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The Pull List: COVID-19 comic delays — but creators and publishers step up to keep us reading
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, 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.
Last week, the comics community was dealt a major blow when, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis around the world, Diamond Comics Distributors announced it would stop shipping new product beginning this week in North America. That meant no new physical single issues of comics would be heading out to the local shops that were still open to sell them, which basically meant the temporary end of New Comic Book Day as so many regular readers know it.
At the time, we noted that while this decision was not necessarily a surprise, it did seem to arrive at a time when major comics publishers were not yet ready to deploy an alternative solution. That's not to lay blame — this is difficult for all of us — but it did mean that for several days there was no clear understanding among readers exactly how new issues from publishers would be moving forward. Now, the good news is we have a clearer picture of the situation. The bad news is the reality of the moment means fewer and fewer new comics, digital or otherwise.
Over the past few days, both DC and Marvel have announced that they will not be moving to a digital-only publishing model in the wake of Diamond's shipping stoppage, at least not yet, though they will still be releasing collections and comics that were already slated as digital-first releases for the time being. Virtually every other major publisher has released similar message of postponement or "staggered" release schedules in the weeks to come, and if you take a look at ComiXology's new release listings for this week, the offerings reflect that. Most single issue comics that were supposed to land on April 1 simply aren't, in any form.
Does this mean it will stay that way for weeks on end? Maybe, but major publishers aren't committing to that just yet. We've seen reports over the last few days that DC in particular might be exploring a "multi-distributor model" in an effort to create some kind of workaround while Diamond is on pause, and Marvel publisher Dan Buckley noted that his company's pause on new single issues was, for the moment, only an April 1 decision.
"This is a fluid situation with details changing every day, so we appreciate your patience and understanding as we all navigate our way through this," Buckley wrote. "As soon as more information is available, we will outline our longer-term plans and opportunities to support you and the industry."
Even with decisions in place from major publishers this week, this remains a very strange situation for everyone involved. For the moment, though, putting new single issues on pause seems like a fair thing to do, both for readers who enjoy physical single issues and for retailers who are already wary of a digital-only future. Like movie studios postponing release dates, publishers are hoping that a painful short-term decision results in long-term benefits. That said, the way things have been going so far, a lot of this could change by this time next week, so we'll keep you posted. For now, the fine folks over at The Beat have a great rundown of what each major publisher's current situation is in response to the pandemic.
In the meantime, many publishers are doing their best to throw retailers some kind of life preserver as many of them have been forced to close or severely limit service to customers. This starts with things like making much of the product retailers were supposed to be selling in the coming weeks fully returnable, offering discounts on trade paperbacks and other collections they might be able to move right now, and even promoting various local stores via social media and online shopping. Some publishers are going even further.
Both Black Mask Studios and TKO Studios have launched initiatives whereby you can send 50 percent of every dollar you spend at their online stores to your local comics shop by giving the publisher the shop's name, and over at Vault Comics, they're offering free advance first issues of upcoming comics if you prove to them that you just bought a gift card at your local shop. Get new comics and help out your local shop without leaving your house. What's not to love?
Comic pros step up
The pausing of a great many comics that were supposed to come out this week and in the weeks ahead has also, of course, impacted many creators. Last week we encouraged you to do what you can to support those creators, and we still do, whether it's through art purchases or Patreon subscriptions or something else. This isn't idle time for any of them. They're all still doing what they can to make the world better with comics, and some of the biggest names in the industry are helping to spread a little sunshine.
On Monday, Marvel Creative Director Joe Quesada launched a live "Mornin' Warm-Up" streaming show on YouTube, in which he basically just chats about his creative process, his time in comics, and occasionally his pets. In the first episode he broke down a drawing of Spider-Man from rough layouts to coloring, and in the second episode he interviewed current Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski. For today's episode, he's promised an appearance from Mark Millar. So far, the whole show has a very soothing, hangout vibe, and because it's Quesada he's able to land some of the biggest names in comics, so check it out if you're looking for a nice way to kill 45 minutes.
Quesada's not the only major comic book artist getting in on COVID-19 response. Many of his peers have already launched efforts to raise some extra money for good causes via their art. Earlier this week, DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee announced on Instagram that he'll be creating 60 original sketches — one a day for the next two months — and auctioning them off to benefit various "brick and mortar stores." Lee's Image Comics co-founder Rob Liefeld announced a similar initiative on his own Instagram page, also promising daily sketches and auctions that benefit "comic book stores in need."
Then there's Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, who announced on Monday that he's partnering with Chef Jose Andres' hunger charity World Central Kitchen for a sketch auction of his own. These are certainly not the only comics-related fundraisers out there, but for this week at least they rank among the biggest, so we wanted to highlight them, and we'll be pleased to bring you more in the coming weeks.
First issue freebies
So, we've established at this point that new comics as we know them aren't happening right now, and we don't know for sure when we'll reach a state where dozens of new books will arrive each Wednesday once again. That doesn't mean we have to stop reading comics altogether, though. As we said last week, reaching out to your local shop to order some collections you've been meaning to pick up is a great start, but there are also other ways to get into new books right now, many of them completely free.
Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, and Valiant Entertainment have all begun offering a wide variety of free first issues on their websites and on social media, so if you never had the chance to try X-O Manowar before or you've been meaning to give Black Science or Gideon Falls a shot, now you've got a chance to sample those series.
If you're looking to donate a bit of money to a good cause and good some comics for your trouble, Humble Bundle has you covered there. Their bundle benefiting The Hero Initiative, featuring a boatload of Top Cow Comics to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Witchblade, is still available. Plus, they've launched a special one-week bundle with 100 percent of the proceeds going to fight COVID-19. Much of the bundle is games, but it's also packed with comics, including the first issue of Undiscovered Country, first volumes of Saga and The Boys, and much more. It's hours of entertainment in exchange for helping a good cause.
Oh, and despite most things grinding to a halt, there are still a few new comics out this week. If you're looking for a little nostalgic superhero action, we recommend the first issue of DC's digital-first series Batman: The Adventures Continue, which reunites Batman: The Animated Series powerhouses Paul Dini and Alan Burnett and teams them with artist Ty Templeton for an on-the-page continuation of the classic TAS style. If that's not enough to sell you, you can check out SYFY WIRE's preview of the first issue.
I'm personally a sucker for a weird high concept being executed in a fun way, so I'm going to recommend the second issue of Finger Guns from Vault Comics. It's the story of a pair of teenagers who discover that they both have the ability to influence the emotions of people around them by...well, by doing finger guns. The first issue introduced a lot of intriguing mysteries about this power, and set up some compelling dynamics that seem primed to explode in the second issue.
And that's it for The Pull List this week. Until next time, remember what John Custer told his son Jesse:
"You gotta be one of the good guys, son: 'Cause there's way too many of the bad."