With the company relying more heavily on smaller independent publishers in the wake of losing both DC and Marvel as exclusive partners in the past couple of years, Baltimore’s Diamond Comic Distributors has announced that it has established a new tier for publishing partners, offering preferred coverage and expanded support in comic stores moving forward.
The new tier, known as the Deluxe Tier, will include AfterShock Comics, Titan Comics, Frank Miller Presents (FMP), and ABLAZE Publishing, with Diamond stating that each of the four have been awarded access to this tier in recognition of their success to date, as well as an estimation of their future success. (That latter element is particularly important for Frank Miller Presents, a publisher which has so far only released one specially-priced preview issue to date.)
What this actually means for comic fans is increased visibility for each of the four publishers in the monthly Diamond Previews catalog, with the September issue launching a new Deluxe Comics section showcasing each of the Deluxe Tier publishers. The PreviewsWorld website will similarly promote the publishers’ new status.
Additionally, reorder fees for each of the Deluxe Tier publishers will be waived by Diamond as part of a wider re-appraisal of fees required of retailers by the distributor; at the same time, fees will be waived for existing Premier tier publishers BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, and Image Comics; such fees had already been waived for Dark Horse and Image.
The exact distinction between the Premier and Deluxe Tiers is unclear, as of writing; prior to the announcement of the Deluxe Tier, being a Premier Tier publisher guaranteed placement at the front of the Diamond Previews catalog, with each publisher allowed to design their own catalog pages. Additionally, Premier Tier publishers received preferred sales terms with the company.
As part of the creation of the Deluxe Tier, all four participating publishers have agreed to exclusive distribution agreements with Diamond.
Until mid-2020, Diamond has a near monopoly on comic store distribution inside the North American market. That changed when DC ended its multi-year exclusive agreement with the company to go with two newly established distributors, Lunar Distribution and UCS Comics Distributors as a result of Diamond’s pandemic-induced shutdown. Marvel would follow a year later, signing with Penguin Random House for comic store distribution in March 2021. Since then, a number of other publishers — most notably IDW — have also signed with alternate distributors. While the industry is some way away from the so-called “Distribution Wars” of the 1990s — a period in which a rush to sign exclusive distribution deals arguably threatened to sink the comics industry as a whole — it’s notable that Diamond is clearly pushing to bolster its exclusive publisher base.
In a statement accompanying the news, Tim Lenaghan, chief purchasing officer for Geppi Family Enterprises and Diamond Comic Distributors, said, “This change recognizes the current and projected market share of AfterShock, Titan, ABLAZE, and FMP. We are excited to continue our relationship with them as their exclusive distributor, and we look forward to leveraging this expanded partnership to help nurture and grow the entire comic book specialty market."
Popverse reached out Diamond for comment, with no response as of writing. It's unknown if other publishers were consulted about the creation of a new tier of service at the company — the first time that's happened since 1996, when the Premier Tier was created — or if others were invited to receive the preferential treatment the new tier confers on its publishers.
This isn’t the first big comics distribution news of the year; back in June, Marvel signed with Penguin Random House to get its books into bookstores, ending a long term relationship with Hachette Book Group.