Show of hands…
Have you ever been in a long-term relationship and experiencing difficulties, and maybe exasperated by an extreme situation not under the control of you or your partner, which led you to break up, only to reconcile later on?
Perhaps just weeks or months later, or even years? Perhaps short- or long-term, or even permanently?
Regardless of the exact circumstances, falling back into a long-term relationship is certainly a pretty common occurrence.
So when DC shocked the comic book community a little less than a month ago by breaking off its 38-plus-year relationship with Diamond Comic Distributors (a monogamous relationship for 25 of those years), while the press and pundits were all analyzing the implications of the surprising seismic shift in how comic books and graphic novels will now make their way into the hands of readers in the Direct Market, perhaps some of us should have been asking if the break-up would actually stick.
Is it possible the Diamond-DC split will only be temporary? Has the last month been a display of relationship leverage - what George Constanza would refer to as "hand?" Will the time spent apart and the feedback they're getting motivate both parties to reconsider what they had together and find their way back to one another, even on non-exclusive, multi-distributor terms?
Pardon the expression, but they already fell back in bed with one another, extending the terms of their Diamond U.K. deal until the end of the year.
Keep in mind, all us comic book fans have seen this movie before. Just last year citing irreconcilable differences, Sony and Marvel Studios broke up amicably, at least as far as the public could tell. And that relationship even involved the splitting (and not sharing) of custody of Tom Holland and Spider-Man for Sony and the MCU for Marvel Studios.
But we all know how that wound up. After just a few months of seeing what life was like on their own, who and what else was out there, and maybe more importantly, gauging the public's reaction to their split, Sony and Marvel Studios decided to end their separation and put the nuclear … make that radioactive … family back together.
The motivation there? PR perhaps. But probably more directly the dollars that would have been left on the table by splitting up the successful family band. Now one of the two parties probably won the public negotiation and wound up with the better end of the deal they couldn't nail down initially, but at the end of the day, cooler heads prevailed and the relationship was salvaged to the delight of millions of worldwide moviegoers and likely the benefit of both parties.
Wednesday morning's announcement by Diamond parent company Geppi Family Enterprises (GFE) that founder and CEO Steve Geppi was assuming the role of president and that the person previously filling the newly-created was departing, feels like something of a reconciliatory gesture, or at least the public start of one. It feels like a potential preamble to at least Diamond's attempt to restore what's almost certainly the most significant change to their business relationships since Marvel Comics left them for their own distributor, Heroes World, almost exactly 25 years ago.
And as history teaches us, even after that messy divorce and after Marvel's disastrous second marriage failed, Marvel and Diamond put that ugly episode behind them and got back together.
Understand, I claim no insider knowledge about the tenure of outgoing president Stan Heidmann, his effectiveness in his role, and his relationship with publishers, DC or otherwise.
But as much as we might assume business deals are forged solely on revenue figures and discount terms, spreadsheets and contracts, they're also largely formed and maintained by phone calls and emails, lunches and Zoom meetings.
In other words - personal relationships.
Geppi returning to what appears to be a more active, hands-on role role has the feel of the company founder who maybe took a step away from the nuts and bolts of the operations and maintaining the relationships that business terms were forged on, stepping up (very publicly, mind you) in an effort to personally reconnect with longtime partners vital to one another's success.
In Geppi's own words, "Under my guidance, the executive leadership team will support a comprehensive strategic review to position the enterprise for future growth. I feel a tremendous responsibility to our employees and the industry, and I fully intend to set all Geppi Family Enterprise brands on a path for robust growth."
Keep in mind as of July 1, 2020, GFE's clearest and likely easiest path to 'future, robust growth' is almost certainly recovering some if not all of the estimated $155 million in gross revenue DC and Diamond generated together in 2019 ($115m in periodicals/$40 million in graphic novels according to Comichron.) Both parties almost certainly still have the operations and infrastructure in place to jumpstart revenue streams almost immediately upon resumption of working relationship.
And that could just be a few Zoom calls away.
It may also be crucial considering the uncertain future the comic book Direct Market still faces considering the still uncertain future of all retail sales in the coronavirus world and economy.
Is Geppi intentionally reaching out to DC or setting the stage to?
When asked if Wednesday's announcement would have any affect on their relationship with DC, Diamond's chief relationship officer Chris Powell replied, "Having the man back at the helm full time and re-energized with his decades of history and concern for our industry can only be a positive thing for our relationships with ALL our partners. These changes were made to benefit our company and all those relationships. If it helps us find common ground with DC as well, then that’s fantastic."
Sounds like an open door to me.
Will DC be willing to walk through the door? I don't know. And DC didn't respond when asked if they're receptive to finding common ground. But if Diamond addresses some of the issues that seemingly caused the break-up in the first place, the Direct Market retail community - i.e. the lion's share of the actual buyers of DC comic books and gateway to print readers - would likely overwhelmingly approve.
What I do know today is that if some time in the next couple of months a new press release announcing the resumption of DC and Diamond's ongoing relationship came across my laptop screen I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.
And at this stage I might even be more surprised if it doesn't.