Sometimes you just can’t keep politics out of comic books. Especially when political decisions impact directly on their production. The Breit referendum in Britain, for example, has meant that it is far more profitable for British creators to work for American publishers right now, as the pound is so low against the dollar. This is known as the Mark Millar Motivation. While British publishers are finding it harder to keep British talent from being recruited away by the Americans as a result. Simultaneously British readers are finding that the price of American comic books continues to rise. And while British comics should, theoretically, have remained unchanged in price, the rising price of talent and overseas production as a result of the pound fall has seen prices rise there too.
But what of America? As part of an ongoing trade war between the USA and China, Donald Trump has announced a series of new taxes to be paid by companies importing from China in the near future – and that will, it seems, include comic books and other printed material. Mark Brooks has already talked about being hit by an additional four-figure sum.
“Just got notice that the trade war between the US and China has added an additional $1500 to the price on ordering my new sketchbook… We’d already paid for them and now have to send additional tariff funds in order to have them for SDCC.”
A number of American publishers take advantage of China’s printing services. Indeed, there are hundreds of people providing such services on sites such as Alibaba, with the likes of Shanghai-based Call2Print regularly attending New York Comic Con to tout for business over the last seven years. I talked to one prominent comics executive, who preferred to be unnamed, at a publisher that puts a significant amount of work through China. They told me,
“The US tariffs on China do not currently impact books as a category. Books are on the announced list that the US is looking at possibly enacting in June. That being said, with upcoming negotiation talks currently scheduled this may change before they are enacted. Based on this, we along with our manufacturing and freight forwarding partners are taking a wait-and-see approach. If, and when, tariffs are enacted on books, we’ll make decisions about where we manufacture things on a product-by-product basis. We have strong manufacturing partners in the US, Canada, as well as in China and Korea and are confident we’ll find a solution.”
I also spoke to IDW representatives who confirmed that they print in Korea rather than China and so are unaffected. But Mike Richardson, founder and CEO of Dark Horse, recently bought into by a Chinese firm, told me,
“We’ll be watching to see what happens. We have a number of books and products coming from China. Hopefully an agreement will be reached before any impact is felt.”
China’s loss may be Korea’s gain, for some at least.