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Topic: COVID-19 and the Direct Market Post Reply | Post New Topic
Shawn Kane
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 04 November 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 2900
Posted: 28 March 2020 at 5:05am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I originally posted this in the New Comics thread but it seems that it would be more appropriate in this thread:

The owner of my LCS posted on social media that he'll keep the store open as long as he can afford to pay his two employees (of course with reduced days open). He also said even if he has to close the store, it will be short term. He finished by saying that the store has been open 32 years and has survived things like the Distributor Wars, Marvel's Bankruptcy, the Black and White Boom and Bust,  etc... The store still has back issues, trades, games and just a sense of community that people come for. One of the guys told me that people were calling to ask how to help. The store may see some changes once it's all over but it's nice to see some positivity amidst all the doom and gloom.
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Stephen Churay
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 25 March 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 8356
Posted: 28 March 2020 at 7:18am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I think a lot of people are optimistic and I hope they
are right. I see this going till the end of May. How many
shops can hold out for that long?

Worse yet, there is a tipping point. At some point there
are so few shops around, that it ceases to be profitable
for Diamond to distribute. And remember neither Disney or
AT&T bought companies to publish comics. They just got
saddled with it.

The sad part is, IMO, the publishers started the industry
towards this cliff years ago. Retailers, who should have
banded together, just accepted it:

Only one distributor
Getting rid of the conics code
Getting rid of the newsstand
Making content for an older aging audience
comics being non-returnable

Now while obviously some new readers will find their way,
comics made really, really hard for them to be found.
When they did, a kid could no longer just safely grab the
latest issue. My son wanted to get a new Batman comic
during Snyder DEATH OF THE FAMILY run. As young as he
was, I'd be a bad father giving him that book. So, he
never really showed interest again after being told, no,
it's too grown up for him.
You have had to go a dedicated shop. Now over the last
decade, you have had a dedicated app but then the content
changed and many of the aging fanboys walked away.To make
up for the lack of copies sold, publishers put it on the
backs of retailers to carry a ton of product. Shops are
carrying so many books. There is just a glut of bad or
subpar comics. Marvel alone, not counting the $1.00
reprints and $3.99 facsimiles still shipped oved 80
titles last month.

Honestly, I've seen the direct market dying of a
thousand cuts for a while. COVID-19 appears to have
turned it into a stabbing.In the end, I hope the
optimists are right and we get a leaner, healthier market
that puts its eye on long term viability and not just
short term gain. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Edited by Stephen Churay on 28 March 2020 at 9:01am
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Shawn Kane
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 04 November 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 2900
Posted: 28 March 2020 at 5:30pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I think there's a factor with how a store is run. I know that I laud my LCS a lot on here but they do things the right way:

-They listen to what their customers want. 
-They know the types of books that their regulars read. 
-The owner reads every new book that comes out each week if people want recommendations. 
-They have a great stock of back issues and collected editions.
-They're kid friendly. 
-They also have a pretty good customers base for gaming.

I'd argue that if Marvel and DC decide to stop making comics (which I doubt), they'd survive. 

Edited by Shawn Kane on 28 March 2020 at 5:31pm
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Trevor Smith
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Joined: 21 September 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 3143
Posted: 29 March 2020 at 5:26am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

"-The owner reads every new book that comes out each
week if people want recommendations."


I can't even begin to imagine the time commitment that
must be.
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Tim O Neill
Byrne Robotics Security

Joined: 16 April 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 10227
Posted: 29 March 2020 at 12:17pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Disney is losing so much money on shuttered theme parks and
unreleased movies that nothing is a sure bet.

Kevin Feige recently being named Chief Creative Officer
could help - his advocacy could keep Marvel publishing

I don't think monthy comics are long for this world, but
Marvel will keep it going because of comic book reader and
dealer online presence. They have an outsized voice, and a
wholesale shutdown wpuld generate horrible fan press and
lead to alienating the shrinking base.

I do think this is publisher's chance to print less monthly
books and start to move towards new, longform stories being
printed straight to trade paperback.

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Ben Herman
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 01 March 2020
Location: United States
Posts: 61
Posted: 29 March 2020 at 2:05pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

I am much more concerned about the survival of the smaller companies than I am about Marvel and DC. As has already been observed, they are the ones who are probably going to be hardest hit. What concern I actually do have for Marvel and DC is for the freelancers & production staff are going to lose work or get laid off.

The majority of the comic books I've been reading in the last decade have been from outside the Big Two. Image Comics, Dark Horse, IDW, Fantagraphics, and so on. I feel there is much more diversity of product coming out through them, as well as work for all the creators who don't fit whatever the current formulas that editorial or management or whoever at Marvel and DC favor.  To cite the example most relevant to this forum, most (all?) of John Byrne's work over the past decade has been published by IDW.

