Comic Book Industry Shows Signs of Reopening

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The distributor for Marvel, DC and other companies predicts a "mid- to late-May" time frame for restarting shipments to stores.

The temporary shutdown of the North American comic book industry may be nearing its end, even as the largest publisher in the business has placed more of its output on pause. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Diamond Comics Distributors has informed retailers of its intent to restart shipments of new product by the end of May, suggesting a potential target date for the relaunch of the comic book market.

In a letter sent to comic book retailers and product providers Friday, Diamond notes that it is monitoring the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to find "that delicate balance between managing health and safety concerns, meeting the pent-up demand for product and working with retailers whose situations differ, and whose need for product may have changed."

Noting that "many steps and conversations … need to happen between today and resuming distribution of new weekly product," Diamond identifies a rough "mid- to late-May" time frame for restarting shipments to stores, adding, "as we have all seen, target dates sometimes need to be adjusted in this ever-changing new-normal. But we cannot wait for firm dates. We have started the planning process and are having these important conversations with publishers and retailers so that once we have more clarity, we are in a position to restart and scale operations over time."

Diamond's last shipment of new product to stores was March 25, with the shutdown following a number of retailers already being forced to close temporarily because of shelter in place orders on the state and local level. Publishers had already started to pause or reschedule releases by the time Diamond's announcement was made.

In the wake of Diamond's pause on product shipment, the company announced that it would withhold payment to vendors, citing cash-flow problems.

News of Diamond's intent to reopen follows news that Marvel Entertainment has placed a further portion of its comic book line on pause, with the publisher confirming to THR that work on a further 10-15 percent of its line has been halted, in addition to the 20 percent placed on hold at the beginning of April. As with the earlier work shutdown, Marvel declined to reveal which titles have been paused, nor which creators have been affected by the shutdown.

Meanwhile, separately from Diamond's announcement, DC has announced that it will begin shipment of new print publications April 28, with a limited number of titles — The Dreaming No. 20, Daphne Byrne No. 4, Batman 100-Page Giant No. 4 and reprints of Batman No. 89 and Nightwing No. 70 — being available at retailers able to open and operate in the current climate. The issues will be released digitally on the same date.

According to a statement from DC, the decision to release new product was made "after surveying more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada" and finding that "many comic book store owners are finding new and creative ways to get books to the fans who want them." In its March 28 statement to retailers, DC announced that it would be "exploring a multi-distributor model" to provide product to stores; although DC did not disclose how it would be shipping the issues to stores, it would appear that the company is working outside of Diamond for distribution at least in the short term.

In a statement released following DC's announcement, Diamond said, "We value our partnership with DC and will continue to support them as a distributor. Our focus is squarely on getting our industries' entertainment products in the hands of fans as quickly and as safely as possible. As we shared this morning with our vendors and retailers, we are currently building our restart plans and targeting mid- to late-May to being shipping new weekly product. If we see signs that it is safe to resume shipping earlier, we certainly will. However, with the limited number of retailers open and most customers on stay-at-home orders, our focus is on supporting our industry and the health and safety of our stakeholders."