This week the ComicsPRO industry meeting is being held in Pittsburgh, PA, running from the 22nd until the 25th. An exclusive event for members of the ComicsPRO comics retailer organization, it is probably the comics industry’s most important business meeting of the year – and it’s being held in person for the first time since 2020, with a very changed landscape for retailers indeed.
The event kicked off last night with a mixer, and yesterday the social media of retailers and publishers was filled with shots of airport lounges and road trips. As you read this the hard work of publisher presentations and retailer roundtables – as well as first and second breakfasts – will be well underway.
The 2020 event – the last on in person – was surrounded by some drama – DC co-publisher Dan DiDio had just left, mere days before the 5G reboot was to be presented to retailers, and there was a lot of industry chatter about what that meant for DC. (Still, it wasn’t as dramatic as the 2019 meeting, when a leaker started live-leaking the DC presentation to another website, and one DC exec shouted at Dan DiDio “Get off the stage!” in alarm.)
Of course what no one who was not an epidemiologist could know was that this would be the last retailer meeting for three years, and a global pandemic would force changes to comics retailing and, most crucially, distribution that NO ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED.
But gone are the quarantine reading habits – and perhaps sales – of the pandemic era. And that’s what every one needs to figure out. Basically we all sat at home for three years and comics and reading had a boom time, but now everyone is out having fun again, and reading is down.
While the ComicsPRO 2023 meeting is closed to the press, that doesn’t mean that a lot of PR isn’t coming out. Oni in particular has chosen this week as a coming out party for their revamped publishing plans. The big news was hiring Sierra Hahn away from Boom as editor-in-chief but another hire and promotion were just announced: Michael Torma, of Third Eye Comics has been named Senior Sales Manager. And Desiree Rodriguez, formerly a respected editor at Oni and Lion Forge, has been promoted to the position of Digital Marketing Manager. Katie Sainz remains as Director of Marketing. More publishing news is coming.
Marvel also kicked off the era of Aughts nostalgia with the Hickman/Hitch Ultimate Invasion, and there’s a DC news story that drops at 1:30 – can’t say more. More news will be dropping throughout the meeting so keep checking back!
Some other notes about this year’s meeting:
• This year, the ComicPro board made a move for more outreach to creators, inviting them to attend , and giving them many options for how to participate. I don’t know how many are doing it, but Joshua Dysart cheekily tweeted that he was on his way. Creators can also participate virtually with meet-ups and forums. It’s a lot more channels for outreach than previous ComicPRO meetings, and definitely a sign of how we’ve all learned how to meet online, how retailers have set up more digital outreach – and also a sign that the industry has learned well the importance of making connections.
• But of course, in person connection are still the best way to do it. All four distributors – Diamond, Penguin Random House, Lunar and Universal – will be attending, and all four will be making presentations. Toe to toe for the first time!
• Publishers making presentations at ComicsPRO 2023 include Marvel, DC, Oni, Boom, Opus, Rocketship Entertainment, AD/Rebellion Publishing, Scholastic, Mad Cave Studios, AWA Studios, Bad Idea Comics, Vault Comics, Skybound, Image Comics, IDW, Viz, PRH and Yen Press.
• Other exhibitors include A Wave Blue World, Anomaly Productions, Battle Quest, BCW, BINC, Book County Clearance House, CEX Publishing, Comic Shop Assistant, Comic Hub, Humanoids, Manage Comics, ReedPop, Source Point Press, TCG Player, Valiant Entertainment and Visi8 Entertainment.
(To save you from doing the math, notables that are missing are Dark Horse and Dynamite – but this was not the final list. We’ll try to confirm their status later.)
• Kristin McLean, NPD Bookscan’s data doyen, will be giving a presentation, and ComicsPRO president Jen Haines will give the kick off speech. There’s also a session on metadata.
• The keynote address is traditionally given by a publisher and marketing/sales exec, but in a pleasant (I assume) change of this year’s Keynote will be a presentation by Cartoonist Kayfabe – that’s the podcast about deep comics history and lore hosted by notable cartoonists Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg. Piskor and Rugg are stalwarts of the local Pittsburgh comics scene, so its yet another way to connect the community of retailers, publishers and creators.
• As I’ve written before, ComicsPRO is “spring training” for comics after the winter con semi-hiatus. Everyone is expecting a tough year, but getting together in person to talk about problems is the best way to help solve them – or maybe even stave them off?
We’ll have some more information and breaking news as it unfolds over the next few days. As always, if anyone has any insights to share, our email is always open, as are our DMs!