A longform read. 25 minutes, 2 seconds. Contains 5008 words
By Max Douglas aka Salgood Sam – Artist & Publisher of Sequential.

As we move into the second month of the Covid19 shutdown, I’ve been watching and wondering how it’s impacting the front lines of the retail side of the comics industry.  Specifically the retailers in the direct market. We could look at social media and guess but I assumed that’s going to be limited at best. Some aren’t actively updating, some hardly even have a web presence! I saw posts when I did look about what some are doing to operate in a limited fashion, offering deliveries and the like. And I wondered are enough people still getting comics through some kind of contactless delivery or curbside pickup? Is it enough?

“what on earth is going on Ken!!” -the words of another blond american anchor I find hard to tell apart from the others on the news as I wrote this.
“what on earth is going on Ken!!” -the words of another blond american anchor I find hard to tell apart from the others on the news as I wrote this. 

I do know any kind of bookstore is hard to run at the best of times. I think as well, amongst the madness of people burning down phone towers–please don’t that’s stupid–and the advent of Trump Zombies protesting Physical Distancing, to potentially ironic outcomes, and people freaking out about the market It would be easy for many to miss the precarious situation comics retailers are in the midst of everything.

I was looking into the last few weeks of comics news for the next C-List when I ended up reading Brian Hibbs Facebook post articulating the issues he saw with the recent DC/Lunar/UCS deal, and then Diamond’s earlier assurances retailers would still get their books if they could wait just a bit longer [followed up by this affirmation].

I figured I should look into what comics sellers in Canada have to say so I asked them!

I wrote just over thirty comic shops from across Canada. By no means an exhaustive list but I tried to hit every major community and several small town shops as well.  Some I knew, some new to me. I asked them a few questions and heard back from about half of them at the time of writing this. They had plenty to share, thanks for your generosity everyone!

Love Shown

To start this on an upbeat note, lets look at the support they’ve seen from their communities. It’s not the same for everyone but most are feeling the love. It would be cool to see more of those DIY customer create commercials / loveletters like the one Benjamin Morris made for Comic Readers Regina.

“My customers are pretty great, and a bunch of them came in during the few days before the then imminent closure to clear out their sub lists and make some purchases. I was also able to, with the help of my more online savvy girlfriend, to figure out how to do e transfers. This was great, because another good chunk of customers were amenable to doing e transfers to pay off their sub files.”
– Steven Gilbert – Fourth Dimension. Newmarket, Ontario.

“We’ve always had loyal customers and those that are still working and even some of those that got laid off from their jobs are wanting to help out by getting comics, board games, etc. Speaking personally for myself I can say I’ve been overwhelmed by the support sometimes. One customer of my store created a video “commercial” to promote us through social media. I got that video on a day when I was feeling rather grim and it lifted me right up. The “commercial” got a great response in Regina.“
– Chad Boudreau. ComicReaders Downtown in Regina, Saskatchewan

“Community wise, we have no complaints! “…“Our customers have shown us MASSIVE support. Not a day without a call, an email or a message telling us to hang in there, that they do not want us to close and showing it… Every single day so far since we closed, people have been ordering us books online. And they buy more than they ordinarily would too, most of them. Some preorder books that are coming down the road and paying for them now. Some buy gift certificates to use for much later in order to give us funds now. Some even told us, the ones that still have jobs, that they keep a small budget to buy books from us every paycheque for the duration of the crisis…. I mean, what do you say to that? I am tearing up just talking to you about it. We cannot even begin to express how humbled we are by all of this. There are no words to express our gratitude.  They are literally trying to ‘body wave’ us to the end of this crisis…. There are no words…”
Christian Viel – Librairie-Z bookstore. Montreal, Quebec.

“The store’s Community–and I do mean Community. That goes for the other shops helping one another, customers buying  gift cards or just preparing ahead for when comics pickup again. has been great, mostly customers coming to get thier pull boxes has been the biggest help and maybe getting something a little extra as well.”
Nick Paraschos – The 8th Dimension. Vancouver, British Columbia

“Obviously things have been difficult with the fact that we can’t have anyone in the store to shop. The community has been very supportive when they can. The Government  also seems to be working hard to try and help with relief. We are working on improving our website presence so once this is over we should be stronger than before with a much improved website.”
– Peter Dixon – Paradise Comics. Toronto, Ontario.

