Trying to Find a Balance

A look at the current state of the direct market, and its resistance to change in certain corners

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”

That saying has been on my mind lately as I’ve witnessed the direct market struggle to adjust to a new world order the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought upon it. Diamond Comic Distributors, the (previously) sole direct market distributor of single issues, temporarily closed because of the virus. 1 Retailers themselves have largely shut their doors as well because of shelter-in-place orders, outside of those that can deliver, offer curbside pickup, or mail inventory to readers. And because of those two bad beats, that side of the comics industry has largely halted.

That means there have been no new single-issue comics – print or digital, outside a smattering of digital first releases – since March 25th. That’s not to say there have been no comics, of course. There have been trade and graphic novel releases, webcomics, digital comics, and any number of other formats and delivery methods throughout. But turning off the flow of single issues has led to a seismic shift in the industry, and one with an area of effect that extends far beyond just the most frequently discussed players. As much as we seemingly want to look at this issue as a broader industry one, that’s ignoring the cost it has had on a micro scale.

Creators with pencils down. Employees at publishers being furloughed, or worse. Readers wondering where the comics went. 2 Retailers questioning whether or not they’ll ever open back up. These are the costs of one decision most everyone made at the outset of this, and that was that in the face of crisis, the best answer was to stop doing everything.

And as we’ve gotten further into this situation, I’ve started to wonder if that may been the wrong answer altogether.

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  1. They are aiming to reopen in mid to late May, with May 20th looking like the probable date from what I’ve heard.

  2. My local comic book shop reopened this week, and the number one question on its Facebook page was: do you have new comics? None of them knew that comics stopped. All of them had no idea what was going on. The comics internet has awareness of things the average comic reader just doesn’t know.