dc diamond split
Image via Chuck Rozanski

 

Yesterday’s titanic news that DC was cutting ties with Diamond did not go unremarked upon by the comics industry.

As you’ll recall, DC announced that they will go with two newish distributors, Lunar (run by mail order retailer DCBS) and UCS (run by giant comics store Midtown), while continuing on with Penguin Random House for graphic novels and such.

When DC first announced they were adding two new distributors to get comics out during the COVID-19 shutdown, retailers were aghast. I guess the first cut is the deepest as reactions this time out were not quite as hysterically horrified, but more long, bitter reflections.

However, on Twitter, creators and some readers (and even a few retailers) expressed positive feelings over the news that Diamond’s monopoly had ended.

Before diving into the responses to the DC Diamond split, some of my own analysis: Fundamentally, this is a head-snapper. For YEARS, people have been complaining that Diamond is a monopoly ⁠— a benevolent monopoly that bails out shops and publishers alike, but a monopoly is usually a bad thing.

Perhaps as proof of the proverb that “comics retailers like to complain,” these years of complaints about Diamond (complaints I have heard publicly and privately in an unending torrent) have changed to “the devil you know…” Maybe the updated proverb is “retailers hate change. ” And I can’t really blame them for being a bit fraught.  I mean we have this deadly pandemic thing, the world teetering on the brink of a depression, a nation coming to a long overdue reckoning with its tolerance for disgusting racism and police abuse, and hurricane season is just starting.

Nonetheless, retailers have legitimate complaints about the new distributors: The discounts are not as high, the shipping costs are higher, and international sales look to be very expensive indeed. (Brandon Schatz will hopefully be exploring more of that in a column next week.) It’s not just the fuss of having to deal with more than one distributor. The numbers are bad, as Walt warned us long ago.

One concern is that DCBS and Midtown are competitors and will use the ordering info to put shops out of business. Mind you, retailers have been thinking that DIAMOND will use their info to steal their customers and put them out of business for years, as well. I remember retailers telling me their concerns that Pullbox, Diamond’s automated comics reservation system, was a way to steal their customers when that was announced.

It’s worth noting, from a historical perspective, that virtually every comics distributor, including Diamond, started as a retailer. Friendly Frank’s, Heroes World, Lone Star, Pacific. Capital is a pretty big exception, having started out as a distro. Anyway, the retailer-to-distributor model is very common in many industries and nothing to get anxious about retailer to distributor model — IN THEORY.

On the other side you have what is very clearly Diamond’s general financial shakiness, which, now that this is all happening, seems to be an open secret in the industry. Although they would often float comic shops and publishers — to their credit — we’re not talking about million-dollar loans here. The fact that Diamond had to stop shipping new comics a few weeks into the lockdown and stop paying publishers — and set up a very long payment plan — was a very serious sign that they didn’t have the float to withstand even a slight supply cutoff. 

While many are pointing a finger at DC head Pam Lifford and AT&T’s overall cost-cutting measures — factors that can’t be ignored — just as many people are telling me that DC’s break with Diamond really was something that was a long time coming, and was exacerbated by the current crisis — and by signs that Diamond’s overall liquidity is a tenuous thing.

Perhaps the most telling post in all of this is one by former DC president Diane Whelan Nelson in a response to Brian Hibbs’s post (which I’ll get to) which seems remarkable enough to quote in its entirety. When asked her thoughts on the move, she wrote:

 I’m afraid I’ve not been privy to this recent decision. I can say purely as a private individual that Diamond has, for a long time, been unwilling or unable to modernize and support and grow the biz as needed for a healthy direct channel. And may not even be solvent. It would be imprudent for any publisher to not have a distribution contingency plan. I am disappointed by the communications roll out if the decision, as it seems (from my admittedly removed and limited POV) not nearly robust enough and to not have offered retailers sufficient notice and explanation as to what I’m sure is a reasonable and probably even advantageous decision for them. It’s never good for any company to have a monopoly on a business and Diamond has for too long. I’m optimistic DC will help retailers understand how to navigate the transition. And I’d almost guarantee (I would guarantee but as I say, I’m not privy to this) that there’s no way DC or WB have a financial stake in these distributors.

“MAY NOT EVEN BE SOLVENT.”

So while you let that sink in, let’s listen to some other voices!

