Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by KATE BEATONNNNNN!!!

It’s a bit of a weird week in the ol’ comic news mines, but this week’s edition of Comics Disassembled starts with the most glorious news possible: more Kate Beaton comics!

1. Kate Beaton, Embracing Spooky Season

Kate Beaton is the cartoonist behind a strong contender for my comic of the year spot with her graphic novel Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands, but before Ducks, she was already a hero in my eyes for her long-running webcomic Hark! A Vagrant. In that series, she tackled all kinds of subjects: literary heroes, musical heroes, superheroes, sea-based nemeses, and, on occasion, the continuation of the situations found in specific works of art or book covers. That’s a very limited look at the domains Hark! touched on, but the point is, Beaton followed whichever creative path felt right at the time, and each of them were brilliant up until its close back in 2018.

The cartoonist has moved on from that world for understandable reasons, but every once in a while, that Hark! shaped itch is scratched in delightful fashion. That happened this week, for sure, as Beaton dropped some Halloween shorts that fit that final theme from the list I laid out before, taking pieces of Halloween art and building out quick three panel comic strips from the concept in the original art. While they’re not official Hark! A Vagrant works, they capture the spirit of that series, and the Spirit of Halloween at the same time. More than that, they’re incredibly funny and smart, as is often the case with Beaton’s cartooning. Needless to say, I highly recommend reading them, because any time Beaton drops comics like these, it’s an event that’s nearly beyond compare for yours truly.

2. Distribution Wheels, Continuing to Turn

The day after I read Heidi MacDonald’s report from the Diamond Retailer Summit and the generally upbeat mood of the event at Baltimore Comic Con, a very common move, at least of late, took place. Another publisher announced that they were going to be shifting their approach to direct market distribution, as AWA Studios revealed that they would be taking their talents to Lunar Distribution this January…as well as maintaining their relationship with Diamond Comic Distributors for the direct market and Simon and Schuster for bookstores.

While this move in isolation isn’t an overly significant one — AWA strikes me as a bigger deal in theory than actuality, as there’s often been significant talk surrounding the idea of them but very little about their actual comics — it is interesting to see how this wheel continues to turn. It’s particularly interesting to me that they too went the non-exclusive route, choosing to align with two distros simultaneously. AWA makes for at least the seventh to go that hybrid route, alongside DC (Lunar and Universal), Oni, Scout, Vault, Z2, and Ahoy (Lunar and Diamond). I’m not going to say that’s the right answer, but it feels like the right one in today’s market because it allows shops to choose. Don’t want to work with Lunar for “I’m mad at DCBS reasons?” Order from Diamond! Tired of Diamond’s shipping shenanigans? Order from Lunar! This model allows for that.

Quick note on that shipping front: BOOM! Studios’ Filip Sablik told retailers that BOOM! would be teaming up with Diamond to defray those costs a bit, offering “a weekly 2% freight debate and waiving 3% reorder fee on BOOM! products” through the distributor. While that might be meaningless to you, a reader, it’s likely quite meaningful to retailers who are losing margin to Diamond’s shipping costs. That said, Sablik did describe this as an experiment, which implies it might stick around or it might not, with that all depending on whether or not shops roll deep on BOOM! as a result.

Anyways, back to the main point. The distribution landscape continues to change. I do not imagine that will be stopping any time soon. We’ll see when the next domino falls, but it’s an interesting, nervy time in the direct market, so where (and maybe even when) it does could be very meaningful.

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