On Friday, DC shook up the comics industry by ending their long affiliation with Diamond Comics Distributors. Now what?
We probably should have seen it coming! About noon on Friday, DC sent out an announcement indicating that they were terminating their relationship with Diamond. Here’s a small portion of that announcement:
We are writing today to share with you that DC’s long-standing relationship with Diamond Comic Distributors is coming to a close effective following Diamond’s distribution of product offered on DC’s FOC list of June 1st. We want to thank Steve Geppi and the great people at Diamond for all the years of service.
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, this sparked serious debate online, and it fell down on both sides. Some supported DC, others did not. Both camps had some who reacted with strong emotions. Those “disappointed” by this, to put it mildly, often claimed DC did not support printed comics, that they were trying to kill the Direct Market, or that they “had their heads up their (behinds).” Others said it was “about time,” that it would finally “break the monopoly,” that they supported DC’s moves, which they felt they had already shown they were going to do when they previously sent product to other distributors.
The timing of this move was often hotly debated. Some said this was “the wrong time” since stores were still trying to recover from the COVID-19 shutdown, while others said that delaying would only have made things harder.
This makes DC the second company to withdraw from Diamond, the first being Alterna, who previously announced their desire to use “alternate methods”.
Diamond’s reply to DC’s move kind of sounded like they were caught with their pants down when DC pulled the plug. I strongly doubt that! I’m sure they saw the handwriting on the wall, but they likely didn’t believe DC (or anyone else, for that matter) could possibly survive without them! We’ll see!
One store owner immediately announced that he was selling every issue of DC he had for $1.00 and every trade for $5.00 in order to clear them from his shelves. He would buy no more DC moving forward, he said.
Other local comics shops started scrambling, attempting to set up contact with the companies DC will be using to distribute their product. Some said these organizations had upgraded their systems, making it easier than previous contacts.
A question some owners had was, will Diamond still be selling DC figures and statues and the like? There was no sign of them in the other companies order forms. Good question! Will Diamond want anything to do with anything from DC?
I’ve been included in several discussions about where the industry goes from here. A lot of people just can’t see LCS’s without Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. If you are seriously immersed in comics, you’re likely more a fan of Marvel’s characters. However, if you are in the general public, many polls have shown that DC’s heroes are much better known there. A shop without their books might continue to attract big comics fans, but occasional or new ones might be tougher to attract.
Store owners, as always, will be the front lines of this “sea change,” as many have called it. To continue to sell DC product, you have to go outside of Diamond now. The misconception is that most LCS’s only order things through Diamond. That’s mostly not true, especially in shops that sell games and cards and such. They already have accounts with other companies. And with the advent of computers and the Internet, it doesn’t take all that long to add another distributor to your list of things and to place orders. Yes, it requires more bookkeeping and money managing, but if you want to sell DC, you now must do that.
One store owner told me that DC sales in their store is very consistent from month to month. On the other hand, Marvel product fluctuates wildly, often selling strongly when a number one comes out, but interest and sales drop off significantly each issue after that. They were doing whatever they had to in order to keep those consistent DC sales coming, they said!
Interestingly, Diamond is going to be the place to watch for now. DC took up about 30 percent of their inventory. Without them, Diamond now might be more open to selling “Indie” product to make up that slack. It would mean that Diamond has to be less restrictive on what they put in their Previews. It’s well known that Diamond has refused to sell superhero books from smaller publishers since Marvel (and at that time, DC) pretty much had cornered the longjohns market. To recoup the loss of DC income, they may loosen that restriction, as well as others.
It’s about (darn) time!
Look, I’ve often gone on long and loudly here about Diamond, how I feel they are the very worst kind of gatekeeper in that they constrict rather than facilitate when it comes to selling comics. They want to keep the industry the size they feel they can better manage, I believe. That has kept comics sales smaller than they should be and made it tougher to get books into the hands of customers. It forces creators to go to conventions and sell books face-to-face, which can’t happen right now thanks to the pandemic. It also means creators must make contact with local shops, who will pick up their product and sell it. However, if you aren’t shopping there, you won’t see that book. It’s keeping things smaller when the industry needs to be bigger, in my opinion. We need to move ahead, not stay behind!
I also strongly believe this was the only time to make this happen. If DC waited a few months, stores would have fallen back into their usual habit of buying mostly from Diamond. Now, while things are still somewhat in flux, this is the perfect time to make a big change. I have often advocated this in several of my previous columns, that NOW is the time to try and push the industry forward instead of maintaining the status quo.
In fact, I read a comment from a “known” comics creator who said that DC had now “declared war on Marvel.” While I find that perception fascinating (Marvel is always the center of the comics universe), I don’t think it’s correct. I think it’s more accurate to say that DC has declared war on the status quo, which I believe was seriously hurting and restricting the industry from moving forward. Besides that, DC and Marvel have long been competitors who have not worked together. Competition is GOOD for the industry, I believe, and being stuck in a system that favored Marvel, that made it almost impossible to fairly compete with them, in my opinion, was something that HAD to change. And now!
Yes, I’m a long-time DC fan. The first book I ever read was a DC annual about Batman. So, be sure to take my opinion with a huge boulder of salt. And I’m not a retailer! But I notice that I’m not alone in thinking the industry will improve as a result of DC’s move. Competition will help LCS’s get better prices and hopefully lower shipping costs, I believe. If not, well, Diamond won’t be able to stick it to shops with the impunity they have been. And that alone will be worth it!
What do you think? Did DC do the right thing? The wrong thing? Will you continue to buy their product, or will you stop buying anything they sell? Do you prefer to support Diamond? Whatever your opinions, please share your thoughts in the space below!