With DC returning to physical comics distribution in just under two weeks, some fans are wondering how additional comics distributors managed to enter the market without upsetting the exclusivity long enjoyed by Diamond Comics Distributors, who have suspended operations amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that has put a halt to much of the comics industry (and the larger world economy). The answer is deceptively simple, if you have been following this since it began: two major comics retailers appear to have set up their own distribution companies -- and then activated website in the last couple of weeks -- likely with the express intent of managing this crisis.
Comic book retailers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic; they are trying to keep selling their backstock and keeping as many employees on the clock as they can without bankrupting themselves in the process. Foot traffic is non-existent since most of their customers are under instruction to stay at home and avoid crowds, and stores have resorted to running skeleton crews to manage online orders, just to keep some revenue coming in.
Shortly after Diamond announced that they would stop accepting new shipments of product from their vendors, DC suggested that they were exploring options to keep the comics market moving. Rumors at the time centered on DC partnering with big comics retailers, and the two names that came up time and time again were DCBS -- Discount Comic Book Service, one of the largest online comics vendors in North America -- and New York's Midtown Comics.
It now appears that those businesses are the ones taking on DC's non-Diamond distribution chores, under the names of Lunar Distribution (DCBS) and UCS (Midtown). Bleeding Cool did some sleuthing and got the story out before anybody else, but ComicBook was already working on rumors along the same lines and can confirm their report is accurate.
UCS registered their website back on April 8 and Lunar on April 13, both anonymously through GoDaddy. Anonymity can be used for a wide variety of reasons, and in this case it seems likely that, with rumblings that Midtown and DCBS could be involved in DC's plans, they wanted to keep their domain registrations off of anybody's radar until they were ready to make today's announcement.
Diamond's current plan is to resume distribution in mid to late May, which might mean that DC is distributing sooner than most other publishers. It remains to be seen whether DC's move to the new distribution companies is something that other publishers can, or will want to, emulate. It's possible that DC's deal involves some level fo exclusivity, although that seems unlikely.
The comic shop market has been hit hard by the closure of Diamond, effectively the only mainstream distributor of American comics, and the halt of foot traffic to stores amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Comic book and film professionals, as well as fans and others, have banded together using the Creators 4 Comics campaign to generate revenue for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which helps small booksellers and comic book stores stay afloat.
DC will resume same-day digital distribution for new comics when comics return to shops on April 28. The company said that collectibles, which have a longer distribution timeline, will have their own, separate announcement once the plans are sorted out.