The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on all areas of the entertainment industry, and comics is no exception. Diamond Comic Distributors, which is the main distributor for most major US publishers (including both Marvel and DC), has announced plans to stop shipping new comic book deliveries to stores as of the week of April 1.
Effectively, this means comic shops will stop receiving new books for the foreseeable future. Diamond’s sister company Alliance Game Distributors is adopting a similar policy, with both its distribution centers shutting down indefinitely on Tuesday, March 24.
“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,” said Diamond’s Chairman and CEO Steve Geppi in a statement. “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.”
This announcement comes shortly after word that Free Comic Book Day 2020 has been postponed until the summer.
This is dire news for an industry already hit hard by COVID-19. Many shops have shifted to curbside and home delivery options in order to safely fulfill orders, while publishers like BOOM! Studios and IDW Publishing have begun offering full returnability on new releases and other incentives designed to lessen the financial strain on comic shops in an uncertain market. But with this shipping moratorium, shops remaining open during the pandemic will have to rely on existing stock and non-Diamond-distributed products for sources of revenue. As Geppi notes in his statement, Diamond is only cutting off shipments of books with an on-sale date of April 1 or later, meaning shops will theoretically have the ability to restock older releases and evergreen graphic novels, at least as long as Diamond still has available stock and the means to ship it.
Perhaps the biggest question now is whether publishers will continue to make new books available digitally through services like Comixology, or if new comic book releases will simply stop entirely come April 1. Diamond doesn’t handle digital distribution, so this is likely a decision that will have to be made individually by each publisher. Marvel and DC both have a number of high-profile comic book crossovers planned for spring and summer 2020, including Marvel’s Avengers/Fantastic Four crossover Empyre and DC’s Dark Nights: Metal sequel Death Metal. It remains to be seen whether these and other major books will be delayed or published solely in digital form for the time being.
IGN has reached out to both Marvel and DC for comment but did not hear back by time of publish. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.
Be sure to check out IGN’s guide for staying safe and helping out during the pandemic.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.