Digital comics

Digital coronavirus comics will suffer the same fate as print, but should they?

When theaters across the country closed, studios began to figure out which films to postpone and which films to release digitally early. It may not be the best medicine, but it is the only one available. But what about comics? Recently, Diamond Comics distributors halted weekly shipments. Now that comic book companies must postpone printed comics, should they continue to publish digitally during the coronavirus pandemic? This is not an easy question to answer. The real problem? There is no right answer.

Digital comics may be the only way independent publishers survive coronavirus

(Image from Flickr Commons)

Almost everyone immediately thinks that the big two – Marvel and DC – should stop selling digital comics until the coronavirus crisis is over. There are two problems with this thought. First, it completely ignores the dozens of independent comic book houses. Brands like Black Mask and Aftershock only release a few titles a month. Stopping sales indefinitely reduces almost all of their incoming income. In these cases, digital comics are going to help them stay alive for as long as possible, especially since they won’t need to spend as much as printing.

The other problem is that Marvel and DC are the mainstays of the industry. Of course, both companies would do well without selling unique issues for a few months, but they are helping to attract more readers. As customers buy comics online, they receive recommendations for independent comics and sales. Comixology is great for convincing you to buy more than you intend. My bank account can tell you that.

The creators are independent entrepreneurs. No comics, no paycheck

Comics, Bone, Teen Titans, Covid-19, Diamond Comics Distributors, Social Distancing (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Forget about the corporate level. Let’s look at the people who Make comics. Writers, artists, inkers, colorists, literati… they work on a contractual and unpaid basis. If there’s a two-month production stoppage, it’s been two months since the creators will be paid. Many people suffer and go without pay. Unemployment figures have never been higher. Anybody keeping a job right now is a good thing. But speaking of jobs …

Going digital is going to hurt comic book stores. So Will Not Go digital Coronavirus crisis ends

Coronavirus, Digital Comics, Image, Dark Horse, Oni Press, Aftershock, IDW, No New Comics (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

This is the most losing situation we have. Already Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and Oni Press have decided not to release new comics until the printed comics are back on sale. Marvel and DC haven’t committed to any release plans, but considering the comics stop on April 1st, they will have to make one. So why is postponing new comics both useful and harmful?

On the surface, this seems useful because during the coronavirus situation everyone has to wait for their comics, print or digital. For comic book store owners and even fans, that sounds fair, right? Store owners don’t have to worry about losing customers to Comixology and Amazon. It even helps fans who can’t afford the comics right now because they lost their jobs.

Now here’s why it sucks. After a while, many fans will lose interest in several different titles. It just happens with any drought. Sales never bounce back when a title or TV show isn’t aired for too long. Medical experts now estimate that we will need to shelter in place for at least one to two months. And this is the best of times. As the Atlantic points out, we could live like this for eighteen months. No industry will last 18 months by delaying products. Most businesses won’t last four months. But we’re probably not planning any new monthly comics for at least a month or two. A lot of readers just won’t come back.

The coronavirus will kill comics, digital or not … So what do we do?

Coronavirus, Digital Comics, Printed Comics, Action Figures, Covid-19, Novel Coronavirus, DC Comics, Marvel Comics (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Hell if I know. Sorry, I’m just trying to stay home and avoid the coronavirus and read digital, print, or whatever. I have a backlog to go through. I’m sure we all do. What I would like more than anything is to add to this backlog. I read digital and print. My favorite graphic novels and trades in print. Unique numbers on digital. If you can tell from my reviews, I love my weekly X titles. What I would suggest, until the end of the coronavirus era, is to offer digital copies of comics in exchange for pre-order payments. Yeah, that’s a bad idea. But as Bryan Cranston says in Argo, “this is the best bad idea we have ever had.”

Cut readers, stop production and not work with store owners to form a stopgap? That’s a very bad idea.

(Featured image from Flickr Commons)

Roman Colombo completed his MFA in 2010 and now teaches graphic novel writing and literature at various colleges in Philadelphia. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He is currently working on his next novel and hopes to find an agent soon.

Comic book retailersComic book storesComixologycoronaviruscovid-19Diamond Comics Distributors