Comic Retailers in the Age of Coronavirus
Right now, the world is on lockdown. Depending on which state you live in, you might not even be able to leave your home, and if you can go to the store, you have to either pick up your items outside with zero contact. For big-box stores, this is a tough time, but for independent stores? It’s a nightmare. How can they keep their businesses alive when people can’t even enter the doors? For comic retailers, the coronavirus could mean the end of their stores—unless publishers and customers take swift action.
Image Comics’ Call to Help Comic Retailers during the Coronavirus
Instead of depressing Coronavirus images, we’ll use great comic art instead. (Image: Spawn #301, Image Comics)
Great comic book creators work for Image, and those some creators run the business too. In an open letter to comic publishers, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson outlined plans to help the people who comic retailers through the coronavirus crisis. For instance:
We’re now making all-new product on FOC for the next 60 days returnable (thru 5/18 FOC), and we are prepared to extend that as necessity dictates.
We’re canceling non-essential releases like second printings and reprints.
We’re offering suggestions to Diamond for ways to mitigate the impact of this crisis on retailers threatened by mandatory store closures.
And as of yesterday, we are looking at ways to reschedule and stagger the release of our comics, trade paperbacks, and graphic novels so that we’re not pumping product into the marketplace at a time when retailers and consumers alike are dealing with financial struggle for an indeterminate amount of time.
Stevenson clarifies, however, that these are just the first steps and that they are not enough. Luckily, he’s not alone in this cause.
Binc is also Helping Comic Retailers Any Way that They Can—and Other Booksellers too.
(Image: The Librarians #1, Dynamite Comics)
Binc, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, helps booksellers all throughout the year, but now they are pushing even further. Development Director Kathy Bartson urged people to donate what they can, stating:
“Renewing, increasing, or pledging your support right now will be critical to our decisions moving forward and allow us to help every qualifying bookseller and comic retailer that comes to Binc for help. This is a critical time for booksellers as business slows, schools close, and they are canceling months’ worth of events. Booksellers need to know that Binc will be here for them so they can weather these scary circumstances and come out on the other side.”
To help booksellers and comic retailers even more as the coronavirus shuts down more cities, industry professionals are matching donations. Literary Agent Steven Malk of Writers House will match dollar for dollar up to $7500. And Beacon Press is adding $5000 to the matching gift challenge. If you want to help your local comic shops and donate a little bit, head to Binc’s donation page.
Diamond Comics Distributor Is Helping Comic Retailers Endure the Coronavirus in a Pretty Cool Way
(Image: Marvel Comics #1000 Artgerm variant, Marvel Comics)
One of the best days of the years for comic readers is Free Comic Book Day. People crowd their local shops as store owners come up with all kinds of incentives. Some have book signings, massive deals, and artists selling their work. But because of the coronavirus, many comic retailers can’t even have more than ten people in their store at one time. And that’s if they can open at all. It looks like that would be the end of FCBD, but Diamond has another plan…Free Comic Book May.
Yep, instead of offering the free comics for just one day, they’ll be available all month. Call your local shop and see how they plan to operate. Some shops are already doing curbside pickup. Add some graphic novels or your pull list and your free comic requests, and head to the store, contact-free. And, if by May we have some form of normalcy, we still don’t have to rush all at once for the free goodies.
Paul Levitz and ComicPRO Offer More Suggestions to Retailers
(Image: Superman (2018) #21, DC Comics)
Using his “tribal elder status,” former DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz wrote an op-ed on ICv2, detailing the best ways the industry can help shop owners. Some of his suggestions include allowing fully returnable products for 90 days, and subsidizing shops so they can mail pull orders to customers. He also links to a massive list from ComicPRO that offers even more guidance. But Levitz’s main goal is to get publishers and comic retailers to share ideas of surviving the Coronavirus epidemic:
I know this is a major danger moment for the always fragile network of comic shops that I love, and that has made my career possible. These may not be the best or most practical ideas, but I wanted to start the debate and idea-sharing… and suggest to those who sit in seats with resources like I used to be able to control, that this is a vital time to use them for good… and ultimately for all our self-interest.
So, How Can We Defeat the Covid-19 Closures and Save Shops?
The sad truth is that not everyone is going to last, but we can still try. The best way to help comic retailers outlast Coronavirus is, of course, to buy comics. Stores are already offering curbside pickup and delivery. Find out what your local shops are offering. And if they have an online site—use it. If you can spare $15 for a trade paperback, that could mean dinner for their family, or paying an employee for an hour or so of work.
And don’t forget to donate to Binc, or pitch into
(Image: Batman and the Signal #1, DC Comics)
Mad Cave Studios’ Relief Fund for Comic Book Retailers, a GoFundMe page. “Comic book shops are not just places where you get your comics from, they’re places that foster community, creativity, and offer an escape from the troubles in your life,” Mad Cave Studios writes in their fundraiser. “They are spaces where you can truly feel safe in who you are with people that understand how you feel. Please support us in our effort to keep those places around for years to come.”
If you are a comic shop owner and would like to add suggestions, or ask questions for others to respond to, please feel free to use our comments section to do so. And everyone here at Comic Years wishes all comic retailers the best; because when the Coronavirus scare is over, we’ll be back. We’ll always be back.
(Featured Image: “Married to the Blob,” The Simpsons, Fox/Disney)
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.