The Crank File: Surviving a Pandemic

Greetings comic book fans and welcome to another episode of the Crank File. Every Wednesday used to be new comic book day and on Tuesdays I would spotlight some of the new books coming out, but like so much that used to be normal in our lives, that all changed last week.

Facing the logistical nightmare caused by the Caronavirus pandemic, Diamond Comic Distributor CEO Steve Geppi announced that the “only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease.”

Diamond has made assurances that this is just a temporary pause and that plans are being made to better handle any future disruptions, but until further notice Diamond has stopped all shipments of new product to comic shops.

Critics of Diamond have long argued against the company’s monopoly over direct market distribution and the current shutdown will only strengthen their case, but it does nothing to change the current situation. And while Big 2 publishers Marvel and DC have both made vague hints at potentially shipping new comics through alternative distribution channels, nothing has been officially announced.

So for the first time in almost a century, there will be no new comics available on Wednesday.

While I believe that our shared passion for comics and specifically for comic collecting is so ingrained in American culture that printed comics as an industry will survive and eventually recover. But it is now more important than ever to support local comic shops. Local comic shops depend heavily on the weekly sales generated by new comic book releases to keep their doors open, and the loss of this revenue hits hard. If your local comic shop is to have any chance of surviving this economic downturn, it is going to need your help.

There are no hot new comics to spec on for the foreseeable future, and guidelines for preventing further spread will limit your ability to physically go down to visit your shop, but there are still ways that you can give your financial support. Here are three practical ways that you can help your local comic shop survive this Coronavirus pandemic:

  • Trade paper backs and other merch. Your comic shop probably sells way more than just new comics. Maybe they sell toys, or apparel, or board games, and they almost certainly carry a wide selection of trade paper backs. Personally, I have been taking advantage of my time in quarantine to binge-read series that I’ve fallen behind on or series that I had been meaning to check out. Just yesterday I hammered through volume 1 of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel, and it was incredible. And if you’re concerned about exposing yourself, reach out to your shop and ask if they provide options like curbside pickup or mail delivery. Most shops will be more than happy to oblige.
  • Gift certificates. Purchasing a gift certificate with cash is a great way to give your local shops the liquidity they need to pay bills in the short term, and when things return to normal you can reward yourself with something nice.
  • Start a pull list. Although not as immediately effective as the above two options, subscriptions and pull lists are the best way to provide long term stability to a comic shop. They help inform the shop owner of their customers’ demand which allows them to order books more efficiently, and it allows them to better forecast what their week-to-week sales will bring in.

These are difficult times, to be sure, but if we work together and adhere to social distancing and gathering guidelines we will get through this. I know that it’s hard to imagine now, but I promise you that one day things will be better and we can go back to living our lives as normal and looking forward to new comic books on Wednesdays. But until then, remember to treat each other well, look out for one and other, and above all else to stay safe and keep healthy.  And if you have a chance, carpe comics!

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