“Our community has been very supportive and it means a lot to see how much people enjoy our shop. I honestly can’t wait to for things to get back to normal, if only to just talk comics and games with everyone.”
– Ray Silas – Crossover Comics. Montreal, Quebec.

So while many have a lot of questions and concerns, there’s a lot of love being shown, But some are definitely feeling less optimistic about how this could go.

“Our business is 42 years old, as an owner, I reinvested money back into the business, I did not have a paid salary last year, and personally do not qualify for the CERB. I do not know what I am going to do, our business is not a necessity in people’s lives, They have other priorities for their money. If we do not get rent relief etc – we will probably be forced to close or lose the store.”
– Judy Weselowski – Book Fair Comics. Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“I’m a glass half empty guy by nature” “I don’t know if we’ll survive this, but if we don’t I think we’ll be the last comic shop in Edmonton to go down. I’m feeling pretty good about the store surviving, more anxious about my and the staff’s future in what the store is going to have to become to survive long enough for people to get comfortable gathering together to do stuff, and then in my darker moments I go the store’s going to be fine, I’m going to be fine, the staff’s going to be fine right up until we all die because some dink who thinks physical distancing is a sinister plot…” “really need to stop watching American news channels.”
– Andrew Foley – Happy Harbor Comics. Edmonton, Alberta.

And I want to note specifically the rallying message from Jennifer Haines in Guelph.

“I am personally grateful for all parties involved for finding a way to help keep comics going during this time. “ “As an industry, we need to come together now more than ever. Every stratum of this industry is suffering, badly. The only way we will weather this is to listen to each other and work together, instead of unleashing anger and blame on people who are just trying their best to get through this too.”
– Jennifer Haines – The Dragon Comics – Games – Toys. Guelph, Ontario.

I think as readers and lovers of comics it’s a good time to make sure you show your local shops some love, buy a gift card or ask if they have a book you’d like to read during your quarantining.

There’s also fundraising efforts underway, more on that in a bit but you can jump here to read the CLLDF’s announcement from Monday 4/20/20.

For those not following, the timeline of the impact of Covid19 on the comics market here in Canada: 

In the midst of widespread mandatory stay in place orders and closures of non critical businesses most shops and planned events are CLOSED. 

Comics Retailers recognize as a rule that comics and games can’t be argued as essential services like food or pharmacies, and want to help everyone stay safe.

If they are doing business at all they are taking care to follow the guidelines for maintaining distances, and keep things hygienic. I think they deserve a hardy thanks for sure for their efforts and sacrifices.

“We know we are not essential.  We are not selling food or health related products.  Yet, people have been insanely supportive. We feel the love and the desire to see us weather this storm and it helps us going through the tougher times. So far, with their generosity, we are making enough (fingers crossed and touch on wood) to cover our basic expenses and to pay our suppliers (a bit late but we managed to do it).”
Christian Viel – Librairie-Z bookstore. Montreal, Quebec.

“We’re doing curb-side pick-up, doing deliveries within the city, drop off at the door and call to let them know it’s there and wait a distance away to confirm pick-up, have also co-ordinated some deliveries to rural areas when we can get a few in the same area – at least gas is relatively cheap. Also doing mail orders for folks who live further away or prefer to use the mail. Like many people, we’re doing what we can, and trying to do it safely.”
– Calum Johnston – Strange Adventures. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Saskatchewan and Alberta, non-essential businesses were told to shut their doors to the public on or around March 23, I do believe. Non-essential businesses, like ComicReaders, are allowed to do curb-side pick-up and deliveries and we’ve been promoting that and doing that the very day we closed our doors.”
– Chad Boudreau. ComicReaders Downtown in Regina, Saskatchewan

Sidebar: Q: What is the Direct Market?

Oh you’re new here! No problem. These days–well up until these days anyway–comics shops ordered books from other distribution networks, sharing some sources with prose book shops and other book sellers. But most comics specialty shops are heavily reliant on the Direct Market, and one company, for their primary product. A growing number have diversified so are no longer only dependent on what Diamond Comics Distributors carry, but the majority of comic retailers who carry weekly stock are in part or entirely. There was a time when there were more than one company, with smaller regional territories–many overlapping. That diversity also meant there were more avenues of access for publishers as well. Though it wasn’t without issues for retailers, including different shipping dates and more.

