Largest US comics distributor won’t ship new books ‘until further notice’ due to coronavirus

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Polygon has confirmed that Diamond Comic Distributors, which maintains a near monopoly over comics distribution in North America and England, is instructing printers to stop sending the company new books to ship until further notice.

“Product distributed by Diamond and slated for an on-sale date of April 1st or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice,” Diamond chairman and CEO Steve Geppi said in a statement.

Diamond is the exclusive distributor — shipping comics from printers to retailers — for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and Image Comics, among other publishers. The move comes after the first week in which many parts of the United States have come under social distancing restrictions due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, forcing comics shops to cut back on their usual volume of business. Many shops have closed completely, to comply with the law as their communities come under “shelter in place” orders.

From Geppi’s statement:

We are hearing from thousands of retailers that they can no longer service their customers as they have in the past, many of them forced to close by government action or resort to in-person or curbside delivery. Even those still open are seeing reduced foot traffic in most cases, a situation that seems likely to worsen with time.

Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease.

Diamond’s decision may mean that even comics shops located in regions not yet under strict quarantine rules will be forced to close their doors for lack of product to sell.

To those retailers, Geppi said “I encourage you let loose your own creativity. For the time being, you will be able to replenish your perennials from Diamond and/or Alliance, but you should also remember the stock you already have in your stores. If your doors remain open, it’s likely you will have customers who will continue to seek diversion from events of the world. Special sales, promotions, and even eBay can help you bring in cash during this trying time. Product for which you’ve already paid may well hold some of your answers. There have been many solid suggestions offered about how to help our retailers, and we will bring many of them together in future communications.”

Diamond’s shutdown will also undoubtedly have a significant impact on the comics publishers who depend on Diamond to ship their physical books, whether monthlies or graphic novels.

Update (3/24): In the wake of Diamond’s statement, IDW Publishing — home of many licensed comics, including lauded Transformers and Star Trek series — announced that it would suspend all of its May releases, and reduce its overall publishing line through July.

“Trimming our line through the summer in support of the Direct Market retailers will undoubtedly impact creative workflow for the short term,” IDW’s president, Chris Ryall, said in a statement. “We fully appreciate the difficulty that this presents to freelancers. It’s our expectation that — in the long term — the Direct Market will bounce back as a result of these steps, and we can all continue the good work of making quality comics on the other side.”

Polygon has reached out to DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, and Dark Horse Comics, who did not provide comment at the time of publication.

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