I am, quite frankly, worried.
Earlier this week, Steve Geppi, who is the big man in charge of Diamond Distribution, announced that they were going to stop shipping after this week due to the COVID-19 pandemic and measures put in place to prevent its spread. Now, I understand the reasoning behind what is essentially a practical decision, but I also know that this helps effectively destroy comic shops for the foreseeable future.
What makes this even more sad, by the way, is that since last week, there were quite a number of comic stores that were making a concerted effort to serve their customers by offering curbside pickup or shipping via USPS. I personally went down to my LCS last Wednesday to get my books curbside and since I wasn’t able to get out yesterday, I placed a mail order. I also saw a lot of fans and customers were stepping up and spreading the word about what theirs and other stores were doing and how they were going to support their shops by spending what money they could.
And then this.
I’ve been in conversations with fellow comics geeks for years about the way that Diamond’s monopoly on distribution to specialty shops is “too big to fail” and I’ve seen people with a lot more experience and acumen write and talk about the same thing. Upon hearing this news, I saw a number of those same people saying that this confirmed what they had feared and who were contemplating what this might mean for the future of the comics industry. But there were also a number of people on social media making comments that were very “Well, fuck that guy” regarding Geppi. I get that, too, because despite its monopoly (or perhaps because of it), Diamond and Geppi don’t have the best reputations among fans or store owners. But I can’t get on board with that sentiment totally because of the way Diamond’s decision is hurting the business I love and support.
I know what you’re thinking here, by the way. Isn’t it a bit ironic that the person who is writing an entire blog about UNcollecting is bemoaning the damage being done to the main source of his accumulation? I guess it is ironic, but at the same time, I was never going to stop buying new comics and just because I’m not just picking up the entire cheap bin and plopping it on the counter along with at $20 bill doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy going to my LCS. It’s a place I go to and so many of us who are or have been collectors go to because we simply enjoy being there.
I’ve logged hours upon hours scanning the trade paperback shelves and combing through the back issue bins, but I have also had fun conversations with fellow customers and the employees. By contrast, Amazon, Walmart, and Target are pedestrian and soulless. Sure, I can get what I want or maybe even need by shopping there and I don’t want to see people who work for them lose their jobs either, but as I’ve scaled back my purchases in the past year, I have grown to appreciate both the individual purchase as well as the extra effort to order something through my local business even if it’s at list price rather than a larger store’s discount.
Something in me wants to be optimistic about our future following the end of quarantines and this COVID-19 pandemic. I want to think that this will result in a seismic shift that will take place in our economy and society, that we’ll consider the mass of what we consume and how it can ultimately be superficial. But I can also be cynical and can say that we’ve been here before. In the aftermath of 9/11, there were a lot of people saying that “everything” would change and who still have a nostalgia for the supposed togetherness among Americans in the wake of the attacks. But the nearly twenty years that have passed have only seen more partisanship, government interference in people’s lives, and the amped up superficiality of influencer culture. I don’t see how the post-pandemic America will be any different.
I don’t know if there will be a paradigm shift in the comics and specialty story industry. I don’t know if Diamond will get competition from someone who already has the infrastructure to take them on. I don’t know if the current market will ever recover from this collapse. I do know, however, that when the dust settles and if the industry and my LCS are still there that I’m going to set aside the uncollecting for a day and drop a decent amount of money there.