This past week was a busy one, and it’s leading into what I like to call “Distributor Wars” because lines are being drawn regarding who will get to send what to which stores.
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the cancellation of this year’s San Diego Comic Con, apparently the first time that convention will not happen since it first debuted. I’m not sure when things will clear up regarding COVID-19, but it can’t come soon enough for me! We just have to be safe when doing it!
The other big announcement on Friday was that DC Comics was going to begin making paper comics available again as of Tuesday, April 28, and continuing at least through Tuesday, May 12. Lunar Distributors and UCS Comic Distributors (Midtown and DCBS) seem to be the companies involved in this process. Stay tuned, though, because this whole situation seems to be changing rapidly!
I’ve been observing with interest the reaction to this announcement. Some retailers are quite upset that DC didn’t wait until mid- to late-May, as Diamond has said they will be doing (though that could also change at any time). Since mandatory closings vary widely by state and even by county within a state, some are very unhappy that stores that are able to stay open will have an advantage over those who must stay shuttered for now.
Well, many stores are offering “curbside service” to customers who can make an appointment with store owners to get new and/or already delivered books and such. An employee or owner will bring your order to your car, much like many restaurants are doing these days. I know those who treasure condition don’t care for this because you basically get whatever you are handed instead of being able to sort through copies to find the one in the shape you prefer. I’m more of a reader, though, so I’ll just be happy to physically get the books! I’d even accept mail order so they can at least take my money!
Also, Alterna recently announced they were leaving Diamond to focus on direct distribution. I’ll be watching this unfolding event carefully!
DIAMOND AND DIAMOND ONLY!
Since that announcement, there has been a lot of what I consider healthy conversation going on about the industry. Should things continue as they have been going? Should changes happen?
As I’ve stated previously in this column, I’m all for “upgrading” the delivery of books and related materials. But not everyone feels that should be the case, apparently.
I’ve read a lot of online comments from retailers who are literally furious with DC, saying things like “this is the worst mistake ever!” I’m a big believer in competition, though, so I’m part of that group that is seriously unhappy with how Diamond has been treating customers and potential customers over the years. If nothing else happens but Diamond improves their customer service, all this will be worth it!
I also am aware that many store owners, shall we say, have a serious dislike for DC. Marvel can do no wrong, but DC can do no right, I’ve even heard some say out loud. Marvel (and sometimes Image) gets primo product placement (like as soon as you walk in the store’s front door) while DC gets put to the back of the bus. As a long-time DC fan, I find such remarks and treatment tremendously offensive. If I hear a shop owner or employee say such things, I tend to take my business elsewhere.
I once saw a prominent comic book writer remark online that some LCS owners have “battered spouse” syndrome. This applies to both Marvel and Diamond, in my opinion. Diamond is the only distributor they have ever known, and change to this status quo is downright scary. They’d rather be treated in a manner others would call “abusive” than try to go it without them. Many stores order every single Marvel comic and drop books from other companies in order to keep fans of and people from The House of Ideas happy. If they don’t, they say, their store will go under.
Now, if you are happy with Diamond, great! If you’re not, though, you should be able to pick and choose! I’m afraid some are trying to silence people who are interested in change! There is no right or wrong answer here!
I admit that I’m not a store owner. I’m a comics buyer, so I’d rather see a variety of books on the stand than every single title Marvel sells, especially those featuring characters most of us have never heard of. Come on, now!
PROGRESS TAKES TIME
Monopolies are never going to give up their lofty position without a fight. In my opinion, we’re seeing that already underway. Rumor is that Diamond is considering requesting an injunction against DC if they don’t fulfill orders previously requested. Nervous store owners are unsure just what to do, especially given the way that some in the industry say that there are at least two other companies who will jump into the fray this coming week. It always comes down to the retailers, though, in this kind of event. They’re the ones who have to decide what to order, and they are the true gatekeepers in the industry, seems to me.
In the end, it will take time to shake out just how things will proceed regarding comics distribution. I like it when I hear some stores saying they are exploring all their options, talking with everyone they can to see just who will give them the best service and deals, not just staying with Diamond without hesitation. Honestly, Diamond will need to make some serious changes if they want to move forward successfully. Really.
I still think we should be open to having more than one distributor operating. That would allow customers and stores the chance to shop around and get the best deals. Yes, it takes more effort and time, but I’d rather the LCS’s be treated fairly than have to continue as they are now if they are unhappy.
What do you think? Is where your LCS gets their product important to you? Do you prefer they stick with Diamond? Should there be more than one distributor in the industry? Please share your thoughts in the space below!