Recent Dorkiness

Funnybooks in the Time of the Plague

So, wow. We’re living in interesting times, huh?

So interesting that it almost seems frivolous to talk about funnybooks. Still, I’ve been intending to do that very thing for days. But as I got down to the business of locking down the nerd farm… I got a bit overwhelmed. If it was just obeying stay at home orders, I’d be fine. But it hasn’t been. I won’t bore you with details, but it really has been one thing after another this past week. Just as I got my head wrapped around one thing, another one cropped up and knocked me for a loop again.

And in-between all that, I spent most of my time being basically worthless. I found myself clinging to social media, because I was barely able to string together a coherent enough thought to handle much else. I was so distracted I couldn’t even read. So instead I’ve been sitting in front of an awful lot of video comfort food. Pluto TV’s Classic Doctor Who channel, for instance, has quite suddenly become a balm for the soul.

Such a relaxing face!

But I hate to whine. Everybody’s going through varying degrees of stress and difficulty right now, and though I’ve had a couple of bad shocks, there are people out there with worse problems than mine. I’m still employed, I don’t have COVID, and neither do any of my closest friends or family. So it could be far worse for me.

I still don’t feel much like talking comics in any great detail, though.

And, hell… The way things are going right now, we’re not going to have many new comics to talk about for a while. Most comic shops are under forced shutdown, Diamond Distribution is also shut down, and in the hope of keeping the shops that survive the current situation viable when this whole thing is over, there aren’t going to be any digital new releases for the time being, either.

And lord knows what the comics landscape’s going to look like on the other side of this thing. The comics industry exists in a very fragile financial ecosystem, composed of thousands of small businesses, many of which are (shall we say) not the best-run operations in the world. A lot of them are just barely getting by every month, and losing one to three months’ worth of new comic sales will kill them. I’ve seen estimates that as many as a third of America’s comic shops may go under. And if that many shops go away, it would probably kill the comic shop distribution chain as it exists today. Diamond, at least, might not be able to survive it.

It would also kill an awful lot of publishers. Not the bigger players, who can probably survive off bookstore sales of their back-catalog for a few months if need be. But smaller outfits might not be so lucky. And while a culling of some of the lower-tier dreck publishers that clutter up the monthly Previews catalog might not be a bad thing for the industry, I’d hate to see folks like Black Mask or Aftershock go down.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. If Diamond does go away, there’s already rumors that the big players are looking into distribution through traditional book industry companies like Penguin and Ingram, giants who already distribute trades and graphic novels for much of the industry. Opening them up for monthly comics distribution might not be incredibly difficult. Bleeding Cool’s even reporting that Penguin looked into buying Diamond a while back, so there may be interest in such a deal from the other side.

What that scenario would mean for comics, I don’t know. Certainly, the surviving comic shops could set up accounts to order stock, and I know from experience that both Penguin and Ingram are more competent than Diamond. Some of the t-shirt, statue, and toy items might have to find alternate distribution, but I’m also of a mind that a little less of that might not be a bad thing for the industry, either. And you never know; availability through traditional book distributors might get monthly comics some shelf space in the bookstore market. I’m sure it would be the bigger titles only, but even that might drive more people to comic shops seeking more.

Or maybe that’s wishful thinking. I dunno. But it makes me feel good to think through the possibilities, so… I’m leaving it in.

As for what the future holds here on the nerd farm… I haven’t decided yet. Certainly, barring further personal shocks (and holy crap at this point I’m not counting on that), I’ll keep writing. I’ve got a decent stack of unreviewed comics on my desk that came out before the lockdown, and I still want to say something about them. But once those are gone (and at this point, I can’t imagine spending more than one column on them)… I dunno. I’ve got a stack of unread trades and OGNs that I want to read, and a lifetime of funnybook reading that lends itself well to retro reviews. I spent some time last year digging through my local funnybook store’s prodigious selection of old indie books, and I’m sure there’s some stuff in those that would be fun to discuss. Or maybe I’ll do more gallery posts like that Kirby Collection I did last week.

So we’ll see.

But for now, I’ve got an appointment to keep with the Doctor…

About Mark Brett (565 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

3 Comments on Funnybooks in the Time of the Plague

  1. Sorry to hear about all the personal set backs, I’ve had one myself and am keeping the faith and praying for better days ahead. One of the topics that I heard discussed prior to the shutdown is that there were too many new comics on comic book shelves, I’m sure that it won’t be a problem after this all ends. A retracted market also won’t be able to support as much talent so the number of people working in comics will probably be reduced. Do you think that the quality of all the remaining titles will dramatically increase?

    Liked by 1 person

    • There will be greatly reduced output for a while, anyway. Since I wrote this piece, it’s been announced that Marvel is temporarily stopping work on about a third of their line, so they don’t overwhelm shops with a flood of new titles in what may be a soft economy. And I’m sure some books that were in the pipeline from smaller publishers will never come out at all.

      As for whether the overall quality of what’s left will go up… We’ll see. You would hope so. I’m sure they’ll be sticking with the most popular writers and artists on the books that do come out, and “most popular” often doesn’t mean “best.” But comics has a better track record on that front than some media, so you never know.

      I suppose what I’m most worried about as a comics reader is that the stuff I like the most may not survive. I tend toward stranger, more idiosyncratic comics that often aren’t huge sellers. So I may find myself looking at a post-pandemic comics industry that’s offering me a lot less of what I want. But we’ll see. It’s interesting times.

      Like

  2. I started my own comics website. If you want to take a look go to https://electriccomicsinc.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

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