Diamond Comics has held an essential monopoly on the distribution of mainstream comics on the biggest publishers in the industry for decades. And now, in the wake of ongoing differences between Diamond and one of the biggest of those publishers, DC Comics, the two are officially parting ways.
The Hollywood Reporter, citing an email sent by DC Comics to retailers today, reports that the publisher will no longer distribute its series and graphic novels via Diamond, who it has held an exclusive distribution deal with since 1995. Going forward, DC will distribute its periodical comic releases through Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors. Graphic novels and collected editions will go through Penguin Random House. This month, Diamond will only fulfill DC Comics orders placed through to June 1, while DC suspend order cut-offs for the following week, June 8, until June 15, to allow comics stores more time to adapt to the new system and get orders of books in.
“We recognize that, to many of you, this may seem like a momentous decision,” the email reads in part. “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.”
As much as DC would like to downplay it, the decision is indeed momentous—after all, Diamond distributes the vast majority of major publishers in the U.S. and Europe exclusively, including Marvel, IDW, Image, Dark Horse, Boom Studios, Archie Comics and more. DC was part of that vast share of the market Diamond had cornered, but no longer. That said, it is perhaps unsurprising given developments in recent months.
As the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic saw countries across the world go into lockdown, prohibiting the opening of non-essential retail stores (such as say, comic book stores), Diamond Comics ceased all distribution efforts in March. It effectively brought the bulk of the physical comics retail in the U.S. and Europe to a standstill. At the end of April, DC began launching its own initiative, separate from Diamond, to slowly begin releasing a selection of its on-hiatus and delayed series physically, using the aforementioned Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, companies created by Discount Comic Book Service and Midtown Comics.
At the time, Diamond acknowledged DC’s plans in a statement to Newsarama, telling press that it valued “our partnership with DC and will continue to support them as a distributor.” Clearly, that’s something that’s no longer happening.
Diamond and its CEO, Steve Geppi, have sought to position the distributor as the face of comic book retail making a comeback, shipping product to stores and encouraging them to re-open even as many states in the U.S. and countries around the world still have various levels of lockdown restrictions encouraging people to stay at home and avoid risking the further spread of a global pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Now, they must attempt to do so without the backing of one of their oldest and most important publishing partners.
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