Diamond Distributors are the survivor of the destructive 90’s distribution wars, when Marvel and then DC both tried to self distribute, which put nearly all other distributors out of business along with many comic shops. Neither Marvel or DC at the time maintained their own self distribution and since Diamond has dominated the Comics specialty shops Direct Market for decades now. Some retailers are fine with this, like it even. It’s not faced any real challenge to it’s position until now.

Many in the independent comics creator and publishing community would like to see Diamond’s monopoly broken, as would some retailers. I am among their ranks so full disclosure that is my bias. I don’t think Diamond is bad but I don’t like the way they control the market and end up unintentionally I think, limiting what books many retailers will oder. But SPOILERS: my summary takeaway here in this article is that the chaotic disruption of the pandemic has brought with it some ill considered under planned rushing in.

These are not the disruptors some in Indie comics might have been looking for.

“Fourth Dimension has been closed since March 22, a couple of days before the provincial government forced my hand. I was able to spend a few days in the shop working the phone and email to inform as many of my customers as possible. I run a pretty small operation, really a one person show, and unfortunately am way behind the times as far as any online or social media presence. I think I did a good job in getting the word out to customers. I am closed obviously until it is deemed safe for non essential stores to be back open.” “I haven’t really decided whether it’s a good idea to do any curbside sales. I have delivered some comics to regular customers locally. I am not really sure if non essential stores should be doing curbside sales. I’m being told to stay home, so that’s what I think is best.”
– Steven Gilbert – Fourth Dimension. Newmarket, Ontario.

“I didn’t expect all the local comic shops to respond to the outbreak like we did, but I also didn’t expect to be mocked for doing it, and I certainly didn’t think any of them would blatantly disregard physical distancing protocols and the non-essential business closure.”
– Andrew Foley – Happy Harbor Comics. Edmonton, Alberta.

Some saw the writing on the wall before it was announced, and were in the midst of trying to adapt with curbside and contactless pickups even before official closers were mandatory.

And others have been developing the facilities to take online orders, even personal local delivery of books for customers in their area themselves! So while others struggled some have made more dynamic adjustment to try to make the best of the situation.

“We had been monitoring the situation since January, and started worrying about it in February.  Beginning of March, we were already far ahead in planning what we would have to do should the government shut us down. So by the time the government”…”decide[d] it was a crisis, we were more or less ready: we had contacted our employees and put in motion a sale for the last day we would be allowed to stay open. We dubbed it Doomsday Clock and we stayed open until 11:59 PM that night.  The response was amazing! We had customers all day until 11:45 PM!!!! And the support of our customers bought us several more weeks of much needed cash flow right before we had to close for God knows how long.”
Christian Viel – Librairie-Z bookstore. Montreal, Quebec.

“I was pretty quick to jump to “This is going to be bad”—I convinced the owner to close the doors to customers and go curbside and delivery only a week or more before everyone was ordered to—but pretty much everything after that I’ve gotten completely wrong. I still can’t figure out how it takes more energy to run a store that has no customers in it, but it does.“
– Andrew Foley – Happy Harbor Comics. Edmonton, Alberta.

So it still put a chill in the bones of some retailers when Diamond announced they would stop delivering any new books in March. Now they only had their existing stock to offer for an indefinite time. 

“…despite everything I was seeing/reading it never, ever, ehhhhhver occurred to me that there might be a week we wouldn’t have new comics to sell to our customers.”
– Andrew Foley – Happy Harbor Comics. Edmonton, Alberta.

But at the same time, many saw it as the right move for the moment. Imagining having to receive new stock weekly they could not be open to sell.

“When Diamond Comic Distributors announced a temporary stoppage of comic shipments, stores were happy. Previous… stores were faced with the decision of continuing to receive shipments that they would not be able to sell…” “It would be optimal that it should be safe for customers and staff for stores to reopen before having to receive new products.”
– Adam Pottier – Kingston Gaming Nexus. Kingston, Ontario.

“The diamond status quo is far from perfect, but I’m glad they closed their doors when they did. I was very worried about the possibility of weeks, or now months, of weekly shipments arriving without any way of selling them. That truly would have been the end of my shop.”
– Steven Gilbert – Fourth Dimension. Newmarket, Ontario.

