By Christian Holub
March 23, 2020 at 09:07 PM EDT

Big news for the world of comic books: Diamond Comics Distributors, the primary distributor of comic book product and the key player in the current "direct market" system, has announced it will no longer be accepting new issues of comics amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rumors of such a development had been circulating in comics publications earlier Tuesday, and were officially confirmed by a statement from Diamond founder Steve Geppi posted to the company's website.

After discussing the myriad effects of coronavirus on the comics industry (from stores closed by government order to freight networks and supply chains getting strained), Geppi wrote, "Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease. Product distributed by Diamond and slated for an on-sale date of April 1 or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice."

Needless to say, this is a major development for the comics industry, and specifically comic retailers all over the country that already operate on thin margins. Since Diamond is the major player in the direct market system that distributes comics from publishers to stores, this news effectively means that there may not be new issues of comics in stores for the foreseeable future.

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The future is full of uncertainty, but already parts of the industry are figuring out new methods to assuage the crisis. Last week, Marvel announced that it would be offering steep discounts on product to retailers on comics set to go on sale between March 18 and April 8, "to help alleviate cash flow pressures and give retailers the flexibility to sell their product in response to customer demand as needed." Image went even further, declaring that all Image comics set to be published between March 16 and the end of the month will be fully returnable. The publisher also announced that it would be cutting down on planned upcoming releases, rescheduling some books and perhaps canceling others. Other publishers like Dynamite, IDW, Aftershock, and Vault announced similar plans.

Social distancing also cuts down on foot traffic, which is the lifeblood of comic stores. Many stores, though, are offering delivery or curbside pickup options. The Comic Shop Locator is a database of comic retailers across the country; readers can look up their local stores and ask them what options they have available. Right now, according to retailers, buying local rather than from big corporations like Amazon (which is already suffering a deluge of coronavirus-related product orders) is more important than ever.

Diamond is also postponing Free Comic Book Day. The annual event usually takes place in the spring, but is now being pushed back "to a date later in the summer."

For the latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19), including how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you are sick, please visit coronavirus.gov.

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