Concern over travel to pop culture conventions as well as delays in printing due the novel coronavirus are growing among comics publishers. Last week, ReedPop the organizer of Emerald City Comic-Con, originally slated to be held March 12-15, announced the event will be postponed in hopes of rescheduling it at an undetermined time this summer.
Emerald City Comic Con draws nearly 100,000 fans to Seattle. Prior to ReedPop's decision to postpone ECCC, the event was hit with numerous cancellations from publishers and pop culture vendors who had decided that they would not attend the show. Among the exhibitors that cancelled were Dark Horse, Macmillan, Oni Press, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Bandai, and Diamond Select.
ReedPop, which also manages BookExpo and BookCon in addition to other consumer pop culture shows, will provide refunds to fans and noted the impact of cancelling the show: “To those whose careers depend on ECCC - we will do everything that we can over the coming days and weeks to highlight your work and we ask that our entire community support you as we realize your personal livelihoods may be impacted.”
Oni Press publisher James Lucas Jones, told PW, that going forward from ECCC, “Oni Press currently has no plans on changing our convention attendance even as we will continue to do what is right by our creators and staff.” Jones emphasized that “prior to our decision to pull out of Emerald City Comic Con, we had been in touch with multiple folks at all levels of the ReedPop organization. Right now so many shows face the same difficult decision, and we know they care deeply about their attendees, their exhibitors, and creators and trust that their choice, like ours, is with their coworkers, colleagues, and communities in mind.”
The postponement of ECCC follows the actions of two international trade shows, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which has been postponed from March to May, and the cancellation of the London Book Fair. Large pop culture shows like the ECCC attract far larger crowds of attendees, but concerns over travel are impacting even smaller comics arts festivals, which can also attract a national and international slate of creators and fans.
In New York City, Anelle Miller, executive director of the Society of Illustrators, the organizer of the MoCCA Arts Festival, an indie comics festival scheduled for April 4-5 that attracts about 7,000 fans, told PW “we are monitoring the situation and right now proceeding as planned.”
The Toronto Comics Arts Festival, an indie comics festival scheduled for May 9-10 attracts about 20,000 fans over the weekend. TCAF cofounder and artistic director Chris Butcher said that TCAF (as well as VanCAF, a similar show slated for May 16-17 in Vancouver) are monitoring the novel coronavirus situation, and plan to issue a statement later in the week. Butcher said, “It's something we're aware of and discussing. TCAF is still going forward though, as is VanCAF.”
While show organizers (and fans) are grappling with the risks of traveling, publishers are being cautious. A spokesperson for DC Entertainment told PW,” DC staffers will not be attending conventions during the month of March. Future convention attendance will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, factoring in the latest information from a variety of organizations.”
Kevin Hamric, senior director publishing sales at Viz Media, one of the largest U.S. manga publishers, said the house is “monitoring the situation closely,” adding “the cancellations and quarantines really have not affected our business to date except maybe for some initial meetings at London Book Fair to sell rights for our new Viz Originals line.”
At Kodansha USA Publishing, a major U.S. manga house, a representative told PW “with our close ties to our parent company, we’ve been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely since the outbreak affected Japan.” The representative emphasized that “our U.S. offices have since suspended all international business travel until further notice, and existing remote work policies for our employees have been expanded. We’ll continue to review our policies on a day-to-day basis as the situation evolves.”
Spokespeople for smaller houses issued similar statements: Jacq Cohen, executive director of marketing and publicity at indie comics house Fantagraphics Books, which is based in Seattle where ECCC is held, said “At this point, we are still trying to figure out our next step. A week ago, we were living in a much different world than we are today. Who knows what next week will bring. As residents of Seattle, we are currently discussing our ethical responsibilities regarding traveling to other cities. With the MoCCA Festival less than a month away, we are keeping a close eye on the news.”
Terry Nantier, publisher of NBM and kids’ graphic novel publisher PaperCutz said, “We’ll monitor how things go,” but said he still plans on attending MoCCA and TCAF.
And in a related matter, some small comics publishers are facing delays on books being printed in China due to the quarantines. In late February, Jesse Post, publicist for indie comics house Iron Circus Comics, announced that eight titles scheduled for the spring and early summer will not be ready until later in the season. Among the titles delayed are Banned Book Club by Ryan Estrada, Kim Hyun Sook, and Ko Hyung-ju (May) and The Harrowing of Hell by Evan Dahm (March).
“Several Iron Circus Comics titles scheduled for release in the Winter and Spring 2020 seasons have been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, where many of our print service providers are located,” Post said. “We first thought only the earliest titles would be affected, but as the situation worsens, nearly every title will miss its original pub date. We don't want to commit to new dates until we get solid word from our vendors that they are safe and healthy and able to return to work.”
Fantagraphics’ Cohen said “several of our books have been delayed due to quarantines at various printers in both China and Korea.” Delayed titles include Vivan Chong and Georgia Webber’s Dancing After Ten, Art Young’s Inferno by Glenn Bray and Art Young, and Perramous: The City and Oblivion by Alberto Breccia and Juan Sasturain.
NBM’s Nantier said, “We are seeing some titles delayed for Papercutz due to slower production in China, although it looks like a matter of a week or two mostly. Overall though we had already been moving away from printing in China due to the tariffs question.”
Update: Statements from Oni Press and from Kodansha USA Publishing have been added to this story