Getting Down with the G.O.V. (or, Tactless V. America pt. 2)

Here comes the heater! That’s right, it’s time for another dose of Tact is for the Weak, the article that has no problem booty-calling your sister at three in the morning!

Last week, I illustrated how, through direct and indirect coercion, the U.S. government has proven to be a willing aggressor in the War on the First Ammendment…er, the War on Comic Book Indecency. With the distinct looming threat of the government gladly stepping in and directly censored the sh** out of every single book, the creation of the CCA was a last-ditch effort by the comics industry to pre-empt the government and avoid setting a legal precedent for complete comics censorship. It was an act commited purely under duress of the government in the face of impending censorship.

Okay, so enough with the recap; it’s time to move on to today’s topic. Let’s fast forward from the 50′s to a time and event very familiar to the pages of Tact is for the Weak

Dateline: 1997, right on the cusp of the Comics Distribution Wars. Distributors were scrambling to defend against Marvel Comics’s acquisition of Heroes World Distribution. One major distributor, Diamond Comics Distributors, was scrambling to sign “exclusive” contracts with big publishers to combat the threat. When Capital City Distribution croaked and Marvel kicked Heroes World in the ass and to the curb, Diamond became the last the last major player standing. Prompted by numerous complaints from around the industry, the U.S. Justice Department launched an antitrust investigation of the company that now essentially controlled the entire industry. Bill Brooks, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, stated that the investigation involved the “possibility of anticompetitive practices in the distribution of comic books,” and that “the whole industry” was being investigated (“the whole industry” being Diamond, of course).

Now, let me interrupt for a moment. Given what we remember from last week’s article(I did tell you there would be a quiz on that stuff, right?), one would assume that the government would be keeping an eye and a half on the comics industry. I mean, if the government was so concerned about the intangible morals of comic book stories, they would have to be fixated on the more material financial aspects of the industry, right? There’s no way the government would let any sort of monopoly off the hook (especially one that was directly responsible for the success of such American Pride staples as Action Comics, Spider-man, and, of course Bovine Feces Quarterly)! Right?!?

Unfortunately, things immediately got off to a half-assed start. When interviewed by the Baltimore Business Journal, Mr. Brooks would not say how many companies were actually being asked for information (my guess is you could count the number on one hand), and refused to confirm if the effort was even a criminal or civil investigation. Details on the investigation were scarce for the next two years, and ultimately the investigation was dropped. Department representatives clamed that they had received enough information to evaluate the comics industry as a whole, but decided that the industry was simply not big enough to warrant action against the distribution monopoly (at the time, the entire comics distribution industry was worth roughly $500 million).

…Wait. What? Correct me if I’m wrong here, but did the government actually say that the industry wasn’t big enough to care about? Ten years ago, the industry was worth $500 million; today, it’s probably worth even more. While that may not seem like a lot compared to, say, the oil industry (which the government would have fought tooth and nail for), it’s still a whole lot of money changing hands by way of a single monopoly. Plus, the fact that the government has lumped the comics industry (and really, any industry) into the “not worth a damn” category is downright unforgivable. If I were the comics industry, I’d feel like a pregnant teen whose boyfriend just ran off with the flag line.

Hopefully, I’m not the only one here that believes this is just a fundamentally wrong decision by the government. If it was found after investigation that Diamond really is somehow not a monopoly or dangerous to the comics free market, why not just say so? To say any industry is unworthy of a full investigation is not only morally reprehensible, but it undermines the security that the government claims to provide for our little capitalist nation. Just as Diamond has a responsibility to serve all of its clients, large and small, the U.S. government has an even larger responsibility towards any and all legal businesses and industries in America.

Plus, it’s downright insulting to slap all the comic readers and creators in the face and tell them that while the comics industry can be responsible for the moral decay of society, it isn’t large enough to protect, rather than prosecute. I really just fail to understand how the government feels justified in picking and choosing which industries to focus on (big oil) and which to piss on (comics). In fact, it is so outlandishly immoral… that I need to wait until next week to gather all my thoughts into the final, concluding chapter of this Tactless V. America war.

Oh, but stop your bitching and whining; just because you have to wait one more week doesn’t mean things are quite over this week! That’s right, it’s time to announce the latest winner of the Tactless Book of the Week Award!

This week, the award goes to… Vertigo’s American Virgin #1, written by Steven T. Seagle. Vertigo, the mature arm of DC Comics, is know for peddling mature titles with adult language and situations, such as Y: The Last Man and the current Swamp Thing. However, the entire premise of American Virgin (a devout youth minister loses his virginity! What happens next? Is Jesus real?) just seems to be one big excuse for a lot of cheesecake art and the chance for writers to indulge in a little bit of religious commentary. If we learned anything from J.M. DeMatteis’s Spectre series, it’s that after a certain point, religion and comics don’t really mix well. Now, there are plenty of faith-based storylines and even titles out there that are pretty good, but that’s because religion is the point of the book, not the brunt of the joke. I’m sure that this isn’t Seagle’s intent, but pretty soon the well’s going to dry up, and he’ll run out of stories and ideas that don’t just question religious precepts month after month. Then again, who knows where he’s going with this? If Seagle proves me wrong, I may have to do the unthinkable and rescind the award! But until that time, American Virgin remains our Tactless Book of the Week!

Well, goodbyes are always hard, so I’ll be as painless as possible. Be absolutely, totally, 100% sure to check in next week for the third and final installment of my war with the government (then, after that, things return to abnormal. I promise!). This is it, folks; the great big mamma-jamma of articles! I’ve gone two rounds with the G.O.V.; now it’s time to go for the K.O.! Those last two articles have been nothing but filler compared to what’s in store next week! It’s gonna be wild ‘n wet (well, the article will be wild. You’ll be drooling all over youself!). So DON’T MISS IT! Viva los cajones locos!

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