‘Pencils down’
April 1, 2020 1:29 AM   Subscribe

New Comics Day has occurred every Wednesday since the creation of the direct market in the 1970s, as die-hard fans rush to buy new books before spoilers pop up online. But no longer: This week, for the first time in more than 80 years, no new comic books will ship to shops, and production is on hold into the foreseeable future. No previous global event — not the Second World War, not 9/11 — has previously shuttered the comic book industry. Comics vs. coronavirus: Comics industry shut down for the first time in almost a century [The Conversation]
posted by chavenet (21 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
With a protracted closure of the distribution system, publishers like Marvel and DC could continue to move forward with electronic sales, which would inevitably bolster that end of their business at the expense of their retail partners.

Marvel just joined DC, Image and other major publishers who've announced they won't be releasing any titles digitally while retail shop distribution is stopped, although Bleeding Cool reported that DC is making a handful of "digital first" titles and some back issues available.
posted by mediareport at 3:41 AM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

We just got our last order in the mail. Now we wait.
posted by triage_lazarus at 4:56 AM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I know there's terrible stuff happening everywhere, but this is one of the things that has me personally most bummed (knock wood). Especially now that we're in the middle of the HoXPoXDoX renaissance.
posted by signal at 5:51 AM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

The provincial government here just brought in minimum two-week shut down of non-essential business which shockingly does include comic shops, so retailers here are facing a triple whammy of already reduced business, no distribution of new product, and now forced closure. As a consumer who lives two hours away from their preferred store and goes in every couple months for a two-book pull list it doesn't affect me much, but I've been talking with the retailer encouraging him to put photos of his shelves up on Facebook so they can move some stock if/when curbside becomes an option. In my case I'd happily buy some books with etransfer or credit card over the phone and let them sit in my pull box until the new normal arrives just so he'll have some money coming in.

I wouldn't shed a tear if I saw Diamond, Marvel, and DC DIAF, but retailers have gotten the shit end of the stick for so long from so many directions.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:29 AM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

What a shitshow. I know things are terrible everywhere and nobody has any idea what’s going to happen, but like signal said above, this tire fire specifically bums me out.

My totally ignorant two cents is that digital exclusives that can be reprinted at leisure, kind of like DC’s deal with Walmart, wouldn’t be a terrible fix in the interim, though I get it would create problems of its own and and wouldn’t especially help retailers and, of course, the content has to come from somewhere. One of the many, many problems right now I’m glad as hell I’m not in charge of figuring out.

I was trying to come up with an FPP for this as the dust settled after Diamond’s announcement, and you did a way better job than I would’ve, so thanks for posting, chavenet.
posted by jameaterblues at 6:33 AM on April 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I live in NYC and love comics and nothing has made me feel more comforted, relaxed and happy than to visit any number of comic stores here. Forbidden Planet and Midtown Comics just comfort me, and I love the mom and pop shops. I love going to comic stores in other cities, and for some reason, even though there's so much else to be sad about this really just hits me in the guts.
posted by chinese_fashion at 6:43 AM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Hopefully it will be a very temporary disruption, this morning the publishers announced a system where you can buy a digital comic from your local store and get a physical copy when it reopens. They are looking to have it rolled out to all stores by the middle of April.
posted by Darken Skye at 7:38 AM on April 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

IMHO the pamphlet-centric “comics” model has been barely viable for a decade or so anyway. It’s been tottering along propped up by diehards who must have their monthly fix of Corporate Serial Super Entertainment. Maybe it’ll come back after the plague but I’m not betting on it.
posted by egypturnash at 7:45 AM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

You could have said all the factual stuff there without being scornful of sad people in the thread and the businesses that keep them happy, egypturnash.

I’ve never had a pull box, currently mostly get bigger volumes directly from the artists, but the stores are great for discovery (and buying the volumes-to-date!) One of my local stores manages to be totally non-skeevy AND doubled in size on a high street that has been losing everything but bars and gyms. They run role playing of lots of kinds and for lots of groups - LGBTQ+, families, teens, beginners, I may have seen a mom’s beginner’s group listed. Great street citizen.
posted by clew at 8:49 AM on April 1, 2020 [17 favorites]

My old comic shop has already announced that they will never reopen, and I imagine a lot of others are tottering on the brink.
posted by tavella at 8:49 AM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Seconding tavella here - egypturnash, generally speaking, when people are expressing genuine sadness it's a bad look for you to stick a thumb in their eye. These are really heightened times emotionally and you may find yourself pissing off a lot of people.

I'm telling you this here because it's pretty obvious that you didn't know this already.
posted by chinese_fashion at 9:02 AM on April 1, 2020 [8 favorites]

I really wish there was a way to come out of this with the comics distribution monopoly falling apart but local comic shops not taking the hit. But it's hard to see it.

When you business is based on repeating weekly sales, it's going to be hard to recover from missing weeks of sales. My local shop is amazing and has a gofundme set up for their staff and if they, an internationally renowned shop that puts on an annual convention, are struggling, then how is a little shop in Toledo going to fare?

