As comics shops continue to be impacted by forced closures and reduced foot traffic as a result of the global coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, quite a few publishers have already stepped up to offer relief to the direct market. Last week publishers like Dynamite, Image, and Marvel announced measures including reducing output, returnability, and deep discounts. Today two more publishers entered the mix, as Archie Comics and BOOM! Studios both released details of their plans to assist retailers over the next few months.
This morning on Twitter, Archie Comics tweeted a message to retailers outlining plans for both returnability and output reduction:
A message to our comic book retailer partners. pic.twitter.com/GdW7Bj8Xaz
— Archie Comics (@ArchieComics) March 23, 2020
“Archie Comics will be making all of our new products scheduled for release in March and April fully returnable for comic book retailers due to the increasing restrictions on business operations and public gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement reads. “Additionally,” it continues, “we will be re-examining any new product launches during this period and into the summer in an effort to minimize the financial burden retailers are facing.”
BOOM! Studios also shared details regarding returnability for their titles, making all titles shipping between last Wednesday, March 18th, and June 24th returnable as part of the BOOM! Guarantee program (retailer enrollment in the program is free). The publisher also announced they’ll be promoting stores offering services like curbside pick-up, delivery, and shipping, utilizing a list of retailers they’ve been putting together, and using the #BoostYourLCS hashtag on social media.
Additionally, BOOM! is offering a number of variant cover programs for retailers, including making variants from cancelled/rescheduled 2020 conventions available to retailers to order through Diamond; sending retailers free “rare variant cover gift sets”; sending a Diamond Summit variant for Faithless II#1 to all retailers who had planned to attend the summit; and releasing monthly one-per-store variants through the end of the year. The publisher’s stated goal is to help stores either bring in more cash by selling the covers at a premium or reward loyal customers for sticking with them during the pandemic.
The news comes as more local and state governments across the United States are issuing shelter-in-place orders, effectively closing non-essential businesses. BOOM! Studios is the latest ‘Premier Publisher’ (i.e. a publisher with their own dedicated section in the front of Diamond’s Previews catalog) to offer relief measures for retailers. Of the seven Premier Publishers, two of them, Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics, have yet to release any information on direct market relief.
DC’s absence of a response is particularly noteworthy, seeing as they’re the second-largest publisher in the market. As Heidi wrote earlier, the direct market is facing a catastrophe that may result in many shops having to close their doors for good. Publishers offering relief in the form of returnability and output adjustments is definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s going to take everyone doing their part if the industry as we know it is going to weather this.