FIRST, you must read John Jackson Miller’s historical analysis:

The market share involved: DC in 2019 represented 30.74% of Diamond’s comics and graphic novel units and 29.23% of its dollars. On the dollar side, that amounts to almost exactly $155 million at full retail. DC’s share of that would have been in the $60 million neighborhood, with Diamond’s fee — which Geppi has said hasn’t changed in years — being considerably lower.

Comics and graphic novels are, it should be noted, only a portion of Diamond’s sales, though certainly the largest portion. It’s unclear what happens with regards to physical merchandise that might have been DC-branded.

Miller also connects some very, very interesting dots regarding back issues. Many people were surprised by Steve Geppi’s fascination with back issues during his recent press tour, and Miller suggests this may be part of a larger plan:

But a nonreturnable comic book becomes a back issue the second it reaches a retailer’s store. There’s nothing stopping Diamond from obtaining DC comics on the secondary market in bulk and making them available to other retailers; that’s exactly the business DCBS and Midtown are in, only they sell to consumers as well. Diamond already carries collectible comics that have gone through the hands of a third party before — think the Dynamic Forces signed editions — so there would be little in the way of Diamond launching a category making comics DC has already sold to retailers available to its own shops as back issues.

That’s speculation, but make no mistake — there is eighty years of history behind the idea that once a comic book has been purchased, it can be resold anywhere and to anyone. A seller doesn’t even have to put it in a bag and board. You can’t start a store or print something on bagged multipacks that violates a publisher’s trademarks, but comics are absolutely tradable commodities.

And, as you’ll see below, UCS’s own charts demonstrate that no distribution agreement is required for a distributor to sell back issues to retailers.

Something is DEFINITELY afoot with back issues. There is a lot more analysis and charts and stuff which deserve its own commentary, so just go to the link and read!

Former Beat commentator Todd Allen was kind enough to provide us with his own EXCLUSIVE commentary:

 DC telegraphed this move when they switched their catalog to online. Let’s be real – the reason Marvel moved to their own catalog all those years ago was so if they ever break with Diamond, retailers are used to looking at Marvel’s catalog as its own entity.  They just send everyone the same catalog they’re used to seeing with a new order form.  I’m a little surprised they did this so soon, but it was clearly being prepped as an option.

The first question I have, and it’s not what most of the retail community is asking: Does DC own a piece of the legal entities that DCBS and Midtown are distributing through?  Is this a vertical integration?  Indie publishers may want that information if they aren’t under a Diamond exclusive and are contemplating if they need to open up availability.

The second question is whether Diamond’s current structure can survive approximately 30% of their volume walking out the door?  Diamond appears to be a volume-based business.  I can’t imagine a world this doesn’t cause layoffs at Diamond, but is their infrastructure built to be scaled down when they have given the impression of already having cash flow issues?

The idea of having multiple distributors is not a bad one.  I’ve been writing about distribution’s single point of failure problem since 2004.  If DC was acting because they didn’t trust Diamond’s health, it’s a necessary business move from that perspective.  If.

Still, doing this so aggressively in a time of industry unrest has created a lot of ill-will in the retail community – DC’s real customers unless they move into Direct to Consumer offerings.  There may be a cost of that.  Perhaps it’s the cost of survival?  We don’t really know what’s going on at Diamond.  If they accidentally topple Diamond, I don’t know many comic retailers who could survive on DC alone while the market tries to piece together a new distribution model.

                        From a risk analysis perspective, should this cripple Diamond, Marvel is big enough for their own distribution scheme if they have to play it that way.  They’re not quite 50% of the market.  Is the roughly 25% of the market that is indie comics big enough to support its own distributor?  That’s smaller volume and a lot more vendors, so a more logistically complicated venture.

Remember, back in the 80s and 90s there were several distributors before consolidation set in.  Everywhere I shopped in the Mid-West from junior high through college ordered from multiple distributors (and, to the man, complained about whenever they had to order something through Diamond – it was Capital City territory).  DC just made multiple distributors a requirement if you want to continue carrying their single issues.  Could we see more distributors pop up?  Hard to say until DC clarifies if they want more partners… or if they’ve vertically integrated.

For the general retailer overview, go to Newsarama, er GamesRadar+: Comic book retailers unite in shock and anger over DC split with Diamond.

