We’ll probably date the start of the realization that the Coronavirus Crisis had began in earnest from the evening of March 11th, when various sports leagues cancelled their seasons, POTUS addressed the nation from the Oval Office, and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they were positive for the illness.
Since then it’s been cancellation after postponement after lockdown after quarantine, and social distancing is the new normal. I have left the house only once – to get some scallions from the vegetable cart on 2nd Avenue – in the last three days. That’s partly because I’ve been glued to my desk covering all the news and statements coming out from everywhere.
It’s fair to say that any company that I have done business with for the last five years in an electronic setting has sent me some kind of email saying what they are doing to deal with COVID-19 – from my favorite clothing retailers to a bus company I bought a ticket from ONCE four years ago. (I get a lot of email.)
In the comics world, the smaller publishers were quickest to react, understandably: Boom, Dynamite, Vault, Image, IDW and Dark Horse have all spoken out with statements of support for retailers forced to close, and their own plans to slow comics production. Of course Diamond has made many seismic announcements, including ceasing to ship product, partly because so many printing plants have shut down.
It’s a little more understandable that companies that are part of much larger distressed companies – DC and Marvel – might be slower to make moves. AT&T is in debt to its eyeballs and Disney is reeling from shutting down all their parks. Little comic book divisions are small matters, perhaps, compared to the massive disaster of closed theaters and delayed films and every other challenge facing our entertainment conglomerates.
While Marvel has reached out to retailers and fans, DC has been massively silent. Publisher Jim Lee hasn’t tweeted since March 15th. I’m told that the DC retailers forum has shut down comments. They have announced daily livestream events with creators and DC Kids Camp, with middle grade authors providing activities for homestuck children. Both are laudable efforts. But a larger outreach to the industry has been absent.
I understand that Editor in Chief Bob Harras did send a letter to freelancers yesterday. You can read that below.
Otherwise, I’m hearing…well, nothing.
It hasn’t escaped notice of some industry observers that, if he was nothing else, Dan DiDio was a “crisis co-publisher.” With his deep connection to the retail community, it’s hard to imagine him not speaking out in the current crisis. If he were still at DC – which he isn’t, having departed all the way back on February 21st, when we could all leave our houses and touch other humans.
It’s a likely guess that DiDio might be a tad relieved about this timing, after all.
So what is DC doing? Their printing plant, Transcontinental, has closed down for three weeks. So printing new comics won’t be an immediate option. Will they go the digital route, as some others are doing? Unknown. What about that 5G thingie everyone was so excited about? Unknown.
I reached out to DC representatives to see if there was any statement to release, and as I write this, have not gotten a response.
Because I’m a big softie, I feel sorry for all of the folks at DC who are probably just as confused as the rest of us. The company was already mired in webs of corporate red take, and the pandemic can’t have helped. The unknown is terrifying, and we’re facing a lot of unknowns right now – including many at DC.
Here’s Harras’s statement to freelancers:
To Our DC Talent Community,
Everyone here at DC is thinking of you and the challenges that you’re all facing in this current crisis. I want to stress that DC is fully open for business. Our editorial teams and support staff are working remotely for the foreseeable future but that will not interfere with our day-to-day operations.
Our main concern, of course, is your well-being and that of your families. No matter where you are in the world, take care and don’t hesitate to reach out. We realize that there may be unexpected challenges ahead and I want you to know that we are here to help.
No one knows, of course, how long this current situation may last. For now, this is our new normal. And as we transition to a company working from home, we gain the flexibility to overcome any challenge. Most importantly, we remain incredibly excited about the stories we will create together.