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Well, yesterday was a heck of a day.

As news spread that Diamond would be ceasing shipments of new products after April 1st, the entire comics world kind of fell into the kind of shocked silence that follows the arrival of something dreaded. Privately, some people had been expecting something like this to happen but it didn’t make it any less cataclysmic.

And where it leaves the industry is….a big giant question mark. People are still reeling from the world being gripped by a pandemic, an ongoing economic crisis and being forced to stay at home and actually watch those Netflix shows.

I’m as in the dark as anyone. The Beat has taken its own economic hits in the pandemic – you think anyone wats to advertise comics or anything right now? But setting that aside I have some perhaps overly optimistic thoughts that I will share.

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First off, reports I’ve seen indicate that customers are, thus far, sticking by their comics retailers, doing mail order and curbside pickup and maintaining their pull lists. The exceptions are people who have lost their jobs, of course, and there are a lot of those. When the machine starts up again, a lot of people are going to be hurting economically, and that will pose its own challenge.

However, many loyal comic shops customers truly value their stores, their comics, and the experience of community they experience at their LCS. When we talk about a return to normalcy, this loyalty will be what shapes the new world that emerges.

On a practical level, perhaps just stopping the flow of product was a step that needed to happen with everything else – sports, music, church going – on lockdown. When the news first spread, everyone was angry about how they learned it, but Geppi’s official statement offered a wider picture of how Diamond may be offering help to distressed stores.

Or think of it this overly simplistic way: when you get sick you need to go lie down for a while and not do things. The entire industry needs to reassess its distribution channels and stores need to not be stuck with bills they cannot pay, and that all the way up the chain. Like I said, it’s a bit simplistic, but as I keep saying (praying?), this WILL end someday.

I’ve put together some tweets and posts from comics shops and others, to show the mood on Monday night. It was surprisingly upbeat, at least publicly. Comics shops also carry a lot of non-weekly material and people need entertainment, including reading. This is all non scientific, and I’ve taken the liberty of condensing some twitter threads into paragraphs just to make it easier to read.

Comet Comics in Ottawa

We just got news that all shipments of new comics will be suspended for the near future. Mar 24 will be the last shipment for a while. While we’re sad about it, this will take financial pressure off closed shops like us and it’s necessary for the sake of the printers and warehouse workers as well. Overall, we think it’s good news.
We’ll be using the time to make improvements to the store behind the scenes not to mention catching up on some reading! More info to come in the weekly newsletter. We’ll still be selling comic book surprise packs on our website for as long as the post office is open, unless we run out of envelopes!

Stay safe out there, friends!

Mike Sterling, Sterling Silver Comics, Camarillo, CA

Update on new comic shipments!

Just got word from my distributor, Diamond Comics, that starting with product with an on-sale date of April 1st, shipments of new product to all U.S. comic shops will be held until further notice. This means that this week’s shipment of comics will be the last batch of new goodies for a while.

However, I have plenty of old comics and graphic novels available, and am happy to special order items (since Diamond will still be processing reorders) so please feel free to put in your requests. Plus, this might me a good time to catch up on emptying out your pull boxes, hint hint.

This is just a temporary situation, and the comic shipments should resume once things begin to normalize.

I know stopping new comic shipments seems drastic, but this is actually good news for the store’s survival, as I now don’t have to worry about trying to keep up on paying weekly invoices with product going unsold. A lot of you have been helping out, having me ship out your comics and whatnot, but I need foot traffic, I need folks to be able to walk around and find new items they might be interested in…things that are kind of hard to have happen when the store is closed to the public!

Thank you for your continued patronage, and all of your generosity and assistance at this time. We’ll get through this!

–Mike

 

 

Double Midnight Comics & Games in New Hampshire

Okay so we heard from Diamond and after this week new comics will be put on hold. So this week is the last week for new comics. Not having new comics will suck but it helps our fellow retailers in areas that are shutdown during the crisis. Stay tuned gang we’ll do some fun stuff and get through this. Sounds like we’ll be able to restock graphic novels and what not during the Diamond shutdown. Start making that list of books you’ve been meaning to read…

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What kind of city will we become? We are still doing mailorder as always. Be patient with us though, orders may take a little longer than usual. We know that our deliveries from UPS have been a bit spotty, so maybe yours have been, too, but they're still coming. We've checked with our local city council and representatives here in MD and we can continue as we've been doing for over a week already – we are closed to the public, curbside pick up and home delivery are still ok. Some publishers have let us sell before release dates ( yes, even Marvel and DC) and besides who cares at this point. If we have them we need to sell them! Just check our site, blog, IG, and Facebook for news and updates. It's ever changing! #atomicbooks #covid19

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I’ve condensed the rest of the thread below.

I’m seeing lots of distress over this, and I get that. It is a drastic move. Worse, the release of this plan is at least a week late, and leaked hours before the announcement, amplifying chaos. Retailers have been panicking as we are progressively shut down by our governments for weeks now. By @comixexperience
calculations, about half of all direct market retailers will be forced closed or restricted by this Wednesday.

I wish this had come from the large publishers, as I said a week ago. I wish they had recognized that their own production was going to be disrupted, and announced comprehensive revised publishing schedules, delaying product in a reassuring and reliable way.

But the fact of the matter is, right now, Diamond is pushing product— and invoices— to retailers who can’t even get to their doors to receive packages, much less sell product. And not a few retailers. Half of them.

(That’s not me, for what it’s worth. I literally live at the shop, I can receive things, Oregon’s rule still allows customers to pickup, I’m doing mail order. Regardless.)

