Diamond Comic Distributors' note last week about not paying publishers caused a lot of concern in the comic book industry. It was the reason given to me more than any other, that some publishers asked their creators to cease working on certain comic books right now. Diamond already announced they had shuttered their doors, to new products. However, the announcement that payment for received product would cease was taken much more seriously by publishers. One used the description to me that this was Diamond holding their comic books "hostage". Now DC Comics creators have been directly affected.
Publishers asking creators to stop work on titles did not mean their comics were cancelled. The demands were mostly intended to be taken as pauses, recognising the new reality. With printing and distribution on hold, schedules were out of the window, and there were only so many books the publishers could financially justify being completed ahead of publication. Especially when there was no indication how many months it would be until normal-ish service was resumed.
Publishers on pause
Valiant was the biggest hit before that, but after the Diamond note, Marvel Comics, IDW, Dark Horse Comics and Oni Press did so as well, but until now I hadn't heard from DC Comics creators. A number of well-funded publishers such as Bad Idea have paused publication, but have also started hiring creators who were now out of work and even increasing their production levels.
Image Comics generally does without creator page rates, with more responsibility for production in the hands of the lead creators. Which has left creators making individual decisions whether to continue or not. With payments significantly delayed, they currently have no print or digital options through Image Comics. Image is exclusive with Diamond for both the direct market and general bookstores. There have also been staff redundancies at Diamond, Image Comics and more.
DC Comics joins the big pause
DC Comics had told most creators that they were still full-steam-ahead. Editorial see an opportunity to use this time to get ahead, put pages in the bank, and get some titles that have been slipping of late, back onto schedule. Such as Legion Of Super-Heroes, Inferior Five, Doom Patrol, Ra's Al Ghul Vs Batman, Bird Of Prey and more. However, I am now told that a few creators on DC's Black Label mature readers line and 5G projects have been told to cease production. 5G was originally planned to launch in October as Generation Five, but its future has been in doubt.
However, Bleeding Cool has learned of an editorial and production shift to get DC's Kids and Young Adult line moving out faster than originally planned. The bookstore market still distributing with Penguin Random House. DC Comics has found a replacement printer. This week's Gotham High original graphic novel may be just what DC Comics need, both print and digitally. The usual comics may be very delayed now. However, the original graphic novel line that sells better in bookstores than comic stores is ramping up.
Overall there's a lot of belt-tightening going on. Even self-publishers, digital publishers and those who ship directly to readers are noticing a drop-off for paid content, as people's incomes drop. Those funded by advertising are also seeing an income drop off as well. A global recession suggests that even after the restrictions are lifted, the comic book industry is one that may suffer more than most.