While the big two comic book publishers get a lot of the attention, new studios have been rising and producing immersive and grand stories from every genre. But in TKO Studios’ case, they’re not only providing S-tier content, but they’re also pushing the comics industry forward with their unique publishing methods which releases titles by quarter in single issue, trade, and digital format all at once. This not only offers up a variety of reading experiences but can provide every comic fan with the that catches them most, or all three when buying the bundle. While the team at TKO Studios has pushed the industry forward, it’s been their response to COVID-19 that has blown many comic fans away.
With much of print comics paused due to the pandemic, and shelter-in-place orders, local comic book shops have been put under an intense strain to find a way to remain open. Now, local comic book shops are a vital part of the comic book industry, and TKO Studios has realized this and have made it their mission to help local comic book shops fight back. Until the end of the Coronavirus threat, when you purchase a comic through tkopresents.com, you can select a local comic book shop of your choice, and TKO will send that store 50% of the purchase price. That is the same amount the store would have made selling the book via their store.
I got the chance to speak with CEO, Tze Chun about TKO Studios mission, its response to the pandemic, and more. You can find the full interview below.
BUT WHY THO: TKO is a unique studio, with a distribution model that is embracing digital, physical trade, and physical single issues all at once, so I have to ask: What drove this decision?
TZE CHUN: Since launch, it’s been TKO’s mission to modernize the comic book industry commercially and creatively. At every stage of the decision making process when building our company, we asked ourselves three questions 1) Is this good for creators? 2) Is this good for fans? 3) Is this good for comics? Those three questions drove every decision we made. To that end, we do a number of things differently than other publishers.
Firstly, we binge-release our books. Second, we release single-issues, trades, and digital simultaneously. And third, we offer the first issue of each series for free to read at TKOpresents.com. We also don’t use Diamond and do deals directly with comic book shops. We offer comic book shops a 50% discount, free shipping in the US, and a 3-5 day turnaround on orders.
BUT WHY THO: How has the current changing comic landscape impacted TKO and its titles?
CHUN: At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, TKO decided to do everything in our power to help comic book shops, who were struggling during this time. To that end, we created an initiative where we’re sending 50% of every purchase at TKOpresents.com to local comic book shops. All a customer has to do is choose their local shop at checkout, and we’ll send them 50% of the purchase price. So, if you spend $30 at TKOpresents.com, your favorite store will make $15. If you spend $60, they’ll get $30, and so on.
As far as our creative pipeline, our creators are still working on their books that will be released in WAVES 3-5, as well as additional OGNs and prose books that we’ll be announcing soon.
BUT WHY THO: The decision to offer financial assistance to local comic shops via sales of TKO titles is a step to help them reopen when this passes. Why did you all make the call?
CHUN: At TKO we’ve always seen comic book shops as the lifeblood of the industry. I think all of us at the company were affected by seeing our retail partners struggling during this time. Because we control our distribution model from beginning to end, we actually had the ability to do something to help.
BUT WHY THO: It is clear that TKO has a great respect for local comic book shops. Does that respect come from a personal experience?
CHUN: Many of us at TKO fell in love with comic books at their local comic book shops. For some people, there’s nothing like the feeling of walking into a comic book shop and browsing and finding new stories to fall in love with.
In terms of my own personal experience, I was raised by a single mom who was always super supportive of anything I wanted to do. One day I told her I wanted to be a comic book artist and that weekend when I woke up she’d cut out the page from the yellow pages that listed all the comic book stores in Boston. We spent the day driving around to every single one. I never forgot that day, or the feeling of walking into a comic book shop as a kid. It’s an important part of the comic book experience and one we want to help preserve.
BUT WHY THO: What has the response been from LCS and fans regarding TKO’s initiative?
CHUN: The response from stores and fans have been fantastic. So far we’ve sent out over a thousand checks to 600 stores. The comic book community is incredible, and it’s been amazing to see them support the stores they love.
BUT WHY THO: Does TKO have any big plans or announcements coming up that we should keep an eye out for?
CHUN: We’ll have a lot of exciting announcements about new projects and a few surprises for our fans. We typically announce via social, so follow @TKOpresents on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to be the first to know.
While the current crisis has been scary for fans, business, and honestly, everyone, there are moments of kindness and community that ring through the darkness and offer hope. In comics, its TKO Studios’ dedication to keeping the foundation of the industry afloat – but more importantly, helping keep the places that served as sanctuaries for comic fans, the places where kids learned the wonder of superheroes, the local comic book store.
If you would like to help support, head on over to tkopresents.com and order one of their amazing titles, and give back to your local shop at checkout. With small acts of kindness and support, we can fight this together.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.