[Editor’s note: This article was updated 04/19/2020 to include a link to a central spreadsheet for the auction]
If you’re an avid comics fan and Twitter user, you might’ve seen tweets in the past few days tagged #Creators4Comics. Creators of all stripes have offered up an assortment of goodies for fans to bid on: lots of original art, cameos, how to write comics classes, a makeup-focused Skype sesh, a podcast, two different rad jackets, and even an Animal Crossing vacay. The winning bidder donates their bid to the Binc Foundation (Book Industry Charitable Foundation), a non-profit created to help bookstore employees in need that expanded to “to assist any qualifying employee or owner of a brick-and-mortar bookstore or comic shop within the U.S.”
That assistance is sorely needed due to COVID-19, which put a halt on practically everything, entertainment-related or not. But comic stores run on razor-thin margins, and while DC Comics has announced their decision to use alternative distributors, there’s currently no new inventory coming to shops since the main industry distributor, Diamond, has announced they’re on hold til at least mid-May. The hold on new releases is hopefully keeping employees safe, but it makes it very hard for comic sellers to, well, sell new comics.
Thus, #Creators4Comics. The concept behind this fundraiser is pretty simple, and anyone can join by tweeting their own auction item along with the #Creators4Comics hashtag. Using Twitter is clever in the sense that it eliminates the need for any central infrastructure building on behalf of the organizers — Sam Humphries, Brian Michael Bendis, Kami Garcia, Gwenda Bond, and Phil Jimenez. While Binc has done creative auctions before — Bank on Booksellers auctions off creatively decorated piggy banks — this is their first one hosted on Twitter.
Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t seem like the ideal venue for something like an auction, and the whims of its algorithms meant several comic-reading friends I spoke to this week had yet to see any auction tweets pass through their feeds, despite following active creators. It also feels a bit like reinventing the fundraising auction wheel when there are already good examples in the industry.
Update: The headless approach to the auction does allow people in the community to step in and help, and author Marieke Nijkamp and Constance Eza created a centralized, updated spreadsheet of all the on-going bids on Twitter.
The #Creators4Comics master spreadsheet has been updated with all 459 auctions!
If you are running an auction please make sure you are on the master spreadsheet! You can use this link to both check AND add your auction if necessary https://t.co/RxF0sy2MXh
Please share 🥰
— Constance🐿 (@SunshineCVE) April 18, 2020
The Hero Initiative, for example, does great work auctioning off beautiful art on eBay to raise funds for creators in need. And DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee has mimicked that model with his #60sketchesover60days, auctioning off original comic art by himself and other big names, with funds also going to the Binc Foundation. eBay is a place well-known to collectors looking for high price original comics art, sketches, and other comics memorabilia, while not every serious collector has Twitter (and not everyone looking to bid high might want to do so that publicly). eBay also has the legal stuff built in, while there’s not much infrastructure for auctioneer or bidder to complain to if something goes wrong on Twitter.
In my humble opinion, creators who aren’t getting the higher bids they were hoping for might want to join Lee in putting their pieces up on eBay to catch the eyes of a wider audience. For example, an original sketch of Wolverine by Art Adams went for over $11,000, compared to other high profile creators on Twitter whose bids are still under $1,000.
So what happens after you pay for your winning bid? Kate Weiss, the communications coordinator at Binc, let me know the organizers for #Creators4Comics directed that the funds raised be used for both comic shops and indie bookstores. These brick and mortar establishments must be US-based, and must apply for funds which should be distributed “based on need” in mid-May.
Separate from their store assistance work (this fundraiser) and disaster recovery programs, Weiss also let me know about the Foundation’s household assistance program, which has, since March 18th, “distributed over $107,476 to 95 comic retailer’s households, helping them pay their rent, mortgage, and for other essentials after they lost their income due to the shuttering of their comic shops. [The Foundation expects] to see this number continue to grow in the coming days and weeks.”
While Weiss didn’t make me any less dubious of running an auction on Twitter, her response did make me feel a lot better about where all this money is headed, and how it actually gets distributed to shops. So go out there and get a hella good deal on some stellar work!
Auctions on Twitter close April 20th, and U.S. based comic shops have until April 27th to apply for funds.