Lance Stahlberg, director of Haven Distributors, has confirmed to Robot 6 that the independent-comics distributor will shutdown at the end of the month after more than three years in operation. He also pledged that, “I do intend to come back.”
Haven was launched in March 2008 by Chicago-based publisher Rogue Wolf Entertainment a month after it purchased the assets of longtime reorder distributor Cold Cut. Stahlberg, who was vice president of Rogue Wolf, became first chief operating officer and then director of Haven, which signed agreements with such publishers as BOOM! Studios, SLG Publishing, Top Shelf Productions and Red 5 Comics.
On Tuesday, Stahlberg sent an e-mail to retailers stating that he will continue to take orders through Oct. 23 and will fill all orders for October-shipping releases. He also said that most of the back stock had been marked down for liquidation.
In the e-mail, sent to Robot 6 by a third party but confirmed by Stahlberg, he emphasized that he isn’t the owner of Haven Distribution, and he added:
That’s an important distinction to make because I feel that closing the company is a very foolish move on the owner’s part. I still get regular requests for books that our competition claims is out of stock, or failed to carry at all. I still get new customer account requests.
To that end, it is my intent to return to the distribution business at some point in the (hopefully near) future with a business partner who shares at least some of my commitment to the comics industry and shows the desire to properly finance the operation and provide the resources it needs to succeed.
Stahlberg declined to name Haven’s owner to Robot 6, but he did say, “All I can say is, he is not a comics guy.”
Distributors | Johanna Draper Carlson catches a couple of tweets from publishers indicating that independent-comics distributor Haven, formed in 2008 from the assets of Cold Cut Distribution, is shutting down at the end of the month. Calls for confirmation this morning to Haven’s Skokie, Illinois, offices went to voicemail. The company’s closing would leave Diamond without any significant competition for independent comics distribution — print comics, at least. As Johanna notes, the industry giant still has a rival in another quarter: digital distributor comiXology. [Comics Worth Reading]
Legal | The defense rested in the Michael George trial Tuesday after the comics retailer, who is accused in the 1990 murder of his first wife, chose not to take the stand. His lawyers argued that if he were to do so, his testimony would become the sole focus of the trial. George’s current wife Renee, who was kept out of the courtroom for most of the trial in case she was called as a witness, also did not testify. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday, and then the case will be sent to the jury. [Detroit Free Press]
Publishing | Haven Distributors will offer direct-market retailers “the deepest discount option available” — 50 percent off the cover price — on the full line of BOOM! Studios titles, undercutting Diamond Comic Distributors. The deal expands on an agreement announced in October for distribution of the publisher’s second printings and specialty items.
Johanna Draper Carlson has commentary: “I’m not sure current readers understand how big a deal it is for a publisher to thumb their nose at what used to be the biggest elephant in the comic industry. Saying “go buy our books elsewhere, they’re cheaper” is amazingly brazen, but this isn’t the first time Boom! has tweaked Diamond, and they’re quite ambitious with their distribution plans.” [Haven Distributors, BOOM! Studios]
David Peterson was signing copies of his Mouse Guard hardbacks—and giving away the floppies for free, as promotional attractions. The Mouse Guard anthology series launches in May, with single issues out each month through August, followed by a hardcover colection.
Publishing | Kodansha confirms what virtually everyone has known for quite a while now: that the publisher — Japan’s largest — is setting up shop in the United States, establishing an office in New York City. Kodansha USA Publishing will launch Kodansha Comics with Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and Shirow Masamune’s Ghost in the Shell, two titles that had been licensed in North America by Dark Horse. The company will focus on translating its sizable backlist, but views original publishing as one of its “eventual ambitions.” David Welsh provides a little commentary. [Publishers Weekly]
• Rich Johnston talks to Bill Schanes, Diamond’s vice president for purchasing, about a “protected gross profit margin” that will permit publishers to put up $1,000 to guarantee a Previews listing will meet required sales numbers, if the distributor believes otherwise.
• With the new Diamond threshold, some small publishers are pinning their direct-market hopes on Haven Distributors. Rik Offenberger talks to director Lance Stahlberg about the company’s requirements, and its move toward advance solicitations.
“It’s a big shift in the business model and one that I was not expecting to make,” Stahlberg said. “But with Diamond leaving so many marketable titles out in the cold, we’re doing what it takes to keep those books out there.”
• The New York Times takes notice of the Diamond policy change.
• Maryland’s Daily Record reports that Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, founded in 2006 by Diamond CEO Steve Geppi, still owes $365,000 in unpaid rent and utilities to the state — despite an agreement to pay off its $700,000 debt by the end of 2008.