BAM! Diamond comics heads north

After 20 years on Greenspring Drive in Timonium, Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. is moving its headquarters to Hunt Valley.

Diamond Comic Distributors founder and President Stephen Geppi Sr. with some of the characters that propelled his company to fame and fortune.

The company founded by Stephen Geppi Sr., the larger-than-life kid from Little Italy who parlayed a comics store into the world’s largest distributor of English-language comics, graphic novels and related pop-culture merchandise, will relocate in July, according to Tim Jackson, the Cushman & Wakefield agent who negotiated the long-term lease for Diamond.

The lease is for 52,111 square feet at 10150 York Road, a 178,286-square-foot office building close to Interstate 83. The length and terms of the lease were not disclosed.

Cushman & Wakefield says the landlord, Greenfield Partners, plans extensive renovations, including enlarging the windows and updating the lobby, elevator and parking garage.

“With the growth Diamond Comic Distributors has experienced over the last few years despite the economic downturn, we saw the expiration of our current lease as an opportunity to facilitate further growth by realigning our various departments to be more space-efficient and user-friendly,” Geppi said in a statement.

“We have enjoyed 20 years at a wonderful location, and we have every confidence our new landlord will be every bit as gracious, friendly and supportive.”

At one time, Diamond Comic serviced more than 3,500 comic book specialty shops every month, plus 1,000 retailers for whom comics are a sideline. Diamond has represented many well-known publishers including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics and Wizard Entertainment. It lists 10 affiliated companies on its website, including Gemstone Publishing, the home of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.

Geppi, who dropped out of school to take a job with the U.S. Postal Service to support his mother, has had a colorful career since he opened a comics store in 1974. His interests have included ownership in Baltimore magazine and the Orioles (he’s an avid baseball fan).

In 2006, he founded Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in the shadow of Camden Yards, which by 2008 owed nearly $700,000 for 19 months of unpaid rent to the state. Geppi paid off the rent early in 2009, and the state later reduced his annual rent for the museum by 31 percent to $255,435.

Last year, the inventor of the iconic G.I. Joe action figure agreed to pay $1.2 million to end a lawsuit filed by Geppi and other backers of a less successful follow-up venture, a line of toys based on Old Testament heroes.

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