Hello, my babies! It’s time for another edition of Tact is for the Weak, the column that definitely won’t send you flowers the morning after!
Let’s face it: unless you own a comic shop, you really haven’t given a rat’s ass about the comics distribution industry. All those charts about top-selling books and market shares mean diddly-squat to you, so long as the books come out on time. The general comics-buying public doesn’t concern itself with the details. Unfortunately, that’s just the way they like it.
Let me explain with a completely random and non-political allegory: let’s say that you live in a country that values democracy and the common good above all else (okay, maybe this is a little political, but guess what: if FOX NEWS is considered “fair and balanced,” then this column here is frickin’ biblical text. So shut up). Now, let’s say that, through some strange and unpredictable sequence of events, a completely unqualified imbecile comes to the seat of power of said country (holy recount, Batman!). Now, things start out smoothly enough; in fact, this clod actually manages to keep everything running despite significant bumps in the road (specifically, non-Christian bumps of a different, and therefore evil, culture). However, soon the temptation of power kicks in, and this completely rhetorical President slowly begins amassing more and more governmental control, until he becomes virtually un-checkable by any branch of government.
By now, this poor schmuck is in way over his head, but he controls too much of the system to simply step back. So, driven by bad advice and his own mad whims (as well as an unshakable desire to please Daddy), this leader makes a show of power with a questionable decision based on flimsy (at best) reasoning and with little regard (or interest, for that matter) for the future rammifications and consequences of this action. Unfortunately, soon after this new campaign has begun, everything begins to fall apart, from the trumped-up intelligence all the way to the crumbling foreign government.
Now, let’s say that, rather than a country, we have a large comic book industry filled with publishers that need to get their product out to audiences, and instead of a completely fictional Texan Good ‘ol Boy President, we have a single company devoted to distributing comics and related merchandise. That, my friends, would be Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc.
“Wait a second,” you might say, “Diamond is good for the comics industry! Without them, the entire comic book business would fall apart like Michael Jackson when he’s been out in the sun for too long! This dumbass knows not of what he speaks!” Please, bear with me here.
I’m not saying that Diamond is a sinister corporation hell-bent on taking over the world one fanboy at a time (or am I?); I’m just saying that monopolies are illegal for a reason. Think about it: Diamond has a complete choke-hold on the comics industry. Everyone from DC and Marvel, all the way through Image and Dark Horse, and down to the pee-ons at the very bottom, all rely on Diamond to distribute their goods. And, through several bumps in the road, Diamond (like our oafish and purely hypothetical President) has managed to keep things running. But we all know what happens when we put too many eggs in the same basket: some jackass trips us up and we’re left egg-less.
My point is, what happens if a problem arises and Diamond pulls out? (Actually, nothing happens. Pulling out is not a proven or effective method of… oh, never mind). It could be something innocent (such as a computer glitch), or something sinister (such as Diamond Founder and President Steve Geppi waking up one day and hating Action Comics), but if and when something bad happens, the entire comics industry could suffer. Books can be shipped late or even damaged, Diamond’s self-published Previews magazine/catalogue could unintentionally give away the ending to a building storyline, or their computers could simply revolt and nuke my house. Since virtually every comics publisher relies on Diamond, the entire industry could be crippled.
Again, I’m not saying that the people at Diamond are hatefully, spiteful bastards that intend to whore out and bleed the comics industry in a fit of greed. They’re all probably wonderful people (with the exception of that entrepreneurial bastard Steve Geppi. Give me your money!) that wish nothing but success for the future of comic books. However, the entire industry is gambling its success by placing their entire range of products in Diamond’s capable (for now) hands.
Unfortunately, this is where the illegal part comes in. Much like IBM monopolized their way to success, all serious comic publishers know that if they have any hope of entering the market and selling comics on a level outside of their neighborhood cul-de-sac, they have no choice but to sign up with Diamond. I mean, I have great respect for all those truly independent titles like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, but seriously: it’s like comparing apples and oranges. As in, comparing an ass-load of apples to one. single. orange. (oh, and if there are any angry Johnny fans that think they have the stones to not simply dress in all-black and sit pouting passive-aggressively in the corner, I welcome your hate mail. Just so long as it isn’t more of that crappy “emo” poetry. Damn, that $@*# depresses me).
So, what do I suggest? Personally, I feel that the comic publishers themselves (at least the ones big enough to do so) should go ahead and invest in distributing the books themselves (and don’t give me that BS about being “bankrupt,” DC and Marvel! I’m sure Marvel can divert some of the revenue from all those freaking X-movies they’ve been making. And DC, think about all that money you wasted pouring into that utter bomb Catwoman! It’s become the Gigli of superhero movies!). The indy publishers simply don’t have the resources, and would still benefit from Diamond, but the largest companies should seriously consider eliminating the third party (and their cut) from the equation. While Diamond’s wholesale method is fairly cost-effective, you just can’t beat buying straight from the manufacturer. This solution would provide better publisher-insured quality control, decrease the risk of an industry-wide distribution crisis, and may even serve to lower the costs of comic books to you, the reader.
Then again, we may already be stuck in a “quagmire,” in which case pulling out support would only further damage the region. But hey, you get what you vote for- er, pay for.
AND NOW…as if I haven’t angered enough of you old-school moralist conservative-types already…it’s time to hand out the Tactless Book of the Week Award!
This week, the award goes to… DC Comics’s Rann/Thanagar War: Infinite Crisis Special . Naturally, there are SPOILERS ahead.
I know what you’re thinking: “Another DC title receiving the award? What gives?” I’m sorry, but let’s face it: until Wolverine remembers his past life as a Vietnamese prostitute, DC keeps coming with the nasty. In the R/T War Special, it was solicited that “As the war rages on, a startling discovery will be uncovered, one hero will be forever changed, and another will make the ultimate sacrifice.” All the clues were there: Green Lantern Kyle Rayner would somehow become the all-powerful Ion once more (as evidenced by the solicitations for the upcoming series of the same name), and Hawkman would die (as evidenced by the transformation of his own title from Hawkman to Hawkgirl).
The daughter of the original Green Lantern and former girlfriend of Kyle Rayner, Jade has a long history at DC. As a member of Infinity, Inc. and leader of the current Outsiders, she was a perennial B-list heroine but an A-list supporting character. But, without much build-up or warning (she isn’t even on the cover, people!), Jade is taken from us by a wave of energy. There is no purpose to this death (except maybe to facilitate Kyle’s transformation, but even then that could have been done without killing her); just another notch on DC’s belt. Sure, there’s the obligatory “she will live on in our hearts” speech, but at this point either she’s dead for good or (even worse) simply dead for now. More than any other publisher, DC needs to realize that death is a tool to be used rarely and meaningfully. Death in comics should reflect real life; by killing a character, you aren’t just taking away their present, but any possible future stories as well. Otherwise, death has no meaning.
And on that happy note, I bid you all adieu for now (I think I need a cold shower). Things are only getting started here at Tact is for the Weak, so be sure to join me next week while I continue my personal boycott on medication! Viva loco!