Marvel Comics Diamond Distributors Deal Ending, Following DC Comics Last Year
For decades, Diamond Distributors were the only comic distribution game around, and they knew it. But last summer, just one month into the pandemic, DC Comics decided to part ways with Diamond and use two new distributors. Midtown Comics and Discount Comic Book Services run those distributors. The rest of the industry spent the last year paying attention to how DC did without Diamond. Apparently, it went well. How do we know this? Because Marvel Comics is ending their deal with Diamond Distributors. But unlike DC, Marvel is going with a much bigger, and established, distributor: Penguin Random House
What Does Marvel Comics Ending Their Deal with Diamond Distributors Mean For Industry?
As The Hollywood Reporter writes, some industry people are calling it the end of the industry as we know it. They said the same thing a year ago when DC Comics and Diamond Distributors did the same thing. They’ll say the same thing next year when Image or Boom or Dark Horse or IDW follow suit. However, Marvel (and all the other imprints) all have one love in common: money. And a competitive distribution market is good for the industry. Diamond is no longer in a position where they can just assume everyone will go through them.
It’s also indicative of how profitable other companies see the comic industry. Penguin House doesn’t make choices like this one without several months, maybe years, of research and analytics. Plus, as THR reports, the publishing company “created a dedicated Direct Comic Market team to handle the Marvel account, headed by newly promoted associate director, comic market sales, Tyne Hunter.”
Marvel’s Distribution Change Will Impact Comic Shops the Most
(Marvel Comics and Penguin Random House Logos
The one main area of concern is discounts. Under Diamond, retailers got up to 59% off, depending on how many issues they purchased. But, under Penguin, it’s a straight 50% discount regardless of quantity. To compensate for this loss to retailers, Penguin is waiving all shipping fees.
That might not be enough. Retailers have always had problems with Penguin’s shipping quality. For a collector’s market, a massive distribution company might be counterintuitive unless, as Marvel and Penguin promise, they find a way to solve the quality issues. But until then, Marvel Comics ending their deal with Diamond Distributors will make shop owners around the country nervous.
Marvel Comics Won’t Be the Last Imprint Ending their Deal With Diamond Distributors
With this change, will we see more bookstore exclusives, like this edition of Mister Miracle at Barnes and Noble? (Image: Mister Miracle: The Complete Series, Barnes and Noble Exclusive Edition, DC Comics)
In October 2020, Marvel made up 62% of Diamond’s sales, a reflection of how much DC’s move affected the company. That’s a massive chunk of sales to lose. Image Comics, Diamond’s next biggest client, only makes up 12%. But why did DC Comics decide to bail on the de facto distributor? Mainly, Diamond hasn’t been operating as strong as it used to, even before DC left. This became abundantly apparent when, during the COVID-19 shutdowns, Diamond halted payments to their vendors. This was the final straw for DC Comics, but we have no idea what the rest of the haystack looked like. With Marvel Comics also ending their deal with Diamond Distributors, it’s clear that the company is in worse shape than people thought, and other bigger imprints will probably follow the Big 2. But then there are the little guys…
Marvel Comics Ending Their Deal With Diamond Distributors May Impact the Indie Comic Industry the Most
For as much grief as many indie creators and publishers give Marvel and DC (and even Image and Boom), they need those big companies to survive. And the Big 2 kept Diamond afloat for decades. Without them, the company might collapse. However, the problem for the indie industry is that many smaller presses solely used Diamond to distribute. After all, Diamond was the only game in town. But, there might be another change coming too: Penguin could become the biggest distributor, replacing Diamond.
THR reports that just after Marvel’s announcement, industry professionals began speculating that DC Comics would also switch to Penguin Random House. And why not? They already distribute the DC collected editions. Depending on how Penguin develops as a distributor, those smaller presses could find a new home with Penguin—if they are still alive long enough to make the switch. If Diamond Distributors goes bankrupt as a result of Marvel Comics ending their deal with them, those indie imprints won’t get the money Diamond owes them, and will effectively go bankrupt with them.
It’s a turbulent time in the industry. We’re still recovering from the shutdown last year, and from the shipping delays that are still going on. But this industry is a century old. It’s going to take more than a distribution change to end it.
Featured Image: Diamond Comics Distributors Logo
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.