Comic Store In Your Future – If It Has One

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics of Ankeny, Iowa writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

This article will give an update on our situation and my thoughts on it. Last Thursday here in Iowa, the governor gave the order that non-essential retail such as my store had to close. Currently, the closing is to last until April 7th. I personally see the closings being extended. Just north of us, Minnesota issued a stay at home order. Business had dropped a lot and that is putting it mildly. Things keep changing so quickly. We are used to knowing how things were before the coronavirus. Not rapid ever-changing events. Things do not look like they are going to get better anytime soon. Just worse. Iowa had its first coronavirus death. I thought that would speed up calls for a non-essential business shut down here in Iowa. Downtown Des Moines is a ghost town. Here in Ankeny, it is not much better. For the business, I did something I never thought I would have to do. I told two employees starting next week I would have to cut back hours and could not keep them. This was just days before the governor's order. I am now one of those evil managers who basically said through no fault of your own we are unable to keep you.Rodman Comic Store

By now most of you know there will be no more new comic shipments to any store. When there will be new comic shipments again no one knows. Ironically the first Wednesday of no new comics starts April 1st. Not funny. We have tried to get the news out about no new comics and that we will be closed due to the governor's order. Not everyone checks social media or comic web sites all the time. Customers that came in on our last Wednesday of being open were told about no new comic shipments. There was a wide range of reactions from people; saying no problem we will still be in for back issues to people in shock and unable to believe it. Some thought it was just our store not getting new shipments and we had to correct that. We called many people with pull boxes to let them know that if they wanted to get their comics the sooner the better. Tuesday night was quite an odd night for me knowing this was the last new comic shipment we would get for the foreseeable future. Tuesday nights were usually a good night for me. Seeing the new comics brought out the kid in me who first got started into comics.

I know there is talk of a possible Marvel/DC crossover but right now I could care less if it happens. There are no new comics arriving currently, we do not know how long that will last and my store is shut down by the government. That is what the problem is for us. If we are forced to stay close for a long period of time a crossover is the least of my concerns. We are dealing with too many unknowns. Too many things are outside of my control or anyone's control.

Has anyone thought what might happen to the online new comic ordering businesses? They are going to be taking a hit to put it mildly. Once new comics shipments are announced I do not think we will have any problem getting people excited for their return. I will personally call every person with a pull box myself if need be. I understand why no new comics are being released. In my mind, it would create a whole new level of chaos in the market. Stores in states that were open and could still sell would have comics flying off their shelves because people in states where their local comic stores were closed would be forced to suddenly scramble to get comics by buying them online.

Will there finally be another vendor for delivering comics other than Diamond after all this is done? I never believed it was a good idea just to have one vendor. One of their trucks with comics on it got hit and that caused our store all kinds of headaches years ago. Imagine a fire at their warehouse, how much damage would that cause the comic industry? Plus, competition would cause Diamond to up their game.

Mentally I am preparing for two months of no new comics. Why? Because passed that it becomes too much, especially if there still is no announcement about when new comic shipments will start again.

Now, because I have been thinking too much about everything, how could the comic industry change for the better after all this? In my years as a collector, I noticed cycles in the comic book market, highs and lows. Usually, when the comic market is in a low cycle it would correct itself. There would be fewer titles released then after a time those fewer titles would see growth followed by more titles. Only recently after years of low sales have some publishers finally reduced their output. Now sadly thanks to everything that is happening we very well will most likely see some publishers close down which would cut down on titles. The crowded comic market could become much less crowded once things return to the new "normal" with the return of new comic shipments.

What problems will there be when new comic shipments return? How many comic stores will be left? Will there be enough to carry on the tradition of monthly new comics? Will I still be a store owner or a comic collector when new comic shipments return?

How much of a hit will the economy take and how long will it take to recover? Wednesday was a depressing day for me. There were so many stories of people who knew someone who lost their job. The hospitals here in central Iowa are looking at being overwhelmed. For the first time ever, I gave a lady a roll of toilet paper who was talking about how she could not find any. For the store, I buy the largest pack from Sam's Club just so I don't have to make as many trips. I had no idea months ago when I made the last trip that toilet paper would be such a big deal. I had a customer ask for an empty box so he could send toilet paper to his mom. I am avoiding trips to the grocery store and big chain stores due to there being so many people there. I thought the whole point of less contact with people was to avoid crowds.

So what steps are we taking to have the store survive? We were going to cut hours but the governor beat us to it by forcing us to close. Trying eBay more; however, we will be joined by tons of stores and people going that route. More competition means fewer sales. Selling my organs, just kidding. They aren't worth anything. I feel like Glass Joe from Mike Tyson's Punch Out video game. "Body blow! Body blow!" Just taking shot after shot with no way to return or block a punch.

Growing up I learned someone always has it better than you and someone always has it worse than you do. Right now, I know there are many more people out there that have it a lot worse than I do. I am trying to help out local small businesses. I've been doing takeout food from locally-owned restaurants. I asked today when picking up again," things slowing down for you?" I could just tell from the mood of the place it had. Sadly, the answer was, "Yes."

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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