A very rare comment from Image’s Eric Stephenson:

Mile High’s Chuck Rozanski has a comprehensive and passionate post on what’s happening:

To say that I am seething with rage right now, is a total understatement. I actually saw this coming a couple of weeks ago, but was hoping against my own common sense that the new owners of DC (AT&T) would come to the realization that keeping Diamond alive was critical to the revival of the 2,000+ Direct Market comic book retailers who serve the core of their most dedicated readers. Instead, my own predicted worst-case scenario is now unfolding, with DC announcing this afternoon that they are severing all ties with Diamond Distributing, effective in three weeks.

So, what do the new kingpins at DC think that they are doing? Well, first of all, they want to drive more business to their online channel. Second, they think that they can do just fine on their trade paperbacks and hardbacks selling them to traditional bookstores through their distribution relationship with Penguin/Random House. Third, their recent “experiment” of selling $9.95 pseudo comic books through Walmart and Target has shown them quite clearly that they can generate massive comic book sales without a single comics speciality shop remaining in existence.

Another explosive piece of analysis from Rozanski:

Truth be told, my greatest concern with the future of the Direct Market retailers revolves around money and/or credit. With so many stores having been shuttered for eight weeks, or longer, who has the means remaining to establish credit lines with these new “distributors,” while simultaneously meeting their existing obligations to Diamond? Truthfully, this is a perfect storm of disasters for Direct Market retailers. Some stores will most definitely survive, but thanks to the unilateral decision today by DC Comics, I think that number of surviving entities was just reduced drastically. It is a sad, sad day in the history of comic books.

But in the very next paragraph:

As regards Mile High Comics, I believe that we are going to be just fine. I was nearly four million dollars in debt nine years ago (including a million dollars (!) in outstanding Diamond invoices), and deduced that my operating losses were mostly resulting from unsold new issues that we ordered for our clients, but which they then failed to purchase from us. Simply put, I started reducing new comics as a key element of our company product mix, and immediately saw things turn around for us. We paid off most of our company debt through the sale of our 56th Ave. building three years ago, and (finally) paid Diamond totally off last week. I will never again (ever) go in debt for new comics.

This back issue thing again!

Brian Hibbs, as mentioned, was not happy:

This is an insane bombshell. I don’t believe that it will be profitable or practical for most retailers to order low-ROI periodicals from a second distribution source — the extra shipping and handling involved is going to melt profit, while the endless extra HOURS trying to enter and massage data into POS systems that are not designed to quickly process mass data dumps from anyone other than Diamond is going to be nothing but waste for thousands of individual store fronts when what they NEED from their suppliers streamlining, is nothing but disheartening.
I am also being offered substantially worse payment terms from these new “distributors” (They are NOT, really, distributors: they are jumped up retailers, and the direct competition for periodical comics for every independent comic store owner. They are Midtown and DCBS), so my cash flow will be curtailed, just when I need cash flow the most.
I don’t even want to think about what this does for Diamond’s solvency, and their ability to help float stores and publisher over the short- and medium-term.
What DC has done is disgraceful and is flatly harmful to the Direct Market.

 

Dennis Barger, a retailer who no longer owns a physical shop but has stood up at many a retailer summit talking about how awful Diamond is, wrote:

Bye bye DC comics, don’t let the doorknob hit you where the good lord split you!!! This is a declaration of war against the direct market and I’m happy to oblige

Bill Schanes, a former Diamond VP, was nonplussed:

DC Comics announcement today about no longer partnering with Diamond Comic Distributors appears to me to be a utter lunacy, with dire consequences for the comic book specialty retailers, the consumers who support them, and as a direct byproduct, the freight costs involved for retailers will increase dramatically.
While I’m no longer privy to the current contract negotiations between DC Comics and Diamond, this 180 degree reversal of what has been working fairly well for 25-years (it wasn’t perfect), just seems like an almost final act of desperation on DC Comics part.
The extremely short notification period, the change of discounts, billing terms and freight costs will increase for just about every comic book specialty retailer (with maybe a few exceptions).
I love our industry, been involved for almost 50-years…an absolutely devastating, inadvisable, poorly thought out business plan, which leaves me with the thought that DC Comics May no longer look at the comic book publishing piece of their business as viable, and may look to license their universe of iconic characters to a larger publishing conglomerate.