Is the future digital, and the comic shops are going to go the way of Blockbuster? I've never liked reading comics on my PC and they're too small on my phone and I really don't want to have to buy an iPad just to read comics. And from what I can see, the pricing still feels wrong on digital. The desire to not undercut the brick and mortar shops means that digital still costs the same as printed despite the cost of printing, shipping, and glossy paper being a big chuck of the cost of a floppy comic book.
posted by thecjm at 9:50 AM on April 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

The problem with decrying "Corporate Serial Super Entertainment" is that what do you think helps the keep the lights on for stores that do sell the cool comics? I buy X-Men comics from a place that holds launch parties for Michael DeForge and lifedrawing classes with Kagan McLeod. That corporate serial super entertainment sells. Not like it did 20 years ago, but it sells well enough that one of the hippest comic shops on the continent still carries them.

So what happens if Marvel and DC go belly up this month but Drawn & Quarterly and Koyama Press manage to stay alive? Where do you think those books are going to get sold? Who's going to tell you about them? An Amazon algorithm? The era of comics blogs is over. If you're not already in the know and following the right people on Twitter, what is the growth vector for any new independent comics if all the shops go belly up? This isn't just about Marvel and DC and not liking the upteenth Punisher reboot or rolling your eyes at whatever's happening with the Joker right now.
posted by thecjm at 10:05 AM on April 1, 2020 [12 favorites]

I'm wondering about my LCS and if it'll be able to survive. A couple of weeks ago it announced that it'd be staying open, first with limited customers allowed inside at once, and then with curbside pickup and delivery and on the one hand I wished they could just close and ride out the pandemic because comics aren't essential and everyone would be better off if they could stay home but I was, and am worried that it might not be there at the end of it.

Putting up pictures of shelves is a great idea. My LCS has an online shop but only for some collected editions and toys. I bet if they put a bunch of pictures up of what they've got then their regulars at least would check them out and buy stuff.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:15 PM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

(Also worth noting that Diamond also distributes a lot of the indie publishers. Yes, many are also distributed by book distributors but ordering through Diamond allows shops to get a better discount. No one is on Diamond's side, and that they aren't paying their bills is ... questionable ... but I'm not sure what else they really could've done here with so many shops being forced to be closed. There are no good answers here.)

(I am mostly going to stay out of this because two people whom I consider to be family are directly dealing with all of this right now & it's personal. I hate that these two people's lives and a 30+ year legacy may be evaporating and I cannot help them. So many things about the comic book industry sucks but comic shops have meant so much to me. I don't want to see them go down like this.)
posted by darksong at 12:29 PM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

I really don't want to have to buy an iPad just to read comics

Reading comics on a high-resolution tablet is great. Probably the best of both worlds because you get pages that are the right size that you can hold in your hands and you also have access to everything.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:00 PM on April 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’m not a comic fan, but I do have some compilation books and series that I got at one of the comic book stores here in San Francisco. I came across the books I have due to a coworker who was a big fan but mainly through walking into the store when I was in the neighborhood and just browsing. The way they arranged and displayed the books made it easy to discover new things that I would get. I can understand how those who read and collect comics are hurting because of this news and there may be a few of us like myself who also find this to be terrible news.
posted by njohnson23 at 1:04 PM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

My LCS (tho I haven't bought any comics since Squirrel Girl ended, I'll admit) posted a video to Facebook basically saying "we're glad we were already doing online and mail-order business, we've got a large selection of GNs and back issues, and if you haven't read it, it's new to you!"

I hope they make it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:08 PM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

This thread reminded me to message my local comics shop. I had pre-ordered a Charizard card binder for my son's Pokemon cards. I asked my shop if I could pay them now and just get the binder later after the lockdown is over.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:00 AM on April 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here's an article about the shutdown from Engadget wondering why the industry doesn't fully embrace digital right now which isn't surprising given the source. Every comic put out by Marvel and DC has a code to allow you to get the digital version as well so doing the opposite like suggested above, buying online and getting some code to allow you to get the physical copy from your LCS and they get the same cut they always do, should be doable and hopefully leave everyone in the same situation they'd be if the shutdown didn't happen.

Bigger issues about comic sales being too low/dwindling I have no suggestions. My daughter is 8 and loves to read. She'll also read comics like Bone or Tiny Titans and is currently reading my Peanuts and Far Side collections. The other day she watched Nausicaa and I told her that the manga, which has even more story, was right there on the shelf and she could read it if she wanted to. No interest. I'll take my kids to the comic store sometimes and about the only things they want to get are the One Piece toys. She's primed to be into comics but isn't, or at least not beyond casually reading a series now and again. I feel that there are a lot of people out there like that. They'll read a graphic novel or series if they hear good things about it but aren't going to look for the next one after they've finished it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:08 PM on April 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Marvel announced they're giving away a small bunch of classic and modern comics free digitally through May 4th, including X-Men #101-108 (the 1976-77 Dark Phoenix story), Avengers #89-97 (the 1971-72 Kree-Skrull War arc), the first 12 issues of Ta-Nahisi Coates' Black Panther run, and more. Most of them have been very cheap on the used graphic novel market for a while now, but you know, free is free.
posted by mediareport at 1:10 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

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