In response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Diamond Comic Distributors has hit pause on new comic book releases. Product set with an April 1 on-sale date or later will not be shipped until after the crisis is over. Read the full release here.
Diamond founder and owner Steve Geppi wrote, “We are hearing from thousands of retailers that they can no longer service their customers as they have in the past, many of them forced to close by government action or resort to in-person or curbside delivery. Even those still open are seeing reduced foot traffic in most cases, a situation that seems likely to worsen with time.”
“Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease.”
Geppi wrote that distribution would continue from the Olive Branch, Miss., center to safely continue fulfillment of direct ship reorders for the retailers who are able to receive new product and need it to service their customers. But today, Memphis, Tenn. — of which Olive Branch is a suburb — instituted shelter-in-place rules for residents and businesses, and while that is across the state line and doesn’t impact distribution, it surely affects many of Diamond’s employees. Memphis’s case count has dramatically grown in recent days; I have family there and was supposed to be there this past weekend for MidSouthCon (now rescheduled to 2021) so I’ve been checking the data regularly.
The situation is unprecedented in comics history — the presses still ran and comics shipped even during World War II. The issues didn’t survive long due to paper drives, but the number of new releases increased annually throughout the war. But the stores were all open and people could get to them. (And printers were still printing them, which seems not to be the case given reports of at least one significant imminent closure.) There’s never been a case in the last 80 years where the mobility and buying power of almost the entire general public has been curtailed in the way they have been this month.
Comics are, as I’ve said many times, quite resilient as a business; sales absolutely exploded after World War II was over, with the number of new releases ballooning. It took TV and the juvenile delinquency scare to bring it back down to Earth… yet it would rebound from that — twice. This time, it will be far from the only industry looking for ways to bounce back.
Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 25 years, including a decade editing the industry’s retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises.
He is the author of novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Dawn, Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War, and his latest release, Star Trek: Discovery – Die Standing. Read more about them at his fiction site.
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