The Direct Market was the name given to the distribution channel that stocked the shelves of the fledgling comic shop network in the 1970s. It was “direct” because the books were shipped from printers straight to the stores on a non-returnable basis, bypassing messy corporate newsstand distributors.
Over time, different companies have helped to supply this Direct Market chain of sales. But for just over 20 years, only one company has been the primary middle man between publishers and comic book stores: Diamond Comic Distributors. DCD is essentially a Direct Market monopoly, though technicalities have allowed them to dodge legal ramifications.
I’ve put together this handy flowchart so you can see how a book makes it into the hands of customers through the current distribution system.