With Diamond shutting down and no comic book shipping to local comic book stores, even the ones that are still open, next week, the world is waiting to see what will happen in the first week without new comics. As the direct market is poised to suffer, one question remains unanswered: what about publishers? Will anyone be looking for other means of distribution during the shutdown? It must sound tempting to Marvel and DC, even if it could put the final nail in the coffin of the direct market to do so. And even if they resist next week, how long will they last?
But Dark Horse Comics, at least, remains committed to retailers for now. Dark Horse has announced that they will not be releasing new comics digitally that aren’t already in print, meaning they will continue to release their collections, OGNs, and bookstore art books, but no comics. to a single issue that would otherwise have been distributed by Diamond.
Digital Update March 26: We will not be releasing comics digitally that are not also available in print. We still have collections, original graphic novels, and art books shipped through our distributor bookstore Penguin Random House (which comic book retailers can also order from). These respective titles will be available digitally on the same day they become available from retailers.
It looks like Dark Horse is playing it safe, echoing the company’s previous positions. In 2011, as digital comics were set to become popular, Dark Horse attempted to publish their comics digitally at the same time as they were printed and sell them for less as well. The move, which would have been good for readers and likely good for the industry as a whole in terms of expanding readership through digital comics, sparked an uproar among retailers. This backlash reversed Dark Horse’s course, running away with its tail tucked between its legs while claiming the price announcement was a mistake, and since then digital comics have been artificially billed the same as physical copies despite a lower cost to produce and distribute, only to prevent them from cannibalizing the direct market.
This time, Dark Horse doesn’t even try. Will Marvel and DC make the same pledge?