Many have made the best of it by following through with all those initiatives. They continue to offer comics for sale and pickup or delivery to their loyal customers. They consistently report super encouraging and appreciative communities as well. And are in some cases trying to imagine new ways to stay relevant and in business in this situation, as well as just keeping the lights on.

“We’ve tried our first online book club using Zoom and have been organizing Magic events online using various apps and the online versions. We’ve been trying to keep our Facebook page busy, but we’ve been a bit slower on it while preparing the online shop and trying to figure out more interactive events.”
– Ray Silas – Crossover Comics. Montreal, Quebec.

“We are doing Facebook Live sales, online sales, and personal shopping via email, Facebook, and Instagram.” “…delivery throughout Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Milton, Fergus, Elora, and everywhere in between. Generally, we’re driving around and dropping things off. We have a robust online shop, but I’m also taking orders via email and Facebook. We are exhausted but it’s all worth it to give our community some sense of normalcy to help them get through.”
– Jennifer Haines – The Dragon Comics – Games – Toys. Guelph, Ontario.

“We have done some of our monthly podcasts as Facebook streams, my colleague also streamed a virtual visit of our current exhibition. Every day we post on Facebook and Instagram about a local artist book, in order to present good books made by local artists and to raise awareness of what is being done here.”
Christian Viel – Librairie-Z bookstore. Montreal, Quebec.

“ComicReaders South in Regina is starting a series of live auctions on Facebook” “ComicReaders Downtown in Regina, we’ve been keeping in touch with the MTG community through some promotions offered by Wizards of the Coast. I ordered a mic yesterday and am going to start doing “podcast” style shorts about comics and board games and maybe even some short comic creator interviews because I think people are jonesing for a chance to hear from creators now that Cons are cancelled.” “…we have a good relationship with our local library. I started a conversation”…” that might open up opportunities for the library and ComicReaders to work together on some online seminars with their patrons. Topics could include board games, graphic novel recommendations, RPG DM advice. We only just started chatting about this. We are also looking to have our inventory online before the end of April.”
– Chad Boudreau. ComicReaders Downtown in Regina, Saskatchewan

“We (owners) have been doing inventory at the store, offering curbside pick up for people who call or email us what they want. We have the debit/credit card machine set up at the door [to facilitate pickup]. We will do mail order on request, [Postage and handling] is extra.”
– Judy Weselowski – Book Fair Comics. Winnipeg, Manitoba.

We’ve worked very hard to keep our sales up at around 30% of what they were before we closed our doors.  The support is there from the community, but one person at a time, safely working alone in one of our storefronts, in a shop that previously was run by at least 5, can only answer so many phone calls, emails and pack so many orders in a day. 
– Peter Birkemoe – The Beguiling Books & Art. Toronto, Ontario.

“For us it’s mostly been negotiating with vendors and landlords to defer payments and seeking credit to weather the lockdown. While we have had some online sales and curbside pickups it amounts to a fraction of our normal brick and mortar sales. We are planning to push more into other online sale options like Ebay with the stock which might do well through that venue. The reality is that until we can reopen our physical locations our focus is on reducing costs to as close to zero as possible and making what sales we can.”
“We will likely host an online Arena event for the new Magic the Gathering release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. I’m also toying with the idea of running a virtual Animecon to fill the hole left by Anime North’s cancellation.”
– Chris Notman – Conspiracy Comics, Burlington, Ontario; Oakville, Ontario; Hamilton, Ontario.

But the definite general trend from those who responded to my inquiries is sales are generally twenty to thirty percent of their usual business.  And that the work involved with online orders and fulfilment is orders of magnitude more than their normal routines running a storefront operation! Further compounded by heartbreak as nearly all are forced to lay off staff and do much of that work themselves.

“I had to lay off most of my staff, and so my family has been doing 90% of the work. We’re down to about 30% of sales, but we’re working so hard to make even that happen.”
– Jennifer Haines – The Dragon Comics – Games – Toys. Guelph, Ontario.

