The Comics Are All Right… But Need Your Help

Recent months have seen the world thrown into chaos. The spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19 has caused communities to “social distance,” shelter-in-place, and even complete lockdowns. Normal interactions and habits have been disrupted and millions have been put out of work as entire industries have been upended. The future is unknown.

Every aspect of the comic book industry has been thrown into disarray. From publishers and creators to distribution, to the stores, each point in the creation and selling of comics have been impacted. What the industry will look like a week, a month, or even a year from now are guesses at best. No one knows what tomorrow brings. Distribution has been disrupted, projects have been canceled, and stores have been shuttered completely or limping along with a limited ability to sell their stock.

While there have been federal and state programs in the US launched in an attempt to help businesses and individuals, everyone in the industry can use our help as fans.

While I’d love to be happy and go-lucky in saying the industry is fine, it’s definitely wounded. Comics will exist after this is all done but what that may look like and who’s a part of it is the million-dollar question.

Publishers: Publishers are in an unenviable position in that they have no idea when normal may return. They’re at this time struggling and scrambling to not only figure out how to keep the lights on but also how to actually publish their comics (many printers are closed or overwhelmed) and distribute them. With Diamond Comic Distributors temporarily closed, publishers’ main distribution channel has been cut off unable to get weekly releases to comic shops, though backstock is still being sent. Publishers have been forced to cancel projects and delay others impacting creators who need every paycheck. So, even after things get back to normal and comics already in the can are released what comes after is unknown and a likely diminished output.

Numerous publishers too have taken money from investors who want a return on their dollars. A few months of six-figure losses could cause any investor to get skittish and want to bail or cut off further funds. While disaster relief funds might fill some of the gap, the reality is numerous publishers may close, consolidate, or be bought out in a fire sale.

Publishers need sales and with stores closed or struggling with limited ability to sell they’re being forced to pivot to digital sales or sell directly to consumers. Some have taken on the challenge faced by offerings parts of their sales to comic shops, they still need every dollar they can get.

How You Can Help:

  • Buy Comics: this is the most obvious way you can help. Purchase directly from the publisher is the most direct way. The money goes directly to them but does not help comic shops. Many have online comic shops and digital comics you can purchase. Back issues and stock that are not replaced from stores doesn’t help right away as the items have already been paid for (more on that later). This also has the benefit of helping creators in residuals (depending on the contract). Some publishers are splitting their mailorder sales with local shops to help benefit them. Black Mask, TKO, and Joe Benitez have all announced this initiative.
  • Promote Comics: When someone asks what they should be reading, suggest some comics. Parents are desperate for educational things for their kids to do and read and there are many comics that fit the role. Help them out with some ideas. Link to sites. Share their social media postings. Get the word out!

Creators: Many creators, probably most, are independent contractors which means every dollar counts. Lost and delayed jobs mean delayed checks and makes paying the bills difficult. Creators often have to pay their own medical expenses and in these times that’s vital (can we get a Guild pleases!?).

Projects are being canceled and delayed. Some creators are already talking about seeking work in other industries.

But, there’s also some opportunity for creators. Technology has allowed them to interact directly with fans bypassing distribution and stores. Many you can buy directly from (even getting signed items) and many have moved to selling creator-owned comics digitally through numerous platforms or working with popular sites like Webtoons. Just because there might not be a weekly comic on the store shelf doesn’t mean those creators aren’t turning out new comics.

How You Can Help:

  • Buy Comics: this is the most obvious way you can help. Purchase directly from the creator is the most direct way. The money goes directly to them but also does not help comic shops. But, without creators, there’s no comics. Many have online comic shops and digital comics you can purchase.
  • Seek Out their Digital Work: Webtoons is an example of a platform that has big-named creators publishing original material digitally. There’s also sites like Gumroad and a digital platform like comiXology that regularly posts new releases you won’t find in shops. Take advantage and see what you might have been missing. Just seeing an ad is enough to support creators and think about the tip jar if there is one.
  • Listen to Creators: Many creators are on social media and directly coming up with ideas on how you can help and promoting what they’re doing. Follow them on social media and there’s the added bonus of getting some “director’s commentary” in a way on projects as well as sneak peeks. You can also share your favorite creators with friends. Much like with publishers, Get the word out!

Stores: Stores are in an unenviable position. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Some are open. Some are closed. Some are limited in what they can do forced to do curbside pickup and mailorder. They have rent that needs to be paid and employees that need salaries. With no “new” comics coming in they’re also scrambling to fill the gap in sales that leaves.

How You Can Help:

  • Are they Open?: Find your local shop at this handy site and see if they’re open, providing curbside pickup, mailorder, or delivery. Take advantage.
  • New to You: Just because there’s no “new” weekly comics doesn’t mean there’s not new comics. You have read every comic released and here’s your opportunity to try something new. Check out a trade or graphic novel you might have missed, a publisher or creator you’ve never read, or an indie creator you’ve never heard of. Comics have been around for decades and there’s 100s of thousands of things for you to still read and discover.
  • Buy a Gift Certificate: Getting a gift certificate helps put money in the store’s till and you can get something you want when shipments resume.
  • Pay Ahead for Your Pull list: Many of us have a pull list where our comics are filed away for us to pick up. Many shops don’t require deposits but you can pay ahead for your pull list and keep the money flowing. Plus, you’ll be ahead of bills!
  • Pick up Your Pull list: If you have comics sitting at a comic shop, pick them up! It’s that simple. You ordered these items, go pay for them.
  • Pay it Forward: A great idea that has sprung out of this is buying a bunch of comics and allowing the shop to hand them out how they want to. They can donate them to kids, a hospital, a local group. It’s a nice simple gesture from comic fans and shops to spread our love.
  • BUY COMICS!: The good thing about purchasing comics at the shop level is that it rolls up. Shops will have money to buy more from publishers which then benefits creators. A purchase at a shop benefits the chain from top to bottom.

The above is not a full list of ideas of how to support publishers, creators, and shops. Have other ideas? Sound off in the comments below and we’ll highlight them on our Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube!