This week’s question comes from A N Other who didn’t want to go into too many details on his/her decision to ask this question. The question is:
“Do you feel that Diamond’s monopoly hold on comic book distribution is of benefit to the industry?”
Mike Collins: “Dunno. A monopoly is inherently unjust…. having the opportunity to source from more than one distribution company must be better- but why did the others fail? That’s probably a more interesting question.”
Shawna Ervin-Gore: “Monopolies never work in the best interest of the market. In my opinion, the comics industry would be better served with a greater degree of diversity with distributors. I think it’s especially difficult for the smaller publishers to be served well by Diamond.Their books can just get lost among all the stuff from the larger companies. And when it comes to distribution, money talks. Every single inch of ink in Previews costs money for publishers … so clearly, the more money a company has to spend, the more space they get in the catalog. If the distribution system was more diverse, it’s likely that Previews itself would be a much smaller publication, and other distributors would have smaller catalogs, with much more affordable costs for soliciting and displaying the products. I also like the idea of more specialized, smaller-focused distribution companies. There are so many fantastic comics being made today, by publishers of every stripe — and it can be hard to spot the indie gems against the four-color dazzle of the high-profile books. I love the concept of smaller distributors focusing on and specializing in certain areas that Diamond would never be able to pay enough attention to. I hope someday that scenario comes true.”
Alonzo Washington: “Diamond’s monopoly on the comic book industry is not good for the comic book industry. However, it is good for their company. I remember the days of Capital City Distribution & Friendly Franks Distribution. Independent comic book creators had more of a chance to get their comic books placed into stores. Now with Diamond being the only game in town comic book creators who are not with the mainstream companies have a hard time getting their products carried by Diamond. Therefore, robbing comic book fans of diversity in comic books. Diamond is in the pockets of Marvel & DC comics and those are the companies that they cater to. Diamond’s new dominance is killing potential comic book super star independent labels like: Image, Dark Horse & Top Cow. The break out comic book success of Spawn could not have happen in the current climate of Diamond’s monopoly. Before Diamond took over distribution the comic book shops were more open to all comic books. Now that Diamond is all about dead presidents (money) they only want Super Man, Bat Man, X-MEN & Spider Man to bring in the customers. Ever wonder why those comic books have so many titles? I understand the approach and why they are doing it (MONEY). Marvel & DC loves it because it hurts their competition. However, it will also hurt the comic book industry in the future. Comic Book sells always go up and down. Right now the mainstream is hot. What is Diamond going to do when it is not? In the 90’s Image & the Black comic book movement infused new energy in the world of comic books when Super Man & Spider Man was not hot. The coverage from the mainstream media helped all comic book companies. Diamond is blinded by the success of the mainstream comic book movie movement. However, I believe Diamond will wake up when the mainstream companies cool off and when Hollywood begins to make movies with independent comic book companies. This will happen soon so Diamond wise up! Comic Books are about making money. Although, they are also about creativity. Diamond is killing the creativity of comic books. All comic book companies should have access to Diamond’s services and sells should not keep them out. Independent comics books should not be expected to do the same sales numbers as a mainstream comic book. Diamond’s monopoly is not good for the comic book industry as a whole and it should be.”
Rick Shea::” I don’t think it’s a good idea for Diamond to hold all the cards. As some retailers have stated, it makes Diamond lazy at times, because you have NO other options but to get your best-selling titles through them. As the exclusive distributor of DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and Crossgen comics, that’s the majority of the industry right there. When we get shorted 40 copies of X-Statix 2 or any other book that they don’t have the extras to replace, we have to hunt around for five here, eight there to fill in subscription lists. Sometimes we’ve had to pay more than cover price, then shipping and then resell them at a loss at cover price just to keep our customers happy. No competition means the prices are fixed and we can’t shop around for a better discount or products that we wish there were more options to restock. Although things are getting better with Diamond lately, I think it’s hurting the industry to not have any other distribution sources for all the mainstream books.”