“it seems that we are working harder and longer hours since we are closed than when we were open!  For a fraction of the revenues…” “Our customers have, so far, been exceptional in their support: we thought we would be able to make about 20% of our income but their generosity has brought us to about half of what we did at the same time last year. Our revenues are much better than anticipated because of that – nowhere near enough to cover all our costs (about 9K without our employees and Diamond weekly invoices to pay)”
Christian Viel – Librairie-Z bookstore. Montreal, Quebec.

At this time, may I suggest to the reader, if you’re enjoying books from your local shop, make sure to order, tip deeply and thank them! And maybe ask which of the means of support helps them the most right now?

Many comics retailers are still doing what they can, both out of self interest and a desire to continue to provide and foster the community they live and work in. But everything is unknown, new tools offer some options but how does a retailer find time and make it profitable?

“…we are also hosting at no costs Jimmy Beaulieu’s toutestfoutu.com initiative, which is an online, worldwide 24 hours challenge with the current apocalyptic tone as a theme.”
Christian Viel – Librairie-Z bookstore. Montreal, Quebec.

“When this started happening Vince and I had so many ideas about all the things we were going to do to keep people interested and hopefully entertained. And then the reality of how hard it is to deal with customers this new way steamrolled right over it. Hopefully not forever”… “hopefully we’ll get to at least try some of the stuff. And a lot of it would very much be throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing if any of it sticks: would anyone be interested in regular drop-in D&D on zoom? Would they want to watch other people playing D&D? Do they want to see Vince and Chantel talk about their favourite comics on youtube and more importantly, would other people talk to them about THEIR favourite comics? Could we get enough people focused at a specific time to make doing talks or online workshops with established comics creators something worth doing?”
– Andrew Foley – Happy Harbor Comics. Edmonton, Alberta.

Canadian regional and federal government programs are in the works but comic shop owners are finding they don’t always fit in the boxes the system needs them to so work is needed on that front for many small businesses and freelancers. Some are unable, or even choose not to take advantage of emergency loans as they don’t feel it’ll be of help to be that much in debt when regular business is able to resume.

But wait, there’s More!

or…“DC, what are you doing!”

Now that we’re somewhat caught up to where things were last week,  Into this picture throw the announcement first that Diamond would be returning with limited distribution in May! Good news? Only to be followed by word that DC was going with two new distributors a few weeks sooner! With two before unheard of distributors, one for the east coast and one for the west! Luna and UCS. And then it came out these two new distributors were really two discount retailers! Midtown Comics and DCBS.

“There seems to be some confusion about DC’s announcement the other day. All of the products that were solicited and ordered from us will be available to those who want to get them from us when Diamond Comics Distributors resume shipments in May.” – Calum Johnston – Strange Adventures. Halifax, Nova Scotia. Posted to FB.

Retailers were not impressed. But for the indie comics scene there was a near audible catching of our breath as many had the simultaneous thought that the monopoly might be about to be broken?

Then it came out that things were not quite as they seemed. The distributors were existing discount retailers Midtown or DCBS, not true wholesalers!  And with that word that there’s issues with the deal being offered.

“Definitely interesting, but at this point, the courier fees will basically wipe out any profits we might see from the comic sales.”
– Peter Dixon – Paradise Comics. Toronto, Ontario.

“My initial reaction”…”was “why is DC doing this”? Every major market is going to be locked down and doing minimal to no sales until the pandemic blows over. Why not push the pause button and hunker down? This seems to be Diamonds viewpoint and I feel that as the key player in the industry they are who we should be taking cues from and more importantly supporting until this is all over.”
– Chris Notman – Conspiracy Comics, Burlington, Ontario; Oakville, Ontario; Hamilton, Ontario

“I think it’s a weirdly short sighted move by DC, but it’s quite possible there’s long game being planned somewhere behind the scenes that we are not aware of. They had to use someone with existing infrastructure to get this together so fast, but asking any business to give private information to a direct competitor seems debatable at best. The bigger worry is their lack of clear communication; it gives the appearance that they don’t know what they’re doing.”
– Ray Silas – Crossover Comics. Montreal, Quebec.

