The growth of creator-owned comics like “Saga” and “The Walking Dead” will be discussed at the ComicsPRO Annual Members Meeting in Atlanta next week.
Comic-book retailers will meet with 30 key vendors, suppliers and publishers at the event.
ComicsPRO President Thomas Gaul, of Corner Store Comics and Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, Calif., said the market potentially is in the middle of a shake-up that may remind some of the comics boom of the early 1990s.
“Creator-owned is once again becoming a dominant force,” he said in an interview with The Oklahoman. “And while I think it looks very little, if anything, like 1992, it's most definitely got several of the bigger companies on their toes — and maybe even their heels. I see 2014 as the year that the majors decide whether creator-owned is drinking their milkshake or is truly additive, and I think there could be different answers for each of those companies, depending upon their output.”
Sales continue to grow in the industry, Gaul said, and he anticipates that to continue.
“Sales remain strong in 2014,” he said. “We've only just started the creator-owned versus mega-universe foot race, I think.”
Gaul said the chance to interact with publishers and other retailers helps make the meeting productive for many in the industry.
“For me, just the interaction with other retailers, both during the meeting and after hours, is enough justification for my time and expense,” Gaul said. “Add to that the direct face-to-face contact with 30 different vendors via roundtables, the workgroup sessions, plus the guests and exclusives, and I really think it's an easy choice to make.”
The keynote address is by writer and retailer Mark Waid. Waid, writer of comics including “Flash,” “Kingdom Come” and “Fantastic Four,” became the part owner of retail comics shop Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Ind., in 2013.
Other creators on hand will be Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, courtesy of Dark Horse, and “Afterlife With Archie” artist Francesco Francavilla.
DC Comics sponsors a day of programming for the organization, and an auction will be held to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
The business-heavy meeting will feature seminars on marketing and promotion; location and lease negotiations; community outreach; all-ages comics; distribution; and comic-book grading.
With more eyes on the comics retail business than perhaps ever before due to media penetration, Gaul said the main challenge to the industry may come from within.
“Unfortunately, the biggest threat to specialty market retailers has always been specialty market retailers,” Gaul said. “There are 800 ways to run a comic shop, and 650 of those are viable. It's like herding cats sometimes, because there is very rarely one right answer for just about any comics retailing question you can ask. Our biggest strength, our independence, can often also be our biggest weakness. And that's one of the reasons we have this meeting. To share ideas, to become more well-rounded, and to hopefully assemble enough of a unified voice that we can actually be heard.”
ComicsPRO Annual Members Meeting