How Are Comic Shops Reopening in the Coronavirus Aftermath?

 

Fortune magazine has written about the financial crisis comic specialty stores are facing, and one interviewee said it’s likely there’ll be far less by the time restrictions are fully lifted:

 

Saturday would have been Free Comic Book Day, an annual nationwide event intended to bring die-hards and newbies alike into stores. Instead, stores are closed nationwide and new print issues haven’t been released since late March, when the industry’s primary distributor, Diamond Comic Distributors, shut down.

Normally, some 6 million extra comics are distributed for the day and around 1.2 million people flock to stores. For some shops, it dwarfs even Comic-Con, the annual San Diego convention (also canceled ). Joe Field, owner of Flying Color Comics in Concord, California, who came up with the holiday, calls it “the single biggest retail day in the comic book industry.”

The stoppage, says Dan Gearino, author of “Comic Shop: The Retail Mavericks Who Gave us a New Geek Culture,” comes as the industry — despite being a pipeline to massive billion-dollar blockbusters — isn’t in great financial health.

“We’re going to come out of this with fewer comic shops, but there will be enough that survive that this industry will continue,” Gearino says. “The question I’m asking is: How big will the culling be?”

 

That’s a good question. If they’d gotten the industry to abandon the older practices like floppy formats, and moved on to the paperback, it’s possible more would’ve survived. Instead, we’re still stuck on a format that, combined with poor story quality coming from the Big Two, who take up far too much room on the shelves, is bringing down the medium as the companies won’t print unsold copies to be returned. The article does say though:

 

Tate Ottati has run Tate’s Comics in Lauderhill, Florida, for 27 years — long enough, he says, to see people who first came in as teenagers return with their own kids. “There’s cool stuff every day where you go, ‘Oh, my God, look at this great comic book,’ or, ‘Look at this amazing statue,’” he says.

But while his faith in the store remains strong, he’s had to constantly improvise. “I was just going to reinvent the store, and then the coronavirus hit,” Ottati says.

 

I’d be interested in knowing how he was going to reinvent his business. It could be by adding board games to the mix, but again, all concerned could do better by applying the business model I’ve proposed. Paperbacks and hardcovers are more likely to be returnable, and that could help the stores survive better.

 

Writers and artists have rallied to support shops. Kami Garcia, Brian Michael Bendis, Gwenda Bond, Sam Humphries and Phil Jimenez organized a five-day Twitter campaign, #Creators4Comics. They launched with 150 creators auctioning art, comics and experiences. By the time it was over, they had more than 600, including Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman. It raised more than $433,000.

“We’re not just fighting for businesses and storefronts. We’re fighting to support our community,” says Humphries, the Los Angeles-based writer of “Harley Quinn,” “Nightwing” and others. “In many cases, we’re fighting to support our friends.”

“I could tell you my life story through the lens of comic book stores I’ve loved,” Humphries adds. “I don’t think any of us could cope with a world where comic book stores only lived on in our hearts. We need them to live on in the real world, too.”

 

I’ve said before, and will again, that I don’t feel encouraged by a campaign with Bendis aboard. And just what “friends” are they aiding? If it were to include awful people like Dan Slott, that only makes this campaign reek of more pretentious intentions. Coming as the above comment does from somebody assigned to write one of the most over-promoted villainesses of all time (Harley Quinn) doesn’t make me feel more confident either.

Also, we may not be comfy living in a world where specialty stores became extinct, but we’re certainly not comfy living in one where overrated stories like those written by Humphries are considered the best of art. Such a pity the magazine just has to get quotes from people like him. Good luck to these stores though and it’s good that they are receiving some financial help.

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

JUST KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON