Inside Diamond's Retailer Summit!

While comic fans on the east coast and online tasted the very end of the annual convention season this weekend with a busy Baltimore Comic-Con, where big name creators like Brian Michael Bendis signed autographs and chatted up readers at panels, even more excitement awaited the comics community tonight. Diamond Distribution--the exclusive direct market distributor for almost every major genre pamphlet publisher in comics including Marvel and DC Comics--held the only Retailer Summit they'll host this year tonight in Baltimore. While the event is put on exclusively for the comics retail community, CBR got word from inside the announcements at the convention center, from what big events await DC and Marvel to what new publishing initiatives are planned by top players like Image Comics, Archaia, Dark Horse and BOOM! Studios.

Image Comics started the ongoing slate of big time announcements, reminding the assembled crowd of over 600 retailers of the earlier news from the Baltimore Comic-Con that "Jack Staff" would relaunch with a new #1 in 2010 as "The Weird World of Jack Staff" with a promised regular schedule by Paul Grist. CBR spoke to the acclaimed British creator about the book this weekend. Image Marketing Coordinator Joe Keatinge then welcomed writer Ben McCool to the stage to talk about "Choker," the new series he created with artist Ben Templesmith. CBR spoke with the pair when the series was initially announced during Comic-Con International in San Diego.

The big Image news of the event came from writer and newest Image partner Robert Kirkman, who took the stage to reveal that in the pages of the publisher's much-anticipated "Image United" crossover, the villain of the series will be a resurrected Al Simmons--the former hero of Todd McFarlane's "Spawn" who died earlier this year. On his own Twitter account, "Youngblood" creator and "Image United" co-artist Rob Liefeld noted, "Dark Spawn rises!"

Kirkman also reiterated his own news from the weekend: a new story arc for "The Walking Dead" on the heels of January's Vol. 11 trade paperback as well as the return of the original costume for teen hero Invincible in a special "Invincible Returns" #1 which leads to the long-awaited Viltrumite War in "Invincible" #75. Read more about that news in CBR's "Image Comics Show" panel report and more on "Image United" in the write up from Sunday's Baltimore panel featuring many of the co-founders/artists working on that series.

Archaia struck out with two pieces of news early in the event including word that the publisher would expand their flagship title - David Petersen's "Mouse Guard" - with an anthology series called "Legends of the Guard" featuring art by Petersen and a host of other indie creators. CBR has an interview with the artist about what lies in store for his fantasy world. The publisher also made official the original graphic novel "The Return of the Dapper Men" by "New Avengers: The Reunion" writer Jim McCann and artist Janet Lee. CBR has an exclusive first look at Lee's art up now and will have an interview with both creators hitting tomorrow morning.

Marvel made waves soon after, starting their presentation by noting that comic book retailers had sold 750,000 copies of "Amazing Spider-Man" #583 (the famous issue featuring President Barack Obama) this past year. And while the publisher's Senior Vice President of Sales David Gabriel earned a light booing from the assembled crowd when he told the retailers that there would be no news on the recently purchased "Marvelman" property this year, Marvel soon got the ball rolling with word that Ed Brubaker and company's "Captain America Reborn" will be extended to six issues. Also, the second volume of "Stephen King's The Stand" will be sold exclusively through the direct market for its first three months out of the gate, much like previous collected volumes of Marvel's "Dark Tower" comics.

Marvel then revealed that, despite the gap in a full slate of comics shipping from Diamond during the holiday season, they would have special products hitting comic shops on New Year's Eve eve (i.e. December 30th). On that day, Marvel will release a free "Siege" one-shot with new materials in it and a free calendar that comes with an Avengers ID Card featuring art by Marko Djurdjevic. Marvel hyped the four-issue event written by Brian Michael Bendis (who talked to CBR about the series) and Olivier Coipel, as "seven years in the making," with Gabriel explaining that the book will be "bigger than you can possibly imagine."

Slides shown for "Siege" included a showdown where Wolverine chokes Daken while ripping his mask off, Spider-Man holding a bloody Green Goblin mask in anguish and some kind of rebirth for Iron Man and his armor of which Gabriel said, "It won't be what you expect."

That news was followed by a cryptic slide which read "The Heroic Age," which received no other explanation except for Gabriel noting that readers are probably getting a little sick of the bad guys always winning the Marvel U.

However, Marvel did expand on other plans for their publishing line, including many new "family event" style story lines which Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada has spoken about often in his CUP O' JOE column for CBR. "Fall of the Hulk" lands in the first quarter of next year--a crossover between the Hulk titles spearheaded by Jeph Loeb featuring the many different variations on the angry giant fighting various members of the Marvel U. That will lead into the already announced "World War Hulks" story in the spring, which will land as a four-issue series of its own. Loeb will also write the final two books of the revived Ultimate Comics imprint--"New Ultimates" with Frank Cho and "Ultimate X" with Art Adams. The former series picks up in March as a bi-monthly title focusing on the world's foremost superhero team while the latter will follow up on some threads from across the Ultimate line, most notably the canceled "Ultimate X-Men" series. Loeb spoke with CBR about both Ultimate books and what they mean for the line.

The X-Men of Marvel's main line will receive their own crossover event in the form of "Doomwar," a limited series also featuring the Fantastic Four, Deadpool and two Black Panthers. Written by Jonathan Maberry with art from Will Conrad and Ken Lashley, "Doomwar" will (perhaps unsurprisingly based on its title) feature on Dr. Doom stepping outside his normal limits as rules of Latveria. CBR will have more with the creators shortly. Also announced was "X-Men: Second Coming," a mysterious story whose teaser image had many retailers expecting another resurrection of Jean "Phoenix" Grey. Headed up by the writers of the various monthly titles including Matt Fraction, Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, Zeb Wells and Mike Carey, the event will feature the villain Bastion and stretch across all the X-Books with special "Alpha" and "Omega" bookend issues.

