In a move that could change the face of the comics industry, DC has reportedly pulled out of its distribution deal with Diamond, the largest distributor in comics. Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Diamond had a functional monopoly on comic book distribution in North America, but when they were forced to shut down briefly, DC turned to alternative distribution from Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, companies owned by two large comics retailers and founded, seemingly, for the express purpose of keeping the industry moving through the crisis created by COVID-19. Now, it seems, DC will turn to Penguin Random House for distribution help.
Lunar Distribution is owned by DCBS, a discount comic book retailer headquartered exclusively online. UCS is owned by New York's Midtown Comics.
"After 25 years, DC and Diamond Comic Distributors are ending their long-standing relationship," a DC representative told ComicBook.com in a statement. "Moving forward, comic book retailers can obtain their DC books from Penguin Random House, or their books and periodicals through Lunar or UCS comic book distributors. DC continues to be committed to providing the Direct Market with best in class service and the fans with the world's greatest comic books."
While critics have often said that Diamond's distribution monopoly had the potential to be bad for comics, the relatively low profitability of comics distribution seemed to be a barrier to new competitors entering the market. With comics distribution halted entirely for a time, comic book retailers seem to have decided it was in their best interests to have a fallback.
Now, for one of the two largest publishers of periodical comics in North America, that fallback is the new normal.
Penguin Random House entering the marketplace is interesting, too -- it seems likely they will take on bookstore distribution for graphic novels and collected editions, while Lunar and UCS tackle direct market and single issue distribution. Comic book retailers apparently got the word just before news broke on social media, with an email that told them the changes would be effective immediately.
"This change in DC's distribution plans has not been made lightly and follows a long period of thought and consideration," the publisher assured direct market retailers. "The change of direction is in line with DC's overall strategic vision intended to improve the health of, and strengthen, the Direct Market as well as grow the number of fans who read comics worldwide."
Per the email send to retailers, Diamond will only be fulfilling orders placed through the June 1 Final Order Cut-Off, and will not solicit the sale of new DC titles further. DC will also suspend Final Order Cut-Off for June 8, making those books available to order on Final Order Cut-Off on June 15 in the hopes of making the transition easier.
Expect more news on this major change in the days and weeks to come.