COVID-19 Delays

By | Wednesday, February 19, 2020 Leave a Comment
Banned Book Clubs delay graphic by Eric Estrada
There are some people -- and I used to be one of them, many years ago -- that don't pay much attention to international or even national news. The thinking being that if things are going sideways in Iran, how does that impact me sitting in the middle of Cornfield, KS? In many cases, it's really hard to find a connection, so it's understandable why someone might not care. But we have some very real world instances that we can show direct cause-and-affect.

You've like heard about COVID-19, previously known as the Coronavirus, right? There's been a few cases that have cropped up in the US and other countries, but it's so far been almost entirely contained to China.

Except, as it turns out, many of the pin manufacturers that artists use to make affordable pins to sell at conventions are based in China. And because so many people are calling in sick -- or are simply afraid to leave their house for fear of catching something -- that many of those manufacturing plants have effectively shut down. There are certainly those that are still open, but now they're swamped with the work from other places. (Click through to the entire thread to see how many "US manufacturers" are actually using those same Chinese plants, meaning people are having trouble even getting "local" help with these.)

Maybe you're thinking, "OK, yeah, that sucks. But you're talking about some pins here. They're hardly big money-makers for anyone."

Well, first, there is a pretty hefty market there, so this will absolutely hurt the bottom line of some creators. They're often running pretty thin margins, and this could mean the difference between breaking even at a convention and ending up in the hole.

But beyond that, it's not just pins. It's affecting anything and everything that's made in China. Including books!Books. The very lifeblood of the comics industry. That's going to have a big impact. Now, that doesn't mean every book is going to be late now, of course. I don't have many newer books to double-check many publishers, but the most recent Marvel and Boom! Studios books I have were printed in the United States. I know some independent creators who insist on working with local printers. I consider myself a little lucky in that Bloomsbury had initially planned on having my upcoming Webcomics book printed in China, but switched to a British printer back in the fall. But how many other books are getting caught up with printer closures and delays?

Economists are currently estimating that China's growth will drop 1.5% in the first quarter alone. Some of Apple's parts manufacturers have temporarily closed, and will undoubtedly cause production delays. Nissan and Hyundai plants located in the US have closed because they can't get all the parts from China. Global airline revenue is expected to drop $4-5 billion because of people cancelling their trips to/from China.

My point being that what's happening in China right now is very much impacting the rest of the world. In a practical, feel-it-on-the-ground way. Will not being able to get a new Nissan be a big problem for the comics industry? Probably not. But what about artists whose Wacom tablet just died? More than a few Wacom products are made in China. Or all those books that are printed over there because it's somehow cheaper to print books in China and ship them overseas to the US than to print them in the US in the first place. Or all those pins I mentioned earlier? These are real-world impacts that will specifically hit the comics industry.

Further, what about the books and pins and merchandise that do make it over to the US? Somebody has to buy them, right? It's probably not going to be anyone who works at those closed Nissan and Hyundai plants. How many other manufacturing jobs are going to be put on hiatus because their just-in-time inventory system relies on parts from China arriving just in time? If parts aren't arriving just in time, that's going to bottleneck the whole operation. The whole point of JIT production is that you don't need to have spare parts lying around! Should manufacturers have accounted for that? Sure! Did they? Some may have, but I can guarantee not everyone!

As COVID-19 continues to cause disruptions in China -- and there doesn't yet seem to be any indication it won't! -- we're going to see more and more disruptions here in the US. If we're lucky, it's nothing more than some book delays for a couple months. I wouldn't count on that, though!
Newer Post Older Post Home