In a move that is part necessity and part protest, indie comics publisher Asylum Press has been forced to distribute the latest issue of its tongue-in-cheek adventure comic, Fearless Dawn, direct to retailers after the issue failed to meet Diamond Comics Distributors’ new minimum order. In January, citing the rising costs of carrying poor-selling publications, Diamond Comics Distributors, the dominant distributor in the comics shop market, raised its purchase order benchmark—the minimum advance wholesale order required for a comic to be distributed by Diamond—from $1500 to $2500, an increase that small presses complain is out of their reach and may force some of them out of business.

Frank Forte, publisher of Asylum Press, an indie comics house based in Hollywood that specializes in superhero, horror and humor comics, said although Steven Mannion’s Fearless Dawn did not make the Diamond minimum, there was demand for the publication. “Although we received 1,200 orders for Fearless Dawn #1, we simply didn’t meet Diamond's purchase order benchmark, “ explained Forte. “1200 is a significant order for us especially considering the state of the market place.”

So, Forte said the press is offering the issue ($2.95 cover price) directly to retailers at a 60% discount ($1.18). Asylum pays for shipping and offers a 30 day payment schedule and no minimum order. While other small publishers have tried to go around Diamond and offer titles direct to retailers, Forte acknowledges that it’s tough to do. “Some stores love the 60% discount and are willing to deal direct. But to be effective in self-distribution you have to be tenacious. You are dealing with a lot of walls. Stores don't want to deal with an extra invoice for 10 copies of a $2.95 comic,” said Forte. The publication can also be ordered through Haven Distributors, a small press distributor based in Skokie, Ill.

While Fearless Dawn is initially being serialized as a periodical comic, Forte said it will be eventually released as a trade book collection and he does not want retailers to think the book has been canceled because it did not meet Diamond’s minimum order. “Fearless Dawn is a great book and Asylum Press will do what it takes to get it distributed. We just want stores to know that we didn't cancel the book. Stores will lose faith in you if you keep canceling books,” Forte said. “Fearless Dawn will be collected into a trade book eventually, but it's still easier to build a fanbase with a $2.95 comic.”