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Capital City Distribution was a Madison, Wisconsin-based comic book distributor which operated from 1980–1996 (when they were acquired by rival Diamond Comics Distributors). Under the name Capital Comics, they also published comics from 1981–1984.

During most of its years of operation, Capital City introduced many supply chain innovations and controlled much of the American Midwest's comics distribution market. Capital City Distribution also published over 400 pages of printed material a month, including Internal Correspondence, which provided sales figures to their clients; and Advance Comics,[1] their monthly catalog showcasing upcoming comic books, toys, and other pop-culture related items it distributed to comic book specialty shops.

Distributor

Origins

In the 1970s, Milton Griepp and John Davis had run a small Madison-based distributor called Wisconsin Independent News Distributors (WIND). Forced to sell their assets to Big Rapids Distribution, Griepp and Davis later turned the tables in 1980 when they took over much of Big Rapids' bankrupt business to form Capital City.[1] One of Griepp and Davis's first acts was to utilize the personnel of another former Big Rapids' acquisition, Well News Co. of Columbus, Ohio, to became the nucleus of an early distribution branch.

In 1982, Capital City acquired the Berkeley, California-based Common Ground Distributors, which had been started by Bob Beerbohm in the late 1970s (and has been initially supplied by Big Rapids).

Capital Comics

In 1981, Capital City decided to enter the comic book publishing field as well. Under the name Capital Comics, they launched a black-and-white comics title, Nexus, a futuristic superhero series by Mike Baron and Steve Rude, and distributed it through their own system.[2]

Richard Bruning was a key part of Capital Comics' staff, acting as Editor-In-Chief and Art Director until the company ceased operation in 1984. Besides Nexus, the other titles published by Capital were Badger and Whisper. In 1984, after publishing only a handful of issues of their three titles, Capital shut down its publishing operation.[3] Its titles were taken over by the new independent publisher First Comics.

Titles published

  • Nexus — two series, 1981 and 1983, nine issues
  • Badger — 1983, four issues
  • Whisper — 1983, two issues

1984 expansion and rise to prominence

Griep became Capital City's CEO in 1984.[1] That same year, with the demise of one of the larger independent publisher/distributors, Pacific Comics, Pacific's distribution centers and warehouses were purchased by Capital City and rival distributor Bud Plant Inc. Capital City also opened an expanded facility in Sparta, Illinois, in the old space of another defunct rival, East Coast Seagate Distribution, alongside the comic-book printing plant.[2]

By 1988, Capital City and its main surviving rival Diamond Comics Distributors had control of at least 70% of the comics distribution market between them.

In 1994, Capital created controversy by announcing penalties for publishers who didn't deliver their products within promised deadlines; this move followed an industry-wide push for 30-day returnability, a practice formerly in use when comics were primarily distributed in newsstands.[4]

Acquisition by Diamond

1995 saw a major restructuring of the direct market distribution system.[5] As part of the wave of shakeups, Capital City acquired Friendly Frank's of Gary, Indiana.[6] Soon, Marvel Comics challenged Capital City and Diamond by buying the third remaining major distributor — New Jersey-based Heroes World — and distributing its titles in-house.[7] Diamond reacted by outbidding Capital City for exclusive deals with Marvel's main rival DC Comics, as well as Dark Horse Comics and Image Comics. Capital City was able to sign exclusive deals with Kitchen Sink Press and Viz Comics, but by 1996 faced the choice between bankruptcy and selling out.

In July 1996 Capital City was acquired by Diamond. At the time of sale, Capital had over $150 million in annual sales.[1] The purchase price was not disclosed, but the acquisition brought an estimated $50 million in sales revenue to Diamond,[8] and effectively awarded Diamond complete control of the comics distribution system.[7] Most of Capital City's 100 employees in Madison and another 100 in Sparta lost their jobs in the deal,[9] though a few key staff members, including co-founder John Davis, joined Diamond's staff.[10]

After selling Capital, Griepp became an industry consultant in the publishing, retailing, distribution, toy, and educational fields, and since early 2001, has operated ICv2.[1]

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Who We Are: Milton Griepp," ICv2.com. Accessed October 15, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sanford, Jay Allen. "Two Men and their Comic Books," San Diego Reader (Aug. 19, 2004).
  3. "Capital Comics Suspends Operations," The Comics Journal #89 (May 1984), pp. 8-9.
  4. "Newswatch: Capital Announces Controversial Penalty Fees for Publishers: Move Follows Industry-wide Push for 30-day Returnability," The Comics Journal #166 (February 1994), pp. 17–26.
  5. "Marvelutionary War Declared: Unprecedented Upheaval in Direct Market," and "Marvel goes exclusive, Capital sues Marvel, Marvel settles with Capital, Marvel buys Skybox, DC/Diamond announcement expected," The Comics Journal #175 (March 1995), pp. 9-10.
  6. "Newswatch: Capital City Acquires Friendly Frank's," The Comics Journal #178 (July 1995), pp. 13-15.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Duin, Steve and Richardson, Mike (ed.s) "Capital City" in Comics Between the Panels (Dark Horse Publishing, 1998) ISBN 1-56971-344-8, p. 69
  8. "Diamond Comic Distributors acquires Capital City Distribution; Comic distribution industry stabilized by purchase," bNet: Business Wire (July 26, 1996).
  9. Daykin, Tom. "Comic book distributor to fold: Battered by competitive forces, Capital City Distribution sells assets," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (July 27, 1996).
  10. "Davis and Former Capital City Employees Join Diamond," The Comics Journal #192 (Dec. 1996), pp. 13-15.

References

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