Looking At ComicHub Through Rose-Tinted Spectacles

Two days ago, Bleeding Cool broke the news about the ComicHub plans to save the direct market comic book industry. Retailer Stu Colson had been working with his programming team to create a stopgap solution. Currently, the big comics distributor is shut down, as are printers and many comic book stores. ComicHub's plan was to roll out a system that would have allowed people to buy their print comics from their store now. Even though they were yet to be printed or distributed.

With the ComicHub app, comic store customers would also able to read them now, through a digital preview system. In three or four months time, they could pick them up at the store. The shop would be paid, the publisher would be paid, creators would be paid and even the distributor would be paid. All upfront, in advance, there and then. Maintaining the collector mentality, the periodical enjoyment of the medium and getting some cashflow flowing.

Looking at Comichub through rose tinted spectacles
Looking at Comichub through rose-tinted spectacles?


ComicHub as a stopgap

I talked to a number of retailers, welcoming of the ComicHub plan, who saw this stopgap as a way to keep the lights on, even if they couldn't get into their store. They may not be able to get into their stores, but they could manage such a thing from their phone. For some, that would have meant getting bank loans easier, by showing a small but regular income. For others, they may have been able to put off the landlord with the same.

But it was not to be – at least not now. Prominent retailers spoke up against the plan, and Bleeding Cool reported some of the objections. Some talked about how this would be a shift away from print to digital. That this would be for the longterm detriment of the print comics medium. Others recognised that this was very similar to Marvel's practice of including digital codes inside their print comics, but talked about how this would damage a store's face-to-face community spirit.

There was also concern as to what would happen when the print comics arrived. With too much stock coming in at once, though I fear that may happen anyway. Others were happy to talk about selling their existing stock, those lucky enough to still be able to operate their business or get inside their store or warehouse. Not everyone is that fortunate. Others have been asking customers to buy gift cards at this time, often wrapped up in attractive bundles.

The retailer reaction to ComicHub, directly expressed to some publishers, was enough to turn those planning to sign on, to sign off. And as a result for ComicHub to put their plan on hold. For now at least.

Shutdown for how long?

Some have told me that they still expect the shutdown to last only until Easter or the end of the month. Right now, the official line seems to look at months rather than weeks. With Diamond closing doors to new products for now, and not paying publishers for stock received, problems are mounting. More projects have been placed on hold and creators told to stop working. I have been told of a number of publishers that, without their promised Diamond payments, are now making plans to shut up shop entirely. Three or four months down the line, how many publishers or retailers will have to close, unable to pay their bills, or get loans to cover them? Will Diamond even make it out intact?

The perils of positive thinking

It may have been exaggerating the potential of Stu's original ComicHub plan, or presenting it with rose-tinted spectacles. The sell-in to stores or publishers clearly wasn't done. If it was to succeed, there had to be far more buy-in from the get-go. However, I also understand the imperative of wanting to get things moving, trying to get everyone to run alongside and jump on board and working out the details later. I thought a little positivity and wishful thinking might have been welcome at this time. I still think there is much to merit the plan and there is no better right now. As time passes so there may be a new perspective on it.

I believe that what Stu, and the retailers who helped him put it together were doing, was the Lord's work. However, I clearly painted it as a more ideal solution than it turned out to be. I should have known, as a species we always crucify our potential saviours just before Easter.

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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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