Indie comics publisher IDW Publishing is being severely impacted by COVID-19. The struggling publisher hasn’t been showing a profit in a while, but the global pandemic is really hurting their bottom line:
Due to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on market conditions, IDW had to make the difficult decision to furlough several valued staff members beginning April 20th. The well-being of its staff is of the utmost importance to IDW. Thus, for those furloughed employees, the company will continue to make full health benefits available, with IDW covering 100% of eligible employee health premium costs through the planned end of the furlough.
The slowdown affecting the comics industry is heartbreaking in its own right, but it’s doubly so when it affects the hardworking and talented people who are so important to our efforts. We’re confident in the long-term health of the company, and will continue to lend support to staff members to the best of our ability.
Even the biggest comics publisher in the U.S., Marvel Comics, is not immune. The UK Guardian’s asking whether the industry as we know it will survive the Coronavirus pandemic, and they note that it’s hit Marvel pretty hard too:
The comics world is now split between many have-nots and two very prominent have-alls: DC Comics and Marvel Comics, subdivisions of massive publicly traded corporations Disney (Marvel) and AT&T (DC), worth $192bn and $224bn respectively. Though Marvel and DC have taken a hit from the pandemic, they’re still so big that professionals and retailers look to them not just for guidance, but also for relief. DC has donated $250,000 to a charity for bookshops, and, for the first time since the 1970s, is allowing retailers to return unsold comics. A spokeswoman said the company was also assessing new ways to distribute comics to shops for mail-order and kerbside pickup programmes. The Guardian has also seen an email from DC sent to shops last week, saying it will start distributing comics through three new companies – two of which are reportedly run by retailers that directly compete with the shops themselves.
And Marvel has cut its editorial staff by half, according to a source familiar with the situation. A Marvel spokesman said the company would not confirm numbers, but that all the cut staff were furloughed, not laid off, and the firm would continue providing health insurance “for the duration of the furlough period”. Bleeding Cool also reports that Marvel has stopped work on at least 20% of its forthcoming books. However, it is offering some discounts to publishers.
Any chance the reduced number of editors includes the really bad ones, like Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith? Maybe even Joe Quesada, though no longer an editor per se, is among the “furloughed” staff? Alas, chances are the really rotten apples are still there, and the books they work on still in publication, not among the 20 percent or so that was reduced in development, and Dan Slott’s books are still going too, no matter how bad a lot he is. If my assumptions are correct, and really bad books will continue, not the least being that brand new volume of the New Warriors, then they’re still wasting resources on the worst of politicized projects.
Ron Hill, owner of New York shop Jim Hanley’s Universe, says he appreciated some of the gestures, especially those of individuals such as (Jim) Lee. But overall, he feels upset by the weak response of publishers to the pandemic. Hill, and retailers like him, don’t only need discounts; they need debt relief, and recognition that everyone – shops, distributors, studios – is now in the same boat. The faster that happens, he said, the better everyone’s chance of survival.
The best way to mend stuff is to make sure that, if we’re able to get past this whole pandemic without too many hurdles, they’ll retire the monthly pamphlet and make the shift to GN-only format as Jim Steranko figures will be the case going forward. And nobody should feel reluctant to appeal for what could be a positive direction. However, this does hint few of the steps publishers are taking actually avail the store managers. The way Marvel’s approached this certainly doesn’t seem caring.
The Hollywood Reporter reveals Aftershock Comics is still developing projects even as larger publishers are keeping shut during the Coronavirus situation:
Despite the current hold on new releases by the majority of the English-language comic book industry, AfterShock Comics has announced that it is celebrating its fifth anniversary by continuing full speed ahead on production, with new projects already in development.
The publisher of such titles as Animosity, Shipwreck and American Monster has not only continued work on existing projects during the hold on new releases caused by Diamond Comic Distributors temporarily shutting down; it’s meeting with new creators and planning all-new titles and releases, promising specific announcements within the next few weeks, THR has learned.
Additionally, the publisher has started serializing a number of its titles via its website, as well as previewing upcoming releases via its Instagram account. Proceeds of sales from its webstore are also being given toward retailer relief efforts, via the BINC Foundation.
Well, good for them. So unlike the majors, they’re not letting the crisis get in the way of their business, and, they’re even making good use of their site for producing stories to read online. It’s something the majors could be doing now, if only to keep business going from an electronic perspective, but they’ve only proven as stagnant as their own superhero comics have become. Looks like an independent publisher’s leading the way in setting an example, in this modern day and age.