LOS ANGELES, CA – Heavy Metal is excited to announce VIRUS, a new platform for comics publishing that will bring real comics, printed on paper, to readers while paying the creators a fair price for their work.
The platform is apparently a self-distributing comics label, bypassing brick and mortar comics stores and Diamond Distributors, the sole comics wholesaler in the industry. Diamond, in particular, has been a bottleneck in the distribution of comics – always somewhat problematic, comic book stores have had a love-hate relationship with them for decades. Diamond was created in an era when publishing was all done on paper, and if you wanted to get your comics on the stands, you had to go through them. They held – and still hold – a tremendous amount of power over who gets to be a commercial success and who doesn’t.
With the COVID-19 crisis hitting the comics industry hard, freezing distribution chains and forcing shops to close their doors, Heavy Metal realized not only that there was a better way to get comics into the hands of readers, but that with their solid footing and established power in the comics publishing industry, they had the ability to build it themselves.
Heavy Metal knows an opportunity when they see one. With a distribution shut-down shuttering comic shops nationwide, fans are starving for their weekly dose of new titles. VIRUS offers a new way for fans to get that, and with the new imprint comes the reputation of Heavy Metal itself. Heavy Metal CEO Matt Medney explains VIRUS’ origin as, “birthed from a viewpoint of the industry needing evolution, as well as us wondering, ‘How do we serve the Heavy Metal fan base more, with more stories and more content?'”
He’s not wrong. With the comicbook print industry generally faltering in the wake of other media, something’s gotta give.
Their approach is comics printing on demand, which means no warehouses full of inventory to slog around, no returns for unsold merchandise, and scaleability which can ebb and flow with market demands in a way not possible for traditional publishers. As a result, creators can begin earning royalties from the very first sale, instead of waiting until some threshold of hundreds or thousands of books have been sold. Creators get 15% of the sticker price for each book sold, from the very first one.
Calling an imprint VIRUS in the wake of a pandemic may seem like a questionable idea, but Medney sees it through a different lens. “When a virus pulls us apart, nothing brings us closer together than great stories,” Medney explains. “And that’s what we’re trying there. We’re trying to bring people together through great stories, find the silver lining of the pandemic through genre, and that’s the message. So even though the name is kind of more on the dark side, the ethos is on the light side, and that sort of juxtaposition has always been Heavy Metal.”
The first issues from VIRUS will go on sale on Wednesday, April 29, and new issues will be added to the shop each Wednesday. Launch titles include The Red (by Rosenblum, Medney, Bownz, Handler and Lam), Nomobots (by Agrimbau and Tumburus), Hymn of the Teada (by Medney, Rosenblum, Mechler, Fung, Pinchuk and Bownz) and Garbage Factory (by Jakofire and Kim). Bob Fingerman’s upcoming book, Dotty’s Inferno, will also be published through VIRUS.
“When the pandemic hit, disrupting everything and everyone, it forced us to look at how we can continue to keep the industry alive and provide fans of comicdom with the medium we all love,” Heavy Metal publisher David Erwin explained in a SyFy Wire exclusive. “Unfortunately, there will be casualties in the retail space and perhaps some publishers. But, we’re fortunate to offer an alternative and ability to service all the fans, as well as talented creators of this wonderful medium, comic books.”
And by casualties, he means the independent shops which are likely going to be hard hit during the pandemic, hard enough to put the ones that can’t pivot in place and start selling online completely out of business.
For more information on VIRUS and Heavy Metal, go to www.heavymetal.com.
About Heavy Metal
First published in 1977, Heavy Metal, the world’s foremost illustrated fantasy magazine, explores fantastic and surrealistic worlds, alternate realities, science-fiction and horror in the past, present, and future. Writers and illustrators from around the world take you to places you never dreamed existed.
Heavy Metal was the first magazine to bring European legends Moebius, Tanino Liberatore, Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal, Pepe Moreno and Philippe Caza to the U.S. as well as showcasing American superstars Richard Corben, Jim Steranko and Bernie Wrightson.
The magazine continues to showcase amazing new talent as well as allow established creators to have “carte blanche.” Heavy Metal magazine is now published six times per year.