Diamond Comic Distributors marks 30 years

I missed the actual date yesterday but on Feb. 1, Diamond Comic Distributors — the sales agent for most large comics publishers to comics shops in North America — celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Steve Geppi, today

When Steve Geppi began distributing comics and related merchandise to fellow shop owners on Feb. 1, 1982, the comic book Direct Market was still fairly new. Phil Seuling began selling Marvel and DC comics non-returnably to comics shops in 1975, later incorporating with partner Jonni Levas as Sea Gate Distributors. Geppi was already in the business as a retailer at that time: he had left his job as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in 1974 to open his first shop, Geppi’s Comic World, which operated out of the basement of a TV repair shop.

While his company formally began service as Diamond on Feb. 1, 1982, it had one warehouse and 17 customers — Geppi had already been doing work on the distribution side having taken over operations for New Media Irjax‘s Boston and Tampa distribution centers, according to the corporate timeline. There began, then, a long association with the comics industry. Many retailers have been customers from the beginning, and several publishers have been selling through it from the start. Geppi also
recognized in a press release the contributions of many of his longtime employees. “I am deeply grateful to all of them for their hard work, and I am honored to work alongside them.” Diamond Executive Vice President and COO Chuck Parker has been with the company for 27 years, for example.

Chuck Parker

“Steve Geppi has long been synonymous with comic book distribution,” said Parker. “His enthusiasm and passion for comic books and pop culture in general, coupled with a retailer’s background, gave Steve a unique and insightful appreciation of what a successful distributor must do in order to achieve.”

So Diamond has been a huge part of the story of comics for a generation. It was already the #1 distributor when I entered the business side of comics, just before the tumultuous times of the mid-1990s that left Diamond the only full-line distribution company standing. I’ve had many positive experiences with the company, first as a working journalist, and now as a comic-book creator. And of course, as a historian archiving the past of the comics market here for The Comics Chronicles.

Steve Geppi in 1992, for Diamond’s 10th anniversary

On that score, I should also note as a historical matter Diamond’s long publication history. Diamond’s Previews began to evolve from a simple listing into its more familiar catalog form 1988; Diamond Dialogue was being published as a newsletter at that point, but was already including some of the sales chart data that this site archives today. I hope to get more of the early stuff online in the future. While there is no longer a print retailer monthly,  Diamond continues to release the sales charts each month on its website — so this is yet another tradition that’s continued for a quarter of a century.

Diamond provided a historical timeline, which I have excerpted parts of below; I will get some of this on the timeline section of the site eventually.

1974: Steve Geppi opens Geppi’s Comic World, which operated out of the basement of a TV repair shop.

1982: Geppi founds Diamond Comic Distributors with one warehouse and 17 retail customers.

1988: Diamond goes national with the acquisition of Bud Plant.

1990: Diamond acquires selected assets of Seattle based distributor Destiny Distribution and takes over the operations of Oregon’s Second Genesis.

1991: Diamond UK, Ltd. begins operations in the U.K., leading to the acquisition of England based distributor Pacific Distribution, Ltd.

1992: Diamond’s Star System, which will evolve into the Previews Backlist Service, begins operation, giving retailers access to thousands of graphic novels and trade paperbacks.

1993: Diamond acquires England-based Titan Distributors Ltd., consolidates U.K. operations and becomes Diamond Comic Distributors (UK).

1994: Diamond acquires selected assets of New York-based distributor Comics Unlimited, Ltd.

1995: DC, Image, Dark Horse, and Acclaim choose Diamond to be their exclusive sales agent to comic specialty retailers.

1996: Diamond acquires selected assets of its largest competitor, Capital City Distribution. It also launches the toll-free Comic Shop Locator Service.

1997: Marvel signs an exclusive agreement with Diamond to service specialty market retailers. Diamond centralizes its customer service program and adds an Order Adjustment program,

1998: Diamond Online’s Retailer Services Area, the forerunner of today’s Retailer Services Website, goes live. Online ordering becomes available two years later.

1999: Diamond’s Vendor Services Website opens.

2000: Selected assets and liabilities of Alliance Games Distribution are purchased; Alliance Game Distributors eventually becomes a major operating division of Diamond. Diamond starts the Diamond Bookshelf program for librarians and educators.

2001: Through Alliance, certain assets of West Coast distributors Berkeley Distributors and Barchetta Distribution are acquired. Online reordering becomes available on the Retailer Services site.

2002: Diamond teams with retailers and publishers for the first Free Comic Book Day, designed to attract new customers to comic shops and expose them to what comics has to offer. The Diamond Daily e-newsletter begins. Diamond Book Distributors is founded to service the growing demand for comics and graphic novels in the book trade.

2004: The first Final Order Cut-off Form is posted on Diamond’s Retailer Services Website, allowing retailers to place orders up until the publisher sets its print run.

2005: Diamond opens its Memphis Distribution Center.

2007: Diamond’s ComicSuite Point-of-Sale software is announced.

2008: PREVIEWSWorld.com debuts on the web. Diamond’s Olive Branch Distribution Center opens with 600,000 square feet of space and a high-tech Warehouse Management System.

2010: Diamond launches kidscomics.com to direct young readers and their parents to kid-friendly comic shops across the United States and Canada.

2011: Diamond launches Day-Early Delivery.

And more to come…

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