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The Pull List: Comics distribution disruption. Plus this week's hot comics and virtual Artists' Alley
Welcome to The Pull List, SYFY WIRE's new weekly comics column that gets at the pulse of what's going on in comics right now. Everything from huge crossovers, real-life issues facing the industry, a cool first look, the week's hot new comics, and everything in between. Basically, we're here to help you with your pull list.
When discussions to launch a new weekly column of comics news and recommendations here at SYFY WIRE first began, things were calmer than they are now. Stores were open, conventions were still being planned in the weeks and months ahead, and the biggest distributor of comic books in North America had not yet decided to stop shipping new books for the foreseeable future in the face of a pandemic.
Obviously, a lot has changed in the last couple of weeks alone, but one thing that hasn't changed is our love of comics and their ability to distract, entertain, and move us in good times and bad. With that in mind, we'll do our best to shine a light on the good things happening in the comic book world, even now, and let you know how you can still support your favorite shops and creators.
Comics distribution disruption
By now most regular comics readers have probably heard that Diamond — the largest distributor of comic books in the direct market (meaning the books that head right to your local shop) — has decided to stop shipping new products beginning next week in the United States and this week in the United Kingdom. As the COVID-19 crisis continues around the world, this is perhaps not an unexpected decision, but it is still a major blow to the entire comics industry, particularly to the small businesses that are your neighborhood comic book stores.
Comic shops around the world have already been affected by Covid-19 in a major way, as local and national authorities enact social distancing policies and even shelter-in-place orders that mean people can't exactly go out and buy comics at the store as they normally would. And we've written extensively already about what comic fans can do to help local shops affected by the downturn. In a nutshell: You can buy gift cards to infuse some cash, or order comics curbside or for delivery to keep business moving. If you need help finding a local shop to support, be sure to hit up Comic Shop Locator.
While Diamond's shipping stop paints a somewhat clear picture of the present, the near future is still rather cloudy in terms of what the decision means for readers getting new comics in the weeks and months to come. Some publishers, including IDW and Valiant, have already noted that they will be scaling back releases in the coming weeks so certain books can wait for retailers to sell them, but that doesn't mean all comics production will stop.
At this point, we don't have details regarding what major publishers like Marvel and DC — both of which were on the verge of launching major new projects, as they seemingly always are — plan to do with all the material they were preparing to release. We could see a reduced digital-first output in the weeks to come from some publishers, or we could see very little in the way of new comics at all.
Still, we know that while the road might be rocky, comics will bounce back, and a few creators are already thinking of outside-the-box ideas for some massive events to celebrate.
Find a virtual Artists' Alley
Of course, when we're talking about the comics community and how it survives during this pandemic, retailers and publishers are only part of the equation. We also have to considered the creators, many of whom were hit very hard by the effects of this pandemic even before stores began closing and shipping slowed down. For many creators, putting out work through major publishers is only a fraction of their income. They also count on conventions, commissions, and person-to-person sales to make a sizable chunk of their income. That's why they pack artists alleys and signing tables across the country every spring and summer, and that's why we need to do what we can to help them now.
So, where do you start?
Well, there's a good chance your favorite writers and artists are already selling their work in some form via an online presence, and a quick Google search will get you there, but thankfully many creators are already making the hunt for cool stuff even easier online. In the wake of Emerald City Comic Con's cancellation a few weeks ago, comics creators decided to move what would have been their convention sales pitch online, selling art and stories under hashtags like #ECCCOnline and #ArtistAlleyOnline. The #MakeComics hashtag has also gained more traction in recent days as creators continue their push to keep making things for fans while staying at home.
So, if you have the means and want to look around a bit, now is the time to help. And of course, if you just want to support comics creators who've fallen on hard times in general, there's always The Hero Initiative, still out there collecting funds to help comics creators with things like medical expenses and other unexpected emergencies.
We've talked about helping retailers and creators going forward through this crisis, and we'll continue to, but for this week at least there are still lots of new comics to talk about, whether you're picking them up at your local shop or digitally. With that in mind, here are our picks for the books to pull.
Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler: Jonathan Hickman successfully revitalized the entire X-line with Dawn of X, and as he continues to guide that corner of the Marvel Universe forward we can keep looking forward to cool ideas like this one, a team-up with legendary artist Alan Davis on an "eerie tale of adventure" starring Nightcrawler, the Best X-Man (sorry, it's just a fact).
Killing Red Sonja #1: A revenge tale in which Red Sonja's the target and not the hunter is the kind of hook that should get any fan of the character excited.
Super Duck #1: Archie's new mature readers title about a down-on-his-luck superhero duck who's been reduced to Comic-Con retirement until he meets someone who might just give him his wings back. What's not to love about this idea?
Transformers vs. Terminator #1: The title says it all. Why wouldn't you want to see where this goes?
I wanted to end this first installment of The Pull List on a note of hope, and because of that I started thinking about one of my favorite hopeful comic book stories. It's sadly not available to buy digitally that I could find, but if you can track down the Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 4 paperback you'll find it, and this could also be an excuse to call your local shop and ask them to look in their back-issue boxes for you.
The comic is Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7, starring my favorite superhero of all-time, Benjamin J. Grimm, aka The Thing. Written by Tom DeFalco with art by Ron Wilson, the story follows The Thing as he drafted, along with several other Marvel heroes, to battle against the Elder of the Universe known as The Champion (in his first appearance) for the fate of Earth. Thing and the other heroes — including Thor, Hulk, Wonder Man, Sasquatch, and more — train for the fight and are then forced to compete at Madison Square Garden under an impenetrable dome, while all the other heroes watch. After one hero after another falls to The Champion either through knockout or disqualification, it's time for The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing to stand up as Earth's last hope.
The Champion knocks him down, again and again and again.
But The Thing keeps getting back up.
Even when The Champion tries to claim victory outright, our Idol of Millions just refuses to stop fighting, even if it means he has to crawl, because he won't give in to a force that wants to consume his home.
We're all facing something scary right now, and it's knocking us down. It's keeping us in our homes and away from loved ones. It's shrinking our livelihoods. It's testing our very sanity. But this is Earth. We're just too stupid and ugly ta know when to quit.
We'll be back with another installment of The Pull List next week. Until then, remember what John Custer told his son Jesse in the pages of Preacher:
"You gotta be one of the good guys, son: 'Cause there's way too many of the bad."