If we’re celebrating my oh-so-advanced years, I should point out that I’m also
old enough to remember a time when publishers distributing their material through more than one distributor was the norm, rather than the break from convention it’s still treated as today. Remember those halcyon days before Marvel accidentally broke the market by buying its own distributor and trying to do everything itself before failing spectacularly
? Those were the days, my friends, when there was more than one way
for retailers to get copies of books they wanted. New comic book day wasn’t even a Wednesday back then, because books arrived at different stores from different distributors on different days! It was like the Wild West.
I know the argument from retailers is that it’s a lot of work keeping up with three different catalogs every month, and processing, monitoring, and keeping track of all the moving pieces; I get that, I do. I just keep thinking about the fact that, back when Diamond did have a monopoly on distribution, retailers would complain about that. I keep thinking about the idea that, maybe, having some competition might make distributors get their houses in order a little bit more. I keep remembering what Vault CEO Damien Wassel said in that SKTCHD piece about why Vault will be adding Lunar as a distributor: “We decided that diversification was better for us and more empowering for our retail partners… Why should we decide from whom they should order, whose freight costs they should pay, and so on?” I mean, they’re not unfair questions, to be honest.
If there’s one thing that the past couple of years should demonstrate to everyone, it’s that all kinds of perceived wisdom about what the industry would and wouldn’t support was, bluntly, entirely wrong. Both DC and Marvel could leave Diamond, and both Diamond and its remaining publishers could thrive; the sales ceiling for smaller publishers wasn’t necessarily the ceiling; hell, even Steve Geppi could be right when he declared that the comeback would be stronger than the setback
, despite how much shit I gave that slogan at the time. (Look, I’m as likely to get things completely wrong as anyone else, I’ll happily admit.)
As an industry, there’s almost no way that comics is out of the turbulent times just yet; if nothing else, we’re not even a year into the Substack era, with the majority of creators attached to that company some time away from releasing print editions of the work underwritten by that money. But maybe – just maybe – there are reasons to feel optimistic about what the future holds, instead of the traditional feeling of unease and mild dread. Just imagine…!
* I know, I know, but Spawn books really sell. Like, Spawn books really, really sell.
** The scale of the success of Something is Killing the Children
is the kind of thing that we’ll only appreciate fully after the fact, I suspect; I know the comic was in development with Netflix last year
, and I can only hope that’s still the case given the number of developmental cutbacks the company is currently undergoing. It feels very much like the next Walking Dead
, to me.
*** Bear in mind that material published from January through March of this year was solicited from October through December last year, which were the first three months of Marvel’s new distribution deal with Penguin Random House.
**** It’s particularly fascinating to reconsider all of this “comics are doomed, Diamond will never survive without DC” approach after the past couple of years, which haven’t just seen the introduction of new distribution options for publishers, but also Substack and Zestworld bringing venture capitalist funding to the comics industry. “The party is totally over for new comics” feels very hollow at a time when there are more ways to get comics to readers than before. (Don’t forget, webcomics are still a significant growth area in general
, as well.)