Amidst the pandemic, the comic book industry is currently at an economic standstill.
Last month Diamond Comic Distributors Inc., a global comic book supplier, announced it will halt all shipments of new comic books to retailers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Diamond is the sole company in a direct market that ships new single-issue comics and trade-paperback volumes from big name publishers — like Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and dozens more — to comic book retailers.
There is growing concern among the tight-knit comics retailers community that the current COVID-19 crisis will cripple the industry, with the primary concern being a low number of comic shops that manage to survive. A low number of shops in an already frail network of small-business retailers means less cash flow into the many facets of the industry, such as publishing, printing and warehousing. In other words independent, small-business retailers make up the cornerstone of the industry, and without them, the business may be running on its last legs.
Publishers such as Boom! Studios have encouraged customers to continue to support their local shops, recognizing the importance of independent retailers. The publisher has been proactive in implementing new measures to provide economic relief to retailers, such as making more products returnable.
Sphinx Comics and Collectibles in Riverside is among the local comic shops affected by the announcement and stay-at-home orders.
“There’s still loyal customers that continue to come but I’ve told them everything is on hold.” said Michael Marts, owner of Sphinx Comics, in a phone interview via a sign-language interpreter.
Avid readers have not been getting their fix of new printed comic books since April 1, the last shipment of weekly comics before Diamond shut down operations. While new comics may be temporarily unavailable, there is plenty of content available in forms of trade paperbacks (collection of comics in book format) and hundreds of back-issues for readers to dig through.
With readership and continued financial support from customers needed now more than ever, Marts encourages those who indulge in their favorite shows and movies to look into where they came from: “They’re making more movies about the comic books than ever before,” he said. “They really expand on the stories better than the movies which are much more abbreviated.”
Shop owners such as Marts’ will tell you the comic book genre has much more to offer ranging everywhere from, fantasy, monsters, space warfare, time traveling and everything else the human imagination is capable of, meshed into flappy 25-page comic strip magazines.
Like many other small businesses, the comic book retailer community is enduring scrupulous times, but will continue to rely on local business as long as the law permits. For now, their doors remain open by curbside pickup and other methods with public safety in mind.
“I don’t know what the future holds, to be perfectly honest with you — (for now), I’ve been cleaning the store, remodeling, reorganizing — it’s affecting us big time,” Marts said.
If you’re new to the comic book medium, consider this list of popular comic series that were adapted into the TV Shows and movies that we know and love:
The Walking Dead
Image Comics (2003-2019)
Written by Robert Kirkman with Art by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard
Now an AMC smash-hit television series, this fan-favorite post-apocalyptic comic centers on the life of deputy Rick Grimes. After being shot in the line of duty, he wakes up from a coma in the midst of a zombie apocalypse and gradually becomes the leader of a surviving community.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Archie Comics (1962-present)
Created by writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo
You may be familiar with the half-witch half-mortal Sabrina Spellman, from Netflix’s “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” starring Kiernan Shipka. In the comic, Sabrina — a half-witch — lives with her two aunts Hilda and Zelda Spellman. The comic series originally explores Sabrina’s attempt to use her powers to help others while dealing with the angst that comes with being a teenager.
Oni Press (2004-2010)
Written and illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley
The beloved character played by Michael Cera in “Scott Pilgrim vs.The World,” known for it’s transmedia storytelling features with integration of comic book and video game graphics, has its roots in the series of graphic novels created by O’Malley.
The comic series has elements of Japanese manga, which has been lauded by many for the distinctiveness in art style. O’Malley’s work is renowned for its stylistic and unique aesthetic, receiving praise from Japanese comics authors Kentaru Kakekuma (Super Mario Adventures) and Koji Aihara (Manka).
Dark Horse Comics (May-September 1998)
Written and Illustrated by Frank Miller, with colors by Lynn Varley
A limited series, this historically inspired comic reimagines the Battle of Thermopylae in a double-page spread art style. Though it’s drawn criticism for some historical inaccuracies, it nevertheless won three Eisner awards for “Best Limited Series,” “Best Writer/Artist” for Frank Miller and “Best Colorist” for Lynn Varley.
Its film adaptation was a box-office success, with critics praising its enthralling visuals and style in a film more famous for its bombastic and violent action sequences than the storytelling or strength of characters.
Marvel and DC Comics
Of course, what are comics without the immensely popular superheroes? They are what lifted the genre to the success and popularity it has garnered over the years. Take for example, Superman: the superhero that established the conventions of a superhero, the caped incarnation of the American way. If you’re into a darker, grittier take on masked vigilantes then there’s the caped crusader, Batman — or Raven, daughter of the ultra powerful Trigon. Her demonic ancestry makes friendships and closeness a distant concept for this conflicted sorceress. A few notches below that are characters like The Punisher, an anti-hero who has a more permanent method of combating villainy — the Scarlet Witch, a mutant with destructive abilities that are enough to transform the fabric of the universe itself. If you’re looking for characters with humor-based coping mechanisms, the wise-cracking Deadpool and the web-slinging Spider-Man aptly fit that description.
Sphinx Comics: Cards and Collectibles is located on 7000 Indiana Ave, Riverside, CA 92506. The store is currently taking in customers via phone appointments, and their website can be found here. For first-time visitors, be sure to wave hello, as owner of the store Michael Marts is hearing-impaired.