Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by More Union Movement

In a surprisingly light week, we do have a heavyweight up front. Let’s look at that and more in Comics Disassembled, my exploration of ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, led by movement on the union front.

1. Seven Seas, Unionizing

After Image’s employees started a union in Comic Book Workers United, it seemed certain that they would not be the only ones to go down that path in the industry. We already know that to be the case, as the workers of Seven Seas Entertainment – a manga publisher – launched United Workers of Seven Seas. The group eloquently spelled out all of their issues, both on their website and in a Twitter thread, but the best summary of their issues come from this section of the mission statement:

“The company has grown exponentially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with rapid growth comes growing pains, and we, the workers of Seven Seas, have been shouldering much of that pain. We find ourselves overworked, underpaid, and we do not currently receive the benefits otherwise typical of the publishing industry.”

In short, they’re doing a ton of work and not getting the benefits that should come with that, as they are looking for paid time off, health benefits, equitable pay, and better treatment overall. In the era of The Great Resignation, this is an extremely reasonable ask, and it’s unfortunate that they’ve been put in the position to do this. But that’s the beauty of how things work, at least in theory. If solutions aren’t offered, the workers can push back. And push back they have.

As is often the case, Graeme McMillan does an excellent job of breaking down the story even further in his newsletter, even interviewing the union about their wants and leads – with McMillan fittingly describing the staff as permalancers without any of the benefits that come from such an arrangement – so that’s well worth an additional read (there’s also an update on the Comic Book Workers United front). Unfortunately, Seven Seas Entertainment has since decided that they would not recognize this union voluntarily, which is as predictable as it is disappointing. So now, the slow grind to change begins. It’s better to happen than not, and I wish everyone at the United Workers of Seven Seas the best of luck in their efforts. They have my support.

2. Brian Hibbs, Tilting at Windmills

If you’re looking for the deepest dive of the week into the inside baseball world of comic book shops, may I please invite you to read Brian Hibbs’ latest Tilting at Windmills column, which examines the insane troubles with discounts and shipping costs over at Diamond Comic Distributors and the impact they’re having on shops. It’s a fascinating feature that gets real in the weeds, but it’s a subject that will have a major impact on the future of single-issue comics if no resolution is found. As Hibbs notes throughout, the impact of skyrocketing shipping costs and dwindling effective discounts are making it extremely difficult for certain publishers to be profitable for comic shops at this point, which is a terrible place to be.

I do disagree with certain aspects of it. Hibbs does label DC’s decision to move away from Diamond as the original sin, as if there wasn’t always some level of problems with Diamond, and like Lunar isn’t providing infinitely better service and rates than Diamond for effectively the same product these days (I know it was the first domino and shops hate that Lunar is owned by the same people as DCBS, but come on, let’s be real here, Diamond’s the one failing, not Lunar). But he’s right: this is a major issue, and one that can only be resolved in a few ways. Diamond needs to get better, retailers will dramatically reduce their single-issue orders, or Diamond needs to go away. One of the three. It’s just bad business Diamond is doing, and I cannot imagine any of their partners are feeling the love right now.

Also: expect Hibbs to make his long-awaited return to Off Panel during the summer. We’re already lining it up.

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