Hey party people, Masked Man here, it's Wednesday so let's talk comics! Not that there is that much to talk about, with a whole lot of comicbook stores closed, and Diamond, the sole distributor of comicbooks shutdown as well! Of course that dynamic is what is hanging in the balance.
To bring you up to speed, if need be, there used to be lots of comicbook distributors. Each one basically carrying all the publishers. But one day, (1994) on a power trip Marvel decided they wanted their own stores, ala Disney Store or the short lived Warner Bros stores. The goal was, that you could only buy Marvel comics from a Marvel comics store. The first step in this goal was to own their own distribution, so they bought Hero World Distribution. As panic stuck the market place DC comics (and basically everyone else) signed exclusive deals Diamond (killing all the other distributors). The genius behind this all was Ronald Perelman, your basic 80's sleezy business man. He also leveraged Marvel into the ground, forcing them into bankruptcy (1994) (he's also the guy who sold off character movie rights to different studios and made Heroes Reborn happen). The bankruptcy put an end to Marvel's distribution arm and from then on (for better or worse) Diamond was the only game in town.
Bringing us to today and pandemic world. Going along with shelter in place, Diamond has shut down. This means publishers are not longer able to sell comicbooks. Of course, no one is happy about this- but DC decided to do something about it! They signed up with Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors (originally mail-order houses, Discount Comic Book Services and Midtown Comics), and the DC comics have kept flowing- assuming a comic shops was still open for people to buy them. Diamond has said they will get back to work at the end of May- but I'm sure this will depend on the state of the nation. Still, the bigger question is, is this the end of Diamond's monopoly? A monopoly endorsed by their customers (the publishers) I might add. Time will tell if Lunar Distribution and Diamond can co-exist!
On Marvel's side of it, they are promising to help comicbook stores out with “deep discounts”- ones that won't be passed on to the readers. Cover price is still cover price. But for the readers, they promise promotional items and variants (yay?) They call this their Back In Action program. Again, all to start at the end of the month (and again, depending on the state of the nation). In the meantime, Marvel has put a halt to some of their production. Telling a fair portion of their freelances to stop working and (for the love of God) stop sending in invoices! But who can blame them. This shelter at home is really doing a number on our economy (I'd say this is just highlighting what a crappy way we do business in general in this country, but that's probably just me).
On a side note, it's interesting to note that the one entertainment industry that hasn't been effected by all this is, animation! Everyone I know is still busily working at home. Heck, most voice actors have their own recording set-ups at home. Every other industry, movie, tv (no sets), video games (can't motion capture at home), music (no concerts), comics (no stores), and no theme parks, is getting crushed; but not animation. If I was a TV executive, I'd order a bunch of animated shows just to guarantee some new stuff come the fall.
To finish off this topic, I still see people asking questions about digital comics. Surely they are shelter in place proof. And yes they are but, the sad truth is the comicbook market place is still old and dying off. Which is to say, old readers like me prefer actual comicbooks. So digital sales are not in the same league as physical sales. Heck, Marvel just shut down their own digital market place (supposedly everyone's account has been moved over to Comixology). So publishers have to be very careful not to kill the golden goose (old readers and comicbook stores) as they move into the presumed future of digital comics. This why digital comics cost the same and come out on the same day as print comics. Though, DC did recently state they have seen a nice spike in digital sales in the passed month (mind you, balanced by a drop in physical sales).
To take one step further into the possible future, this is the big worry in the comicbook industry. As I said, the bulk of the customers are old and dying off (literally and just losing interest too), and they often buy out of habit. Well what happens when that habit stops? Are they all going to come back? Trust me, this is giving the market place cold sweats as it sleeps. It's one of the reasons Marvel is doing their Back In Action Program and that DC is trying not to stop at all! As readers who miss a comic, often use it as a convenient excuse to drop a title. For the most part I have no worries about our nation as a whole getting back to work. We will all be desperate to get out of the house and see a movie, or go to a restaurant! But buying comicbooks- I'm not so sure. I think the comicbook industry will be one of the industries hit hardest by all this. Which is why I like the internet chatter of Marvel and DC doing a crossover book. It's been about 20 years since they did one, and it's sure to get all us old readers off our Netflix watching couches to buy it. And with all eyes on superheroes these days (thanks to the movies), I think it will attract a few new readers too. In layman's terms: Superman vs the Avengers? I'm pretty sure that would get mentioned on Good Morning America. But DC and Marvel had a falling out 20 years ago, and Disney and Warner Bros like each other even less! So I suppose it's more likely a crossover event might happen only once it's clear comicbook sales are not returning.
Ok, that was a lot to cover (mainly because there hasn't been any real articles on comics here in such a long while! If you are curious about what are old comicbook editor Ambush Bug is up too, you can keep up with him here:https://mlmillerwrites.com/ ). Still before I go, here are things to keep an eye out for.
First off Tiger King. Of course- right? While it looks like Nicholas Cage landed the TV role, comicbook schlock house Tidal Wave (you might know them better as Blue Wave) will be printing a comicbook, called INFAMOUS TIGER KING. And no, of course they didn't pay rights to anyone!
Next up is something a little more worthwhile. The return of Jim Starlin (the guy who created Thanos, Drax and Gamora), with the return of his creator owned project DREADSTAR! But you might not find it at the comicbook stores, because it's a kickstarter affair (which was a smashing success). DREADSTAR has been bouncing around the industry since 1982. And it's a typical Starlin space drama. With the sword wielding Dreadstar often caught between two warring factions and his nemesis High Lord Papal. If you want to now more, or order a copy of the 100 page graphic novel, check out the Kickstarter here:
Ok party people, that's all for now. Good luck sheltering in place, protesting while social distancing, home schooling your kids, or whatever else you have to deal with these days. I will talk to you later.
Tom "Masked Man" Fremgen