Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics of Ankeny, Iowa, writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here. And it's time to talk, penguin.
Most people, including me, were hoping for a return to a more "normal" year, closer to how 2019 was. Change keeps happening whether we like it or not. People were crying the sky was falling when DC left Diamond after Diamond had a twenty-five-year monopoly as the only vendor to supply comics. The comic apocalypse did not happen. Marvel recently announced they are going to move its exclusive direct market comic business from Diamond Comics to Penguin Random House. Diamond will be able to order comics through Penguin Random House though it no longer will be the only vendor for Marvel.
I need to set up an account with Penguin Random House. While Penguin is a flat 50 percent discount, they will offer free shipping from what I have gathered. The free shipping will make up for the loss of our better than 50 percent discount if we switch from Diamond. Diamond has actually improved their shipments to us recently by adding more packaging materials such as paper packaging and bubble wrap. They still are not close to Lunar in terms of protecting their product. I find this amazing. For twenty-five years, Diamond was the only vendor, and then Lunar steps in and does a better job shipping products and getting products to us faster. Other pluses? I can email Lunar, get a response and get an email from an actual person who does not seem bothered I am contacting them. A one in twenty-five comics variant was recently damaged in a shipment from Diamond, and of course, there were no replacement copies available. Defeats the purpose of ordering extra copies of a title to get the one in twenty-five variant. It was not bagged or boarded like when Lunar sends harder to get variants. From what little I have read about Penguin, they are worse. Of course, this is not what I want at all. Damages will happen; I understand that. What hurts is when the customer who wanted the comic, action figure, or whatever the product might be, waits, is excited about it, and then we have to tell the person sorry it did not make it in even though we were invoiced for it or it arrived and is damaged. Then to make it worse, we find out there is no replacement available for said missing item or damaged item.
Will Diamond survive Marvel shifting to Penguin Random House? It's an excellent question. I hope they do. What will they change? Some thoughts off the top of my head are will they get more into action figures? I know action figures are hot. I have orders through Diamond for figures and hope they arrive soon after seeing them available at chain stores. Will Diamond try to get a publisher or publishers to go exclusively through them to ensure they still have at least some comic business? Will they get into a new market they have not been in for quite a while, such as sports cards which are super-hot right now?
The other publishers most likely are having some interesting decisions to make. Scout Comics is most likely very happy they joined up with Lunar along with Diamond. I am interested in what the other publishers will do. My store needs IDW, Boom, Zenescope, Dynamite, and Image along with other smaller publishers to keep our customers happy. If any of them stay exclusive with Diamond, we will have to keep using Diamond. Image Comics went all-in with Diamond supporting them after DC left. Will Image now change their tune? Money talks.
Right now, my store is doing amazingly well. Our last sale was incredible. It surpassed our March 2020 Rod Deals sales. Though, to be completely honest, a lot of it was luck. In 2020 our March Rod Deals was at the beginning of the month. That was lucky because, by April, we were closed due to the mandatory coronavirus closing by the governor. Before April and the store's mandatory close, sales were slowing down because people were becoming scared to go out due to the virus. This March, we had the sale on the 27th, which was lucky because I believe a lot of people received their stimulus money and spent more than they usually would with us. This does not mean a lot of work wasn't put into the sale, and we are very glad it paid off. Just like Diamond, one day, it seems you are on top of the world, and the next day you feel like the world is on top of you.
I wish the best of luck to Diamond, and as time goes on, we will learn more and see what the future holds for them, along with the ever-changing nature of the comic business.