Folks, the first day has been unbelievable. Karris and I have been attending focus groups with people like DC, WizKids, Marvel, Dark Horse, and more, and we’re getting all sorts of insights into all the cool new swag coming down the pipeline. But before we get started I wanted to quickly share with you the view from the hotel room that Karris secured for us.
During breakfast the first presentation was from IDW in which they discussed the fear a lot of retailers have about the effect that digital comics are going to have on the direct market (i.e. stores like Comic Toast). It basically amounted to the speaker discussing what percentage of their current income comes from digital comics (about 1%) versus what they make from the direct market (about 86%). I realize that our clientele at Comic Toast varies greatly in age and background, but what do you guys think about the future of digital comics? Are you ready to give up your hard copies for digital copies?
The second presenter of the morning was the rep from WizKids. They started off by thanking all the retailers for making the release of their newest set, DC’s Brave and the Bold so successful, saying that the new set marks the true beginning of the new era of Heroclix. They followed that up by talking about the Blackest Night starter set due to be released in May. This also provided us with our first real freebie of the convention – a pre-release set of the Blackest Night figures. I’ve already ordered a few sets of these, but if you know for sure that you’re going to want one, it might help to let me know so I can increase my order if I’ve not ordered enough to cover the demand. Maybe this will help you decide….
After breakfast we began our day of focus group Q&A’s, the first of which was IDW, Diamond’s newest premiere publisher. There wasn’t much in the way of new book announcements, but the session focused instead on retailer incentives and whether or not the retailers were happy with the types ofproducts IDW offers (virgin/variant covers). I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that most retailers had a hard time getting rid of the virgin variants. Since we don’t sell enough of many of the IDW books to qualify for the retailer incentives it’s not a big issue for the store in general, but I am definitely a big fan. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
The second Q&A session of the day was with Marvel Comics. And while I don’t like to bite the hand that feeds me (Marvel makes up the lion’s share of our overall sales), I have to say that it was definitely the most useless session of the day. Instead of being an opportunity for retailers to ask questions the entire session was a sales pitch for the Marvel Retailer Resource Service, a web-based resource that includes a “free” web site as well as a preview section that gives retailers electronic copies of selected Marvel books a week before they come out. Interesting, but for a shop like Comic Toast I’m not sure how useful it would be for us at $40+ a month.
One of the most exciting panels of the day was the WizKids panel, in which they discussed upcoming products and gave away some sneak peaks at items that will be coming in really soon. In fact, the guy leading the discussion said at the end that he was probably going to get in trouble for putting up as many pictures as he did. They showed some preview pictures of the upcoming $99 Watchmen set that will include 25 original figures, noting that the Watchmen set will be the first set to be completely developed in a digital medium instead of the traditional clay medium. The set will include, among others, Rorschach in his signature mask and trench coat, Rorschach without his mask and with his “The End Is Near” sign, Nite Owl, and the Comedian with a flamethrower. In addition there will be a 14-inch Dr. Manhattan colossal figure (with the black briefs – no 2-inch schlong). But what I was really excited about was the set of Marvel figures from the upcoming Web of Spider-Man. Some of the figures were impressive – a giant Red Hulk, Anti-Venom, a classic Black Cat on a brick wall, Nightcrawler (also on a brick wall), and a new sculpt of Venom – while others were REALLY impressive – Groot (from Guardains of the Galaxy), an amazing classic Green Goblin riding his glider with a smoke plume connecting him to the base, and finally an absolutely gorgeous Spider-Man with a 3-inch base that is modeled after the cover of Amazing Fantasy # 1. As he was concluding the session the rep also mentioned that they were going to do another starter set based on a DC property that will have a movie coming out next year. The only other thing he would say about it was that they would be figures that had not been made before. Any guesses? And concerning an upcoming Marvel set, all he would say was, “It’s just sick. Sick.” I’m telling you folks, if you’re not playing Heroclix you need to get on board now. Great stuff coming down the pipe.
The Dark Horse and DC panels were next, but I really didn’t get much new information from those panels. Another small retailer mentioned how difficult it was for retailers with smaller circulations to get the 50:1 or 100:1 (or in some cases 250:1) variants, and the DC rep seemed to sort of blow the question off, saying essentially that they sell more of the books that have those high ratios. I get what he’s saying from DC’s perspective, but it does seem like a system that further entrenches the big retailers and relegates the smaller retailers to their smaller status. What if you could purchase these high ratio variants but at much higher prices (say $50-75)? Would you be willing to shell out that much for a variant that you were guaranteed to get?
The Dynamite panel was next, and I really liked what they’re doing with their retailer incentive program. All copies of Green Hornet that we can’t sell by sometime in June Dynamite will take back and give us the retail amount in Dynamite trade paperbacks. Felt like some of the retailers were attacking Dynamite for flooding the market with so many Green Hornet titles and so far in advance of the movie, but the Dynamite rep pointed out that by doing this they will also be able to get out the trades right before the movie comes out. Makes sense to me.
Okay, dinner starts in less than 15 minutes and I still have over 2 pages of notes to type up, so I’m going to have to pause for a bit and come back later tonight and write some more. If you get the chance, post and let me know if the stuff I’m sharing is at all interesting or if I’m just boring you to death with details you couldn’t care less about.
To be continued….