I'm also concerned for the comic shops.  Hopefully the ones that are actually run well and have good, professional customer service will survive.

Totally agreed that having one distributor for the direct market is insanely stupid, but much of the blame for that can be laid at the feet of Marvel's mid 1990s owners.
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William Costello
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Joined: 30 August 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 495
Posted: 29 March 2020 at 6:47pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

DC Comics had an announcement to the Direct Market Retailers yesterday morning ( ethods-comics/)

"Additionally, because we anticipate that continued disruption to business operations will create regional volatility, DC is exploring a multi-distributor model to provide us with the flexibility needed during this crisis to get new content to our readers on an ongoing basis. In the short-term, we continue to engage in active conversations with Diamond to help us solve the distribution issues that have arisen and hope to get new product to stores that want or need it as soon as possible. We will provide additional information about how we'll make that happen in the coming days."
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William Costello
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Joined: 30 August 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 495
Posted: 29 March 2020 at 7:27pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

WESTFIELD COMICS (in Wisconsin, where I get my monthly shipments) just issued their weekly e-mail to customers: "As the coronavirus known as COVID-19 impacts the country it also has impacted the comic world and Westfield Comics. Here at the Westfield warehouse operations we are working hard to find ways to best serve all of you who may be stuck at home while we wait out this pandemic. For the safety of our customers and staff, in accordance with orders from the Wisconsin Governor, we have closed our two retail stores. We, unfortunately, have had to cut back on the warehouse staff as well. As we try to limit the impacts of these changes to you there may be some issues that you might notice, notably staff to handle phone calls and a longer response time for email. The publishers and distributors in the industry have halted distribution of any new items after this week (items released on 3/25) for at least two weeks, perhaps longer. We still have items in our warehouse for our current pre-order customers and plan to send those out as scheduled. There is no new product arriving at our warehouse for the next two weeks, minimum.

We are continuing to send back issues, newly released (from the last 4-6 weeks) Current Issues and any backlist books that we have in stock. We are also adding the stock of newly released from our retail stores to our site as fast as we can.

Because of decreasing availability from Dimond Distribution we have, hopefully, temporarily removed all storage supplies from our site. All current release, back issue and backlist orders will pay the normal postage charges and be sent ASAP. They cannot be sent with your next Pre-Order shipment as has been the case in the past. As soon as we start shipping Pre-Orders again this option will be restored.

We hope all of you are safe and healthy during these crazy times."

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Paul Issar
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 27 June 2012
Location: Canada
Posts: 24
Posted: 31 March 2020 at 1:42pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Diamond Comic Distributors is holding previously scheduled payments to it's vendors this week,attributing their decision to cash flow difficulties due to Covid-19 Impact on the supply chain.

Now Diamond is a Monopoly. Could this mean the beginning of the end of the comic book as we know it?

What would you do if you ran Marvel or DC? This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket.

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Matt Hawes
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Joined: 16 April 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 15333
Posted: 31 March 2020 at 1:58pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I've been preaching (along with many others) for years and years that the publishers, especially DC and Marvel, had to break Diamond's monopoly on distribution. I could not understand how such a model was beneficial to the publishers, especially in the long term. But, sadly, nearly all businesses these days, in and out of the comics industry, are all about short term gains at the expense of long-term health. The chickens have come home to roost.
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Joseph Greathouse
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 19 August 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 561
Posted: 31 March 2020 at 2:05pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

If I were Marvel or DC (or the companies that own
them) as part of my risk management plan. I would have
already considered possible alternatives based on the
eventuality of losing a sole source vendor. In this
case, I would likely set up at least a temporary
relationship with a magazine distributor that can
handle large range and scale. Personally, I'm thinking
TNG, who handles Barnes and Noble's publication
distributions. There is a likelihood that it could
require multiple distributors. I have no doubt that
there have been many over the years that have held
meetings with the various publishers, trying to get in
the door and get a piece of that business. There could
be a lapse in delivery during a transition period, but
it shouldn't have to be long. As Marvel or DC, I would
likely continue to put out content digitally, because
it would still provide a revenue stream and keep
people talking about my product, which is really the
best marketing.

Edited by Joseph Greathouse on 31 March 2020 at 2:07pm
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Tim O Neill
Byrne Robotics Security

Joined: 16 April 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 10227
Posted: 31 March 2020 at 4:41pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I'm combining the Diamond news story with this existing direct market thread.

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