American comic book fans live for Wednesdays. That’s the day the new issues arrive. Every major American comic book publisher uses a single distributor, Diamond, to ship boxes of their latest releases to roughly 2,200 comics retail stores across the country. The shop owners—or their minions—put that week’s crop of Batman or X-Men or Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the shelves, and then the fans arrive. A lot of them go to the same store every week, where they have a “pull list” on file, books they’ve asked to be set aside so they’ll never miss a single pulse-pounding issue. It’s a tradition.
To be more specific, it’s a dying tradition. The Wednesday crowd is the old-school audience, collectors who are willing to shell out $3 or $4 for a stapled-together pamphlet that they’ll put in a plastic bag with acid-free cardboard and store in a long white box. Those customers have been trickling away for years.