The state of the comic book industry sees many shutdowns of stores every week with a shrinking market, an aging targeted readership, consolidation of publishers, and less voices in the North American distribution networks means that less and less comics are reaching readers. In my town, there was a comic book stores years ago but it has faded long ago before I moved in.
The North American comic book market has been anchored with one distributor since Diamond became the only distributor in the 1990s and Marvel Comics shut down its self-distribution experiment to rejoin the former. I do not want to add much to this discussion that has been done for decades now. Of course, the lack of competition in distribution channels has made comics less diversified and stymied risk. Distributors do not want to be stuck with comics no one want while stores have been very conservative in their purchasing.
While Comicsgates supporters will blame the shrinking market on the diversity exhibited in larger publishers such as DC Comics and Marvel Comics, they often ignore one main issue. The comics reading population is aging and is not being replaced. Kids also don’t play with action figures like used when I was their age and they may be more into alternative media. I was hanging out with a group of artists a few weeks ago, and one of the younger cartoonists had never heard of Calvin and Hobbes. This is not a criticism on the cartoonist. This is pretty normal. An Older friend had to explain to me what Mary Tyler Moore was about this week.
Points of references are changing and for most people, the depiction of Marvel Comics characters in the movies is the original and main versions of these characters that have such wide legacies. Habits such as getting your weekly comics from the comic store are dying with a generation of readers. Alternatives such as purchasing the same comics digitally are available but not favoured by all. If you are one of those readers who likes to hop into the local comic book store to pick up a new comic every week or when your schedule allows you, what do you do when the local venue shuts?
Borrow comics from the local library
The last decade, libraries, in a determined will to serve their patrons have incorporated comics into their collections, calling them graphic novels! You may be able to find some new comics, borrow them, read them, and return them for someone else to enjoy. Don’t dismiss your local library!
Well, you could travel to the next town that has a comic book store and hope that its store remains! In some cases, such as mine, this is not possible. The closest town with a comic book store is two hours away and I have to cross a national park to reach it! If the trip is feasible, it may be that you’ll travel to get your comics once a month or something like that. The cost of getting new comics if that’s all that you do would be prohibitive and time-consuming. I could sustain this for a few months no more.
Buy Collected Edition from a Bookstore
Many of the comics from the larger publishers are collected into trade paperbacks and are often cheaper than purchasing floppies individually. If you don’t mind waiting a bit for the collected editions to arrive, then this may be a cheaper and appropriate option. Marvel Comics often publishes its collected editions very quickly. DC Comics is slower. One concern is that not all of the comics are available. For example, if I want to read Scooby Do or the latest Archie Comics, I may not be able to find everything I’m interested in as a collected edition.
Comics Publishers Subscriptions
Comics publishers have offered many of their comics for people who seek to have them shipped to their homes for decades. However, these services have never been popular. One main issue is that not all of their comics, such as mini-series can be ordered. Also, with the continuing reboots with some series, managing subscription may take more than a order once and forget it attitude. Smaller publishers do not have such services. Even mid-level publishers do not offer subscriptions.
Use Comic Book Ordering Systems
This alternative is similar with ordering your comics except you would be buying all of your comics from one place. Comics ordered this way like those from publishers’ subscriptions will be shipped a bit late. Forget Twitter and Reddit if you want to avoid spoilers! The prices from ordering systems can be very competitive with many sales available.
Order from Publishers
Ordering comics from publishers is one alternative similar to publishers’ subscription systems but without the redundancy of subscriptions. Both floppies and collected editions will be available. This solution may not be suitable overtime and that’s how ordering with a comic book ordering system or having a subscription when they are available are better alternatives.
Buy Digital Comics
Buying digital comics is a good option if you do not mind having your collection managed and owned by one company such as ComiXology. The information scientist in me knows that I need to avoid ComiXology as the comics are locked with the platform and cannot be read without a reader. If one day ComiXology disappear or changes fundamentally, you could lose all of your digital comics overnight. Now some publishers allow you to download digital comics without digital rights management systems. Without entering into details, the information scientist is telling you to favour these open platforms instead of the closed ones. The price of digital comics is still not competitive enough though.
Thou shall not pirate comics illegally for it hurts comic creators.
How about reading something else than your regular comics and giving a chance to other creators who make their work available to you easily.
Support Crowdsourced Comics
Crowdsourced comics have been a genuine alternative to Diamond Comics distribution and bookstores. Many creators are finding their voices on crowdsourced comics. The only drawback is that your favourite comics may not be available as crowdsourced comics. But in any case, do explore what’s being published out there. You could be surprised.
Start your own comic book store
Feeling entrepreneurial? How about giving it a go while improving the experience of your customers at the same time?
Create you own comics
You could create your own comics like I have done with Johnny Bullet. I was interested in something and no was going to create for me so I did. If you really want to read Batman, you could make your own Batman comics. Just don’t distribute them to a large audience or try to make any money from them. If you have children, this could be a great family activity.
Stop reading comics
Unfortunately, this may have been the favoured alternative for most people without access to comics in comic book stores. Even though I publish ComicBookBin, I have stopped reading comics many times during my 17-year tenure. For the time being, I’ll focus on getting comics that I hold dearly from bookstores an online stores without keeping tabs on what’s new and upcoming. Truth be told, it is very difficult to keep up with what’s happen9ing in comics. The day I realized that I did not have to be on top of everything is the day I started enjoying comics again. Sure, the publisher of ComicBookBin should bot be writing such thing.
Ultimately, I found that reading webcomics, ordering what comics I really cared about and making my own comics was the most fulfilling thing about enjoying comics.