There’s not two ways about it, Coronavirus is killing the comic book industry. In fact, the print industry was already suffering before the pandemic. But there is no reason comic book fans should throw in the towel and mourn the loss of one of the oldest and most prolific forms of science fiction entertainment.
All is not lost. Here are a few things that if every comic book fan did more of the industry would not only get back to thriving but would also see a resurgence once all of this is said and done.
1. Buy more local retail comics
Everyone knows how important it is to support their local comic book shop. However, not everyone has a local comic shop to support. Meanwhile the industry is facing a crisis of mind share as more Americans get their comic book fix through Marvel’s share cinematic films or the CW’s connected Arrowverse.
Mind share is crucial at a time like this. Nobody wants to have to buy comics from Walmart but if you don’t have a local comic shop it’s imperative comic books maintain some retail presence in order for the publishers to get in front of the eye balls of the people who still shop there. If you don’t have a local shop but your local Walmart does sell comics it does benefit them if you can buy at least a couple books a month from a local retail shop. If you can pick up an extra book at retail while doing your normal grocery shopping if nothing else then make an effort.
If your community happens to have an old fashioned book retailer, such as a Barnes and Noble or similar store that sells comics, or even graphic novels, trades etc., maybe consider popping in there from time to time.
The reason this helps is publishers need partnerships with retail giants in order to maintain the numbers.
Now my strategy is simple, get the “grocery store” comics such as Archie, Betty and Veronica, etc., from the local Walmart. I then plan on grabbing one TPB a month from the local book store. It’s not much but if every dedicated comic book fan made this extra purchase at retail it would go a long way in helping the publishers maintain a presence in the marketplace. I long for a return to the days you can pick up comic books at the local gas station on your way to or from work but those days might be gone for good. However, if we let comics at retail die entirely it’s going to be a slow death march for the entire industry.
2. Kids fuel the industry
Every adult collector I’ve ever known has this disdain for kids comics. This snobbish belief that only mature comics matter and comics made for kids are beneath them. Now I am by no means advocating buying a comic you don’t care for that is targeted towards kids just to help the industry, by no means. However I am strongly encouraging every comic book fan to buy as many extra comics you can to give away to the kids in your life.
There is a myth that collectors shape the industry and kids are just an afterthought. This is the furthest from the truth. In fact in reality children make up the bulk of all toys and entertainment sales and adults just sort of follow a long in their own little corners.
The other part of the myth is kids don’t have as much disposable income as adults therefore the logic goes adults can buy more collectibles.
There are two fallacies with this thinking. First, children don’t rely on their own incomes, they have none! What they do have, however, are relatives who buy them toys twice a year at least. The more aunts and uncles a child has, not even counting grandparents the more likely they are to get toys and other gifts. Now if you have kids in your life and you want to shape them into future comic book collectors you should start now while they are young. Buy a few extra comics for each of the kids in your life. If you are an aunt or uncle buy for your nieces and nephews. If you are a grandparent, then buy comics for your grandchildren.
The second half of the fallacy is kids don’t know what they like. We often forget what it was like when we were kids. We knew damn well what we did, and didn’t, like. The goal is not to push your favorite superhero or book onto them, in fact doing that can be counterproductive as it will not only ensure they grow to despise that character or book, it almost guarantees they will hate you. Think back to when you were a kid. Did you have that uncle or aunt that tried to push their interests off onto you no matter how much you resisted? And often is the case you would grow up having a low opinion of said relative. I know I did.
The best thing to do is buy as many random, budget comics as you can with a few hit titles of main stream characters sprinkled in from time to time as often as you can. This ensures the child will have a variety of books to read keeping them immersed in comics, which in turn fuels their interest in the medium. It also most assuredly provides them an opportunity to develop and refine their tastes. The key is to let them discover the books they want to read and then help them get into those books buy buying a few issues a year for them at birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays as your budget allows. Remember you are not just buying a few extra books to help the publishers bottom line, you are helping foster the future generation of comic book fans that will help keep the hobby a live and well for decades to come.
