Can we take a mulligan on 2020? This has been one hell of a long year, and it’s only April.
Comics of all stripes have hit a “snag” over the last two months. All of the major spring arts comics festivals have been postponed or canceled. Major comics releases from publishers like Kodansha and Drawn & Quarterly have been delayed. Even small presses that operate through platforms like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter have had to delay books or reduce sales to limit contact via the post office.
Diamond, the distribution monopoly that serves most brick and mortar comics shops, shuttered distribution of comics starting 4/1/2020. That shut-off will likely spell doom for some of these independent businesses that rely on Diamond. In-person sales were already grinding to a halt as most of the United States is on mandated shelter-in-place, but Steve Geppi’s letter to retailers was particularly thoughtless and grim. Geppi has also signaled that Diamond will not be making payments to the publishers it distributes. Like many others, I find Diamond’s stranglehold on distribution nose-turning, but since I live in a part of the world that doesn’t have a nearby comic shop, their business practices hadn’t directly affected me. Now it seems like these practices are coming home to roost.
This period of intentional pause is going to hurt a lot of people. Unemployment benefits-filings have rocketed to more than 10 million people in the last two weeks, and unemployment is up to 4.4%, ending 10 years of job growth since the Great Recession. Rent checks, due on the first of the month, are going to cause a crisis for people unable to get paid. No matter what we think we know right now, things are likely going to get worse before they get better.
The reaches of this are going to be widely felt. I have a sinking feeling that there will be many artists who will not be able to be artists when this pandemic is over.
I know that in many ways, comics, comics journalism, and comics criticism are small potatoes compared to the pains and anxieties of the world right now. But I also believe that times like this are when we lean on the arts more than ever. If you have the means, please support the artists you care about with purchases of art, donations, Patreon memberships. Anything helps in a moment like this.
Fieldmouse Press is also trying to do its part. Late in March, I announced a new imprint from Fieldmouse Press called SOLRAD Presents, which will serve cartoonists who are looking for a way to host and amplify the reach of their comics from impermanent, social, or algorithm-driven platforms. Our goal is to help serve cartoonists and give them a place to maintain their work at no cost to them, where they retain all rights in perpetuity, and offer them an additional audience they may not have in other places. If you are interested in having a comic hosted as a part of SOLRAD Presents, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOLRAD Presents is already up and running with its first comic! I am really pleased to share the work of Reilly Hadden as a part of the imprint. Reilly’s comic Kricket the Cat is a low-key adventure comic for everyone. In the coming month, we’ll have additional new comics that we hope will show the range of the SOLRAD Presents imprint, and we hope that you enjoy these comics just as much as we do.
SOLRAD will continue to bring you excellent comics criticism, commentary, and interviews, and although we expect there to be some coronavirus-related delays, there is a lot to be excited about for April 2020:
- We’re starting April with a kid-lit week, featuring an interview with Erin Bried of Kazoo Magazine/Noisemakers by Alyssa Wejebe. We’ll have other reviews and features of kid lit and middle-grade graphic novels all week, so check back throughout the week for new writing.
- We started the month with a review of Rikke Villadsen’s The Sea, and we’re looking forward to Gretchen Felker-Martin’s debut at SOLRAD with a review of Villadsen’s latest book, Cowboy, which was published in March by Fantagraphics.
- We’ll have at least one more theme week at the end of April – manga! Manga was where I got my start as a critic, and I’m excited to have the SOLRAD team take a crack at a few noteworthy books that have been published over the last 6 months.
All this and more is coming your way this month. Stay home, stay safe, and enjoy the work of our contributors this month – I know I will.