As a consequence of comic book stores across the country being forced to shut their doors amongst the novel coronavirus outbreak, the comic book industry as a whole all but came to a stop. Diamond Comics, which essentially has a monopoly on comics distribution, halted shipping and it was unclear how and when the company would try to spin production back up. That is, until now.
Yesterday, Diamond made the surprising announcement that after keeping abreast of new developments regarding the outbreak, it’s made the decision to begin shipping new weekly product to a reduced number of stores as of this May—despite the fact that there’s still no indication it will be all that much safer to begin shopping in brick and mortar locations so soon.
“While there are many steps and conversations that need to happen between today and resuming distribution of new weekly product, we are currently targeting mid- to late-May with the hope that, as an industry, we can all work toward that timeframe. Of course, as we have all seen, target dates sometimes need to be adjusted in this ever-changing new-normal,” Diamond’s parent company Geppi Family Enterprises said in a public statement. “But we cannot wait for firm dates. We have started the planning process and are having these important conversations with publishers and retailers so that once we have more clarity, we are in a position to restart and scale operations over time.”
Geppi Family Enterprises explained that as part of its plan to ease back into the swing of things, it intends to coordinate with publishers in order to map out a slower releasing schedule in addition to moving smaller shipments overall to the stores that will be receiving the product, as demand for comics is likely going to be drastically reduced for the foreseeable future.
Though Diamond’s public statement didn’t mention any specific publishers by name, DC Comics put out its own interesting statement announcing a plan to begin shipping comics to retailers beginning even earlier than Diamond intended on Tuesday, April 28. Curiously, Diamond was not mentioned in DC’s statement.
“DC comic books are returning to comic shops beginning Tuesday, April 28. After a four-week break, fans can celebrate that new superhero stories will be arriving at operating retail stores,” the publisher said. “After surveying more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada, it became clear that many comic book store owners are finding new and creative ways to get books to the fans who want them.”
In an e-mail that was sent out to retailers on Friday, DC explained that its new distribution initiative is being spearheaded by Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, two new companies created by Discount Comic Book Service and Midtown Comics. DC also launched a new comic book store tracking website to help customers pinpoint exactly where the assortment of new comics—including Joe Hill, Laura Marks, Dan McDaid, and Kelley Jones’ Daphne Byrne #4 and Simon Spurrier and Bilquis Evely’s The Dreaming #20. Just by taking a look at DC’s map, it becomes immediately obvious that the publisher will put the bulk of its focus on shipping to North American retailers at first.
In response to DC’s news, Diamond said in a statement to Newsarama that while is still sees the publisher as one of its partners it plans to continue working with in the future, it still intends on holding off moving any product until May for the time being.
“We value our partnership with DC and will continue to support them as a distributor. Our focus is squarely on getting our industries’ entertainment products in the hands of fans as quickly and as safely as possible,” Diamond said. “If we see signs that it is safe to resume shipping earlier, we certainly will. However, with the limited number of retailers open and most customers on stay-at-home orders, our focus is on supporting our industry and the health and safety of our stakeholders.”
As all of this is happening, many major publishers have begun putting in-development comics projects on hold, as there is no way of knowing when the whole of the publishing industry is going to begin operating anything close to normal once more. It isn’t at all surprising that comics pubs and distributors—very much like film studios—are desperately trying to figure out novel ways to maintain their brands’ presence in people’s minds while the world lives through a literal epidemic that’s killing millions around the globe.
But the fact of the matter is that what we’re dealing with right now is not just “the new normal,” but rather a fundamental shift in the way we all live. Carrying on as normal as entire industries are put in serious peril might not be the best message to convey to the public right now.
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