I’ve really been fuming lately over the stranglehold Diamond has over comics distribution in the United States. For instance, if you want to put a great superhero book out, if you’re not part of the “bigger” companies, they’ll flat-out reject your series, no matter how good it is. “Too many superhero books,” they say, as I’ve heard from several Indie comics creators.
Well, maybe someone’s finally doing something about it!
IT WASN’T ALWAYS THIS WAY
I’ve been buying comics and been around the industry now for decades, and some people are quite astonished to discover that Diamond wasn’t always the only distributor around.
If memory serves, there were four or maybe five distribution organizations in the U.S. Some were better than others, and most were regional companies serving only one portion of the country.
Slowly, bit by bit, Diamond took over the entire nation when it comes to comics distribution. I don’t know if they bought the other folks out, if the other groups went out of business, or exactly how things got to this place.
Let me say right now, I do respect Diamond’s efforts to keep the industry moving forward. However, I think they’ve missing the boat when it comes to the awesome comics being made outside the companies they “know” and “trust.”
MY OPINION AS TO WHERE WE ARE
One of the things I try to do is talk with a variety of comics creators, from the “big guns” to the new guys and gals. All have a serious love for the medium, and a vast majority (granted, not all) are telling stories worth reading.
I’m bothered by the fact that a small group of people located just north of Baltimore are passing judgement on comics, and thus keeping what I consider many “super” products away from fans.
I know that the Diamond Previews is a “phone book” – It’s so huge I can’t read every single entry in it. And I only order a fraction of the offerings inside of the ones that catch my attention.
But a lot of comics are being denied access to local comics shops based on the judgement of the folks at Diamond. Anthology books don’t sell is a rule they state, for instance. Superhero comics or superteams can only come from the “bigger” companies. (That last one really frosts me – Superheroes are a long-loved genre inside the industry, and not only Marvel, DC, Image and IDW, among others, have great longjohns stories! Really!) We don’t want “standard” art (Never mind the story!).
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OR TWO
One of my friends created a comic, and put it up for sale at last year’s New York Comic Con. One of the folks from Diamond looked it over, and she loved it! She told the guy who made it that she wanted him to get it to Diamond asap!
It took a little time, but that book was submitted to Diamond. Based on what he’d heard, he started telling people they’d soon be able to order his comic through this distributor.
Imagine his surprise when he received a rejection letter! As much as he interacted with the guy at Diamond, they wouldn’t reconsider. However, he did say that if the book came to them via a larger publisher, they’d gladly take it.
What??? The same book coming from someone else would be accepted??? I just don’t get that at all!
I approached other Indie creators I’ve come to know, and they all told me the same thing – They get positive feedback until it hits the desks at Diamond. Then it’s often rejected.
I go to a lot of Comic-Cons, and I sample quite a lot of comics, both Indie and from “mainstream” companies. Yes, some need improvement, but a lot of them are worth reading. They tell creative, unique stories that the big companies can’t tell for various reasons, including the need for their characters to return to the same situation so others can pick them up and write them afterwards.
With people being able to create their own comics, it’s happening, and it’s probably more than one company can manage. So they reject a lot – At least, that’s what’s going on, in my opinion. I’ve expressed my frustration previously, and I’ve kept hoping someone who could do something about this would do something!
A STEP FORWARD?
I was at Wizard World Chicago recently, and I spoke with an Indie comics company about this very subject, and he handed me a business card.
He told me this was another distribution group working on getting Indie comics into local shops. In fact, they already have been making books available in 18 states!
Wow! I’m sure the folks behind all this have been feeling the same frustrations I and others have, but it just made my whole day!
I’m still in the process of researching the group, but if they work out, this could really be what we need! More comics, and good ones, in our local shops!
DO WE REALLY WANT A MONOPOLY?
As I learned way back in Basic Economics 101, a monopoly is rarely a good thing for consumers. When one group controls access to a product or service, it usually isn’t helpful. When there’s no competition for product or prices, that monopoly can do whatever they like. If they have someone in charge who wants more money, they raise the prices, for instance. And we, the consumers, have to pay it if we want what they’re providing.
I say, let the market decide, not a small group in Maryland, no matter how noble their intentions! There’s a reason why so many folks are switching to Kickstarter.com!
I’ll continue to update everyone on this situation as I find out more and keep looking around for solutions. I mean, I doubt my previous expressions of frustration have caused this group to come together, but “great minds” may actually be making things happen! I’d love that.
Again, I’m not a “creator” in the strictest sense of the word. I don’t MAKE comics, but I do help some come into existence. (I also write the column and reviews, and my podcast, so there’s some creativity in all that. I just don’t make comics.)
My hope is that either this new group or another will rise up to make Indie comics arrive in local stores. I’m happy to go to cons and find new and interesting stories, but if even some of these wonderful books could get wider distribution, I for one will be thrilled! Stay tuned!