Peter David saw it as part of a larger battle with Marvel, and if you want a comics celebrity response thread, this is probably it.

DC has just declared war on Marvel Comics.

Oh, they aren’t framing it that way. But they have.

Because DC has just announced that they are severing ties with Diamond Comics. DC represents thirty percent of the market, and there is no way–simply no way–Diamond will be able to survive with that kind of come down in revenue. The mission here is to drive Diamond out of business, which will then cripple Marvel Comics.

And of course stores are now screwed, because they suddenly all have to open accounts with new unknown and untested distribution centers. The ones that managed to hold on during the Covid-19 closures will have considerable trouble surviving.

This is potentially catastrophic.

PAD

Udon’s Erik Ko in the comments:

To everyone that cheers ‘The comic monopoly is finally over!” – look again. DC is just shifting and enabling the monopoly of their products to two retailer-upgraded distributors that are competition to every other comic stores. All comic shops now has to be forced, with no other options, to deal with a new system and new terms and pay extra shipping to get their DC books. Real break of monopoly would be letting Diamond keep distributing and add more options. Right now, it is STILL A MONOPOLY.

OK! I guess you get the case AGAINST the DC Diamond split.

Now the case for…well, mostly people who don’t like Diamond’s monopoly. A few hesitant comments from the PAD thread:

Fabian Nicieza: I don’t pretend to know the details of today’s marketplace forces, but as a mutual veteran of the 80s distribution days, philosophically, don’t you think having multiple distribution sources for product is ultimately better for the retailers and the industry?

Matt Bowers: It’s shocking to me how many want there to be only one company distributing comics for America. I’m sorry but I’m don’t think monopolies are a good thing. Think about it this way. The entire industry shut down not because it decided to shut down. It shut down because one company decided to do so. There is something very wrong about that.

One retailer was pragmatic, Jesse James (Who also doesn’t sell new comics it should be noted):

Pivot your business folks…dont think about what happen…just take care of your customers… CUSTOMERS DONT CARE where their Dc books come from they just want them….. Sell them comics!

And from the tweets:

Ryan Higgins, one of the big ComicHub solution supporters, has a thoughtful, mixed response ⁠— click through for the whole thread.

And the final word:

https://twitter.com/EmmaHouxbois/status/1268965065404760064

SO!

Is this really the Death of the Pamphlet, long foretold? Is this the entry to either Doomsday Scenario #1 (Marvel and DC go Digital) or Doomsday Scenario #2 (Marvel and DC license out their comics)?

Will comics shops survive?

Will small publishers survive?

Will Diamond survive?

Keep reading this space!

 

32 COMMENTS

  1. “ The first question I have, and it’s not what most of the retail community is asking: Does DC own a piece of the legal entities that DCBS and Midtown are distributing through?”

    —Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!

    Todd Allen has never had the first clue about how these companies operate. But you did get this as an EXCLUSIVE!!

    Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!

  2. Here’s another possibility- Marvel ramps up production thereby replacing the sales lost to retailers and Diamond by these moves and squeezes DC off the racks completely.

    And Heidi, I’m so tired of your frequent attempts to promote the digital format over the physical by regularly, if oh so tentatively, forecasting it’s death. The death of physical product will lead not lead to the growth of digital but only to death of the graphic storytelling format.

  3. Here’s the thing: DC and Marvel are owned by corporations. Corporations care about profits. They can make more money by using the characters for TV, movies, novels, clothing, and superhero-shaped plastic for the kiddies than they will by maintaining the sagas of ongoing superhero universes, told in piecemeal format at $4 per incomplete story, sold in independent, hole-in-the-wall stores that specialize in that format. Especially since the audience for the floppy format is primarily made up of an ever-shrinking audience of older white dudes.

  4. I feel like Higgins response is the only reasonable one in the lot from retailers. Hey how this would mess up a POS system for a while would be a pain, but considering I saw for years shops talking about doing it all by hand or an excel spreadsheet makes me think they can get buy for a bit while ComicsHub develops hooks.

    Otherwise all I see is complaining from the same old men who always complain about Diamond screwing them some how and not wanting to do a bit of extra work. Like if your shop only used Diamond in the first place they were doing it wrong, so what’s the problem adding another distributor for product.