“it smells like a scam. If DC approached it like “DCBS and Midtown have an idea” I would have given it more credence. That they tried to cover it up. by using “Lunar” and “UCS” makes it especially odious.” “I’d estimate that the shipping costs and hassles will far outweigh the benefit. Plus where some stores are not able to receive product, this creates a very uneven playing field which favours some over others…”
– Calum Johnston – Strange Adventures. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“…the current release plan will possibly cost more to stores in shipping fees than they could make if they sold all of their weekly shipments. [These] actions have unknown variables. What other comics will be available through UCS and Lunar? What will happen when Diamond Comic Distributors resumes new releases. DC Comics is causing more work, troubles, and costs to comic stores. As a Canadian store is it even worse.
– Adam Pottier – Kingston Gaming Nexus. Kingston, Ontario.

“This ‘plan’ by DC is overwhelmingly terrible.  It’s either the stupidest plan ever, or a deliberate attempt to permanently damage the comic industry.  I agree with every point Hibbs made in his post. It’s utterly impossible for Canadian stores to make any money with this plan, as the shipping will eat up all our discount most weeks, and with no guaranteed arrival date for product, it’s back to the horrible system we had in Western Canada in the 90s and early 2000s where stores might get new product a full day or more before their competitors.”
– Michael Bower – Phoenix Comics NW Ltd. Calgary, Alberta,

Some retailers I’ve spoken with try to see DC’s side of this, even suggesting it might not have been really up to them but from orders on WB mountain. 

“DC is in a very precarious position in that they have to answer to AT&T, who look at the comics publishing arm as a line item on a financial report, rather than the thing we all hold so dear. Honestly, they could cut it at any time, and if it isn’t making income, that becomes more likely. So, DC is keeping the flow of comics going to help ensure they’ll still be here after this is all over.”
– Jennifer Haines – The Dragon Comics – Games – Toys. Guelph, Ontario.

“The Move by DC is”…”probably initiated by they’re Parent company At&t,  most of those guys are not comic people so expect guys in suits who nothing about pop culture and the medium DC represents
Nick Paraschos – The 8th Dimension. Vancouver, British Columbia.

But fairly universally, some venomously, are disappointed in DC. Offendended, feeling betrayed and disgusted by the lack of thoughtfulness and impatience expressed by their move.

“DC’s response, attempting to sell some of the comics they had already printed and delivered to their large discount mail order houses, is disappointing and short-sighted.  I took over the Beguiling after the Marvel/Heroes’s World nonsense but its effects, primarily monopoly distribution, are being felt to this day. I guess DC feels that every big player is entitled to try and tank the comic shop ecosystem at least once.”
– Peter Birkemoe – The Beguiling Books & Art. Toronto, Ontario.

“I forgot one thing. One key word, really: That word is disgusted. Brett from the Medicine Hat store is disgusted with DC right now. I think I can safely say we are all disturbed by DC’s decision.”
– Chad Boudreau. ComicReaders Downtown in Regina, Saskatchewan

I can definitely see their perspective, clearly echoed as issues by Brian Hibbs earlier mounted post as well. Most of the Canadian retailers who replied to my inquierly tended to agree with him and filled in how this situation works out for Canadian retailers….by ‘works’ that is to say, it doesn’t. 

They likely won’t be able to turn a profit after all is said and done and the books on offer don’t sweeten the deal very much for them. Especially given Diamond has their existing orders in hand and will ship them to them a couple weeks later if they wait? Diamond sent this FAQ sheet backing up their announcement that they do intend to return to shipping books in May, The FAQ sheet was shared with retailers as this article was being written and many forwarded it onto me. You can read it as well in text form with this article on Bleeding Cool on the subject.

So while some have wished that Diamond’s virtual monopoly to be broken for a while now — Indie comics creators and publishers in particular as the dynamics of the Direct Market under it has truncated the access to readers enjoyed during the B&W boom and before. This looks to not be the best or most likely tool of that change.

Some I talked to though, are working on creating that disruption themselves in some other fashion, looking at this situation as motivation and making online direct sales models a more practical option for more retailers and creators.

“We have been in touch with some of our colleagues with limited or no online presence.” “…working on a sort of Amazon [like] Marketplace platform where those without a website could”…”upload their inventory and sell online without having to bother with the technical issues. They would have their own island on the site where they could sell and manage the orders of their customers and give them a fighting chance.  We hope to have that deployed by the end of next week. We have the technology and the servers space and we want to help. Also working on a mobile, iOS and Android version of our site (and the new marketplace) in order to maximize the options for customers. With limited access to testing, it is harder than it should, but hopefully we will be able to iron the bugs quickly.”
Christian Viel – Librairie-Z bookstore. Montreal, Quebec.

