On the comics collapse

There’s a lot of talk of the markets shrinking in sff and comics from the tradpub sources, and here’s a bit of my theory on the comics side.

I think Marvel and DC, with some help from Diamond(active to a point, but I have trouble believing they’re that dumb) might be actively colluding to close the comic book stores. Diversity and Comics has made a good amount of noise over the fact that over 60 shops have closed this year alone.

Marvel is being overshipped, and the stores have to pay for the books. DC had a few exciting and high selling things early in the year, but their more recent moves are really bad from a sales standpoint, and the stores would be more inclined to take those chances after the big early sales.

Diamond, for the third real player, has for years made it very difficult and expensive to reach retailers and the public eye via their catalog. Alterna Comics has had trouble with them not shipping reorders and reprints, and the publisher has taken to shipping them directly himself. Most small press stuff can only be bought at cons or maybe from a local store, though one, Hollow Harbor, has connections with Miniature Market and sells through them.

Now, the why. They dominate the marketspace. They make a better percentage off of digital sales, though Diamond should be panicking over store closings. And through the digital space, they can better keep people from noticing smaller material, entering their entire back catalog over time. Why? Image almost took an equal share at one point, especially with Jim Lee’s Wildstorm part of the business. He sold out for security over taking chances to become a giant in his own right as a publisher. Well, that and Batman.

Now POD printing approaches usefulness for comics printing at competitive prices, and if alternate models start hitting the mainstream comics market in news and books, then they don’t control the industry anymore. Dave Sim became a legend for self publishing Cerberus; these days, he would have gotten rich at it as well. So yes, they’re terrified of Arkhaven and Dark Legion. D+C’s Jawbreakers and Ethan Van Sciver’s Cyberfrog have them shaking. And they don’t have a clue what to really think about the project Chuck Dixon has gotten going. Red Rooster? Should eat up a good chunk of Astro City/Black Hammer readers.

Mark Waid talked to Antarctic Press to get them to drop Jawbreakers. He’s now under investigation for tortious interference. But I wonder how deep the DOJ is going to look. As a leading Marvel writer(history and reputation, not current talent), he might unwittingly have led the Mouse to a trap.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

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