Connecticut-based LPC Group, the largest distributor of graphic novels to the book trade, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. On Tuesday David Wilk, the head of LPC, sent a letter to the publishers LPC represents notifying them that the company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but assuring them that '...LPC is operating on a cash positive basis in the present, and we are confident that we will acquire immediate Debtor in Possession financing to meet current obligations' (see 'LPC Letter to Publisher Clients'). According to the letter, the filing was precipitated by a dispute with LPC's bank, which seized funds from LPC's account that were being routed from CDS (LPC's fulfillment house, see 'LPC Outsources Logistics') to its publisher clients. The payments were collections for December sales, less returns and fees.
LPC represents a large and diverse group of comic publishers to the book trade including Image Comics (see 'Image Signs with LPC'), Dark Horse Comics (see 'Dark Horse Moves to LPC for Bookstores'), Tokyopop (see 'Sailor Moon Graphic Novels Top Bookstore Sales'), Drawn & Quarterly, Oni Press, Top Shelf, Humanoids (see 'Humanoids Signs with LPC'), Alternative Comics, and AiT Planet Lar (see 'AiT/Planet Lar Signs with LPC').
One of the first indications that something was amiss was a message to the press and to its customers from Top Shelf Comics Wednesday morning, April 3. Top Shelf, which published the Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell From Hell graphic novel that was the basis for a major film in 2001, is one of the publishers who could be hurt the most since LPC had managed to rack up some $80,000 in sales on From Hell. Obviously that is a lot of money for a small publisher and the situation prompted Top Shelf's Chris Staros to send out an e-mail entitled 'Top Shelf In Trouble -- We Need Your Help' in which he stated, 'To put it bluntly...if we don't get $20,000 this month, it could realistically force us to suspend publishing operations for the foreseeable future.' But by the end of Wednesday, according to Staros, Top Shelf had received a very favorable response to its plea for orders, and he assured ICv2 that suspension of publishing won't be necessary.
For full coverage of the reaction of LPC's comic publisher clients, along with their plans for the future, see 'Publishers React to LPC Bankruptcy.'
The increase in sales of graphic novels to the book trade has enabled publishers to expand their print runs and become more profitable, which in turn has allowed them to publish more books. Every LPC client publisher that ICv2 interviewed was happy with the sales growth that LPC had generated for them in the book market. If LPC is able to reorganize and eventually pay off the publishers in full, the effect on publishers might not be too severe. But the smaller publishers in particular could still be hamstrung by reduced cash flow, and all the companies involved and the comic market itself could suffer if LPC, which has led the charge to expand the comic book market into regular bookstores, is not able to right its ship and continue.