Yesterday, Marvel Comics and Penguin Random House made a surprising announcement that sent shockwaves through the comics industry, particularly comic shops and retailers. Marvel Comics and Penguin Random House Publisher Services had sealed the deal for exclusive worldwide multi-year sales and distribution agreement for Marvel’s newly published and backlist comic books, trade collections, and graphic novels to comics shops in the Direct Market. The distribution to retailers for all Marvel titles is set to begin October 1.
This is a shot across the bow to comics retailer Diamond Comic Distributors, and president and CEO Steve Geppi was quick to respond:
We value our almost 40-year relationship with Marvel and are pleased that we will continue selling Marvel products to the Direct Market and other channels.
The change Marvel announced today represents a behind-the-scenes shift in how Diamond interacts with Marvel for certain products, but does not impact our ability to supply our customers with Marvel comics, trades, and graphic novels. I expect the discount terms under which our retail partners order these Marvel products to change, and Diamond will communicate that information to our customers well in advance of any adjustments. While there are still details of this new arrangement to work through, my leadership team and I are committed to making this supply change as operationally seamless as possible for our retail partners and we look forward to our continued distribution of Marvel products.
Geppi told Newsarama. “I expect the discount terms under which our retail partners order these Marvel products to change, and Diamond will communicate that information to our customers well in advance of any adjustments.”
Steve Geppi’s insistence that it’s going to be okay could be his honest take, but the mere mention of discounts shifting suggests that Diamond may naturally see Marvel’s move as adversarial and one that will impact its bottom line. Newsarama also points out, that the only way Diamond will now be able to sell Marvel’s books is to buy them as a wholesaler from Penguin and then distribute them to retailers. With Marvel taking control now and presumably offering to move product to the direct market without Diamond’s involvement, store owners are very likely contemplating whether the time to shift gears again is now.
Dan Buckley, company man and President of Marvel Entertainment, also shared his full throated support for the move:
Over the past year, your resilience has kept our industry moving forward in the face of extraordinary uncertainty and change. Comics are here to stay, and we are ready to start a new path for the industry to grow and evolve.
Earlier today, we announced Penguin Random House Publisher Services (PRHPS) will be the exclusive worldwide distributor for Marvel’s newly published and backlist comic books, trade collections, and graphic novels to comic shops, beginning with books going on sale starting October 1. We are confident this new partnership with PRHPS will create more strategic opportunities for your businesses, grow the Direct Market, and bring you more flexibility, reliability, and efficiency in ordering Marvel books.
To give you enough time to manage any transitions to their systems, please look through PRHPS’s materials to learn more about their resources and benefits. Marvel and PRHPS will be sharing more information over the coming weeks, but for any questions, we encourage you to reach out to PRHPS customer service directly.
Marvel’s goal will always be to tell the best stories we can to inspire, entertain, and help drive fans to your stores. Like us, PRHPS believes in great stories and the brick-and-mortar shops that carry them. We thank Diamond for their many years of support and partnership, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Diamond in other areas.
In the next few weeks, Marvel and PRHPS will host a virtual session to update you all on what this change will mean. We will share more details on this event soon.
We are excited to begin this new chapter, and we are confident Penguin Random House will be a powerful resource and partner for you and your businesses.
Marvel’s decision comes after DC Comics made a similar shift away from Diamond last year while the comics industry was hurting from the covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. In a move that is now coming back to haunt them, comic book publishing companies and distributors like Diamond tried to find ways to keep things running at a time when comic book stores themselves were shuttering across the country. Not every decision paid dividends apparently.
Wes Daugherity of Thinking Critical weighed in with his informed take:
Penguin Random House later published a very detailed FAQ which retailers should make note of if they missed it.
- Why should I order from Penguin Random House? Penguin Random House aims to be the best distribution partner for the Direct Market. You are the epicenter for pop culture in your communities, and we want to better support all areas of your business. We will provide you with a top-notch supply chain, customer service support, and increase your access to our books, marketing & promotion campaigns, and publishers. The goal is to work together to grow your business and legacy.
- What is the first date I can order Marvel product from Penguin Random House? May 26, 2021 for early solicited titles going on sale after October 1st.
- When will Penguin Random House begin shipping Marvel titles? We will begin shipping Marvel books on October 1st, 2021.
- Will I receive a printed catalog from Marvel? Yes, the first Marvel Previews catalog that Penguin Random House will distribute, the August catalog for product shipping in October, will deliver to retailers by July 28th. Retailers will also be able to access all catalog information digitally via our Self-service.BIZ ordering website.
