The breakdown of the united front presented to comic stores by DC Comics and Diamond Comic Distributors for decades was on full display on Monday, as Diamond released a Q&A for retailers with its own take on distribution of DC products. There were at least three major differences between the companies in the new document.
Chief among those was Diamond’s direct rebuttal of DC’s statement to retailers in a Facebook post last Friday that “all orders placed with Diamond Comic Distributors for in-store dates of 4/1, 4/8, and 4/15 have been cancelled with Diamond” (see “DC To Resume Releasing New Comics April 28”)
In its message to retailers, Diamond said that “orders you placed with Diamond Comic Distributors for upcoming [DC] products are still in our system and will be fulfilled when we resume the distribution of new, weekly products.” Diamond also indicated that it had possession of product to fulfill those orders. “[W]e have inventory that will allow us to fulfill those orders when we resume distribution of new, weekly product.” This seems to indicate that DC titles scheduled for release April 1 and April 8, from which its non-Diamond releases for late April and early May were drawn, were shipped and that Diamond has possession.
A second difference was on the best way to release graphic novels released in the book channel during the Diamond shutdown to comic stores. DC told retailers to “check with distributors on availability” for the 20 graphic novel titles released to the book trade April 7-21, and all of the titles are available from some sources available to comic stores. Diamond, on the other hand, said that it plans to space that product out (presumably beginning in mid- to late May, when it resumes distribution of new product, see “Diamond Plans to Resume Shipping New Product ‘Mid- to Late May’”). “We expect to spread those products out over a period of weeks, in addition to the new titles that will be shipping each week once we resume the distribution of new, weekly product,” Diamond’s message to retailers said. “We believe that spreading this product out, rather than releasing it all at once, is better for retailers who will be ramping up operations slowly and at different speeds throughout the country.”
A third difference was on a pretty basic question: on which day of the week should new comic book day fall? DC put a stake in the ground with its plan to release new comics on Tuesday through the new distributors it’s opened as alternatives to Diamond, noting, “We have synced up release dates across all our retail channels.”
Book channel release dates are Tuesdays, so it appears that this is focused more on eventual coordination with the growing part of DC’s business, graphic novels, than it is on periodical comics. But regardless, Diamond doesn’t seem to be on the same page, at least not yet. “We will continue to work with the team at DC Comics to clarify the release schedule for their products before we resume distribution of new, weekly products,” the Diamond statement said in response to the question about release day for DC comics.
Up until this point, DC has been delaying its book channel release date by six days after the Direct Market release date, putting out graphic novels released in comic stores on a Wednesday on the following Tuesday in the book channel. This move looks like DC has had an itch to align the release dates for some time (it makes it easier to do coordinated nation-wide marketing, for one thing) and is using this as an opportunity to push the agenda forward.
Retailer reaction to DC’s moves has been mixed. We’ve seen both viewpoints on ICv2.com in the past few days. Peter DeFelice of Pyramid Comics and Cards in Sparta, New Jersey asked whether the moves represented “the end of DC Comics” in a Talk Back (see “Peter DeFelice of Pyramid Comics and Cards on DC’s New Distribution Plan”), while Michael Tierney of Collector’s Edition & The Comic Book Store in Little Rock, Arkansas called the moves “nothing but good news” (see “Michael Tierney of Collector’s Edition on DC Resuming New Comics”).
It’s not surprising to us that comic retailers are divided on the best course of action, because we’ve been around for a while, but it is surprising to see the stress the coronavirus crisis is placing on comic distribution, and on this key relationship between the dominant distributor and its second-largest supplier.