Dark Horse Comics, a major indie graphic novel publisher and former client of LPC, has agreed to use Diamond Book Distributors to distribute its graphic novel and comics merchandising products to the retail and wholesale book trade, library, warehouse club and mass merchandise markets. And, in a separate agreement, Drawn & Quarterly, a critically acclaimed Canadian graphic novel publisher and another former LPC client, has reportedly signed an agreement with San Francisco—based publisher Chronicle Books to distribute D&Q graphic novels to the book trade. However, when contacted by PW, Chronicle declined to confirm or deny that an agreement had been reached. Despite several months of negotiation with D&Q following LPC's bankruptcy, Anna Erickson, distribution client services manager at Chronicle, said only, "We have great respect for Chris Oliveros and the D&Q list, but we have nothing to announce at this time."

The Dark Horse agreement ends at least some industry speculation about the viability of DBD as a distributor of graphic novels and pop culture material to the book trade. While Diamond is the dominant distributor of periodical comics to comics specialty stores, DBD is a start-up effort to distribute to the general book trade. Dark Horse offers a backlist of about 400 graphic novel titles, in addition to about 1,500 comics-related products.

Kuo-Yu Liang, v-p of sales and marketing at DBD, told PW that securing Dark Horse was important to the new unit: "Dark Horse is unique. They're an eclectic publisher with a variety of comics, manga and licensed comics, like Star Wars and Buffy. They sell extremely well in comics shops and have untapped potential in the book trade."

Michael Martens, v-p sales and marketing at Dark Horse, said that, as reported, the firm's decision was between DBD and CDS. Despite "concerns" about DBD's book trade experience, he told PW, several factors drove the final choice: the hiring of Liang to direct DBD; upgrades to DBD's sales reporting systems; promises to increase book trade show participation; efficiencies in warehousing and logistics; and expedited shipping for Dark Horse licensed media tie-ins, such as Star Wars. And, Martens added, "Diamond has other publishers that we like."

And, he noted, Diamond also distributes Dark Horse to comics shops. Martens said, "We straddle the nonreturnable comics market and the book trade, and that's unusual."