Devil’s Due Dumps Diamond

I hadn’t been following the tribulations of publisher Devil’s Due, mainly because I don’t read any of their comics. Most of what they’ve put out this year are a handful of issues of Hack/Slash, Jericho (based on the canceled TV show), and Presidential parody Barack the Barbarian. Nothing’s come out since April.

Last year, Rich Johnston reported that they owed a lot of money to their creators — one of whom even won a court judgment against the company — to which publisher Josh Blaylock responded that bookstore returns had been a problem for them.

We’re still dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars in book store returns that rocked us in late 2008 and into 2009, right in the middle of an already aggressive restructuring. … It’s a reminder to publishers not to be too over leveraged in the book stores.

An unpleasant example that, while sales to comic stores are non-returnable, sales to bookstores may be imaginary, and all your stock has the risk of coming back. Given those circumstances, it’s surprising that Devil’s Due is still in business, but they wouldn’t be the first comic company to stick around longer than expected by the simple expedient of not paying artists. Now comes an unexpected press release that states

Devil’s Due Publishing has pulled its distribution of comics and graphic novels from Diamond Comic and Diamond Book Distributors, effective today. The Publisher will soon be announcing its new book store distribution partners and will offer product direct to comic book retail outlets, as well as distribution through Haven Comic Distributors.

According to Blaylock, Diamond has been taking their revenue to cover debts Devil’s Due owed to the comic distributor. So while Devil’s Due comics were selling, DD wasn’t seeing the money, so they couldn’t pay their creators.

This release raises more questions than it answers. Such as, how is DD going to pay Diamond now? How is DD going to continue to sell comics, now that their tenuous financial position is so visible and Hack/Slash has moved to Image? Why isn’t Blaylock giving up now, if he’s under such financial pressure? Why would anyone order from his company? Does Diamond have the right to seize incoming funds that way?

Graeme McMillan asked Blaylock some questions to clarify, but, well, when the publisher is saying things like this:

If not for [Diamond’s] withholding of moneys for the past year, according to my estimates DDP would have been able to pay not only all talent owed, but many other creditors as well, plus a considerable amount paid back to Diamond. Instead, funds have been trickled down to us, we’ve had to slash the publishing, and hence each month the ability to rectify the situation gets smaller and smaller.

You can see why Diamond wouldn’t find “but we want to pay other people we owe before we pay you what we owe” a compelling counter-argument. It’s not Diamond’s purpose to keep tenuous publishers going. Blaylock, sadly, sounds like a dreamer who can’t face the truth that his company is unlikely to recover. And just to add insult to injury, here’s a scathing review of Blaylock’s book on How to Self-Publish Comics, which appears to be out of print.

13 Responses to “Devil’s Due Dumps Diamond”

  1. Ed Catto Says:

    Not a big fan of Devils Due’s books, but it’s a tough world out there. Sorry to see them stumble.

  2. David Says:

    If the source of the trouble was bookstore returns, does that mean that DDP owed money to Diamond Book but, at least potentially, did not owe money to Diamond Comic?

    I ask because I thought they were separate companies, and I wonder whether Diamond comic can seize assets owed to Diamond Book.

    Can you help me figure out which part of my thinking is wrong? Maybe all of it?

  3. James Schee Says:

    They published Shades of Blue?

    Surprised to see G.I Joe still up there, that’s where they got their big start but that’s an IDW title now. (who chose to ignore the DD run)

  4. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I’m wondering who’s giving Blaylock legal advice. This is a situation that screams for a Chapter 11 reorganization. Blaylock needs to convince a court that instead of having one creditor (Diamond) force its will on the company at the expense of other creditors (talent), a better solution would provide an eventual path for all creditors to receive at least some money.

    Instead, he’s leaving himself open for Diamond to take action against them in court, and he’s taking his company essentially out of the Direct Market. Since it seems that his company’s product didn’t do well in the bookstore market (that’s how he ended up with all those returns, right?), he’s shutting his company out of the two biggest existing markets for comics. That’s not a good recipe for a comics publisher.

    Of course, a judge could look at the situation, determine that there’s no way Devil’s Due can recover, and order a liquidation of the company. Then again, maybe that would be the best scenario for all parties. At least the debt could be written off, and Blaylock could pursue a fresh start with a new company.

    I’m not a lawyer, but can anyone else see any path where Devil’s Due can resolve their substantial debts?

  5. sgMarshall Says:

    Diamond gains little by forcing a company into a position where it is unable to pay. As long as DDP is paying all current bills and making headway on what Diamond feels it is owed then Diamond should be working to help DDP reach a maintainable business model. What Diamond seems to have actually done is cut DDP off from the revenue to release titles in a timely manner, costing DDP sales which could have been used in part to pay Diamond.

    Personally, I think DDP should just file bankruptcy, when debtors won’t work with you, best to just turn to the courts. Why be on the hook for years and wind up having to go to court anyways?

  6. Johanna Says:

    David, that’s a fascinating question, about whether the two Diamond companies are really separate or not. I believe, in the past, it’s been kind of an open secret that signing with one will get you better treatment from the other.

    Ray, also an excellent question. It seems, from a casual outside perspective, that Blaylock may be putting determination over practicality in not exploring bankruptcy, but I don’t know the details. He seems not to be willing to have other people tell him what to do or how to pay his debts, so maybe that’s one reason he hasn’t gone to the courts.

    Then there’s the question of how badly Diamond needed the money, which may have affected their decision on how to proceed.

  7. Herb Finn Says:

    CBS should yank their licence for the JERICHO comic and give it to a publisher in better shape,like IDW who holds the “Trek” licence.

  8. beebull Says:

    I will miss my Jericho so much, sorry to see ya go DDP.

  9. A Cheated Creator Says:

    Honestly, as one of the many people who Blaylock owes money too, he’s really not telling anyone the whole truth here (just as the problems with DDP started, he bought a very expensive new car).

    Also, behind the scenes stories of people trying to get their money back are laughable. He hides with his head in the sand and pulls lots of unorthodox tricks.

    A snake.

  10. Torsten Adair Says:

    Quite a few publishers leaving or dropped from Diamond Books.

    Checker cites accounting shenanigans. DDP suggests something similar.

    And who covered the loss over the $14.99 pricing error?

    I don’t want DBD to fail… they distribute many small presses, many of which would fail if Diamond doesn’t pay bills.

    Hey… why hasn’t DDP run a “telethon” sale to help their bottom line?

  11. Johanna Says:

    A telethon works when people have money available to spend, you just have to convince them to do it with you through playing on your reserves of goodwill. I don’t think that describes the present era or the company.

    I would love to know more about the outcome of the pricing error, but I’m not sure we ever will.

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