The COVID-19 epidemic that has shuttered comic shops and forced the postponement of conventions around the country has also affected Diamond Comics Distributors, the sole major distributor to comics retail shops, and today, Diamond co-founder Steve Geppi announced that they will be shutting down shipments of new product:
Product distributed by Diamond and slated for an on-sale date of April 1st or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice. For the time being, however, we have been able to develop procedures with our teams at the distribution center in Olive Branch, MS to safely continue fulfillment of direct ship reorders for the retailers who are able to receive new product and need it to service their customers. It’s unlikely that orders will be filled on the same day they are placed, and these plans are subject to change if any point we no longer feel that we can safeguard our teams while fulfilling orders.
Product distributed by Diamond UK and slated for an on-sale date of March 25th or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice. Further updates with regard to reorders and other Diamond UK-specific information will be communicated directly to their customers as information becomes available.
Over a dozen states now have some sort of mandated shutdown of non-essential businesses. Some comics shops are offering delivery and curbside pickup, but others have simply shut their doors.
Here’s a quick roundup of reactions:
Shortly after the Diamond announcement, Chris Ryall of IDW posted A Letter to Our Comics Industry Partners that outlined his company’s immediate response:
For the next three months, IDW will be offering 60-day no-fee returnable terms for all items on Final Order Cutoff (FOC) corresponding to the weekly on-sale dates from March 18th to June 24th.
IDW is announcing the suspension of May releases corresponding to OSD dates from May 6th to May 27th.
IDW will reduce its overall publishing line for products originally scheduled through July, with a focus on releasing our biggest projects in special editions to help drive traffic to stores through the summer.
Ryall wrote that he hoped this would reduce risk and give retailers’ budgets a bit of a break.
Last week, Eric Stephenson of Image Comics posted a letter to comics publishers that listed several similar steps, including making new product returnable, canceling non-essential releases and possibly rescheduling future releases, and he urged other publishers to do the same.
Ahoy Comics sent out an e-mail saying that it will delay publication of Ash & Thorn #1 from April 1 to April 29 and Billionaire Island #2 from April 8 to April 15.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has posted a comprehensive list of advice to retailers on What to Do During a Shutdown Order.
In an interview with Newsarama, retailer Joe Field of Flying Colors in Concord, CA, expressed guarded optimism that the direct market would rebound as long as readers don’t switch to digital comics.
Field said he’s heard rumors that publishers are considering a continuation of production by just going 100 percent digital for now — something he does not want to happen. “Or they’re maybe going to offer retailers digital codes that we would sell that would be good for getting print books when this thing is finally settled,” Field said.
“Both of those options are completely unacceptable,” he said. “They would have very difficult ramifications for many, many comic shops.”
Instead, he called on publishers to stop publishing new comics for the time being, saying his customers have no interest in digital comics and that the community they find in comic shops is important to them.
Ryan Higgins, owner of Comics Conspiracy in Sunnyvale, CA, Tweeted that publishers should partner with ComiXology and Amazon to issue digital codes that retailers could sell to their customers, with the promise of a print comic along with it when stores reopen.
Gosh Comics and a number of other retailers shared an open letter at The Comics Journal, encouraging customers to set up a pull list, pay up their accounts monthly, order a few extras, and promote their store on social media.
The Toronto comic shops The Beguiling, Little Island, and Page and Panel have set up a GoFundMe to support their staff while the stores are closed.