ComicsPRO Annual Membership Meeting Keynote Address from Diamond Comics’ Chris Powell
Chris Powell, known to many as “CP,” is a 23-year veteran of the comics industry. He was selected as the keynote speaker for this year’s ComicsPRO Annual Membership Meeting.
After more than 20 years in retail at Lone Star Comics and mycomicshop.com, Powell accepted a position with Diamond Comic Distributors as Executive Director – Business Development (Comic Book Specialty Market). He was promoted this week to the newly created position of Vice President of Retailer Services.
Powell served on the Founding Board of ComicsPRO, as a Board member and past President of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and on the advisory boards of a number of industry and mentoring forums.
Powell provided the text of his keynote address at the ComicsPRO Annual Membership Meeeting to Nerdage:
Good morning! This is the seventh ComicsPRO meeting, and the largest yet. I’ve been involved with each, planning the first three with other members of the ComicsPRO board, attending the next three as a retailer, and now I’m here as a sponsor with Diamond. This organization and these meetings hold a special place in my heart, so I was especially excited when Amanda called and asked if I was willing to give the keynote to kick things off.
I struggled with where to start, and Roger Fletcher practically dared me to lead off with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but I thought it was a little early in the morning for developmental psychology 101. Maybe at the Summit in April!
In 2007, we held the first ComicsPRO membership meeting at the Texas Station in Nevada. The theme was “Charting the Course”, and we had a cute little map logo and everything. At the time, we thought we were charting a course for a young retailer organization. What I don’t think we fully realized yet was that we were also helping to provide a direction for the comics industry to follow, too.
At that first meeting, Diamond and the publishers met us at a little casino in Vegas to discuss the issues of the day so we could all find ways to address them and move the industry forward. I’m proud to say that every year, this meeting has kept to that tradition, and that’s why this is the biggest yet.
Yesterday, we all sat and talked with DC about where their part of the market is and where they think it’s going. I had a whole keynote already written, but watching yesterday’s meetings from my new perspective as someone on the sponsor side led me to throw it out and start over. We heard over and over how others in the print business are amazed that the print comics business continues to grow, even with the advent of digital and web comics. Sure, comics are different from Popular Mechanics and Us Weekly, but I see a different reason for comics’ unique success. It’s not just the content or the medium that sets comics apart from other forms of entertainment, it’s YOU that makes a difference.
Look around, and you’ll see that our industry is unlike any other. We have customers who come in each week who have a real relationship with the product, the creators, their fellow fans, and the staff at what they consider “their shop”. They are fans in every sense of the word, and they know everything about their favorite characters, books and creators, and love to share their passion with others.
In that fan community, the comic shop holds a special place. It’s where fans can go and be themselves without worrying that someone will make fun of them. It’s the place where someone will be impressed by their homemade Wolverine claws or Captain Carrot costume. They can “geek out” with impunity, and be part of a community that will welcome them without reservation. They can be proud to be themselves.
For some, the comic shop may be the ONLY place where they can be themselves, the one place outside their own home where they feel safe and respected. For all these customers, you and your store are an important part of their lives, and you make a real difference.
Thanks to comics, we are all part of this large, unique community. Over the years, I’ve been invited to birthdays, weddings, graduations, you name it. I even performed a wedding for a friend and his wife that I met when he was a comic-reading customer and she was a mostly-patient girlfriend.
It’s these relationships that we have with our customers and that they have with one another that have led to what some call a “Second Golden Age” where comics enjoy unprecedented popularity. There has never been more diverse content in comics than there is today, or more acceptance of comics as both art AND entertainment by the general public. Comics are the source material for games, tv shows, and movies, are used in classrooms every day and have a growing place in library collections from elementary schools to universities, and this expansion shows no sign of stopping. All this success can be traced back to comic shops, who toughed out the rough times and sang the praises of this medium to everyone who would listen and some who didn’t want to. You sent your employees to help educate librarians and to reach out to PTA’s and school boards. You donated comics to school programs and taught kids how to draw their first comics. You sent comics to military posts around the world and dropped them off in doctor’s waiting rooms where they would find their way into the hands of young readers. You are the reason for all that we are now enjoying, and that’s why we have to make sure that quality stores like yours are here today, tomorrow, and for years to come.
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