When Diamond allied themselves with comic publishers to kill off other comic distributors, it worked. DC, Dark Horse, Valiant, Image, and others agreed to become Diamond exclusives. The only hold out was Marvel, which tried distributing their own stuff. It didn't work, and talk was they would buy Capital Cities. They didn't, CC went under, and the keys to the candy store were held by Diamond.
I freely admit to bias and unrepentant hatred. I know a lot of indie comic creators that Diamond destroyed by not paying them in a timely manner or simply canceling the comics from the catalog even if they had the orders to make the minimums. I couldn't believe anyone (especially Image, given how everyone there owed their entire careers to the indie field) would want to trust Diamond to do right by them. Many smaller publishers also signed to be Diamond exclusives, hoping they would get some favored treatment.
Then Diamond started killing them off, too. Radio Comix, for example. I talked online with a guy who worked for them, and when Diamond upped its minimums to the point where shoestring publishers couldn't survive, he said, "Hey, they're a business, they're trying to make money." Eight months later, Radio Comix was dropped from Previews. He was upset. I kept my mouth shut, but plenty of others reminded him of his words defending Diamond for the treatment he was now getting. Longbowman's salute, right at ya, asshole.
A new distributor started up called Haven. They wanted to be an alternative. They carried indie books because they had no choice -- everyone else was a Diamond exclusive. At the inaugural C2E2, they set up a little section for indie comic publishers they carried. Last year? Nothing.
Well, that's that. Haven is closing it's doors, citing a bad economy. Which means anyone selling their comics through them has been shoved back down in the trenches with the rest of us. And Diamond is king of the heap again.
Who's to blame?
Oh, there's plenty of blame to go around.
Let's start with Haven themselves. I don't think it was economics. Haven offered all kinds of discounts for creators, 55-85% for some. People wondered how Haven could be making money doing things Diamond couldn't afford to. Well, they don't have the cash outlay Geppi has for his warehouses and other ventures he funnels Diamond money to.
The fact is, when Haven first popped up on the radar, I heard a lot of creators grumbling about how casual they were. People like them wanted an alternative to Diamond, but Haven just didn't have the energy or interest to make it happen. Haven never gassed up the engine, counting on publishers coming to them to boost for them. How did that work out for them? Oh...right....
Some people cite comic shops as being the reason. Supposedly, all their money went to the DCnU launch and nothing was left over for Haven. Bullshit. If issues of comics from Haven were selling, they would have kept those orders in there rather than pissing off the readers. Nope. Not buying it.
Comic shops deserve some of the blame, though, because they don't like dealing with multiple distributors. Even if that number is two. They complain it's just too much headache to keep up with. When I first got into comics, the shop I went to dealt with seven different distributors and didn't have any problems keeping up with them (even when some of them, like Diamond and Cap Cities, carried pretty much the same product). When the gang at Hard Way Studios and I were pimping out The Supremacy, we did everything we could to make the order process as easy as possible, and were still turned down by some shops. Dan Vado at Slave Labor tried setting up his own distribution channel to stores and offered to let others in the trenches use it. But despite customer service and interaction that left Diamond in the dust, shops didn't go for it. Because they just didn't feel like it.
Comic companies? Yeah, they get blame. After all, they created a monopoly. But it wasn't their own monopoly, it was a monopoly between them and where they needed to sell their shit. Every once in a while, they have to balk at Diamond's control (like trying to get publishers to move to only GN publishing instead of monthlies). They made this mess themselves instead of keeping a diverse field or even a contingency plan.
The only one I give a pass to is comic fans. What comic fans? As publishers started chasing speculators instead of readers, readers went elsewhere for their entertainment. They now watch movies, play video games, or do anything but read comics. And they aren't coming back. The DCnU rising tide that was supposed to lift all boats hasn't done much. And once again, all these titles are carried by Diamond and follow a similar approach. The offbeat has no place here anymore
The field is shit. People are learning digital isn't the savior they thought it would be. People are learning you can't trust the Establishment and they were suckers to ever think they could. People are hemmed in, some voluntarily, some not realizing until it was too late as the jungle sprung up around them. Comixology is becoming the Diamond of digital comics.
You've just fallen back into the trenches. Welcome home.