- Will I be able to continue ordering Marvel titles from Diamond? Yes, Direct Market retailers will have the option of continuing to order Marvel products from Diamond, acting as a wholesaler, or Penguin Random House.
- I’ve already placed orders for Marvel titles through Diamond’s ordering system. Will I still receive those orders? Please follow up with Diamond directly to discuss any open orders.
- What is the timeline for the ordering transition? Any order placed for product shipping to arrive after 10/1/2021 will be shipped via Penguin Random House or through a wholesaler, depending on how you have elected to order product.
- Who should I contact at Penguin Random House? All comic market accounts are assigned a dedicated Sales Rep and a Customer Service Rep for all sales and ordering queries. If you do not have an account with us, please reach out to the New Accounts team to submit an application. Once your account has been setup, you will be assigned a Sales Rep and a Customer Service Rep.
- When should I have my Penguin Random House account setup? We recommend that you set up your account as soon as possible. An account must be setup by Friday, May 7th to place orders for early solicited titles shipping in October. For help setting up your account please contact the
- How do I start ordering from Penguin Random House? Once you have set up an account you can start ordering either through our self-service ordering website, self-service.BIZ, which will be expanded to accommodate Direct Market ordering practices, or through Customer Service.
- I already have an account with Penguin Random House, how do I access your online ordering portal? Please visit self-service.BIZ to initiate registration. In order register, you will need an email address, your account number, and your SAN. If you need any assistance, please email email@example.com.
- How do I use your online ordering system? After you have been set up as an account you will be able to register for self-service.BIZ. Once registered, you will have full access to search items, place and track orders, print invoices and so much more. For help with using the features on the site please visit the retailer FAQ or contact
- How will the Final Order Cutoff (FOC) process work at Penguin Random House? We are enhancing the self-service.BIZ site to support entering orders for each FOC date. FOC dates will continue to be regularly scheduled on Mondays ahead of on sale dates as expected.
- Will you still offer promo items and variants? Promotional items (posters, postcards, etc.) and variants from Marvel will continue to be offered through PRH. Variant eligibility will be displayed on the self-service.BIZ site.
- Will you still offer retailer exclusive variants? Yes, retailer exclusive opportunities will continue and expand for Marvel titles.
- If I have additional questions, who should I contact? Open an Account: firstname.lastname@example.org Customer Service: email@example.com Sales: firstname.lastname@example.org International Sales: email@example.com Canada Sales: firstname.lastname@example.org
- From which location will you be shipping? Comics will ship from our new warehouse in Hampstead, MD. All other product (publisher depending) will ship from our other warehouses in Maryland and Indiana.
- When will I receive my orders? Orders placed by the FOC date will ship to deliver no later than the day before the on-sale date. Reorders and promotional product will ship on a regular basis pending availability.
- Will my orders combine? Initial shipments will not combine with reorders. Reorders will combine within each warehouse. To minimize damages, we will not be shipping comics with graphic novels.
- In which territories will you distribute Marvel? We will distribute Marvel worldwide for the Direct Market. Customers outside North America should refer to the International section in this document for further details..
- What are your shipping rates? Sales through Penguin Random House are freight inclusive within the United States and Canada.
- Can I pick up my shipment from your warehouse to avoid shipping? No.
- If I have multiple locations, can I get direct shipments to each of them?
Yes, you will set up your payer account and then can set up each of your locations as a ship-to account connected to that payer account.
- Who do I contact about tracking my shipment? Our self-service site gives our retail partners the ability to place orders, track shipments, print invoices, etc. Customer Service is also available to answer any of your questions or needs.
- Do you ship to Canada and overseas? How do I setup an account? Shipping is available to Canada and overseas. To set up an account, please contact our New Account team to complete an application.
- How do I reorder titles? Reordering items is available on the self-service.BIZ site and through Customer Service.
- Will comic books be handled differently than graphic novels and other book product? Yes. Because of the delicate and collectible nature of comics we will be using our warehouse in Hampstead, Maryland to process comic book orders. In order to minimize damages, comics will not ship with graphic novels or other book product.
- What if I receive product that is damaged or an incorrect quantity? Claims for damaged or defective product must be submitted within ten calendar days of receipt of product. Claims can be processed on the self-service.BIZ site and can also be placed via Customer Service.
