Today is New Comic Book Day, which is normally a happy occasion for those of who eagerly rush to our local comic shop (LCS) to pick up the latest four-color adventures.
But this New Comic Book Day is unlike any other, in that it’s going to be the last one for an as-yet undetermined amount of time, and quite possibly forever.
If you follow comics news – which, by the way, is easy to do at The Spinner Rack – you know what I’m talking about, but if you don’t follow the news, I’ll explain. For decades now, the distribution of comic books – by which I mean the single-issue “floppies” that you might picture when someone says “comic books” – to retailers for all of the major publishing companies has been managed by a single company, Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., which is most commonly referred to as simply “Diamond.”
Comic shops place their weekly orders through Diamond’s system, and Diamond warehouses and distributes those orders. There are other distribution methods for some of the smaller publishers, and other distribution methods – and other retailers – for hardcover and trade paperback collected volumes, but in general, for comics, Diamond is it.
This week, in response to the pandemic, Diamond announced that they are suspending all comics distribution, with no set date for when – if – distribution will resume.
This is likely disastrous for every LCS across the country, particularly if it lasts for any significant period of time.
Admittedly, this makes clear just how unsustainable the direct market model of comics distribution is, and an honest assessment would require acknowledging that its a model that’s been living on borrowed time. Even without a pandemic, the inevitable collapse was perhaps 5-10 years down the road. And given that there’s little point in shipping comics to stores that may not be allowed to remain open to sell anything, this was probably the right move for Diamond to make. Indeed, one could argue that it should have happened even sooner than this.
Even so, it comes as a blow to those of us who love comics and love our comic shops, and while it’s true of everything now, the future of comics looks uncertain.
Many have sounded a hopeful note, speaking of how many times comics have bounced back over the decades.
I’m reminded of comics’ lowest moment in the mid 50s, after the Senate investigation, when we lost so much. I’m reminded of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who came out of it, and didn’t give up, and said “fuck it, let’s try something cool, aim for new heights, what have we got to lose?” pic.twitter.com/9curA7vwPH
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) March 24, 2020
And I have no doubt that comics, as a medium and an industry, will survive and continue, but no one knows what that will look like, and it seems increasingly likely that whatever form the future takes it will leave little room for the humble comic shop.
That may seem like a strange thing for me to lament, given that the very idea behind OpenDoor Comics is to build a digital platform for comics and comics creators that works outside the limitations of the comic publishing industry, but my goal in helping to reshape the future of comics was more about reinvigorating the industry, not replacing it or completely remaking it.
(And besides, so far, I’ve had no real success on that front anyway. But this isn’t about me, or OpenDoor Comics)
I built this site because I love comics, and that love extends to comic shops, and while I feel so overwhelmed by so much of (gestures broadly), the thought of losing comic shops hits hard, in a deeply personal way. I’ve mentioned this many times before, but when I was growing up in the middle of nowhere, comic shops were almost mythical to me. Like a wonderful, magical dream. “Stores that specialize in selling comics??? What more could I want out of life?”
And honestly? For the most part, once I was finally able to set foot in one, it exceeded my wildest expectations. Comic shops are magical places.
Even at the best of times I prefer to remain socially distant, but last time I checked, I am still hu-man, and as such, I require some amount of in-person social interaction. My weekly trips to the comic shop are the main – often only – source for that, and I can’t imagine that losing that bit of socializing will do me much good.
There have been many times at my own LCS – Comic Logic Books & Artwork – in which I’ve seen the helpful, friendly staff answer questions and provide guidance, and go the extra-mile to provide service to customers. It would be terrible for towns and cities across the country to lose that, and for LCS employees and owners to lose their livelihoods and their opportunity to provide that personal service.
Which brings me, finally, to my point, which is to ask you to do whatever you can to help your local comic shops make it through these uncertain times.
Here are some links and posts to help you find comic shops to support – particularly shops that are providing mail-order and curbside service – and suggestions for ways in which you can support them.
Support Your Local Comic Shop During the COVID-19 Crisis – From the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) – A list of CBLDF Retail Members who are continuing to serve their communities, as well as information about their safety protocols.
If you don’t know why I’m collecting all this data about comic shops with curbside pickups or shipping options right now:
the idea is just to create one comprehensive resource with everything we’ll need to navigate how the comics retail landscape is changing with Coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/5KdA3Wx24p
— Leah Williams (@mymonsterischic) March 18, 2020
Even if your local comic shop isn’t getting new comics, you can still:
– Buy the books in your pull and hold
– Grab trades of series you haven’t tried yet
– Grab some back issues
– Buy some toys or games to cheer yourself up
There are many ways to support your LCS right now!
— Cullen Bunn 🎃 (@cullenbunn) March 24, 2020
Okay, hopefully every little bit helps!
Comics shops are struggling.
If you buy the Gail Simone Wonder Woman Omnibus from any comic shop through shipping, curbside pickup, or regular shopping (comics shops only, please), I have a little bonus for you, if you are interested.
— GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) March 25, 2020
And finally, as a reminder, most comic shops sell more than just comics – What, like that isn’t enough for you??? – such as toys, games, artwork, and collectibles. If you can get to one – safely, and with all necessary precautions, of course – the odds are good you’ll find something that will catch your eye.
Once again, stay safe, stay healthy, and thanks for stopping by.
Thank you… pic.twitter.com/CVgQTW2kVd
— Pat Brosseau (@droog811) March 25, 2020