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ShortBox is closing down, and comics is all the worse for it

The mini-press has been in business since 2016, and been at the forefront of pushing new creators and new stories ever since

Image credit: ShortBox

There’s no small irony on the fact that, as I write this story, ComicsPro’s 2024 Comic Industry Conference is taking place in Pennsylvania; while the biggest and most vocal of the comics industry are outlining plans for the next few months and getting people excited about their upcoming work, perhaps the most interesting and exciting comic publisher of the past few years is entering its final week. That ShortBox is shuttering and, more so, that it’s doing so in relative silence, is a failure of the industry as a whole.

Founded in 2016 by former critic Zainab Akhtar, ShortBox very quickly became a home for up-and-coming talent unlike any other publisher in the industry; years before they made their mark with projects at places like First Second, IDW Publishing, Drawn & Quarterly, or Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ShortBox was releasing work by creators including Emily Carroll, Aminder Dhaliwal, James Stokoe, and Rosemary Valerio-O’Connell. Other projects might not have had recognizable creator names attached, but everything had the same level of quality, with ShortBox centering around Akhtar’s eye as a curator and editor instead of any specific aesthetic or artistic vision.

ShortBox’s closure isn’t a shock; Akhtar actually announced that she would be winding down the publishing side of the company back in 2022, in order to concentrate on the annual ShortBox Comics Fair, a digital-only, comics event that runs for the entire month of October featuring all-new work created specifically for the event. It’s a wonderful event, and something that means that Akhtar’s curatorial eye will continue to be seen throughout the industry — but, nonetheless, the loss of ShortBox as a physical publisher is a loss for comics as a business, and arguably as a medium as a whole, robbing up-and-coming creators of an important outlet.

The failure at the heart of ShortBox’s closure isn’t ShortBox’s, nor Akhtar’s, I hasten to add — it’s ours, as readers, as fans, and as people who love the comics medium: that more of us didn’t support ShortBox as a publisher enough, didn’t support new creators and talent enough. For comics to remain a vital medium, a medium that grows and evolves and continues to find new audiences and new things to say, this is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be nurtured and paid attention to, and to be supported with our dollars. When it doesn’t happen, everything is poorer as a result.

There are, as of writing, six days of ShortBox left before it closes; the publisher’s webstore remains open during that time, offering a chance for everyone to pick up on some of the best comics of the last decade while you can. (Especially the Emily Carroll and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Lissa Treiman ones. Not that I’m biased, or anything.)

Get into the vibrant world of comics with our guide to buying digital comics, how to make the most out of comic shops, our comprehensive guide to the upcoming comics, manga, and graphic novels you should be looking for, and everything you need to know about Free Comic Book Day and Local Comic Shop Day.

Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.


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