The Direct Market is on Pause; Digital Comics Need to Pause Too
We’re living in very interesting times. The worldwide pandemic has impacted every corner of life, and comic are no exception. The news that Diamond was shutting down distribution basically means that comic book shops have no new product to sell, if they were even allowed to be open due to lockdowns around the country. Local Comics Shops are in a bad place, they need all the support we can give them right now, and that means digital comics need to pause too.
Let me first say I have no problem with people reading digital comics. It’s neat, easy, convenient, and it’s fine. What I do have a problem with is digital comics alienating a direct market that is suffering by no fault of its own, creating an unfair playing field. We already know that books are going to be at least a couple weeks late, and that’s the best case scenario. The worst cases take us into June or even August still dealing with a planet wide catastrophe, and that’s where things get really bad for shops.
Rents don’t stop, bills keep coming, but with no customers and no product for two months or more, shops will just lose 8 weeks or more of sales. On top of that, the comic book printers are closed down as well, so it’s very likely that if things continue to be this bad for weeks new comics will not be printer either. And once they DO reopen they will be busy printing new releases; will they even go back and print books from the weeks that will be missed? I doubt it. And what about Free Comic Book Day? It’s been postponed until Summer, but the biggest FCBD books from Marvel and DC Comics are promoting events and series that will already be out by Summer, and that’s a problem. But it’s not the only one.
While all this is going on, while comic shop owners I’ve spoken with are thinking about bankruptcy, while the government bickers over bailout details for small businesses, while we wait with no clue when all this is going to end. digital comics are there to fill the void, and it’s wrong. None of this is the Direct Market’s fault, but it is the local comic shops that make up that direct market who are going to suffer the most. The big publishers are going to be fine, the distribution channels will continue to run, but this is a major moment for comic book shops that may not weather this storm the same way. We may see a very different direct market on the other side of this pandemic, one that simply cannot continue to maintain comics as we know them, especially if the digital alternative is able to take advantage of two months or more of exclusive releasing.
I’m not trying to be all doom & gloom. This whole thing could end in a week and this entire editorial will be for nothing. Maybe I have no idea at all what I’m talking about and I’m entirely wrong. If I am, please let me know what you disagree with. But we don’t know how long this will last, and that is a problem. So I’m asking you to jump into action.
Contact ComiXology, Marvel and DC Comics via social media and ask them to #PauseDigitalComics. Use that hashtag. Also cancel and ask your friends to cancel their digital orders until Diamond is shipping to stores again using #SayNoToDigital #SupportYourLCS. I know this is a difficult thing to request, and asking people to not release comics to help the industry sounds crazy, but all we’re trying to do is help small business by leveling the playing field in these unprecedented times of uncertainty. Several publishers have already announced plans to help shops in at least a couple – AWA Studios has stopped digital distribution, and Valiant has order Pencils Down – are on board with this sort of support of the direct market, and other publishers have announced details to help, but it’s not enough, and not all of them have commented on this. If comics are paused, ALL comics should be paused.
Lastly, please help your local shops. Contact your shop by phone, email, or social media and ask them how you can help them. Many are doing curbside pickup and delivery where they are still able, they may have ebay pages where you can still get some shipments of books, they may still be selling gift certificates, etc.
We’re living in very interesting times, indeed. Things are not normal, and it’s going to take the entire fanbase to make sure there’s a normal to go back too once things get less interesting.
Update: Vault Comics has announced an incentive for people who buy gift cards from a comic book shop.