I wasn’t planning on doing a second filler video this week but productivity keeps taking a hit this week and never the same reason twice. My life is occasionally weird. So let’s discuss the one coronavirus victim in the business world nobody talks about: comic shops.
I’m not against social distancing and I understand “non-essential” businesses being closed but to say lives are more important, which is technically true, ignores the fact that these jobs and paychecks are also a necessity to maintain our lives. Some of the restaurants may never open again, and that’s not just jobs lost but dreams lost as someone’s dream of running a restaurant has died without it being his or her fault. This is also happening with comic book stores and that industry has been in trouble long before a viral invasion occurred. There have been plenty of stories of smaller comic stores and even the occasional large one closing as the comics have lost fans while failing to grab the new fans in alternate demographics they craved so much. There were already questions as to whether or not comics would survive and now things are worse for a whole lot of businesses including comics.
In the following video Just Some Guy (who has a lot more swears than the BW norm, so warning there) takes on an article by Comichron’s John Jackson Miller about how comics are just fine at a time when even larger businesses outside of the entertainment industry are in trouble and questions whether or not comics as we know them will truly come back.
Catch more Just Some Guy commentaries on his YouTube channel.
The idea that events will help boost comic sales back is in itself a strange position. Free Comic Book Day and it’s counterpart Halloween ComicFest are only free for the comic fans. For the comic stores, who right now aren’t making any money since they’re closed but still have to pay rentals and storage space for the merchandise and back issues, it still costs money they don’t have. If Miller means crossover events, the Eventitis is one of those things pushing comic readers away since there is no longer a status quo to shake up. Short term boosts have been part of the problem with comics since they don’t always lead to longtime continuation, which the stores and publishers need to succeed. The lack of keeping fans interested is why they aren’t buying comics.
It also doesn’t help that comic stores with maybe one or two exceptions is the only place to get comics. As late as my childhood I could find comics at pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, a smoke shop where I used to get my wrestling magazines, and now none of this is true. I can find newspapers, magazines, books, and DVDs rather easily. I can’t even find Archie Comics Digest now that K-Mart has shut down.
As far as conventions, many of those were canceled long before convention centers were being turned into makeshift MASH units. It was weird seeing comic convention banners that didn’t have time to be taken down in news footage of centers being used to treat sick people either as a place for Covid-19 victims or a place to help those not struck with the virus to safely recover from all the other medical problems that haven’t magically gone away because of the pandemic. Those organizers are also losing money, some of them really small operations like the ConnectiCon convention I used to go to before losing my job, and it’s a question if they’ll recover. Those smaller conventions and multi-genre conventions were also a great place for indie publishers to potentially find an audience. I’ve learned of plenty of comics I now enjoy like Runners, Star Power, and others that I wouldn’t have without them. Some of those self-publishers will lose out on finding that audience while their current audience is just hoping they’ll have a job to pay their bills once the shutdown is over and we can resume our lives.
And like Just Some Guy said the comic store and whatever conventions are lucky enough to go on will not necessarily be the first places people go once they’ve caught up with bills and other things they will need to buy immediately. Maybe the conventions, although now we’re getting at home conventions like you’ll see mentioned in tomorrow’s Daily Video being done at home through the internet, an idea that actually predated the outbreak but is now being used for charity and keeping us connected the only way we currently can. Once people have a surplus of money for entertainment comics and movies may not be the first priority. They’re going out somewhere to celebrate! It’s summer, so the amusement parks and beaches will be the first place they go if social distancing isn’t still active in their area, then maybe a movie but outside of die-hard comic fans who already felt pushed aside by the hunt for new demographics among the cool kids nobody’s going to the comic store. Summer was already the weakest time for comics, which when the events were first used before Eventitis turned a good idea into the norm and losing what made events special in the first place.
At a time when bars, nightclubs, restaurants, stores, smaller movie theaters, and who know how many other industries are looking at losing tons of businesses and workers, to think comics will get through this unscathed with Diamond’s practices, publishers playing games with gimmicks and social engineering rather than making good stories it’s laughable to think they’re coming out of this unscathed when they were already in trouble. Will this shut the entire industry down? Maybe not, but it’s not any more safe than any other business, and it may be the worst victim of this outside of the people who actually died from the virus. Stores were already closing and to think everyone left will still be able to reopen and bring back their workers is kidding yourself. When the people stop dying the dreams of the survivors may still be getting their own Grim Reapers.