Last Wednesday, the traditional day for the arrival of fresh comics in US stores, this did not happen for the first time in many decades. The COVID-19 epidemic has dispersed Americans to their homes and led to the physical closure of small shops. Most of those involved in any form of content have moved online, but for the comic industry this is akin to a betrayal of an age-old tradition and now studios and publications are at a crossroads - what to do?
Originally, half a century ago and earlier, comics in the United States were sold at newsstands like regular periodicals. Then there was a revolution and specialized stores with an incomparably large assortment appeared. Stores quickly evolved into sites for like-minded people, became a place of gathering and communication. For most American comic book fans, it is not the pictures themselves that are more important, but the ability to stay in this environment.
But the comics themselves, the physical copies, are of immense importance. Especially rare editions and limited editions are real artifacts, collectibles. They have never been digitized and many comic book fans will not accept the digital transition. This will destroy and depersonalize everything that is almost sacred to them. The most some publications dare to do is add digital copies to physical copies so that customers can get content in a few seconds and not wait for the comics to be delivered to their homes.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed the existing system, stores are closed and even direct delivery does not cover the needs of customers. For giants such as Marvel and DC, this is not decisive, but if other studios decide to go digital in the new environment, the stores are unlikely to reopen. And that could be the finale for the entire comic book industry, at least in its current format.