Vince Moore:” Well, it’s hard to say that Diamond really does have a true monopoly hold on the distribution of comics. Bookstores have tons of manga titles without having to buy them from Diamond. Newsstands have comics, again without having to buy them from Diamond. I think the real question is whether Diamond and the direct market system it dominates benefits the comics industry as a whole. As we are seeing, it doesn’t. Comics shops as an entire group aren’t bringing in new people. Maybe it’s as much due to competition from bookstores, which are often more convenient, more readily available to these new people than comics shops, as it’s due to the new person unfriendly atmosphere some but not all shops have. If Diamond did more to promote comics to the masses, then they would do a better job of justifying its continued existence. Free Comics Day is one idea, but it needs more of a push on Diamond’s part; after all, this event takes place in shops that are Diamond’s major customer base. If they go, Diamond may not be long for this world. Of course, I’m of the mind that Free Comics Day should be a quarterly event, for the simple reason that comics can slip the minds of most people if they aren’t practically shoved down their throats. But that’s just my opinion”.
Alan Grant: “On the contrary–in all respects bar one–I feel that Diamond’s monopoly hold on distribution is a massive hindrance to the comics industry. The one exception is that, by their size and unnaturalness, monopolies present a relatively easy target for guerilla distributors to either hit, or circumvent. True, there’s not a lot of evidence for guerilla distributors at the moment, but I believe they’re coming. When people can’t get their work to the market place because of the obstacles Diamond places in their way, the only thing they can do is start to distribute themselves. Then, when they’re selling the 3,000 or so per issue that Diamond demands, and Diamond calls to say they’d like to take over distribution now, politely say Fuck Off.”
Devin Grayson: “I think it was an industry lifesaver when it started, but it’s no longer a practical way to handle our product, which needs to reach a much more diverse audience to remain profitable. Diamond could certainly become part of that solution, but in the proper spirit of Capitalism, a little competition would probably be a good thing. Truthfully, I don’t really care who does the distribution as long as they start distributing the product differently, which might mean format changes and other concessions on our part that we’d better be willing to make.”
http://www.strangersinparadise.com/>Terry Moore: “Well, first off, thank God we have Diamond! But… Imagine if my comic book was the only one in the industry, or the Yankees were the only ball team, or Jeff Gordon raced around Charlotte by himself. For whatever reasons, and we all have our diatribe about this, that’s what our industry is dealing with today… a one horse parade. Even Diamond doesn’t like it, it’s just bad for the industry and bad for the fans. I used to have 16 distributors, now I have 5. The #1 comic used to sell a million plus units, now it only takes about 135,000. Downsizing is not a good thing for business. It’s a survival maneuver akin to pitching supplies into the water to save a sinking boat. You may live longer– and here we all are, right?– but you have less to work with, less to offer, and fewer ways to reach the public. I don’t know anybody who isn’t looking forward to a healthier, more diverse and more competitive industry in the future.”
Dawn and Alan Donald: “It is a sign of the low esteem that the comics industry is held in that nobody within the UK or the US has investigated the blatant monopoly that Diamond has upon it. If this were the film or book industry or mainstream magazine publishing the monopoly and mergers commission in the UK (and the US equivalent) would be in there like a shot. To give you some example in the UK in these past few weeks one supermarket chain has been allowed to take over another whilst others have been banned from doing so. In the TV industry the two major independent TV companies have been allowed to merge with the proviso that they protect the smaller companies. Diamond have the exclusive distribution deals for DC, Marvel, Crossgen, Dark Horse, Image or to put it another way ALL the major comicbook companies and a huge chunk of those who are bubbling under. This is unbelievable.
Diamond themselves are a good company and they do (for obvious reasons) care about comics but does that change matters? I don’t know. I’ve found Diamond to be a hard but fair company but without any competition retailers and publishers alike are completely dependant on Diamond’s good graces which to be frank makes a joke of a free market economy.”
Summary: I would say that the basic summary this week is monopoly bad, competition good!
Next Week’s Question: “Are there any subjects that shouldn’t be featured in comicbooks? Are there any taboos left?”
Big Shout: The Panel need your questions so email them into me at: [email protected]
Previous Questions: Check out the message board where I’ve put up a list of every question the Panel has faced so far (neatly linked to the column it appeared in) to inspire you and let you know what to avoid.
SBC reserves the right to edit questions for reasons of consistency and inclusivity.