Despite intense industry speculation of changes at Marvel and DC after recent ownership and management shake-ups, the doubleheader of the Baltimore Comic-con and the Diamond Retailer Summit managed to stick to an agenda of celebrating comics and finding wasys to sell more of them.
Although final attendance wasn’t available due to the Columbus Day holiday, the Baltimore Comic-con reported its biggest attendance ever, even with the competitions of the Baltimore Marathon on Saturday and a nearby Ravens game on Sunday. Show runner Marc Nathan noted that the show floor was 40,000 sq ft larger more than last year, and the crowd was bigger, as well.
Unlike many other “comics” conventions, Baltimore’s focus is squarely on comics, with no media guests to speak of. Guests such as George Perez, Brian Michael Bendis and Robert Kirkman drew long lines, and entire families paraded around in costumes.
According to Nathan, part of the reason for the strong turnout was great local media: the entire entertainment section of the local paper was given over to a “Comics Have Landed” story, with a comic by Brian Ralph. But in a larger sense, the draw was simply comics, and fans were more than willing to brave Marathon-related 45—minute delays in parking for a chance to meet creators like Mark Waid, Steve Niles and Carla Speed McNeill.
The show was topped off by the Harveys on Saturday night, MC’d by PVP’s Scott Kurtz. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman won two awards and Gabriel Bá won for best artist for his work on The Umbrella Academy. A complete list of winners can be found here.
On Sunday evening, the focus shifted from the consumer show to Diamond’s Retailer Summit, with some 600 retailers from around the country attending to attend seminars and hear the latest news from publishers.
While the number of retailers was about the same as the last time the show was in Baltimore, there were more exhibitors, according to Diamond v-p of purchasing Bill Schanes. And once again, the comics industry showed its resilience in the bad economy as most retailers reported that sales were beginning to rise again, after flattening at the beginning of the year as the recession hit. Store owners attributed the strength to the continued presence of strong sellers like Watchmen, Fables and Y the Last Man, and newer hits such as the Green Lantern saga Blackest Night and Marvel’s resurgent Amazing Spider-man.
In news, DC announced a collected edition of their newspaper strip homage, Wednesday Comics, for next May — an 11x17 hardcover retailing for $49.99. They also plan thick collected editions for both Jonah Hex and The Losers, which have movies coming out in 2010. Wrter Brian Azzarello was on hand to talk about a new line of ongoing series based on more pulp characters, including Doc Savage and The Spirit.
Marvel announced a major new Avengers event called “Siege” starting early next year. No news of the still pending Disney sale were revealed, but a year long “Marvel Women” promotion was announced for 2010, with female-specific talent searches and a 5th week event in which Marvel’s superheroines must save the world. Their movie tie-in slate includes I Am Iron Man by Peter David, and Sean Chen, which retells the story of the first Iron Man movie, and a number of spin-offs for Deadpool, the dark humored assassin who has his own movie franchise (starring Ryan Reynolds) gearing up.
Dark Horse announced more details of their collaboration with best selling mystery writer Janet Evanovich—the new Alex Barnaby novel will be released as a graphic novel, co-written by her daughter Alex, with art by Joëlle Jones. Dark Horse also plans a third Umbrella Academy series and a new series co-written by Gerard Way, The True Lives of the Fearless Killjoys, a punk rock road trip with art by Becky Cloonan.
Image Comics announced returns for Paul Grist’s Jack Staff and Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, both with new #1 issues early next year.
Although the show comes at a time when vast changes are sweeping the industry, with Marvel’s recent acquisition by Disney, and DC’s reorganization as DC Entertainment, no one was worrying too much, at least publicly. Diamond Book Distribution’s Kuo-yu Liang summed up the feeling: “I’m very optimistic. This industry has come through the recession nearly untouched, and the interest in graphic novels and comics has never been higher.”