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Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Business of Comics is Broken -- That's Top Shelf Productions Co-Publisher Brett Warnock's assessment following this week's news about the possible end of Cold Cut as a distributor of artcomics to the direct market:

"[T]he BUSINESS of comics is broken. This is the sentiment with the recent announcement that Cold Cut Distributors are selling their company...in fact my experience would seem to indicate that the glut of Marvel and DC titles currently flooding the market, as well as an overabundance of weak comics everywhere else has created a situation where it's really very difficult to get much support from the retail community for indy comics, except for only the biggest A-List books in a given season."

Few are in as ideal a place to diagnose the current situation as Brett Warnock; he and co-publisher Chris Staros publish both some of the biggest artcomics you could name, such as Blankets and Lost Girls, and some of the very smallest and least likely grab mainstream headlines or score NPR interviews. And more power to them for continuing to support less major (if not virtually unknown) creators, by the way, in the face of the existing market conditions.

Warnock goes on to say:

"Clearly there needs to be more efficient methods of both retail and distribution. I love what i do, so i want a healthy marketplace. And God only knows, i'm NOT a believer in comics' sole future domain being online. I want to hold a book in my hands, feeling its pulpy goodness, the smell of ink on my fingers. And those are the kind of books i want to publish."

So, is there a way for direct market retailers and creators to better benefit from the increased readership for comics out there in the real world?

As I said yesterday, the revolution is over and comics have clearly won. But it takes time and many adjustments before that victory can be fully felt. Clearly a first step is needed.

I wonder how much would change if Diamond initiated a first-phase toward making its product returnable? A first step toward growing up and actually being a responsible, professional book distributor? It would take a lot of unnecessary risk off of comics retailers, and it would force Diamond to take ownership of its own place in the grand scheme of things. The current, dying system obviously allows Diamond to possess all the power and virtually none of the risk -- so much so that operating a comic book store with Diamond as your only source of product is clearly a sucker's game -- if not the ethical equivalent of being the black-eyed wife in an abusive marriage, shrieking at the cops "But I LOVE HIM!" as the cops haul him into the back of the squad car once again, certain he'll be back at home with all forgiven within 24 hours. Wednesday's always just around the corner, after all.

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