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Back on March 28, DC announced that they were exploring “a multi-distributor model” methods for their comics. Although since then various digital methods have been rejected by retailers, today DC pulled back the curtain with plans to start sending out comics for April 27th via two new distribution partners, Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors.

Neither company has any presence on the web, however, the sleuthing has already begun. And a little domain checking has revealed clues to their identity.

As first tweeted by John Jackson Miller, UCS – which is servicing accounts in the eastern part of North America – would seem to be Midtown Comics.

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Lunar was a little more circumspect and has an anonymous IP registration, however their phone number and domain registration are in Indiana, which is also the home of DCBS, a huge mail order comics company.

As mentioned by Miller, Midtown Comics has been fulfilling both subscription and comp list comics for Marvel for a while.

I was told early on that Marvel also had “a plan” for dealing with the pandemic shutdown, but whether they were also considering Midtown and DCBS as a Diamond alternative is unknown. Midtown and DCBS are Diamond’s biggest clients, and they would be in a position to have a large enough infrastructure to at least attempt comics periodical distribution. I’m told DC had been considering a move to supplement Diamond distribution for a while – and their plan to go with Lunar and UCS backs that up.

Is this just an emergency stopgap for an unprecedented crisis? Or the start of a new business model for the industry? I’ve long been saying that nothing will come out of this lockdown/pandemic the same. So be prepared.

Literally as I was writing this post, Newsarama confirmed that Midtown and DCBS are running UCS and Lunar, respectively.

Retailers are still absorbing today’s immense news, so reactions will be filtering out as the days progress. As seen in this Facebook thread early reactions were NOT HAPPY with DC’s move, with reactions ranging from “Uh, oh,” to “I’m livid.”

Why would shops react so badly to getting new product from DC? Well, Midtown and DCBS are the big gorillas in the room, and local comic shops see them as their biggest competitors.

However, at least one shop was happy:

This story is “Developing” and we mean it.

 

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Putting distribution to brick and mortar stores in the hands of two massive online retailers, at least one of which is already operating on a model of undercutting comic shops… there’s no way that ends poorly.

  2. Christopher Burns – Maybe, But maybe totally abandoning normal retail stores from 85 to 95 was probably not a good idea to begin with. You know any other media Product that hides its product in hole in the wall specialty stores. Do i need go to a DVD/Blu-ray specialty shop 50 miles out of my way to buy a Blu-ray. I don’t think so.

  3. @Keith — Comics didn’t “abandon normal retail” locations by choice. It came down to the fact that retailers of those establishments concluded that comics had such a low cover price that they weren’t worth the shelf space that they occupied. Retailers were more interested in using the space (and their employees’ time) for stocking items that had a higher retail price.

    And history repeated itself when Barnes & Noble stopped carry periodical comics in their magazine department for the exact same reason.

  4. Who honestly cares? Guys, if the only other businesses with 1) the warehouses and 2) the shipping expertise to ship comics are also retailers, it doesn’t matter if that’s their day job. Your customer doesn’t shop at your store today because Diamond is the middle man; they shop because it is YOUR STORE! They’re not going to suddenly shop at DCBS because that’s where their comic spent a week in warehouse! It’s not like DC is saying only 2 stores can sell their comics. They are saying 2 warehouses will SHIP your comics. Good grief.

  5. I worked in comic book distribution for nearly a decade (mostly for Diamond.) If Lunar and USC can secure distribution rights for Marvel as well, they have a chance of succeeding. Diamond has experienced this kind of ‘threat’ before, both publicly and behind the scenes, and they have a deep playbook for it. They are an efficient machine and competing with them is difficult. Scaling up to distribute the volume Diamond moves is really daunting and not for the faint of heart. If the publisher(s) wants an alternative distribution channel, they must offer a sufficient discount to Lunar/USC for the first two years, as it’s going to be very expensive for them in the beginning. Mistakes will be made. Should they open satellite drop-ship warehouses, I would quit my current job to assist them in the fight. Change is scary, but so is being beholden to a monopoly.

  6. Competition in any market is a great thing! It will increase efficiency and quality of the books and the deliverance of books. The fact that these distributors have a retail presence already is immaterial. They will have to compete with Diamond on pricing in order to gain market traction. ALL THE RETAILERS hate Diamond. This needed to happen years ago. I order to survive Diamond will have to become more customer friendly and efficient.

  7. You’ve got to be kidding. Let’s say a $5 comic costs $2.50 wholesale. Add the huge shipping charge per book that these companies now charge and that leaves the comic retailer with little or no profit per book. In other words, out of business.
    Good luck, our store is seriously considering dropping DC comics.

  8. Bob – I talked with my local store as well and they came to the same conclusion. The shipping costs for comic stores in the Midwest from these two coastal distributors leave know room for profit. They will lose money on every issue they sell. The comic store I talked to said they were heavily considering dropping all distributors and just going with Penguin House for graphic novels, which would be a serious change for the store.

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