If it was a movie directed by Sylvester Stallone, it would have been called The Returnables. The Diamond Retailer Breakfast held in conjunction with New York Comic-Con featured not only more positive news from the biggest distributor of periodical comics, but announcements of continuing strong sales in the comics shop market and the introduction of returnability from several comics publishers.
While it’s the norm in general trade book publishing, returnable product is a rarity in the comics direct sales market, where comic shops get a bigger wholesale discount but only order what they think they can sell because product is nonreturnable. With DC, IDW and Dark Horse all making various comics returnable, it offers comics retailer the ability to take a chance on riskier material—something which comics shops aren’t able to do well, but digital handles just fine, as Comixology David Steinberger pointed out yesterday at a press event.
The comics shop market served by Diamond is still looking strong, with sales up 12.5% from Q1-Q3 2012 to Q1-Q3 2013. Graphic novel sales were up 6% and merchandise was up 25.2%. Overall, Diamond’s sales are up 14.6% for the period.
Most significantly, the numbers of accounts serviced by Diamond is up 4%, with 2,638 different accounts ordering products in September 2013, over September 2012. While the number of comics shops has not slipped in recent years—bucking retail trends—this was the most significant rise in years. Diamond reps confirmed that more stores are expanding and opening branches than have been seen in recent years.
The publisher presentation kicked off with Marvel’s senior v-p of publishing showing clips from two of next year’s comic books films: Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier. The Guardians clip in particular, wowed the crowd, offering a very humorous take on the typical Marvel formula, as a team consisting of a braggart, a muscle man, a green woman, a raccoon and a walking tree get to save their end of the universe.
Marvel also announced many new teams and titles on what they are calling the “New Marvel Now,” a continuation of their successful relaunch of many of their core titles, and a line of books numbered 24.Now. One will include madly popular character Deadpool twerking; there’s also a Night Of The Living Deadpool series by Cullen Bunn and Ramon Rosanas.
While Marvel has movies on its side, the main trend for other publishers was returnability. Dark Horse announced they would be making their superhero line returnable, as well as Tomb Raider and Serenity titles. They’ll also offer retailers full PDF previews of many key titles
IDW followed in the returnability rush, making selected titles in their kids line—Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack and Ben 10 returnable. IDW’s new spy spoof title, The Illegitimates will also be returnable: it’s scripted by comics veteran Mark Andreyko and Saturday Night Live featured player Taran Killam and followed the world saving exploits of illegitimate kids of a James Bond-like spy.
Finally, DC made its presentation—they’ve been pioneering the new returnability with titles from a variety of lines. Senior v-p John Rood confirmed that they would be continuing the programs, even though some of them haven’t shown huge results yet. “We took your suggestion to get more. It takes a while to kick in,” said Rood.
Perhaps the biggest buzz at the breakfast was DC’s announcement of Detective #27, an oversized anthology saluting the beginning of Bat-Man. Comics legend Frank Miller will provide some art for the book, his first comics work since Holy Terror came out.