  5. The problem isn’t the extra work. The problem is the cost to retailers. I’m a retailer in Canada and I can tell you from first hand experience from giving 1 of these new distributors a try a few weeks ago. We have to pay duty and extra freight costs which means I make zero money on DC products when I factor all that into the cost. I’m not the only retailer who has this problem, I feel for any European stores who were supplied by Diamond UK. Their costs must be crazy.

  6. So Marvel is probably now something like 65-70% of Diamond’s comic business, and maybe 5x bigger than the next largest publisher. That’s going to have some impact, especially if any of the contracts are up for renewal in the near future.

  7. I see this in your Bio slug at the bottom, Heidi. “Heidi MacDonald is an award-winning editor/journalist with 20 years.” That’s not much of a complete sentence. with 20 years of? Might wanna throw some editing chops at that thing.

  8. Regarding Diane Nelsons:
    “HEALTHY DIRECT CHANNEL”
    So while you let that sink in, let’s consider Retailers reluctance to trust DC to have their best interests at heart. This seems to indicate that Retailers are right in their gut feeling that DC wants to boost mail-order and digital formats. Now the big question would be if this boost would be at the expense of the bricks & mortar stores, or if there’s a Market next to the currently existing one that would increase the total amount of sales.
    I’d be very interested in an analysis of exactly how Diamond supposedly has been keeping this industry back, WITHOUT excluding Publishers method’s using this exact environment to their best interests for years. I’d also be very interested in exactly what Lunar and UCS can achieve that will benifit this industry in general that Diamond just couldn’t pull off. For the record, I would consider it to be in bad taste, if Diamond would have started a direct retail channel of it’s own, selling new comics directly to consumers just like Amazon and such. If that’s what Diane is pointing at as their biggest failure, I totally understand Geppi’s reluctance to comply.

  9. What angers me is the fact that no thought has been given to oversees fans and shops. Here in the UK we have no idea if we’ll get any more product after held back titles ship and our comic shops – those that are hanging on by a thread, who have supported DC all these years – might just find this is the final thing that kills them off during the pandemic when they’ve had no income for nearly 3 months. Surely it would have been better to at least have something in place for UK shops and fans before pulling the plug on us? RIP DC Comics in the UK : (

  10. It sounds like not enough people are processing what Erik Ko put bluntly: this is not an end of monopoly. These two “distributors” are tied to region, which means you still only have one choice if you are a retailer looking to sell DC comics. It’s unclear to me, until/unless publishers ship through both Diamond and these new outlets, how anyone at all is looking at this and calling it an ending to monopoly.

  11. I doubt Marvel could increase market share as a result of DC changing distributors. Customers aren’t beholden to distributors, they follow characters and creators. A Batman fan won’t start buying Moon Knight because a shop doesn’t sell Batman floppies anymore. More likely the customer would a) find another shop; b) switch to digital; c) subscribe; d) stop buying comics.

  12. “including a million dollars (!) in outstanding Diamond invoices”

    Am I only one finding it crazy that some shop owned one million dollars to Diamond? How that even works?

  13. “Now the case for…”

    Fabian Nicieza: as Udon’s Eric Ko points out, this is still a monopoly so any comments about monopoly are worthless

    Matt Bowers: we didn’t shut down. Neither did Diamond. They paused receiving of new releases.

    One retailer, Jesse James, who doesn’t sell new comics has an opinion on new comics. How is that notable?

    Still haven’t heard one positive thing from DC, or anyone, about this change. Not one.

  14. “Matt Bowers: It’s shocking to me how many want there to be only one company distributing comics for America. I’m sorry but I’m don’t think monopolies are a good thing.”

    THIS!!

    NEVER depend on one entity that you have no control over, for your daily bread. Period.

    NEVER depend on one publisher.

    NEVER depend on one distributor.

    It’s amazing to me the number of both online and offline business owners that don’t understand this basic business point.

    People should’ve diversified their distributors a LONG time ago.

    This situation happening was only a matter of time.

    It’s like all of those people whose FBA businesses were destroyed recently when Amazon changed their commission structure.

    Or the countless businesses that built their lead generation completely around Google Ad Words’ algorithm setup, making money hand over fist…until google changed the algorithm.

    DIVERSIFY.

