William Schanes was the teenage founder of Pacific Comics, the comic store that became a chain, a creator-owned publisher and a comic book distributor before it was bought up by Diamond Comic Distributors in the eighties. We recently recapped their distribution history as Eric Stephenson, publisher of their modern-day publishing equivalent Image Comics, has registered the Pacific Comics trademark.
But with DC Comics dropping a shut-down Diamond Comic Distributors for two new distributors set up by existing comic book stores, the memory of Pacific Comics and the like has re-emerged. And Schanes, who then spent decades as VP Purchasing at Diamond has shared his two cents about the whole situation as well, especially in the light of the comments by Comix Experience retailer Brian Hibbs. Schanes writes on Facebook,
"First off, historically, DC Comics had been the much more friendly publisher to comic book specialty retailers (CBSR) Vs Marvel Comics. From the early years of co-op advertising, a large dedicated staff, lead by publisher Paul Levitz, who championed the CBSR along with Bob Wayne. Paul and Bob were our wartime consigliere's, as they would quickly come up with well thought out plans of action when hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters took its toll on select areas in the US or other parts of the world, which had devastating effects on CBSR."
"When Paul "stepped down" as publisher of DC Comics, and the news broke that DC Comics would be moving their offices from New York City to Burbank, California… things were a-changing. At the same time, Warner Brothers promoted Dan Didio and Jim Lee as co-publishers, which was a huge jump in overall responsibilities for both of them."
"Somewhere along the timeline, DC Comics detached their new monthly solicitations from the Diamond Comic Distributors Previews catalog (a huge mistake from my perspective), and really didn't come up with a well thought out, compelling, long term editorial vision, as the majority of their new "break out" releases started off with a bang, but quickly fizzled out, as they failed to gain consumer interest."
"I've found Jim Lee to be extremely supportive of a wide range of charities related to the comic book industry, including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Hero Initiative, tons of donated pieces of artwork for other charity drives as well, including the truly inspirational 60 drawings in 60 days, with all proceeds going to 60 specific CBSR, as did Rob Liefeld. Jim's example, and now a true movement by many creators are all donation pieces of artwork, with proceeds going to CBSR. Their efforts are examples for the rest of us to come up with creative ways to lend assistance to CBSR. Jim earns my utmost respect for his continued efforts in this regard."
"But now…. with this new change in distribution announcement, much, if not all that DC Comics has done so right in the past is about to be destroyed. While I do not have any concerns, issues or negative thoughts towards Midtown Comics and Discount Comic Book Service, both of which run legit large scale operations, DC's distribution rollout plan using these two companies appears to be a rush to fix a situation without fully understanding all of the ramifications."
"The unbelievably short window for CBSR to sign up for a new account by 2,000+ CBSR is ridiculous, terms, discounts and increased freight on a per unit basis, the apparent lack of thought into how international CBSR can gain access to the limited number of releases, the standardized "Wednesday" release will now be first come first serve, especially when you consider state by state "closed for business, except for essential businesses" except for Amazon and a few others."
"It all adds up to a disaster waiting to take place, right in front of our eyes. It can easily be avoided by taking a 7-14 day "cooling off period", and really analyzing all of the pros and cons, and what the ramifications are. There are a number of seasoned professionals available to consult with, both those currently still in the industry, as well as those of us grey panthers who are somewhat retired. I can only speak for me, and by no means as I more important than anyone else, but I do have close to 50-years worth of experience in the comic book industry, and I would have thought someone at DC Comics might have reached out to get a fresh perspective, and ask for both honest thoughts and feedback, as well as listen to possible modifications or alternative options, of which I have several in mind."
"I'm not going to comment at this time about what exclusive agreements which were in place prior to the pandemic, and how the "go forward" options will come to light. I have strong feelings, but for now, I don't want to be a back seat driver." Although William does also have tales of being a front-seat driver as well.
He also has experiences to share regarding just how hard it is to be a comic book distributor from the ground floor up, with a minutia look at how the comic books are packed and picked and the condition they come in, and the reorder fees that come can come about. Useful information for anyone else wanting to set up as a comic book distributor right now.