The end of the year finds at least four independent comics publishers facing some financial issues. First reported by the Beat, Aftershock Comics, an indie house based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy citing $10 million to $50 millions in liabilities; celebrated sci-fi and comics publisher Heavy Metal has initiated an in-house restructuring and temporarily suspended payments to vendors; Dead Reckoning, the graphic novel imprint at the Navel Institute Press, has laid off its founding editor, blaming pandemic-related problems; and the publishing program at Valiant Comics has been plagued by rumors of layoffs and the downsizing of its publishing list.
On-going supply chain issues, including spikes in paper and shipping prices, were cited by several publishers as one of the main reasons for their current problems. Heavy Metal CEO Matt Medney told PW spikes in paper and shipping prices, in addition to problems with the US Postal Service, and HM's inability to be paid itself, led to its restructuring. Medney says HM has not been paid the receivables it is owed, which has prevented the company from paying its creditors.
Medney, who is also an HM author, acknowledged that the house is “experiencing some cash flow problems due to the enormous hike in paper and shipping costs, with the inability to raise consumer prices of product.”
“The reality is that a supply chain of errors created this situation. These are industry-wide issues that are affecting all independent publishers and we need to have a conversation about how to fix these issues,” he said. To fix its situation, HM has hired in Joseph Durko, an experienced management executive, as CFO, and initiated an in-house restructuring. As a result, the company has temporarily suspended payments to its creators and vendors. Medney said that the company’s owners are working to rectify the situation and that “no one is leaving the company.”
HM has about 15 staffers who are taking “an extended holiday” and will return in the new year. Medney also noted that the company’s current problems are unrelated to a recent partnership announced at New York Comic-Con in which Whatnot Publishing will take over the production, printing, and distribution of HM books and magazines. The partnership does not take affect until 2023.
“Luckily, we are very close to curing the short term issues and creating some reprieve both from previous concerns and our realignment forward with the current paradigm of the industry,” Medney said. "We will cure this situation. We are waiting for receivables that will allow us to take care of all our artists”
And in response to questions from PW, Adam Kane, director of Naval Institute Press, said that Gary Thompson, founding director of Dead Reckoning, has left the company after his position was eliminated. Kane said Thompson’s departure was "in response to on-going industry challenges brought on by the pandemic." Kane added that the imprint will continue to publish.
“We continue to move forward with projects slated for publication. We will continue to support individual authors who attend conventions and maintain our presence in the marketplace, working with vendors, organizations, and individuals to promote, distribute, and sell graphic novels.”