With Diamond shut down and no comics shipping to local comic stores, even ones that are still open, next week, the world is waiting to see what's going to happen on the first week with no new comics. As the direct market prepares to suffer, one question left unanswered has been: what about the publishers? Will any look for alternate means of distribution during the shutdown? It has got to seem tempting to Marvel and DC, even if it might put the final nail in the coffin of the direct market to do so. And even if they resist next week, how long will they hold out?
But Dark Horse Comics, at least, is remaining committed to retailers for now. Dark Horse announced that they will not release new comics digitally that are not already in print, meaning that they will continue to put out their collections, OGNs, and art books that go out to bookstores, but no single issue comics that would have otherwise been distributed through Diamond.
Digital Update March 26: We will not be releasing any comics digitally that are not also available in print. We still have collections, original graphic novels, and art books shipping through our bookstore distributor Penguin Random House (from whom comics retailers can also order). Those respective titles will be made available digitally the same day they are available from retailers.
It looks like Dark Horse is playing it safe, which echoes the company's previous positions. Back in 2011, as digital comics were just on the verge of becoming popular, Dark Horse attempted to release their comics digitally at the same time they were released in print, and to sell them for cheaper as well. The move, which would have been good for readers and probably good for the industry as a whole in terms of actually expanding readership through digital comics, caused a furor amongst retailers. That backlash caused Dark Horse to reverse course, running away with its tail tucked between its legs while claiming that the price announcement was an error, and since then digital comics have been artificially priced the same as physical copies despite costing less to produce and distribute, solely to prevent them cannibalizing the direct market.
This time around, Dark Horse isn't even trying it. Will Marvel and DC make the same pledge?