On this same line of thinking, it is absolutely important that you give the kids random books as much as you can, any and everything you can from all publishers. The trick isn’t to just let them read a book and see what they like, but for them to read the advertisements in the book and promos for other books. That will help them discover the titles or characters they wish to follow, thus ensuring they become emotionally invested in the medium.
My strategy is to buy books for every one of my sister’s kids each chance I can. I don’t ask the kids what books they like I select a few random budget books I can afford and just let them decide which ones they like. I then ask them later which ones they liked and try to note that so next time I can buy books in that series, genre or title.
Sometimes you will get push back. If a kid isn’t into comics don’t fret. It is also important not to pressure them by pushing comics onto them. The best way to do it is to cater to their interests. If the child is into army stuff try getting them an action comic with a military theme. Maybe throw in something with space marines to broaden their horizon. If they happen to be into My Little Pony or Scooby Doo, then get them comics featuring those characters. The goal is to foster their imaginations while helping them build a passion for comics. If you push your favorite hero onto them it will always backfire.
3. Subscriptions are important
No matter what, this is the time you absolutely need to be subscribing directly to as many comics to be delivered to your mailbox as you can afford. It’s not essential you subscribe to every comic you enjoy. However, it is 100 percent crucial you do subscribe directly to at least a few of your top favorite comics. The reason for this is complex. On the surface it will infuse a little more cash per purchase directly into the comic publishers accounts. This does bypass the local retail market so you have to budget accordingly.
For example, if you buy 12 books a month at your local comics shop, consider picking the four books that matter the most to you and subscribe to them directly. You gain the benefit of having them delivered straight to your door while infusing a little extra cash into the coffers of the company making the product you enjoy. It also helps publishers gauge the importance of that particular book ensuring it remains profitable enough to remain in print. I suggest picking one fourth of your entire comics purchasing to be directly delivered via the mail subscription.
It also has the side benefit of helping the local postal service which is in dire need of cash right now. This would go a long way helping keep costs down elsewhere while maximizing your financial support of your own local economy.
We’re not at the point of desperation where I would advocate buying all of your books directly from the publisher as that would most certainly kill the local retail market once and for all.
My strategy is to add one subscription every payday. That ensures I will have 26 books delivered to my door each month. Right now am adding one a payday and then once I am in the groove I will renew every year. My personal goal is to subscribe to 30 total books a year so I also try to keep an eye out for some bonus budget books as I can afford it. The goal is to subscribe to the ones that matter the most to you ensuring their longevity while keeping a few titles left at the local retail store. I am not saying give up your pull list entirely rather I am saying devote yourself to the books that are most important and get just a few of them in the mail. It saves you money, typically 45 percent or more off the cover price, which means you have more money to spend on comics elsewhere, plus it cuts out the middle man often putting more money directly into the publishers hands. It’s a balancing act that we all must do our part if the industry is to survive.
4. Seek out free comic book day
You might have to drive a ways depending on where you live. You might even have to request the day off from work and plan a road trip to make this work. But it is absolutely essential every comic book fan who has the means to get to their local comic book shop does so absolutely on Free Comic Book Day. Not only does it give the publishers, especially indies, maximum exposure, it is a social event that really brings the community together, young and old. It’s key to build the excitement for comic books especially in young readers and lapse collectors.
The other reason I strongly suggest hitting up free comic book day is it provides you a chance to preview things to come in the industry first hand and serves almost as a localized mini comic book convention. It helps stir up the excitement in the collector which is key in helping the hobby remain active.
5. Subscribe to all three digital comic services
This is probably as important as all of the above. We all have our different views on digital comics. However it’s really not the time to get into arguments over which is better. We need to set aside our pride and cough up the ~$30 a month it costs to subscribe to all the services. You have Comixology, Marvel Unlimited and DC Universe. The best argument for doing this is to show publishers, and the big corporations that own them, how important comics are to us. It helps the big wigs see that comics aren’t just a line item but a valuable asset.
The other reason it helps is because it infuses cash directly into the publishers while providing YOU with access to a massive catalog of content at your fingertips.