Not So Much with the Negative

I've become a bit depressed watching some of the smartest people in the industry argue over why it's not good enough. There's this incredibly human need to understand why things are the way they are, and when things aren't how we want them to be, to decide who is to blame. There are creators, publishers, executives, distributors, retailers, readers and passersby who like comics the way they are. Not an overwhelming number, but more than would admit to it. They'll claim that there are things that they would like to see change, like better Batman comics or a nationwide chain of comic book stores, but in reality they are perfectly content to create comics that resemble the same old Batman the world is all too familiar with and distribute those through the same old channels and buy them from the same old stores. Like most of the titles at Marvel & DC, a nice sized chunk of people with any stake at all in the industry prefer the illusion of change to actual change.

On the other hand, there are a more vocal (if not larger) number of people who actually would like to see significant change whether its a abolition of the current distribution system, the development of significant advantages for small publishers, radical changes to superhero comics, a change in the number/location/operation of the majority of retail stores, etc. To apply a ridiculously inappropriate physics metaphor, however, the laws of inertia tell us that a body at rest tends to stay at rest until acted upon by sufficient force. By which I mean that until those who want to make changes have the leverage to actually force those changes, we will continue to see baby step after baby step in whatever random direction our feet happen to be pointed.

Obviously a significant portion of the leverage within the comics industry lies with large publishers (primarily Marvel, DC, TokyoPop & Viz) and large distributors (Diamond and . . .) primarily because the vast weight of those entities are ultimately controlled by a few (if you go high enough up the food chain). The rest of us have to band together to force change (as retailers did in the Hibbs v. Marvel class action suit). Problem being that we're talking about herding cats here, so unless there's an easily agreed upon change to be made (or in the lawsuit's case, grievance to be filed) its not likely to get hundreds of retailers or tens of thousands of fans to all agree on the changes that should be made.

Instead creators, readers and retailers argue over what's wrong and why and then do whatever small thing they can to change it. The very act of opening MacGuffin was our little flapping of the wings but I don't know that its likely to change the anything except the dynamics of the comic retail market in Newport News, VA (much less the weather in Tokyo). Do the bloggerati need something to write about (myself included)? Sure, but watching (and participating in) arguments about whether there's a need for more retail stores or how to create more diversity of material (much less whose to blame for the lack of diversity) or whether material should be kept in print versus becoming collectible has made me very tired and more than a little frustrated. Unless these conversations are a prelude to action, then they often feel like little more than the venting of frustrations (or the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Tokyo).


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