    It’s incredibly unfortunate the situation that the print comic book industry now finds itself in. I feel for all of the retailers and the hardships that they’re going through. But to be shocked that it happened is even more unfortunate. Cheers!

  15. My husband works for Diamond in New York State. We are terrified about what this may do to our family in the long run. If Diamond is forced to consolidate distribution centers and cut expenses, my educated guess is that our life will never be the same. This contract was maintained for over 20 years. I am so angry! I will never purchase another item associated with DC.

  16. Comic shops here in my town are only filling DC on the pull lists and not ordering any for the racks. I think they’ll survive? I hope. All I can do is read between the lines, and with the constant reboots, variant covers, and event comics, the vibe very much feels like both corporate owners giving DC & Marvel an ultimatum: boost sales or else. Either one could easily pull the plug on print monthly’s, create a digital portal/app just to generate new IP with the only physical printed material being trades & ogn’s. Or do the bare minimum and keep reprinting the old stuff to maintain the IP with no new content. The difference from the other multiple times there was a disruption, we didn’t have a pandemic going on that could potentially go well into next year. That’s where we’re at folks. Plan accordingly.

  17. That Jesse James guy is right though. Customers don’t really care who your distributor is and they don’t care why you as a shop don’t have something in stock that they are looking for. They’re going to either buy it from you, from someone else, or not at all. Retailers need to adapt. I think there are enough shops right now hold more power than they think when dealing with the new distributors. They can say if you want my business give me the terms/shipping that i want or i’m not signing up.

  18. “People should’ve diversified their distributors a LONG time ago.”

    How do you diversify if there’s only one distributor in business?

    And just to make sure people understand this, a shift to digital-only comics will almost certainly lead to fewer overall comic sales and readers. I know I have zero interest in reading comics on a device. And it’s hard to imagine any big increase in new digital readers unless there’s a big reduction in digital prices.

    Mike

  19. The criticism that any new distributer can’t be trusted while asking to break up Diamond’s monopoly is kind of a circular argument. If everyone has an exclusive deal with a monopoly, then no one else has an opportunity to become a competitor. You need one of the big 2 or you have no business.This was the only way everyone could get their wish of having something besides Diamond.

  20. @ MBunge As has been stated by other posters previously, folks could’ve diversified into utilizing bookstore distributors, and shifted emphasis to collections versus pamphlets. Love it though I do, the single issue comic book isn’t long for this world. As the predominantly Boomer and Gen-Xers who buy them stop doing so, the market will continue to shrink to the point of unsustainability.

    With the economy being what it is these days, and unemployment almost at Depression era levels, whose going to have the money to pay for $3.99 to $4.99 comic books when food has to be bought, and rent’s gotta be paid? Publishers have forgotten their history as the children of the pulps, and the penny dreadfuls before them. Comics were always meant to be cheap, disposable entertainment. They are no longer either.

    Phil Seuling and Sea Gate helped keep the party going for another 40+ years, but unless someone comes up with a better business model and more readers stat, this party will wind down. Sooner than later.

  21. @Tom Williams Excellent assessment of the situation.

    The potential scenario that you lay out is a 21st century version of the one laid out by John Workman in his seminal article, “The Comic Book Crisis, and What Can Be Done About It”, originally published in The Comics Journal #199 in 1997, 23 years ago. It’s a little creepy how prophetic he was about the comic industry’s distribution and editorial future. It’s required reading, especially considering current events.

    Thankfully, someone archived it here:
    http://backup.superversivesf.com/2017/03/14/the-comic-book-crisis-and-what-can-be-done-about-it-by-john-workman/

    Cheers!

  22. “As has been stated by other posters previously, folks could’ve diversified into utilizing bookstore distributors, and shifted emphasis to collections versus pamphlets. Love it though I do, the single issue comic book isn’t long for this world.”

    The single issue comic is still the backbone of the industry even though people have been predicting, and even hoping for, its demise for 30 years.
    I don’t think you or many other posters appreciate the challenges of changing your business model from weekly high-volume sales to much more sporadic high-price point sales.
    And for the umpteenth time…IF THERE ARE NO SINGLE ISSUES, THERE ARE NO “COLLECTIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!” EVERYTHING THEN BECOMES AN ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL AND THE PRICE GOES UP. I can’t believe this basic economic reality still escapes people. Just look at the DC:Earth One GNs. In ten years, they’ve produced, I think, 11 total books and I suspect a big reason for that is the challenge of pricing them.

