Dark Horse Comics sticking with Diamond, see comic book sales as a challenge

(Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

[Editor's note: Newsarama spoke with Dark Horse's Mike Richardson about the following and other topics last week before allegations about longtime editor Scott Allie resurfaced. Dark Horse Comics subsequently issued a statement on that topic that can be read here (opens in new tab).]

In a world where DC has separated from Diamond Comic Distributors (opens in new tab) and the comic book release date is now two release dates (opens in new tab), Dark Horse Comics CEO Mike Richardson said that his company is sticking with Diamond exclusively for comic book periodical distribution. He also recognizes the sales impact of the book market, along with the outreach impact of comic stores.

"There's no drastic decision that we’re making now," Richardson said. "We're going to continue with Diamond in the Direct Sales market, and we're going to continue with Random House in the book market."

Dark Horse entered into an agreement for Random House to become its book trade distributor in 2013. That distribution agreement has been a great boon to Dark Horse.

(Image credit: Mike Richardson)

"I'd say our trades are 70% of our sales now," Richardson said. "I think when we jumped to Random House, we put about 200 books back into print. They've done a spectacular job selling our books."

Richardson has no interest in distributing Dark Horse periodicals through Lunar or UCS, the two new entities distributing DC comic books to comic shops.

"As a publisher, no," Richardson said. "My retail division has talked with them."

Richardson is referring to the four full-service comic book retail stores he still owns and operates called Things From Another World. 

He opened his first comic book store in Bend, OR in 1980, before Dark Horse became a publisher in 1986. One of his four remaining stores is just outside the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los Angeles.

Richardson knows the COVID-19 world and distribution disruption has presented difficulties, but he’s seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

"The individual, traditional comic book is a challenge these days," he said. "We're starting to see some decent numbers on the individuals come back. And I think with DC stepping out, that’s a blow to Diamond. 

"[Diamond CEO] Steve Geppi seems to have a handle on what he’s doing, and we continue to work with Diamond, but we're going to watch. I have a long relationship with Steve and Diamond, and look, they've helped so many stores stay in business over the years. It’s important to keep comic book stores alive."

Richardson sees comic stores as the gateway to new readers.

"Brick-and-mortar really is our chance to promote comics," he said. "We can expose a huge amount of new people to comics as walk-bys in our Universal store every year."

And to release date? A traditional Wednesday had become a DC Tuesday and everything-else (including Dark Horse) Wednesday. For his part, Richardson would like a unified date.

"Having stood behind the counter, I like to get them all at once, as early in the week as possible," he said. "I like to get stuff out without having to go through the process twice. Any release date is a big process at retail."

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