Image Comics Will Now Ship Their Comics to Your Home; Let Me Tell You Why This is a Big Deal
Comics Are Weird
Today Image Comics, the company behind Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals, Rat Queens, Saga, Savage Dragon, The Wicked + The Divine, and more things relevant to the interests of everybody who likes good, crazy comics, announced a new direct mail service. From now on, if you like a popular Image Comics series, you can have those issues shipped to your home like any other magazine. They’ll even give you bags and boards.
Why is everybody surprised about a move that seems so obvious? Comics are small print publications on glossy paper that come out roughly once a month. Why shouldn’t you be able to get a magazine-style subscription to them that delivers right to your door? Well, one reason is because most American comic book publishers contract with the same company to print and ship their comics, Diamond Distributors. That’s why new comic book day is Wednesday, across dozens of companies. Diamond is something of the two ton gorilla in the American comics industry, and though most initiatives that shake up the crazily non-consumer-intuitive direct market for comics (such as digital sales) are greeted with worries over what it means for the small comics shop, you can bet that comics companies sweat more about pissing of Diamond than cheesing off retailers. If you’ve ever wondered what the logic is behind infinitely reproducible digital issues being just as expensive as physical ones, the answer lies in part in the relationship between Diamond and publishers.
Is Image’s new subscription service the beginning of a revolution in the way comics are distributed? We’ll have to wait and see. For the moment, a better question might be is it a better deal for the consumer? Everybody should do their own math on it for themselves and their pull lists, but I think the answer is that if you have a local shop that you can reliably access… no. But if you’re among the many people who still want physical issues in their hands, but for whom getting to a comic shop is annoying or impossible, then this is gonna be right up your alley. (And if you’re just buying digital issues, well. Keep on truckin’!)
Image is offering various prices on a 12-issue subscription depending on the title, from $35 and change (Saga, The Walking Dead, Chew) to $47 (ODY-C) and change. The more issue subscriptions you buy, the bigger a discount you get, up to 30%. Shipping varies from $1-$5.75 an issue, depending on whether you want bags and boards and how fast you want your comics (either way, though, you’ll be getting all of them in a box at the end of the month, not on the week or day they’re released to stores). If you pick the cheapest shipping, a subscription to Saga (sticker price per issue: 2.99) will cost you $3.99 an issue, $3.39 if you subscribe to four series using the service, and $3.09 if you subscribe to an improbable ten. On the expensive side, a $47.88 subscription to ODY-C (sticker price: $3.99) comes out to $4.99/$4.19/$3.79 per issue.
So if you patronize a shop that gives discounts to folks who create pull lists (generally between 10% and 30% off), and you don’t have trouble going by to pick up your issues more than once a month, Image Direct is probably not the service for you. But if you do have trouble with that, due to lack of shops around or lack of shops close or any other number of reasons (and digital issues aren’t an option either), you may have just found your new favorite way to get your comics fix.
And that seems to have been the goal for Image, according to the company’s Publisher, Eric Stephenson:
Even with all the wonderful work our retailer partners in the Direct Market do, the number one comment we get from fans is they frequently can’t find the Image titles they’re looking for. Given that there are fewer comic book stores than ever before, we’re hoping that Image Direct makes our titles available to fans who don’t have easy access to a local comic book store, or whose shop doesn’t carry the full range of Image titles.
Whether Image is beginning a sea change in the distribution of comics or not, I imagine the announcement will make a lot of folks out there happy. And it makes me happy! Reading comics should be easier, because reading comics is pretty great.