The new issue of Back Issue has come out. It's a comic book magazine about comics and comic series that are no longer running. Very interesting from a historical perspective. The current issue has an article about Stever Gerber.
And it's depressing as hell.
For those who may be unfamiliar, Gerber is a creative genius. Among the things he created (like Thundarr The Barbarian) was Howard The Duck, one of the wittiest and most insightful comics ever created by the mainstream press. Everything from politics to pop culture was filtered through the eyes and attitude of comic's greatest curmudgeon, a talking duck stranded on Earth.
Howard's popularity became so big that Gerber wound up embroiled in a lawsuit with Marvel over him. It is considered the catalyst that started the indie comics boom, as creators, upset over not only a lack of rights but the company kept all the money (the sad fate of the Superman creators), struck out on their own. They created a brand new industry fueled by people who understood creator rights. Now, that industry is nearly dead, killed by the very people who spawned it. Diamond Comics decided to change their minimum order requirements. The net effect is just about every shoestring publisher will not make the minimum and will not be carried by Diamond.
My view of Diamond is less than rosy. Before they became the only game in town, my comic shop was served by Capital City, which carried just about everything. I've known some shoestring publishers who went under because Diamond didn't pay them in a timely enough manner to stay afloat (don't let anyone lie to you about how cheap publishing is these days). I've worked on a comic title that couldn't seem to get any kind of release commitment from Diamond, that is now being distributed by the publisher itself.
I've taken to dividing the comic industry into the Haves and the Have Nots. And the Haves all say the same thing to me -- they're just trying to stay in business. Show me where in the Constitution it says you have the right to a successful comic book distribution company. Yeah, I get that they're a business. So are we. What gives them the right to survive at our expense? It reminds me of User Friendly, when it talked about the government banking bailout -- "These banks are too big to let fail, and these banks are too small to let survive."
What is really gauling to me, however, is the Wall Of Silence that has sprung up between the two camps. The Haves, even those that have been rooked by Diamond, keep saying it's just business and let it go at that (I hate that "end justifies the means" bullshit). This completely overlooks that governments are supposed to keep a tight rein on monopolies to keep them from abusing their position. And no one is telling the Have Nots how to survive in this brave new world that has been foisted on us. They are either quiet about this, or the ones that have had horses shot out from under them and complained about it aren't sticking up for others getting the same treatment. It's the Chicago Way -- get yours and take his.
I believe, like Tom Tomorrow, that the world is divided into two groups, but it has nothing to do with Left and Right, Liberal and Conservative, Democrat or Republican. It's all about Up and Down, Ruling Class and Working Class, the barons and the peasants. And what makes it sad is that these people, who thirty years ago founded a whole new market to sustain themselves and succeed, the very people who should be the guardians of the art form, are saying nothing. There's no outrage, no questioning, just a shrug, a tip of the hat, and they move on, hoping that they aren't hit by the next wave of cuts.
Gerber is probably spinning in his grave right now, as the very field that gave everyone leverage sells it out.