In response to the coronavirus crisis, DC Comics is exploring distributors in addition to Diamond Comic Distributors to get product to comic stores, the company said in an e-mail to retailers from “the DC Team” on Saturday. “[B]ecause we anticipate that continued disruption to business operations will create regional volatility, DC is exploring a multi-distributor model to provide us with the flexibility needed during this crisis to get new content to our readers on an ongoing basis,” the letter said.
It appears that DC is also trying to find ways for Diamond to re-activate its distribution network, which has been shut down for the past week (see “Diamond Halting Distribution of New Product”). "In the short-term, we continue to engage in active conversations with Diamond to help us solve the distribution issues that have arisen and hope to get new product to stores that want or need it as soon as possible," the retailer communication said. "We will provide additional information about how we’ll make that happen in the coming days."
DC also said that comics shipped between March 18 and June 24 will be fully returnable.
DC had been quiet since the U.S. shutdown began, as competitors beginning with Image Comics and Dynamite Entertainment (see “Image, Dynamite Taking Returns”), and then followed by Marvel Comics (see “Marvel Cuts Wholesale Prices”) and mid-level publishers such as BOOM! Studios, IDW Publishing (see “BOOM!, IDW Announce Retailer Support Measures”) and Dark Horse Comics (see “Dark Horse Announces Covid-19 Publishing Plans”) announced various retailer support measures. The slow response led some to question "where is DC Comics during this pandemic" (see “Peter DeFelice of Pyramid Comics and Cards on Covid-19 and Retailing”).
Diamond has had distribution rights for periodical comics to the comic store channel since the mid-90s, when then-DC Publisher Paul Levitz struck a deal with Diamond (which included an option to purchase) in response to Marvel’s purchase of Heroes World. Marvel had acquired Heroes World, a regional distributor based in New Jersey, to handle its comic distribution to the Direct Market. The moves by Marvel and DC began a paradigm shift that created a distribution landscape in the comics business that has been stable for a quarter century. That stability, it appears, may soon end as a global pandemic leads companies to re-visit their core assumptions about how business is done.