DC Comics is sending out a shockwave across the comic book industry.
The company announced earlier today that it is parting ways with Diamond Comics Distributors effective as of the June 15th Final Order Cut-Off date. Afterward, retailers must use Penguin Random House for DC books (like graphic novels and trade paperbacks) while comics will be available through Lunar Distribution or UCS Comic Book Distributors.
The two latter companies were formed as Diamond shut down distribution earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and denied payments back to publishers. DC itself began to look for alternatives, even as most comic book shops were themselves closed by local shelter-in-place orders, and soon announced their products would be available through the new distributors. Nevertheless, the precarious situation left many retailers, publishers, and readers re-examining the virtual monopoly Diamond has on the industry. And many recognized DC’s move to the other distributors as the beginning of a shift even as both DC and Diamond claimed their relationship would continue.
DC was exclusive to Diamond since the last upheaval in comics distribution in the mid-1990s, when Marvel Comics attempted to change the business by purchasing Heroes World Distribution in 1994 and going exclusive with them. It forced Diamond to acquire its chief rival, Capital City Distribution, and even put DC in a position where it felt necessary to own a stake in Diamond. That has not been the case in many years, but it gave rise to a myth that DC could buy Diamond at any moment and shatter the fragile distribution chain born out of the 1990s comic shop implosion.
In an email to shop owners, DC said, “We recognize that, to many of you, this may seem like a momentous decision. However, we can assure you that this change in DC’s distribution plans has not been made lightly and follows a long period of thought and consideration. The change of direction is in line with DC’s overall strategic vision intended to improve the health of, and strengthen, the Direct Market as well as grow the number of fans who read comics worldwide.”
Of course, the change is fraught with uncertainty as retailers will need to reorganize their usual ordering procedures and publishers will need to decide if they will also make their titles available through Lunar and UCS. And those who remember the last shake-up in the distribution game are no doubt fretting the potential for another implosion.
As of now, Diamond has yet to respond to the news, but we’ll be waiting to see their statement and, really, how the industry as a whole embraces the change.
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