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SYFY WIRE The Pull List

The Pull List: New comics this week! DC distribution and comic shop relief efforts

By Matthew Jackson
Friday cover image

Welcome to The Pull List, SYFY WIRE's weekly comics column that gets at the pulse of what's going on in comics right now. Everything from huge crossovers to 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.

It's another week of serious uncertainty in the world of comics, as stores around the country and the world remain closed due to COVID-19 and publishers are still figuring out how to navigate getting new stories to readers amid the pandemic. We'll talk more about that particular issue a bit later, but for now it's definitely worth noting that fans, creators, and publishers alike are still stepping up to help out local comic book stores. 

On Tuesday, in the wake of numerous new donations aimed at providing relief to local comic book stores affected by Covid-19, the Book Industry Charitable Founation (BINC) announced the formation of the Comic Book United Fund, a dedicated relief fund with BINC specifically devoted to comic book stores. The fund grew out of the pre-existing Forge Fund established by Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group last year to aid comics retailers affected by natural disasters, and was spurred on by a $250,000 donation to BINC from DC Comics to help with COVID-19 relief. This effort, coupled with DC Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee's ongoing efforts to raise money for BINC via daily sketch auctions and last week's massive Creators 4 Comics initiative and its more than 300 creator auctions, led to the establishment of a separate fund just for comics retailers within BINC.

"We are grateful and humbled to work with industry leaders Oni-Lion Forge and DC. By working together to create the Comicbook United Fund, Oni-Lion Forge and DC are demonstrating their dedication to comic retailers across the nation," Pam French, Binc Executive Director, said in a press release. "Binc is honored to help carry out their philanthropic vision. The outpouring of support and innovative ideas we've seen from across the industry has been inspiring and gives us great hope for the future."

If you'd like to make a donation directly to the Comic Book United Fund, you can head to this link

So, it's clear that fundraising efforts are continuing for comics retailers here in the U.S., but that's not all that's happening. Relief efforts are coming at the crisis from all sides. Over at the Hero Initiative, where they help comic creators in need of financial assistance, many creators have donated their time in the form of selling online chat experiences with fans, and many of those slots have already filled up. Meanwhile, our neighbors to the north have launched their own social media auction initiative to help comic book retailers in Canada. Operating under the hashtag #Canucks4Comics, the fundraising effort is working similarly to Creators 4 Comics, with proceeds going to Canada's Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund, which has expanded its operations to included COVID-19 relief. Check out the hashtag to see what's available for bidding.

It remains a tough time for everyone, including the comics community, but it's heartening to see that even after several weeks, the enthusiasm to help hasn't diminished. It's grown.

An attempt at new distribution

comic shop

Ever since Diamond Comics Distributors announced about a month ago that they would cease shipping of new comics to local stores due to the pandemic, new comic book day as we know it has ceased to be. While Diamond's pause was always intended to be temporary, there was no clear timetable for when and how distribution would restart, and in solidarity with brick-and-mortar retailers major publishers basically stopped putting out new stories. Last week, DC Comics made headlines with an attempt to change that.

To recap: DC announced last week that it will begin shipping a limited selection of new single issues to stores on April 28 through alternative distributors, later revealed to be DCBS and Midtown Comics. While it was not a return to the company's full line of planned single-issue releases, the announcement did offer participating retailers a chance to sell some new product from a Big Two publisher for the time being. Diamond, meanwhile, released a statement of its own confirming that it will still be shipping DC Comics products when it resumes distribution, with a hopeful restart date of "mid-to-late May."

To a casual reader, this might seem like a great short-term solution. Comics go out, retailers sell them however they can, and everyone gets new stories, right? Well, while some retailers definitely see it that way, others don't. Both The Beat and Newsarama released detailed reports (which, if you're into the business behind comics, I recommend reading) over the last few days in which various retailers reacted with skepticism and sometimes outright hostility toward DC's new alternative distribution plan. 

Retailers objecting to the plan noted numerous issues, including concerns over ongoing lockdowns that make sales to regular customers difficult, the health risks of trying to sell comics right now, the rapidity of switching over to a new ordering system so soon, and the fact that Midtown and DCBS are retailers in their own right with massive mail-order customer bases, the fear being that this could signal a permanent shift away from the Diamond model that's been the standard distribution method for many years. It's worth noting that other retailers were on board with DC's plan as a way to get out at least some new product for the time being, and numerous shops are doing whatever they can to get by with curbside pickup and delivery already, but the debate is not over. The comics industry is going to evolve, perhaps in ways we have not yet seen, as a result of this crisis, and the arguments unfolding over this distribution plan are proof that a lot of passion will go into those changes, one way or another.

New (and new to you) reads this week

Usagi Yojimbo Bunraku

There will be more new comics to look forward to next week, but that doesn't mean there aren't some exciting things to pick up right now, including a new indie book from two of the best creators in comics. 

Friday - Last week, the pay-what-you-want comics site Panel Syndicate began teasing a new title, and at the time last week's edition of The Pull List was completed, we weren't sure what it was yet. Now we do, and take it from me: You want this book. Friday is a new supernatural mystery story from Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente, billed as a "post-YA" story about what happens when kid detectives grow up and start having real life problems, even as their small-town mysteries don't go away. It's got the same kind of Lovecraftian spookiness that Brubaker brought to Fatale, coupled with a haunted storybook quality thanks to Martin and Vicente's gorgeous art. The first issue is out now, and it's 28 pages of wonderful. 

Usagi Yojimbo: Bunraku and Other Stories - For my money, there is no one working in comics today who is better at what they do than Stan Sakai. He is one of the great Masters of the medium, and he's been doing consistently brilliant work for decades with his iconic series Usagi Yojimbo. If you still haven't found the time to dive into Sakai's beautifully transformed version of Edo-era Japan and gotten to know his legendary rabbit ronin hero, you're in luck, because this is the perfect jumping-on point. Bunraku and Other Stories collects the first seven issues of the IDW era of Usagi Yojimbo, which kicked off last year with full-color stories and the same level of mastery Sakai has always brought to the book. 

New DC Comics Digital Issues: While brand-new single issues of DC Comics won't arrive until next week, the publisher has already started rolling out some new digital publishing to tide fans over. Billed as "Daily DC Digital First," the comics are actually single-issue reprints of the stories that were previously serialized in the DC Giant comics sold exclusively in Walmart stores. The rollout started Monday with a Superman story, followed by a Batman story on Tuesday and a Wonder Woman story today, with stories starring Aquaman, The Flash, DC Super Hero Girls, and Swamp Thing arriving later this week, all price at 99 cents. For the full lineup, head over to Read DC.

And that's it for The Pull List this week. Until next time, 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."