The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everything about our lives – and the comics industry. Many local comic shops have been forced to close and go to mail order of curbside pick-up only – and both readers and publishers are really to help support local stores. As of this week, Diamond is no longer supplying new product to retailers, leaving many questions in the air, not only for whether or not we’ll be getting new comics, but how the direct market will survive the ongoing pandemic.
That’s why The Beat has collected an ongoing survey of how publishers are reacting to the crisis, which you can read below.
Of the 15 publishers listed, 9 are providing return options for retailers with product on the shelves and a significantly parsed back consumer base through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are still silent on whether or not digital remains an avenue for publishing new content. Archie, Dark Horse and Dynamite have all said explicitly that, other than a few last singles here and there, the only digital comics available will be those that are also available in stores via mass market distributors. In a late night announcement, DC Comics said it would abstain from digital releases through April, while Marvel announced on the following morning that it would have no digital releases for the week of April 1.
In terms of novel strategies, Boom! stands out as providing free variants for retailers to sell, while several other publishers are providing free copies of #1s, or even full trades in Valiant’s case. Meanwhile, TKO takes the unique approach of providing retailers of a customer’s choice 50% of profit from online sales.
On Tuesday, March 31, Diamond announced that it made the difficult decision “hold payments to vendors previously scheduled to release this week [April 1],” causing even more strife for the direct market. This will likely result in further publisher response, perhaps from DC which is considering a “multi-distributor model.”
Given the evolving nature of the situation, publishers’ responses to COVID-19 are highly subject to change. That’s why this article will be updated regularly.
- Delaying all direct market releases scheduled to arrive in stores in late April.
- Releasing comics digitally only in the cases of those that were too far along in physical production to be halted.
- Will continue to produce and stock mass-market and digest titles stocked in grocery stores and newsstands.
- Comics from March, April and May will be returnable.
Oni Press/Lion Forge
- Full returnability for comics released for the “foreseeable future.”
- Rescheduling release dates on unsolicited titles.
- Providing financial assistance through the Forge Fund.