25 Years of Delivering the Fun of Comic Books, Pop Culture to the World
This month, Diamond Comic Distributors celebrates its 25th year of operation, marking a quarter-century of serving specialty market retailers and suppliers.
In that time, comic books have grown from what adults once thought of as “kids’ stuff” into a full-fledged entertainment medium attracting readers of all ages and generating hundreds of millions of dollars every year. And one of the forces behind that explosive popularity has been Diamond.
“All of us at Diamond are proud to have played a significant role in the evolution of the comic book industry over the last quarter-century,” said Diamond Founder, President and CEO Steve Geppi. “In 25 years, we’ve helped comic retailers develop into savvy entrepreneurs who now carry graphic novels, books, toys, apparel, DVDs, collectibles and other merchandise related to comics and pop-culture. We’ve also helped to transform the public’s indifference to comic books and graphic novels into serious acceptance of them as vehicles for literature, education and entertainment. It’s been an extraordinary journey for us, particularly when you consider our modest beginnings.”
In 1973, Geppi bought his first comic book price guide, and realized that his long-standing hobby of collecting comic books could become a profitable undertaking. Gradually, he began selling his back issues and duplicates at flea markets, conventions and comic book shows.
The hobby turned into a business opportunity, as Geppi found that others shared his love and interest for old and new comics. In 1974, he left his job as a United States Postal Service letter carrier and opened his first store, Geppi’s Comic World, which operated out of the basement of a TV repair shop.
“I paid $100 a month for that half basement,” said Geppi, remembering his first cramped quarters. “Then I took over the whole basement and eventually moved upstairs.”
From that point on, Geppi’s retail business continued to expand. He opened two more stores in 1978, and a fourth location followed in 1980.
When a Baltimore, MD/Washington, DC-area distributor folded in 1982, Geppi – with the encouragement of other area retailers – filled the void by creating Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. (named after the small, black diamonds that were found, at the time, on specialty market editions of Marvel Comics’ titles). Though he started with only a single warehouse and 17 customers, Geppi’s understanding of what retailers expected from a distributor helped him draft an effective business model, the tenets of which still guide Diamond 25 years later: build success by showing customers the respect they deserve, and supplying them with the best products and services possible.
Under Geppi’s guidance, Diamond’s family of employees helped nurture that small, local operation into the world’s largest distributor of English-language comics and related pop culture merchandise. Today, Diamond’s monthly catalog, Previews, offers specialty retailers and consumers worldwide a limitless variety of comic books and graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics, DC Comics, Image Comics, Marvel Comics and many other world-famous publishers. Plus, Diamond handles a wealth of other comic- and pop culture-related product lines, including books, toys, games, DVDs, apparel, collectibles and much more.
“We number our retail customers among our most valued business partners,” Geppi noted. “Our success is a direct result of their success, because they entrust their businesses to us every day. We plan to thank them throughout the year with a variety of anniversary-related events that we’ll announce in the coming weeks.”
In addition to helping comic and pop culture specialty retailers thrive over the last quarter-century, Diamond has worked hard to expand awareness of, and appreciation for, comic books. For example, the company administers Free Comic Book Day, an annual event held in comic shops the first Saturday each May. The event, during which thousands of participating retailers distribute millions of comics to anyone visiting their store, generates international media attention and entices new readers to check out what the medium has to offer.
Furthermore, Diamond administers the Comic Shop Locator Service, a unique tool that helps anyone in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Ireland find a comic shop in their area via a toll-free phone number (888-COMIC-BOOK) or the Service’s website (www.comicshoplocator.com). Now entering its 11th year, the toll-free number has given out more than a million referrals to approximately 600,000 prospective comic readers, while the website component has directed countless consumers to comic shops.
“Nothing’s more exciting to a lifelong comic fan like me than sharing my passion for comics with others,” said Geppi. “Every time someone visits a comic book shop on Free Comic Book Day, or through a reference from the Comic Shop Locator Service, it makes me feel great to know that Diamond played a part in getting them there. Not only is that person a potential customer for the retailer and the supplier, but they represent an opportunity to discover that comic books offer something for every taste!”
Utilizing the many benefits of the computer age, Diamond’s services have also expanded through the years, and now include a host of high-tech tools – including Diamond Online’s Retailer Services Area, Previews on Windows, Reorders Online and much more – an innovative trend that will continue in order to meet retailers’ needs for the next 25 years and beyond.
“When I look back at what Diamond has accomplished since its inception, it amazes me how many things have changed,” said Geppi. “But what amazes me even more is the creative ways in which we’ve adapted to those changes while remaining, essentially, the same. We continue to bring retailers the widest possible variety of products from a diverse selection of suppliers. We continue to help retailers sell those products with a full spectrum of support services and programs. And we strive to treat retailers with the respect they deserve as the people who make us successful.”
Diamond’s commitment to growing the audience for comics and helping retailers meet the demands of that audience have earned it a unique place in the comic industry, as well as many local, national and international honors. Among them: an Entrepreneur of the Year for Maryland Award for Geppi, and an International Achievement Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce for Diamond.
“On behalf of everyone at Diamond, I want to thank our retailers and our suppliers for placing their faith in us month after month for the past 25 years. And I personally want to thank every Diamond employee – past and present – for their commitment and hard work over the years.”