The Keynote Address of the ComicsPRO Annual Meeting focused on how the ideas of one individual could make major changes to the direct market. Ted Adams reflected on past ideas that changed the face of our industry (in all cases positive with one exception), identified issues that the industry needs to overcome, and proposed ways to advance the direct market.
Past Game-Changing Ideas:
A poor decision by key individuals at Marvel Comics on how to distribute their products led to complete market upheaval. (Ted Adams expressed how he felt that, if the industry survived that monumental catastrophe, it can survive any new dramatic changes that come.)
An independent operation (at the time) could release a groundbreaking creative property that tops the sales charts (example: ROBOCOP VS. TERMINATOR).
It’s feasible for one creator to create a unique property that has tremendous impact on worldwide culture, as Todd McFarlane did in the 1990s with the SPAWN property.
Robert Scott of Comickaze Comics, Books, and More created the CBIA forum to open communications among retailers.
Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff devised Free Comic Book Day, a nationwide effort to draw new people into retail stores.
Diamond Comics worked with the premiere vendors to develop the FOC program for retailers to adjust orders on product.
The recent shift to nationwide product delivery on Tuesdays (maintaining live selling dates on Wednesdays) improved the “quality of life” for retailers.
Issues to Overcome:
How do we get more pop culture-loving yet non-comics reading people into stores? The burden must fall on the publishers.
As the industry currently stands, the Top 100 comic books are almost exclusively superhero titles by Marvel and DC Comics, which establishes our industry as niche. More diversity is necessary.
The Digital Age has arrived, and it will not go away. It should be noted that digital distribution is a negligible percentage of IDW’s business (proving their company can not be sustained by digital comics alone), but it may be a tool for getting new customers into stores.
A co-op program led by publishers and Diamond Comics to finance front-of-store or endcap displays at retail stores.
A national coupon program for direct market retailers. For example, if a moviegoer brings his/her ticket stub from the upcoming TRANSFORMERS film to a direct market retailer, that retailer will give them a free tie-in item. (IDW had attempted this in the past with Target and K-Mart exclusives to draw in moviegoers, but that obviously did not advance the direct market).
To promote product diversity, we have to change the way that retailers stock new items; in other words, an unproven new item is a risk for the retailer who might otherwise choose not to carry it. The burden of risk should, in certain cases (for new projects) be placed on the shoulders of publishers. To that end, new project launches should be returnable to retailers. “We believe in this project, and are willing to make the risk ours.”
The ComicsPRO Board of Directors should include a representative publisher, as well as a member of the Diamond staff, in order to broaden the perspective of the ComicsPRO leadership.
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