Ryan Lee
- Aggretsuko: Out of Office by Brenda Hickey. The angry red panda is back, and the series continues to sell well. November 3
- Orcs in Space: #6 by Rashad Geith, Abed Gheith, Justin Roiland and Michael Tanner, Francis Vigneault, DJ Chavis and Dave Pender. A wacky sf comedy for many ages. December.
- Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters – Oni’s best selling title of 2021. By Chris and Laura Samnee, Matthew Wilson and Crank!
Julia Walchuk ran down some upcoming highlights but also noted they are struggling with the supply chain – many manga are out of print and they’re trying to get on track. This is undoubtedly going to be the biggest story for the next few months.
- Animal Crossing New Horizons Desert Island Diary – the game that helped us survive lockdown is getting a manga.
- Pokemon Journeys: Ash Ketchum is back and still trying to become the ultimate Pokemon master yet again.
- Dragon Quest: The adventures of Dai – good for younger readers set in Dragon Quest video game world with character designs by Akira oriyama
- My Hero Academia Ultra Analysis – official character guide for the popular manga with secret origins and pet peeves.
- Kaiju No. 8 – Set in the area of Japan with the highest kaiju emergence rate in the world. The hero is a kaiju corpse cleanup man but then there’s a transformation.
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Demon Slayer is of course a worldwide hit. The regular series wrapped up but people want more and here it is.
- Sakamoto Days: Similar to Way of the Househusband, about a hitman who now runs a convenience store.
- Deserted by Junji Ito, some of the earliest short stories from the indisputable master of horror.
- My Love Mix-Up from the creator of My Love Story. A boy has a crush in class and an eraser leads to confusion and a romance between two boys.
- Mao by Rumiko Takahashi – time traveling adventures and romance with monsters and action from the GOAT.
- Deadpool: Samurai – Marvel’s chaotically lovable hero moves to Tokyo and makes a mess of everything while joining the Samurai Squad.
Pat O’Connell presented some of IDW’s upcoming offerings, tag teaming with newish VP of sales and marketing Blake Kobashigawa who made his Summit Debut for IDW. Some highlights
- Usagi Yojimbo – now in its 37th year and just won two Eisner Awards. This continues to be a beloved classic and the upcoming animated show on Netflix should boost it even more. Debut date for the show is unknown but things like Chibi Uasgi and Lone Goat and Kid, and collected editions will be out.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: one of IDW’s consistent best sellers. The Sonic 2 film is coming out next April with Idris Elba as Tails. A Sonic the Hedgehog 30th Anniversary Special with contributions by best selling authors Gale Galligan and the McElroy Brothers is coming.
- Sonic Imposters Syndrome: a new mini series, building towards 50th issue milestone. Nov 17th Volume 2 of The IDW Collection Sonic collection is also coming.
- Star Trek: The Mirror World – Next generation cast has adventure. Launched with #0- 8 but they are adding four one shots, the first featuring Data.
- Star Trek Classic: The Mirror Universe Saga collecting the 1984 DC comics story, picking up after Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock. March
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Last Ronin is concluding soon. This comics has sold 650,000 units of the first four issues, at $9 a pop, speaking to “the monstrous fan interest in the title.” This is IDW’s best selling series of all time.
- The Last Ronin Design Book has BTS materials.
- And revealed for the first time: the cover to The Last Ronin #5
- The regular series continues with #125 by Sophie Campbell introducing Teenage Mutant Punk Frogs.
- April 2022 is Rocketeer Month, and the 40th anniversary of the Rocketeer’s first appearance. A new edition of the Rocketeer Artist Edition is coming and lots more.
- Star Wars the High Republic is a multi licensee saga of a story from 1000 years before the Skywalkers. SWTHR Adventures 2021 Annual is the first time that all five of the architects of the brands are working on the same project.
- IDW Publishers Nachie Marsham also made his Summit debut with IDW and ran down some of their ongoing changes, including shoring up IDW’s infrastructure and adapting to the times.
- 2022 will be a huge year for creator owned material at IDW. “In the beginning of 2022 we will be talking about ad nauseum an expansion across the creators owned space ever since Mark Doyle came on board he and his expanded team have been working very hard to triple down on what IDW is doing in the creators owned space. And making sure they are the best possible home for creators to bring their own work there. and also working with sister company IDW Entertainment in terms of what they can accomplish in media landscape.”
Boom is known for its very creative presentations, and strong slogans, but this time retail sales lead Morgan Perry took over the presentation and she more than held her own from Filip Sablik’s traditions, with a comparison of her time in roller derby with the comics industry: it’s all about teamwork and hard work. Perry also mentioned Team Comics quite a few times – I haven’t heard that term used in a while, but, let’s face it, we are most of us in some kind of division of Team Comics.
Boom pretty much pioneered the modern version of returnability, and it’s coming back. They are offering returnability on all new Vol 1s and OGNs beginning with books shipping in January 2022.
- BRZRKR is a huge hit – over more than 650,000 copies of BRZRKR were sold, and only 15% were returned. Keanu Reeves was on the Today show talking about the collection which comes out this week.
- Something is Killing the Children has sold 1.1 million copies of it in just 18 months.
- The spin-off, House of Slaughter, has orders of 350,000 copies.
- Getting Dizzy, the first OG series from Shea Fontana, and Celia Moscote
- Regarding the Matter of Oswald’s Body: by Christopher Cantwell and artist Loca Casalanduida – a Cohen Brothers-esque thriller.
- Mighty Morphin; Power Ranger Intergalactic War: even more giant revelations about the MMPR universe.
- Magic the Gathering #9 reveals the biggest bad.
- Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer – revealing things that have been years in the making.
- R.L. Stine’s Just Beyond – will debut on Disney + soon.
Publisher and founder Mike Richardson thanked everyone for 35 years and hanging in there during the last year – he also thanked Diamond for making some tough decisions to keep things running.
Matt Parkinson ran down the big picture, including the Dark Horse debut of Jinxworld, which will be a huge initiative for them, with creator Brian Michael Bendis doing tons of publicity. The line kicks off with Joy Operations in November, with art by Stephen Byrne., a SF tale that will use a storytelling device that Bendis had to create a whole world to use. “It’s a world I loves playing in,” Bendis said in his own segment. “And when you love playing creatively it’s easy for people to fall in love with it.”
- Joy Operations will also feature a variant cover by David Mack and BTS features. And it’s low risk – the first two issues will be fully returnable.
- Also coming: new projects from Jeff Lemire, Jock, Scott Snyder and a new comic by Mike Mignola.
In retailer chat, a few news bytes
- There are no plans to reprint Lone Wolf and Cub
- BPRD Plague of Frogs is coming back into print and new editions of the BPRD omnibuses will be more aligned with the rest of the Hellboy-verse.