Failing Comic Book Stores Set to Receive Grants

In times of economic downturn, particularly in recessions with high levels of unemployment, people do not spend money on items that are mostly considered luxuries. This includes fancier, more expensive food items, new items of clothing, or things like video games and comic books. Though for brick and mortar comic book stores, the current global pandemic has affected them in more ways than simply causing hesitation among their customer base. The shut-downs around the nation have also affected deliveries, so comic book stores are having trouble getting products to sell, even if they had people who wanted to buy them.

This is why hundreds of comic book store owners are going to be receiving grant money, hopefully so they can keep their doors open in the expectation that business will pick back up in concert with the rest of the economy.

Last month, the Comicbook United Fund was created specifically to help the struggling industry, and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) has stated that money will be distributed to comic book stores on Tuesday, May 12, to help them keep their doors open.

To date, almost $1 million has been raised. However, the 637 verified stores across the United States will have to split this money up, which means that comic book stores could be looking at payments ranging from around $800 on the low end to $2,400 on the high end. Of course, this might be a month’s mortgage or the ability to pay a utility bill, but it’s obviously not enough money to pay employees or to solve any of their real issues. But for many stores out there, it certainly is a nice gesture that will be much appreciated and very much needed.

According to Binc, they know full well that this money is only a stopgap and that it’s not accomplishing much. However, they do claim that it will help comic book stores with mortgages, food and other necessities. For a lot of comic book store owners, they’re unable to file for unemployment benefits, as technically they were not employees. As business owners, they are not on the long list of people who are receiving the $600 per week in federal funds. It’s a bit of a punch of irony here. Employees who had to be let go from a comic book store can get 60% of their paycheck from the state, plus an additional $600 weekly from the federal government, while owners have to make do with only a possible one-time stimulus payment.

It's not anything media really takes time to discuss, but small business owners not being able to collect the same level of benefits is something that threatens to cripple the economy a lot quicker and for a lot longer than employees being laid off. Though for the comic book industry in totality, even throwing more money on the issue might not even begin to solve it. There are things much deeper at play.

More Than Grants May Be Needed

According to many experts, comic books as an industry was already very much struggling before the novel coronavirus reared its ugly head and caused all of these lock-down orders and mass numbers of unemployed people. With big-name comics’ brands like Marvel refusing to cater to their audience so they could instead brand themselves as progressive, series in the works like “She Hulk” and the “New Warriors” projects purposefully alienated a majority of their audiences in favor of making a sociopolitical statement.

While the people in charge of these huge companies can more than afford to make those decisions for political clout and never feel the sting, it threatens to put thousands of comic book store owners out of business, as instead of exciting, in-demand comics being created and shipped, the industry relying upon storytelling through printed-page art is seemingly trying to emulate Netflix and other streaming services by injecting their progressive politics into the pages.

With Netflix, for example, you pay for a subscription and there are tens of thousands of watch options. You don’t like the “New Warriors” show? Simple; watch something else. With print media, it’s a bit different. You’re only getting what’s inside of one comic book, so if all the comic books are bad, they do not sell, which means the stores aren’t making money. No one has to be a mathematician to make this add up.

Hopefully the grants will help, though it’s fairly clear that they’re only a temporary measure.

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