- What will my discount be for Marvel titles? The off-invoice standard discount for comic shops will be 50% non-returnable (NR), freight inclusive inside the US and Canada. Please contact your sales representative for more information.
- Are there other incentives/terms? Promotional terms or other benefits may be available. Please contact your sales representative for more information.
- What form of payment will you accept? Payments can be made with a credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover) at the time an order is placed. Those who apply and qualify for Credit can pay in the form of checks, money orders, or funds transfers.
- What are my payment terms? For retailers that qualify for credit, payment terms are 60 days End of Month (EOM) from the invoice date.
- Will you accept returns? All Marvel product is sold non-returnable. However, if replacement copies are needed due to damage or shortage, please contact Penguin Random House Customer Service within ten (10) calendar days of receipt of product to discuss the claim.
- How will I receive invoices? Those stores with credit terms have the option to receive invoices sent via email or mailed to them. They are also able to download invoices on the Penguin Random House self-service.BIZ site.
- Who should I contact if I have more questions? For any other questions, please contact email@example.com.
- What is my discount for Marvel titles? The off-invoice standard discount for comic shops is 50% non-returnable, freight inclusive inside the US and Canada. Please contact your sales representative for more information.
- What are my credit and payment terms? Credit terms are available for qualified international customers and will be determined upon account opening.
- What are your shipping rates? Sales through Penguin Random House are freight inclusive to Canada or to your freight forwarder based within the US.
- Who should I contact if I have more questions? International: firstname.lastname@example.org Canada: email@example.com
- How do I find out title information? We will be expanding the self-service.BIZ site to include access to a monthly catalog of upcoming comics, graphic novels, and manga that can be purchased through Penguin Random House. The website and accompanying catalog will include information on new and upcoming features, sneak peeks, a listing of top-selling titles, and more. More information about the launch of the expanded features will be available at a later date.
- How will title changes be communicated to me? Penguin Random House will continue the weekly Marvel Mailer distributed each Thursday to communicate top title information and data changes. We are
also considering how title changes can be identified and easily reportable in the self-service.BIZ site.
- Will the item numbers for titles change? Yes, Marvel and Penguin Random House will utilize standard UPC identifiers for all comic book product and ISBNs for all trade graphic novels. All orders will be placed using either UPCs or ISBNs for relevant products. This means the item numbers for product still available for purchase as of the transition date will change, and this will be communicated in advance via the Penguin Random House sales and operations teams.
- Will we get updated series code data? Yes, Penguin Random House will continue to supply series codes, but these codes will change for existing series. A guide is being developed to help retailers map existing series codes to their new code.
- What will the on-sale date be for Marvel titles? Marvel titles will continue to go on-sale weekly, every Wednesday.
- How do I find out about inventory? Inventory information will be available via Penguin Random House’s Self-Service.BIZ site.
- I am currently using a different platform to drive my consumer online site. Will they continue to get title information from Penguin Random House? Penguin Random House strives to ensure that all retailers, data aggregators, and POS vendors have the title information they need to conduct business smoothly. If you’d like to request that a specific company or vendor continue receiving Marvel data, please contact your Penguin Random House sales representative.
- Will you participate in Free Comic Book Day? Penguin Random House is dedicated to help bring new readers into specialty comic shops across North America and around the world. We recognize the importance of Free Comic Book Day as a valuable initiative to support new comic book readers and will continue to support the publishers who want to participate in it. More details on how Penguin Random House will participate in FCBD will be shared when available.
- Will Marvel still participate in Free Comic Book Day? Marvel plans to participate in this year’s Free Comic Book Day through Diamond.
- Will you have a site like Previews World? We will expand the self-service.BIZ site to include access to a monthly catalog of upcoming comics, graphic novels, and manga that can be purchased through Penguin Random House. The website and accompanying catalog will include information on new and upcoming titles, sneak peeks, a listing of top-selling titles, and more. As a retailer, you will also be able to preorder, reorder, and check the status of existing orders for comics, graphic novels, and manga from Penguin Random House.
- How will you update us on new releases, publicity, and marketing information? The Penguin Random House self-service.BIZ site will serve as a one-stop shop for all available information for new releases and publisher announcements for upcoming titles and media tie-ins. Updates and announcements will also be shared through weekly newsletters that you can sign up for by contacting the comic market sales team or once you’ve set up an account.
- How do I request an author event? Please reach out to your sales rep with a proposal for an in-store or virtual event.