There has been a tremendous amount of speculation lately about what’s going to happen with new comics being put on hold indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Comic Shops have not only been shutting their doors because of local “shelter in place” orders, some have already been put of of business permanently.
There was a flurry of speculation about the negative impact to comic book shops if comic companies “train” readers to switch to digital in the absence of print comics. In particular, when DC looked like they were going to ship a lot of April 1 comics digitally, including Batman #92 (a position DC later backed off from).
We then got the alleged “savior” of the direct market, in the form of a service called ComicHub that would allow readers to buy comics digitally to read on that service and then later get the print comic from their local shop when that shop reopens and physical comics are available again. This plan is not being embraced by all. Noted San Francisco area retailer Brian Hibbs posted about ComicHub on Facebook:
A poll on a retailer forum right now has 119 opposed, 17 unsure, and 5 for “digital first” releases, EVEN IF IT “comes from a retailer source”.
Beyond the philosophical idiocy of encouraging cross channel migration (even passively), the mechanical aspects of it are insane — how could ANYone process and deal with 4-20 weeks of physical print comics dropping at once that would be needed to “catch up”?
I can barely make a profit with my MUCH MUCH larger discounts than what the ComicsHUB plan offers, and this creates an EXPONENTIAL amount more of work in having to track and organize such sales, all for what will be a paltry revenue stream.
The COVID-19 pandemic may ultimately count the comic book direct market as one of its victims. The longer the shutdowns go on, the more small businesses (which include comic shops) will find themselves unable to stay in business.
- Direct Market titles (Marvel/DC/Image/etc.)
- Book market stuff (like Raina Telgemeier/Dav Pilkey)
- Web comics
People a lot smarter than me have observed that if enough comic shops go out of business the part of the comics industry called the Direct Market will likely collapse as well. This portion of the comics market would probably not survive a sudden transition to a new distribution method (including digital). The key word there is SUDDEN.
A well planned transition is one thing, but a damage-control transition brought about by the collapse of the existing distribution network coupled with what will likely be a global recession is quite another.
Opinion piece by: Bob Bretall
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics