With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the comic industry has come to a halt. Diamond Distributor is the main distributor for comics from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW, Image Comics, and more. On March 23rd, Steve Geppi, the CEO of Diamond Distributor’s parent company Geppi Family Enterprises, first announced that they will cease all shipments of new comics to local comic shops because of difficulties in the supply chain. A couple weeks later, they announced that they will stop payments to the publishers because of a lack of new revenue. This means local shops stopped receiving new books and publishers stopped receiving funding. The industry was already struggling as comic sales grew online and general readership slowed. This stoppage could topple the entire industry. DC just made a game-changing announcement, they are bringing new comics to the stores starting April 28, 2020.
DC’s announcement shares the list of new books coming starting Tuesday April 28th, then continuing May 5th and 12th. We will list all the releases below. But how is this possible if their distributor is closed? DC is working with two new and smaller distributors, Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, to get these books to the local shops. DC’s Chief Creative Officer, Jim Lee, told Kevin Smith on his podcast that this was a subsection of the comics that were supposed to release on April 1st. He claims that they want to slowly reopen the supply line. This is most likely because the new distributors will need to ramp up dramatically for such a big client. New comics are on the way to your local shop!
“the stores that are open and have figured out ways to be in business, we want to help them out. We want to give them product to sell. We want to give them the lifeblood that keeps their businesses afloat.”
– Jim Lee
Not everyone was happy with this announcement. Diamond Distributors followed DC’s statement quickly with an email to their retail partners that contradicted everything that DC said. The email states that all orders that were stopped are still in place and not canceled. When Diamond is back up and running, they would fulfill on previous orders. Diamond states that DC new books will come from Diamond starting mid-May when they predict they will be re-established.
“We appreciate your patience as we work with our longtime partner, DC Comics, on details following their recent announcement regarding their upcoming slate of weekly periodicals. We have confirmed that the orders you placed with Diamond Comic Distributors for upcoming products are still in our system and will be fulfilled when we resume the distribution of new, weekly products.”
– Geppi Family Enterprises’ email
Diamond Distributors has had a monopoly on the distribution of comics since the early 90s as they bought up small distributors across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. This led to an antitrust investigation by the U.S. Justice department in 1997. The investigation was closed on November 6, 2000 after deciding that Diamond “although Diamond enjoyed a monopoly in the North American comic book direct market distribution, they did not enjoy a monopoly on book distribution.” (Rich Johnston of BleedingCool). That has been a controversial decision amongst many comic fans because it assumes distributors of non-comic books can distribute comics in this unique system.
DC’s choice to use smaller distributors is not just great news for the local shops but could be the first crack in the Diamond. If DC decides to continue with Lunar and UCS, or someone else, this will open the doors for other publishers. Giving them more options. These two will already have to step up production and could use this momentum to grow into true competitors. Competition is desperately needed in this industry and can bring forward innovation that has not been seen since Diamond monopolized distribution two decades ago.
Sources: DC Comics, The New York Times, Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, Polygon, “Who Watches the Watchmen? Monopolization of Modern Comic Book Distribution” by Harrison Donahoe in The University of Memphis Law Review
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