The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everything about our lives – and the comics industry. Many local comic shops have been forced to close and go to mail order of curbside pick-up only – and both readers and publishers are really to help support local stores. As of this week, Diamond is no longer supplying new product to retailers, leaving many questions in the air, not only for whether or not we’ll be getting new comics, but how the direct market will survive the ongoing pandemic.
That’s why The Beat has collected an ongoing survey of how publishers are reacting to the crisis, which you can read below.
Of the publishers listed, 10 are providing return options for retailers with product on the shelves and a significantly reduced consumer base through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are still silent on whether or not digital remains an avenue for publishing new content. Archie, Dark Horse and Dynamite have all said explicitly that, other than a few last singles here and there, the only digital comics available will be those that are also available in stores via mass market distributors. In a late night announcement, DC Comics said it would abstain from digital releases through April, while Marvel announced on the following morning that it would have no digital releases for the week of April 1.
In terms of novel strategies among publishers COVID-19 responses, Boom! stands out as providing free variants for retailers to sell, while several other publishers are providing free copies of #1s, or even full trades in Valiant’s case. Meanwhile, TKO takes the unique approach of providing retailers of a customer’s choice 50% of profit from online sales.
On Tuesday, March 31, Diamond announced that it made the difficult decision “hold payments to vendors previously scheduled to release this week [April 1],” causing even more strife for the direct market. This will likely result in further publisher response, perhaps from DC which is considering a “multi-distributor model.”
Given the evolving nature of the situation, publishers’ responses to COVID-19 are highly subject to change. That’s why this article will be updated regularly.
UPDATE April 2:
- DC clarifies that digital-first titles would not be the only ones available digitally going forward.
- Image releases no new comics on the week of April 1.
- Bad Idea comes forward with its strategies.
UPDATE April 5:
- DC announces a donation to help comic retailers and their employees.
- Marvel pauses production on a portion of its output.
UPDATE April 6:
- Yen Press reschedules its May – August books.
- Kodansha Comics announces it will continue to release titles digitally and is shifting on sale dates for some upcoming books.
- Silver Sprocket pauses new releases and reminds retailers of its returnability plan.
UPDATE April 8
- Rebellion announces scheduled delays and continued distribution.
- Humanoids reveals an updated release schedule.
UPDATE April 23:
- DC and Oni Press pledge funds to the COMICBOOK UNITED FUND.
- DC expands its digital first program.
- ShortBox offers mini-grants to comic community creatives in need.
UPDATE April 30:
- BOOM! Studios announces day one retailer support program.
UPDATE May 1:
- Marvel announced its return to single issues and its new release schedule.
UPDATE: May 26:
- Vault expands its Vault Bound Initiative, taking away risk for retailers to stock shelves.
- Delaying all direct market releases scheduled to arrive in stores in late April.
- Releasing comics digitally only in the cases of those that were too far along in physical production to be halted.
- Will continue to produce and stock mass-market and digest titles stocked in grocery stores and newsstands.
- Comics from March, April and May will be returnable.
- Releasing The Resistance #1 (the studio’s debut comic about a global pandemic) to read digitally for free via Webtoons, Tapas and their own website.
- Increasing the number of commissioned projects.
- Creating a $25,000 emergency retailer relief fund to be distributed among the 100 shops that had initially signed on to be Bad Idea destinations.
- Postponed its launch date of May 6th, and its flagship title ENIAC, until later this year.
- Offering full returnability for products scheduled to be in shops through June 24th.
- Promoting comic stores still providing curbside pickup and delivery services.
- Offering a set of previous variant covers, provided to retailers at no extra cost for retailers. They’ll also provide monthly 1-per-store variants through December 2020, including the Diamond Summit retailer cover for Faithless II #1.
- On April 29, announced its Day One Retailer Support Program, providing comics retailers with exclusive product to drive customers back into stores when they reopen.
- BOOM! also provided a new release schedule through the end of June along with the Day One Program.
- Not releasing any comics digitally unless they’re also available in print.
