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

Every week brings a new wrinkle of weirdness to the world of comics, but this one starts with a particularly unusual one. Let’s get to that and more in Comics Disassembled, my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, led by…hackers!

1. Diamond, Under Attack!

As much as I want to make this about Diamond Comic Distributors and its well-known usage of rather antiquated technology – shouts to Windows 95, the real MVP – unfortunately, that’s not the direction we’re going to go in. It turns out that last week’s situation where the entirety of comic book retailers were desperate to update their final order cutoff numbers with Diamond but couldn’t because all their sites were down wasn’t because of a typical outage. In fact, as retailer Ryan Higgins revealed on Twitter – a couple days after Diamond’s entire presence went down – it was because a ransomware attack, which is quite possibly the worst possible reason for the outage.

Naturally and understandably, shops were concerned about their data, as it turns out Diamond has a lot of sensitive information about each shop that would not be ideal if it got out (even if, on occasion, that happens by accident anyways). Mercifully, Diamond assured everyone this did not happen. But it couldn’t have happened at a worse possible time, as this issue compounds the existing supply chain and paper shortage issues creating a perfect storm of “When the heck are our comics coming?!” Bizarrely, Anchorage, Alaska had no problem, as I know from my experience on Wednesday. Much larger, much closer cities were not so lucky, and from what I understand, there are still outages going on. It’s not good.

This is not the end of this story. Shops are still feeling the weight of this. Not only that, but those who do this kind of thing are not normally enthusiastic about cutting and running, so there may be more to come. We’ll see what else happens, but the challenges continue to mount for Diamond, much to the chagrin of retailers everywhere. Fingers crossed that it’s all resolved in as painless a fashion as possible. But we’ll see.

2. The Numbers, Doing Numbers

On the flip side for the direct market, hey! The sales numbers continue to look amazing! As per usual, John Jackson Miller at Comichron is your one-stop shop for breaking down the numbers, but the September 2021 numbers revealed an exemplary month compared to the last ordinary September – that’s the 2019 edition – towering over it by 16% on the unit sales side of things. More than that, JJM revealed that the June through September window of 2021 – which is the most recent stretch we have data for – is the biggest version of that period going back to 2003, with 2016 surpassing it if you factor in inflation.

This is very good! While there are the usual caveats about the DC estimates in there – we don’t really have a great sense as to the precision of those numbers, but I know Miller is working on it – good news is good news, and this is just that. Miller expanded on all of this on Twitter, sharing some promising estimates about the projected year-end numbers for the direct market, ones that – if continued and not devastated by supply chain tomfoolery – will show enormous growth.

We’ll see where this ends. I’m a little wibbly wobbly on some of the direct market business right now, as some of the embracing of speculation lately has felt very tenuous to me. I’ve also heard of some waning consumer enthusiasm. That doesn’t mean I’m down on it, or this news is bad. But trends don’t last forever. That’s why they’re trends rather than simply the way things are.

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