So, there might be two new distributors in the US. But if they stick around It looks like they have a lot of work to do if they really want to sell to shops in Canada. And a LOT of people are not pleased with DC for seeming to rush this and really creating more problems to try out an idea.

“… I almost see it [ the DC/Lunar/UCS deal ] as more of an experiment to see how bad the retailer blowback will be (it’s been Very Bad) and won’t be surprised if they back off the idea before it actually happens. That’s pretty much what happened with their initial plan to continue releasing digital comics on the previous schedule.”
– Andrew Foley – Happy Harbor Comics. Edmonton, Alberta.

I think it’s safe to say for those who would like to see change, Luna and UCS are not yet at least the disrupters we want or need. Maybe with some refinement? And would that really help retailers or not? Many feel it would just bring back older problems they dealt with before monopoly.

But the whole system has been disrupted anyway by the shutdowns, and that creates opportunities for forward thinking innovations to get started as well. As an indie creator I still think Diamond having some competition could be a very good thing? I personally don’t think anyone is an intentional bad actor here, and full disclosure I’ve been partial to Midtown Comics since they purchased a big stack of my self published books for their stores in NY on the con floor.

But as much as i’d like to see change, what I want is smart and useful change and innovation that works for the most parties at the table. Not rushed disruptive change for its own sake, and possibly exploitive of the situation.

To end this on an upbeat note!

“I’m still optimistic, while we are not essential in the traditional sense; I know that we’ve created an environment where people come to get away from the stresses of daily life. With everything going on, I don’t imagine that will change once we reopen. The most surprising thing is the great community we’ve created, while you’re always aware of it we normally only see it in small doses. We have days like Free Comic Book Day & our anniversary sales where we have massive crowds of friendly faces, but often times those moments are so hectic you don’t get to appreciate it.”
– Ray Silas – Crossover Comics. Montreal, Quebec.

“A group of retailers are organizing a national Facebook Live sale. Participating retailers will be selling gems from our stores to raise funds to keep operating, and creators will be donating pieces with funds to be collected by the CLLDF for their #Canucks4Comics fund. Canada has unique problems and a unique structure. But one of the things that makes us truly Canadian is our ability to come together and weather storms through shared support and community.”
– Jennifer Haines – The Dragon Comics – Games – Toys. Guelph, Ontario.

US retailers have the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), which helps raise funds for US book shops including comic stores via #Creators4Comics. They have been moving to help suport comic shops in the last few weeks!

Unfortunately they are a US only operation but as I was researching this article Andrew Foley from Happy Harbour Comics tipped me off to this sunday evening, and as of Monday the CLLDF has announced they are teaming up with others to take the lead in the #Canucks4Comics to raise donation for a relief fund! They kicked it off with $10k of CLLDF’s own to seed the fund. Kevin Boyd who has a lot of experience with charitable fundraising is part of the effort as well. See our post here for the full details so far announced.

Auctions and more are being planned in adition and in tandem with that, with the funds raised earmarked to go to support Canadian retailers first and later creators as well.

We’ll have some more news soon of other efforts as well, retailers are a tight community and many are teaming up to take on this together. People are rallying to the cause and the Covid driven shutdowns while unpresidented and very damaging for many businesses, are temporary.

Efforts as well to get better suport for the class of small businesses many comic shops constitute are underway, Judy Weselowski of Book Fair Comics passed this on to me as I was wrapping up the article. It’s a petition, probably one of many out there right now, demanding Provinces:

  • -Immediately put a moratorium on commercial rent evictions while a deal for rent abatement is being worked out!
  • -Get a deal done with the Federal Government ASAP that makes rent reduction mandatory!
  • -Work with municipalities to provide three months of commercial property tax abatement!

All seem like good ideas to me. Signed!

I’ll keep and eye on the story in the coming months. Be sure to look into how your local shops are doing and if you can, buy and read more comics!

Salgood Sam aka Max Douglas: Max founded Sequenail in 2002, and is a Montreal based creator with 30 years of comic making madness under his belt. He started this site to increase the visibility of creators like himself, and help encourage a stronger more diverse regional comic market in Canada.

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