- Artbooks, graphic novels and collected editions will still be available same day as bookstore releases.
- 90-day fully returnable terms on all periodicals.
- Bob Harras addresses freelancers. .
- Full returnability on comics through June 24.
- On Saturday, March 28, DC announced they were looking into “multi-distributor model” implications to continue providing new product in spite of Diamond no longer shipping.
- Although DC was reportedly planning to continue releasing a limited number of weekly titles digitally, citing “different audiences” for print vs. digital, on 3/31 it was announced that a “limited selection” of titles would be published digitally, not just digital-first titles.
- On April 3, announced a $250,000 donation to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation “to provide support for comic book retailers and their employees.”
- DC announced in mid-April that it would be expanding its digital first program with reprints of the Walmart giants lineup as well as its free first issue program, DC Essentials.
- DC also announced that, in collaboration with Oni-Lion Forge, it would be donating to a $250,000 grant to BINC.
- Stopping all digital releases that have not already been shipped, per an announcement on March 30.
- Offering returnability on comics released through July.
- Releasing free first issues on ComiXology.
- Offering retailers deep discounts on best-selling collections.
- Pushing back July releases.
- Announced it will not be releasing any new product until September 2020, along with a complete revised schedule.
- 60-day no-fee full returnability through June 24.
- Suspending May releases corresponding to on sale dates May 6 – May 27.
- Reducing publishing line for products scheduled for July, refocusing on bigger projects in special editions.
- Full returnability on product through May 18.
- Cancelling non-essential releases on reprints.
- Rescheduling releases of singles, TPBs, and graphic novels to stagger new product.
- Promoting retailers able to provide pickup and mail delivery services.
- Reaching out and educating customers.
- Did not publish any new comics on the week of April 1.
- On April 3, announced it will be shifting on sale dates for its upcoming spring and summer print titles to release later on in the year.
- Confirmed that “all previously scheduled Kodansha Comics and VERTICAL titles will continue to be released digitally by their original on sale dates.”
- “Deep discounts” for retailers, though no returnability.
- Providing advice on how to help retailers, as well as a continuously updated list of open shops.
- Opted out of digital releases for April 1.
- On April 3, paused production on 1/3 of its publishing output scheduled for May and June releases “to help spread the amount of publishing product over the coming weeks and months.”
- On May 1, revealed it’s returning to distributing single issues on May 27, and provided a new release schedule through early July which gradually increases the amount of single issues published week by week and relies on collected editions and art books.
Oni Press/Lion Forge
- Full returnability for comics released for the “foreseeable future.”
- Rescheduling release dates on unsolicited titles.
- Providing financial assistance through the Forge Fund.
- Oni-Lion Forge announced it would be donating $100,000 to BINC in collaboration with DC.
- On April 8, announced it will be continuing printing and distribution of its periodicals in print and in digital.
- Made changes to its graphic novel release schedule, including delays ranging from months to years in some cases, and opting for digital-first in other cases.
- On April 16, began a series of mini-grants for comics creators in need, at first offering up 5 at £100, then was able to expand the program after fan donations came in.
- Noted on April 6 that its entire catalog will always be 100% returnable for direct wholesale credit, which has always been so, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Announced that its new releases are on pause, but the back-catalog is available for direct wholesale from the publisher.
- Sharing links to free PDFs of comics on Twitter.
- Promoting comic shops still providing curbside pickup and mail delivery.
- Most creators told “pencils down.”
- Cut down upcoming releases and delaying all titles with FOC dates between March 23 and April 13 by two weeks.
- Full returnability on all new #1s.
- Sponsoring local gift card initiative to support retailers in return for free issues of Hundred Wolves #1 and Heavy #1.
- Expanded its Vault Bound Initiative, extending returnability parameters, reducing price per copy of new #1s and collections, and more.
- On April 3, announced its May – August titles will be rescheduled for May – September to “maintain a steady stream of new books flowing into the market and into the hands of our readers at a rate more appropriate to the current circumstances.”
- Foregoing its previously planned September solicitations.