Diamond Comic Distributors has announced an agreement with Astonish Comics naming Diamond as the exclusive distributor of the publisher's books and comics to the mainstream book trade.  Diamond will add Astonish Comics to the growing number of comic publishers that it represents to traditional bookstores (see 'Diamond Signs Antarctic Press, G.T. Labs For Bookstores').  Diamond's press release indicated that unlike the other small and medium size publishers that Diamond has signed up for the book trade, Astonish Comics would be a Diamond exclusive in the comic market as well, but ICv2 talked with Astonish Comics publisher, Mike Kunkel, who stated in no uncertain terms that his books would still be available to comic shops from FM International, Cold Cut, Red Route, and other distributors who have helped make Herobear & the Kid one of the top selling independent comics in the U.S.  Kunkel believes that someone at Diamond made a mistake when writing the press release, which has been posted in its uncorrected form on Newsarama and other sites.


Astonish Comics may be a small publisher, but in Mike Kunkel's Eisner Award-nominated Herobear and the Kid comic, it has one of the best new titles of the past five years.  Kunkel, a former Disney animator, has created a comic series that has the fluidity and charm of animation and which has already attracted a strong and devoted following in spite of an often murky publishing schedule (see 'Better Retailing -- Expanding your Sales To Women' for an example of how well Herobear performs for Joe Ferrara of Atlantis Fantasyworld).  Herobear merchandise is just starting to appear (see 'Herobear Maquette'), and Universal Studios has just optioned the Herobear property for a feature length traditionally animated film (see 'Universal Options Herobear') that Kunkel will direct.  Given the right promotion the Herobear trade paperback collection, which is due out in 6-8 weeks, could do extremely well in mainstream bookstores.  Astonish Comics may be one of the smaller comic publishers that Diamond has signed up for the book trade, but given Herobear's strong appeal to both kids and adults, it could be a very strong title in the bookstore market -- and if the movie version of Herobear is a success -- it could easily be 'gangbusters.'


In addition to Herobear and the Kid, Astonish Comics also publishes one other animation-influenced comic title, Jason Lethcoe's Zoom's Academy for the Super Gifted.