This morning, Bleeding Cool broke the story of a new attempt to save the comic shop, suffering in the coronavirus pandemic. A number of printers have shut down. Diamond Comic Distributors has closed its doors. Most digital comics are on hold. Publishers are reducing and delaying their schedule. Most comic stores have shuttered for the duration. However, all this time, comic store software management company ComicHub, owned by comic store owner Stu Colsen, has been creating a new tool. One that would allow comic bool customers of stores to pay and pre-order comic books from their store. Read them now on the ComicHub app. Then receive them later, in print. Bleeding Cool ran the story and everything exploded. I think we may have been the canary in the coal mine for this one.
A Big Bang For ComicHub
John Hendrick of Big Bang Comics in Dublin has been helping explain on Twitter, writing;
"What this will be, effectively, is a pre-ordering service where you buy a physical copy of a new comic (to be filled later when shipping goes back to normal) BUT you get to go to the Comichub website and read a digital version of that straight away, There are NO EXTRA COSTS for customers! What this does is that it allows retailers, publishers and creators to still get paid in these very uncertain times.
"It's NOT a digital first initiative! Customers will still be buying their comics from their normal comic book store! We really believe that this can help EVERYONE right now. It means that YOU can still read the comics you love and support your shop. It means that creators will still get regular income. It means that shops will get sales at a time where it's sorely needed.
"This was set-up by people that LOVE the comics industry. And are looking at ways to minimize the stress of this unheard of situation. These are crazy times, let's see if we can make things a bit better! This initiative will be worldwide, with every comic book store in the world being able to join. Right now we're in a situation where comics can't be shipped out to stores physically, so this would allow you to pay and read your comics in a regular, weekly way, AND then when they start shipping they're in your store for you."
Or a Damp Squib?
Not every comic book store has been so supportive of this initiative. Prominent retailer Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience, San Francisco has spoken out against the initiative, openly posting the comment;
"A poll on a retailer forum right now has 119 opposed, 17 unsure, and 5 for "digital first" releases, EVEN IF IT "comes from a retailer source". Beyond the philosophical idiocy of encouraging cross channel migration (even passively), the mechanical aspects of it are insane — how could ANYone process and deal with 4-20 weeks of physical print comics dropping at once that would be needed to "catch up"?
"I can barely make a profit with my MUCH MUCH larger discounts than what the ComicHUB plan offers, and this creates an EXPONENTIAL amount more of work in having to track and organize such sales, all for what will be a paltry revenue stream. I am now firmly convinced that Marvel and DC didn't "cave" to retailer pressure (which is like 90% against!), but that they merely hit "pause" so that Stu Colson and ComicHUB could provide them with the fig leaf of cover they need to go full bore on comixology. Seriously, people, this is a shitty shitty plan, and any publisher that goes for it is my enemy."
ComicHub To Be Continued
For those who want to join, details will be coming.
I believe ComicHub could really work for the reasons I stated before. However, I am always going to listen to and respect the viewpoint of someone like Hibbs, as well as Hendrick, Higgins and other retailers whose surnames don't begin with the letter H. I look forward to seeing the reaction when this goes official. To see which publishers and retailers sign-on first. For now, I hope this ComicHub variant of Once & Future #1 will suffice.