Brian Hibbs Holds Jim Lee Responsible for DC Distribution Decision

Yesterday, comic book retailer Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience in San Francisco, posted on Facebook a detailed look at DC Comics plan to get comic book distribution going again. Or rather, everything that was wrong with it. Stating that DC Comics was "making all of the wrong moves" he stated that "I especially hold Jim Lee DC, DC's current publisher, accountable for this. Hank, Nancy, I also have to call you out here. You three are the visible leadership. Time to answer this." Hank would be Hank Kanalz, SVP Publishing Strategy & Support Services at DC and co-creator of Youngblood. Nancy would be Nancy Spears, DC's Vice President, Sales.

Hibbs states that "most of the country is shut down, and WILL NOT be ready to open on the date of 4/28 that DC says they'll be shipping comics again. In San Francisco, we're at a minimum of first week of May, and I'm fairly certain we won't be allowed to open to walk-in business without semi-extreme rules until well into June." Hibbs noted that DC's own offices in California aren't open and won't be for some time. "The *notion* that they're expecting us to be "open" when *they* aren't is horrifying to me." He clarifies "We are not "open". We are not allowed to be "open" in California. Most states that sell the MOST COMICS are not allowed to be open. DC is not allowed to be "open" in California. There is no way for me to legitimately sell comics to anything other than preorders."

As for the choice of distributors, "These are COMPETITORS to the overwhelming majority of Direct Market retailers." Later he adds "the business model of Midtown and DCBS is largely based on massive discounts, and undercutting the asking price of the cover price… The people who are the new "distributor" should not be the people who also sell for 40%+ off. Not if you want to have physical stores representing your output" as well as the observation "WHY THE F-CK DID DC TRY TO "hide" the fact that DCBS and Midtown were the "distributors"? Did they take us for fools? It was common knowledge in like 40 minutes." We did our best, there.

Brian Hibbs Holds Jim Lee Responsible for DC Distribution Decision.
Brian Hibbs Holds Jim Lee Responsible for DC Distribution Decision. Photo by Luigi Novi.

Then there's the timeliness of the whole affair. Brian Hibbs says "We've been given FOUR DAYS to set up accounts and get right with our new Overlords (being in Cali, we're "assigned" to DCBS.) Sorry, you can't unleash an entire new way of doing comics in that short of a time span. I have genuine and serious questions about being forced to do business with an entity that I personally consider a "bad actor" in comics, and to hand them key business documents like my resale license. Where's our contract?"

As for comic retailers being able to operate in a shutdown through mail order, Brian Hibbs states "Margins are shitty enough that making a profit in comics retail is pretty hard to begin with, and everything is magnified and multiplied when all you can do it mail order. … the BEST CASE HERE is that I am working three times as hard, for no more than one third of the revenue." He later says "just WRITING THE ORDER for the five comics nomatively on-sale on 4/28 would cost me more money than I could ever hope to realize from them." He looks at further costs not yet stated. "What about the SHIPPING COSTS on this tiny slate of garbage? If it's more than "free", then our already low margins are shot to sh-t… I've learned this last month: I DO NOT WANT TO BE A MAIL ORDER BUSINESS. It is a horror-show, and a low-margin one at that… It is FLATLY impossible to pay RETAIL rent and wages in California, DC's home state, on that velocity and volume. Can't be done."

Then there's previous distribution arrangements, and loyalty to the other guys. Brian Hibbs writes "DC is asking us to ABANDON Diamond. They claim they've "cancelled all orders" (though, honestly, can they even do that?), and that we have to buy from Midtown and DCBS. Diamond and Steve Geppi specifically have acted as the "bank" of the Direct Market, saving and protecting the great mass of retailers again and again and again." Diamond issued their own statement yesterday in regard to DC's decision. Of course we have been here before. "I REMEMBER HEROES WORLD — the COSTS of doing business with a fraction of the sales of a universal distributor makes it so you can NOT sell that line profitably for most retailers… I STOPPED RACKING MARVEL COMICS DURING HEROES WORLD, AND MY SALES WENT UP" That's the way he's thinking, "If they do this, my only possible response can be "well, I guess most new DC periodicals are subs only". This will cut ~60% of their sales at Comix Experience, forever…  I should stop subsidizing Marvel and DC's excess for, realistically, something like 90% of their output…. and you actually want to give me a clean, simple and actionable reason? REALLY?"

Brian Hibbs considers the Tuesday Sale Day change. "The very notion of changing to a Tuesday release is pure "f-ck you" to the channel that, I'm pretty damn sure is two-thirds of the mechanism of their cash-flow."

Then there's that absence of Batman #92. "Seriously? This is your "re-launch" slate? DAPHNE BYRNE, THE DREAMING, second prints, and some Wal-Mart comics? What the serious fuck is wrong with you DC? YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO REDEFINE DC FOR THE NEXT DECADE, and your choice is clear out the pile of mediocrity the editors have already committed to?" Hey, I really like The Dreaming. But that's just me.

He also backs up the point closest to my heart. "Non-American accounts are just thrown to the wolves? Really? REALLY?" Really. And they will also have to compete with digital, available, everywhere.

Brian Hibbs concludes saying "this would permanently poison my relationship to DC Comics, and impact their long-term sales here unless they change their direction…. not just within my individual store, but everything I can ever do when I interact with both my peers and the consumers I serve."

In comments, Richard John Early of Paradox Comics-N-Cards, Fargo said "I'm keeping a ledger of who helped me and who didn't. Heroes and villains. So far, the only person on the good guy side is my landlord.

Carr D'Angelo of Earth 2 Comics, Los Angeles, stated "But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how dd you like the sh-t show? Seriously though, I made most of the same points in my e-mail, especially in regards to the local issues, being even closer to Burbank than you."

So much more feels like it is going to roll out this weekend.

Former Diamond employee Heather Hagerman added "Wow!! As a former rep at Diamond, I'm shocked and saddened by this!
Good luck to you all in the crazy time!!"

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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