One of the most intimidating aspects of getting into comics for the first time is... well, the actual process of buying comic books, especially if you're looking to build a physical collection. But as difficult - if not outright arcane - as it can be, it's about to get a little easier to manage.
Image: DC Comics. DC Essential Graphic Novels 2018 cover art by Danny Miki and David Finch.
This morning, Diamond, the biggest distributor in the comics industry, announced a new digital service called the Pullbox, designed to give comics readers a simple, consistent way to track the comics they have on order at their local comics store while on the go.
As long as your local store is synched to the service, you'll be able to manage your pull list of series and add recurring orders for your favourite titles, add new series or special items from the current issue of Diamond's Previews magazine, or make one-off purchases on the fly and track when the next issues in your collection are set to come out. From a retailer perspective, Diamond promises the ability to integrate Pullbox into any current digital order systems they currently run as well, making it an easy process on both ends. And of course, you're still ordering from your local store, so if you go to a specific place to support it, you don't have to worry about that money going elsewhere if you're using the new service.
It isn't completely digital - you still have to go and physically collect your orders from your local store, after all, so if you're looking to avoid the potentially intimidating act of heading into a comics store, Pullbox isn't the solution. But it's the biggest distributor of comics offering retailers and readers alike a single, unified system that makes maintaining a regular order of comics probably as easy as it can be.
It's a small step, and it doesn't really address the comics industry at large's reliance on the preorder-driven structure, a system so confusing at times that it isn't out of place for creative teams on new books to actually release their own how-to guides explaining how new fans can properly support a comic. But it's progress toward modernising and simplifying a process that can often be a barrier to entry in getting new readers into comics.