Burdening retailers who cannot operate with a month or more of backlogged product— which is coming to many of them COD or Net-7— is unconscionable.

I’m scared. We’re all scared. But I think pushing product up the road to a time when all shops can sell it is a better choice than letting boxes sit at shops (or in UPS limbo) for indeterminate months while they are still expected to foot the bill.

Meanwhile: we will continue to sell you comics! New stuff as long as it is coming out. And at the same time: collections! Graphic novels! Kids’ books! There is so much available. We’ll help you pick if you’re not sure what you need.

(Note: I am working solo, the staff is staying home. So I will sell you things! But it is slow going as I get myself up to speed. Orders welcome! But be patient, please.)

Books with Pictures Personal Shopping Request
After you fill out this order request, we will contact you to go over details and availability, and then send you an invoice. All orders will be charged a flat $8 shipping & handling fee.

I know it’s scary. And the uncertainly is brutal. But we’ll make it through this. Hold each other up. Help where you can. And send that local shop you love money, by whatever channel they will let you, now and always. #teamcomics

Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in Charlotte has converted to Curb-side and shipping only:

After much deliberation and careful consideration for the safety of our customers and our staff, Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find has made the decision to convert to Curb-Side pick-up and Shipping ONLY until further notice. Effective immediately.

While our store will be closed to the public, we will do our best to carry out day-to-day business as best we can! 
Our hours for Curb-Side pick-up are as follows:
Monday-Saturday: 10am-6pm
Sunday: 1pm-6pm
PLEASE CALL 704-375-7462 or email us at: heroesarenthardtofind@gmail.com to schedule curb-side pick-up.
You can send emails to request items, arrange shipping and more at any time: heroesarenthardtofind@gmail.com 

We understand that everyone’s lives and budgets are being turned upside-down and inside-out at this time. 

In an effort to continue paying our own employees, and to ease the financial commitment of keeping up with your weekly subscriptions, we are offering our RESERVE CUSTOMERS a 20% DISCOUNT on orders!

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Third Eye Comics, Maryland (photo above)

Reserve your favorite comics each & every week — totally free — and get them shipped, delivered, or pick-up curbside at Third Eye!

Third Eye Faithful, just ’cause COVID-19 has limited travel — doesn’t mean we can’t get you your Third Eye Pullboxes each and every week!

In fact, now more than ever, the THIRD EYE PULLBOX is a perfect way to make sure you never miss a series — and, it also helps Third Eye make sure we’re ordering exactly what we need for you guys and girls (which is important during times like this when we’re not seeing the in-store foot traffic we’re used to!)

We’ve put together this blog to help explain what a Third Eye Pullbox is, and to help demonstrate a few different ways you can make sure you keep getting yours during the COVID-19 situation.

Finally I’m reposting this public post from Bill Schanes, one of the architects of the Drect Market via Pacific Comics and a long time VP at Diamond. Schanes has been travelling the world since retirement and is currently in Berlin hoping to get home to the US. He has a lot of perspective I think. Note: this was written before Diamond’s announcement.

While historically Brian Hibbs at Comix Experience in the SF bay are and I have disagreed more often than agreed on a wide range of topics, I’ve always felt there was a deep mutual respect for each other.

My almost 28 years at Diamond, as part of their executive team, and on the board of directors, I often fought what felt was worth fighting for behind the scenes, as that’s the way I prefer to address the hot topics of the day.

In this case, at this time, this is an entirely different situation.

I applaud Image Comics, Boom, Dynamite and other for stepping up.

I’ve talked with Steve a Geppi a few days ago, and while I will not relate the specifics of that call, what I did attempt to impress upon Steve is that this is his defining moment, his action if his comic book lifetime, nothing he has done in the past comes close. I’ve even exchanged some text messages over the weekend, being out of character, urging, urging him to step up…now.every day counts.

DC and Marvel should have already come out with wide ranging programs to help with comic book specialty retailers herculean task in fright of them.

Marvel offering higher discounts is tone deaf…clearly no clue to the new reality.

Diamond can’t not speak for either DC or Marvel, but he can speak for many of the publishers and other product lines Diamond does control, maybe as much as 30% of all publications and products it services into the marketplace.

Comic book specialty retailers, like all other small businesses are in real jeopardy, and they need strong ground breaking leadership from the big 3…DC, Marvel and Diamond.

Otherwise, the scorched earth left overs will be a very grim comic book reality.

So some hope here, some team comics, and some people pulling together in the face of a very, very uncertain world.

 

 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. i keep seeing calls for leadership from Marvel and DC but what are they supposed to be doing? They don’t have fulfillment and distribution services of their own to distribute directly to closed shops. I’m not defending their inaction, but more curious as to what people are realistically expecting them to do right now. I’ve seen calls for creating digital codes that retailers can sell and then get print comics later. Is that the big idea?

  2. I’m sad we’re all in this grinding halt across the country, but hopefully this halt of new comic material will allow for shops to breathe, avoid the bills, and allow for a more coordinated compassionate plan to reboot on the back end.

  3. I don’t think the issue here is really the shops. How many smaller publishers are not going to be able to come back from this? Look at the sales numbers. The vast majority of the folks producing comics are making virtually nothing to start with and now they’ll be making actual nothing.

    Mike

  4. Comic shops have been declining for a long time now. Why? Well, it’s a layered foundation of publishers exploiting and having no long term plan and comic fans enabling it… and the flawed Diamond distribution system. Why is it up to comic fans now to bail them out? This is a bad system and much like the COVID-19 crisis is forcing us to look at our flawed medical infrastructure, so too should think make comic retailers, publishers, fans etc. to look at how bad the system has been for a long time.

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