    Mike

  23. “Customers don’t really care who your distributor is and they don’t care why you as a shop don’t have something in stock that they are looking for. They’re going to either buy it from you, from someone else, or not at all.”

    Yes.

    But I think you radically underestimate the number of customers who will dance however their partners lead them — people in general are for-sure horny for BATMAN. They’re radically less interested in DETECTIVE, and only the hardest of the hard-core gives two shits about RED HOOD or NIGHTWING. I for sure TODAY (pre-COVID) lose money at San Francisco rent and wages carrying the former two, but do it to service “full line” customers — and we’re totally borderline on TEC — and there’s only a certain point that physical-base stores can stock we-don’t-profit titles without economy-of-scale rules working right.

    To put this a slightly different way: no one “likes” a “Diamond Monopoly”, but it strikes me that raw math says that’s the only way to sell single digit orders of $4 items, and still pay overhead — once you add a second source, it rapidly switches over to “unprofitable”. Again: I’d like FIFTY “competitors” to Diamond, but I don’t think it’s genuinely actually possible to make a profit from buying from more than one

    This is just math, people.

    -B

  24. @MBunge I can’t speak for anyone else, but the last thing I want is the death of single issue comics. I have very fond memories of going to the local newsstand as a child, and picking up everything from Archie, “Werewolf by Night”, anything by George Perez, and Claremont, Cockrum, and Byrne “Uncanny X-Men”.

    I’ve been reading comics since they were 25 cents. And will continue to read print comics…as collections and online. I’m not paying $4.99 for a single issue comic book. I used to get almost 20 comics for that amount, back in the day. But that’s me. Your mileage may vary. :D

    You said:

    “And for the umpteenth time…IF THERE ARE NO SINGLE ISSUES, THERE ARE NO “COLLECTIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!” EVERYTHING THEN BECOMES AN ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL AND THE PRICE GOES UP.”

    You’re premise is wrong. There are currently enough single issue comics from the past nearly 100 years to fill up countless collections. New stories don’t have to come out as single issues. That’s just your attachment to that form factor talking. Comics would’ve already been a reprint business as of the 70s, if not for the creation of the direct sales market.

    You also seem to forget that both Marvel and DC are very small parts of giant corporations, Disney and WarnerMedia, respectively. They can print what ever they want. They can price them as low as they want, using the comics as loss leaders to direct consumers to the movies, games, TV shows, clothes, etc., where the real money is at. More money to be made from Aquaman movie T-Shirts than Aquaman comic books, unfortunately.

    I don’t think you appreciate the challenges the current comic industry business model finds itself in.

    People consume content mostly on their phones these days. We can all see this just walking up the street.
    If they want to view it bigger, they can just mirror it to their laptop, tablet, or Smart TV.

    I know some folks on here don’t want to hear this, but you’ve got to stop thinking and living in a bubble.

    Comics IP is the hottest thing going in Hollywood, and will continue to be so for quite some time. People want more movies, TV, anime, etc. It is literally a multi billion dollar business, that will only continue to grow.

    But the source material that birthed all of this barely sells in the high five figures these days. Why is that?

    The basic economic reality is this: Single issue comics are too expensive. They’re too expensive because the audience that supports them continues to shrink over time, so they keep raising prices to cover this shrinkage. The other reason is that print is labor intensive. Physical distribution is labor intensive. People have to be paid to do all of this. And less people use print everyday, so that certainly isn’t helping any.

    Comic book production is labor intensive. The art gets ever more intricate, which takes time. So deadlines are missed, which interrupts the whole chain. Which screws up everyones cashflow.

    They don’t market the comics to the larger audience. Why?! Why isn’t there an ad for the comics at the end of each MCU movie and TV episode. like Marvel used to do at the end of the old “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” cartoons. Print sales would be in the six figures if they just did that. It’s as if the parent companies are embarrassed by the industry.

    I’m a professional comic book creator, and have been since the 90s. I’ve also been a comic book retailer, during the whole insane speculator craze of the 90s (To paraphrase Dickens, “The Best of Times. The Worst of Times”). I’ve seen this industry from both sides of the table. I know the history as a fan, as a business person, and as a creator.

