There’ve been some minor shake-ups in the comic distribution side of the industry in the last few months that initially felt like they were part of the pandemic but have grown into something more seismic. DC Comics has now severed their distribution arrangement with Diamond Comic Distributors after twenty-five years and have set up fully with two other distributors (which are other comic shops/retailer/online outfits themselves) to handle supplying comic retailers when it comes to monthly books. Trades and the like are going through Penguin Random House going forward as they talk about below.
In a notice sent to the retail community today, this definitely sends a shift in the marketplace. Way back when I first got involved in the direct market in the 80s, there were a few different distributors and companies used the ones they got the best deals with and retailers worked with all of them, much like other industries. For example, I used to do a lot of stuff with Capital City distribution but they ended up phased out over time and we had things in the 90s with Marvel trying their own distribution before everything came down to the one main supplier, Diamond Comics.
The email, in part, reads, “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.”
“In the near term, Diamond will only be fulfilling orders placed through June 1 Final Order Cut-Off and will not solicit the sale of new DC titles further. To ensure a smooth transition for retailers, DC will suspend Final Order Cut-Off for June 8, making those books available to order on Final Order Cut-Off on June 15.”
DC sent a specific quote to The Hollywood Reporter as well, with, “After 25 years, DC and Diamond Comic Distributors are ending their long-standing relationship. Moving forward, comic book retailers can obtain their DC books from Penguin Random House, or their books and periodicals through Lunar or UCS comic book distributors. DC continues to be committed to providing the Direct Market with best in class service and the fans with the world’s greatest comic books.”
If you buy singles in print form, the main change is the one you already know; they’re now coming in on Tuesday which is the same day as bookstores get new books which is one of the reasons DC opted to go to this route so that their supply chain was solidified to a single day. If you buy digitally, you’re already seeing books on Tuesday’s so there’s no change there.
What’s going to be interesting, for those that watch these things, is to see what Diamond does at this point as DC accounts for probably close to 30% of their business. There’s a good chance that they’ll increase discounts to retailers for the product they do carry to try and make up for it in volume. We’re already seeing speculation that Disney could pick them up since Marvel makes up a huge chunk of the distribution through it and the existing distribution Disney has likely isn’t interested in trying to figure out the comic market chain.
This could be a bit of a win for the manga market if they’re willing to increase discounts a bit to get more product into stores, but there’s already significant competition through the bookstore market itself.
Regardless, we haven’t had a significant distribution change in decades for comics outside of the addition of digital comics and this could upend a lot of things, particularly of the more resistant-to-change retailers shift gears to ordering only what subscribers request from DC to make a point or abandon DC altogether in favor of a single distributor. Back when we had now release days twice a week with different distributors, we certainly saw a lot of strange stuff working the other side of the counter.