Marvel will shine a spotlight on the superheroines of its universe with a "Marvel Women Initiative" which will be the latter half of its 70th Anniversary celebration highlighting the female superheroes of the Marvel U. The event will follow a similar story pattern to the classic "Secret Wars" series in assembling the lady crimefighters and will launch in June.

The very popular Deadpool franchise will expand even more as Marvel is doing a mini event called "The Deadpool Corps" which will be a kind of spoof on Green Lantern (i.e., they have an oath) which will feature new characters like Lady Deadpool, Kid Deadpool, Dogpool and Headpool (which is the disembodied head from the current "Merc With a Mouth" monthly). Some retailers jokingly called out "WHY?!?" when the news hit.

Other projects announced included the fact that Marvel has renewed the Dark Tower license and will therefore be extending their plans into more stories in that world, including a "The Gunslinger" series featuring new tales. Peter David and Sean Chen will team for the two-issue series "I Am Iron Man" which presents the story of the first Iron Man film with expanded scenes and ideas to prep fans for "Iron Man 2." A new title called "Avengers: Children's Crusade" by Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung is on the way dealing with the Scarlet Witch and presumably the Young Avengers. And "Amazing Spider-Man" will see the return of classic villains including Electro, Sandman, Rhino and Mysterio.

DC Comics took the stage to wrap the event with VP of Sales and Marketing Bob Wayne quickly announcing that the publisher would take advantage of its "Blackest Night" skip month by resurrecting a slew of former DC titles which will pick back up at their previous numbering. Some of these comics will feature the original writers who were behind the titles back in the day like "Suicide Squad" #67 by John Ostrander and "Starman" #81 by James Robinson, while others will include new writers continuing the stories of classic characters. Those included "The Atom and Hawkman" #46 by Geoff Johns, "The Question" #37 by Greg Rucka, "Phantom Stranger" #42 by Peter Tomasi, "The Power of Shazam!" #48 by Eric Wallace, "Catwoman" #83 by Fabian Nicieza, and "Weird Western Tales" #71 by Dan DiDio.

Wayne also announced that DC would release a book to be sold on December 30th: "Blackest Night" #6. Since the comic would have to ship a week before its on-sale date, Wayne told the retailers that threaten future opportunities like this with death if anyone breaks the set street date for the highly-anticipated book. More cheerfully, "Blackest Night" writer Geoff Johns also made the announcement via Twitter, saying, "Oh, yeah. You know that skip week? They are not shipping comics 12/30...EXCEPT FOR BLACKEST NIGHT 6. :)" Also on his Twitter page, Johns announced that he will work with artist Ryan Sook on the "Blackest Night" issue of "The Atom and Hawkman" and the Earth-2 Comics store he co-owns will make a deal that "for every indy TPB purchased at Northridge's [Earth-2 Comics] on 12/30 you'll get a free Blackest Night #6," adding the Twitter hashtag "#supportallcomics."

DC also announced several new graphic novels and special trades. Writer-artist Sam Keith will create an "Arkham Asylum" graphic novel for the publisher, and writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray will script "Jonah Hex: No Way Back," an original graphic novel to tie into the upcoming film, for legendary "Hex" artist Tony DeZuniga. Wayne showed a trailer for the Hex project which earned cheers from the audience. DC will also celebrate two more upcoming adaptations from its Vertigo imprint with an extra-sized trade of Andy Diggle and Jock's "The Losers," combining the stories of the first two trades in one 304-page collection for $19.99 in January 2010. On the heels of that comes "Human Target: Chance Meetings," a 200-page collection of Peter Milligan's first four-issue mini series with the character and his follow up one-shot "Final Cut."

Back towards original content news, DC has plans for a new graphic novel created with music legend Neil Young set for a June release.

Hardcover treatments are on the way for classic DC properties from across DC's history as "Viking Prince" and "Atomic Knights" will get new upscale treatments, and the just completed "Wednesday Comics" series will see an 11 X 7 inch hardcover which will sell for $49.99.

The "Wednesday Comics" announcement was made by writer Brian Azzarello, who aside from being responsible for the Batman serial in that series will head up DC's incoming revival of pulp icons including Doc Savage. Azzarello spoke to CBR about the project, which will launch with a "Batman/Doc Savage" crossover with art by Rag Morales and which he revealed would lead to eventual new "Doc Savage" and "The Spirit" ongoing series.

Azzarello also noted that he would most likely pen another graphic novel for Vertigo's noir line of crime graphic novels, which will also feature John Evans' upcoming "The Executor." Vertigo news also included a reminder of Mike Allred's incoming "I, Zombie" series and Grant Morrison's newly-expanded to eight-issue "Joe The Barbarian." And over in DC's other well-known imprint, writer Brian Wood will return to Wildstorm's "DV8" with his "Little Gods" series. Wildstorm will also release a second Absolute volume of the recently wrapped "Planetary" as well as a reprint of the first issue this June. A second volume of Zuda hit "Bayou" was also announced.

Other news at the summit included Viz Media's plans to draw the superhero friendly direct market closer to its manga output by publishing an English-language version of "Ultimo" written by Stan Lee for mangaka Hiroyuki Takei. Dark Horse announced that its "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" would be ending with issue #50 and that a new "Umbrella Academy" series was in the works. Meanwhile, Boom! made overtures to pushing its way to be #5 publisher in the direct market in 2010.

For more on these announcements and much more about the publishing plans for comics biggest publishers in 2010, check back to CBR in the coming week!

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