    So please don’t attempt to infer that I don’t know the situation. Because I’m pretty sure that I do.

    Cheers!

  25. Okay, so I don’t really read superheroes anymore, just Archie, so I’m gonna address that.

    Archie still puts out some $3.99 floppies, but, with the exception of the ongoing Archie title, most are miniseries. Back in the early 2010s, they canceled most of their titles. Co-CEO Jon Goldwater said he wished they could find some way to monetize the floppies, but they can’t.

    I’m going to compare three products: trade paperbacks of the Betty and Veronica: Vixens maxiseries (2 TPBs, each containing 5 issues) and the Betty and Veronica: Senior Year miniseries (contains 5 issues) and the Betty and Veronica: The Bond of Friendship OGN (to my knowledge, the first OGN in the company’s history). All of these were written by Jamie L. Rotante, an editor at the company. I’m comparing the digital editions.

    Vixens, Volumes 1 and 2: usually $14.99, now $12.99 / 136 pages = 10 cents per page

    Senior Year: usually $14.99, now $12.99 / 144 pages = 9 cents per page

    The Bond of Friendship: $12.99 / 149 pages = 9 cents per page

    What seems to be readily apparent is the ongoing floppy titles are absolutely not needed, because they don’t absorb any of the cost to lower the cost of the final book product. Sure, the paperback edition of the OGN costs more than the paperback editions of the TPBs, but it’s also been delayed, so an OGN is definitely able to compete with a TPB digitally.

    Also, y’know, no variant covers to pay for on an OGN.

    Also, I’m sure Archie Comics makes a lot more money by licensing their characters for Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the various novels than they do from their comics.

    I suggest DC and Marvel:

    *put out more digests for the kiddies and stock them in checkout lanes; there can be a Bat-themed digest and a Super-themed digest and a Spider-themed digest and an X-themed digest, etc; offer a variety of kid-friendly stories inside; maybe offer a new story at the beginning

    *switch to OGNs for the older readers; maybe the weekly comic shop patron buys one OGN instead of five comics; works out about the same; also, it’ll make inventorying and stocking products easier on the shop staff

    *put out more novels

  26. @Mark Moore That’s a great Idea!

    I remember that back in the 70s, Marvel put out these paperback sized collections of the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man run. I loved those things! My Dad got them all for me. Very much like the Archie digests.

    They could sell them in Target and Walmart in addition to comic book shops. There really needs to be an accessible point of entry for new readers. For kids on their phones and gaming consoles, there needs to be content on those platforms that then leads them back to the wonders of print by way of TPBs that tie into the movie and game universes that they’re more familiar with. The big two print universes are too convoluted at this point for people who’ve never read a print comic to jump into without help.

    But again, a great idea. I started reading comics when I was 9. The industry needs more family friendly content for kids and preteens, especially girls.

    Cheers!

  27. I think everyone needs to see that Scholastic is the “Big Red Dog” of comics. The highest selling series is for middle grade kids(8-12) called “Dogman”. This book averages 500K per year. The previous volumes sell that or near that. Thats not counting other titles that Scholastic sells which also are in the hundreds of thousands. There is a reason DC made a YA and MIddle Grade OGN line. Theres a reason I think DC wants to get out of floppies. Those middlegraders in a few years will want something more sophisticated. YA is the next big market. We are going to have a ton of kids raised on comics, just not Marvel and DC. Take note of that.

  28. “Customers don’t really care who your distributor is and they don’t care why you as a shop don’t have something in stock that they are looking for. They’re going to either buy it from you, from someone else, or not at all.”

    I think they will, when the price doubles, as it might over here in Europe. I think you don’t really understand the mind of the standard comic buyer and collector. He usually spends a certain monthly budget, some buy 10 titles, others (like myself) more like 40-50 titles. He’ll probably have some favorites, but his buying habits probably fluctuate. The days of long running series are mostly over (to my personal regret). Titles are relaunched almost every x issues. This also makes fluctuation from one title to another much easier. My point is, if tomorrow I’ve to start paying 7-8 euro for a $3.99 DC comics, I’ll very quickly cancel those titles and spend the money on titles from other publishers. And believing that people will then switch to digital is even more naive. I really wouldn’t underestimate this impact.

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