Anime News Network is reporting that Diamond is dropping some additional anime and manga from their offerings. They’d previously dropped some additional titles back in March, notably the Ponyo On The Cliff by The Sea manga, adapted from the film of the same title by Hayao Miyazaki (which will be released in theaters later this summer.
In this wave they’re dropping (among other things) the 3rd and final DVD of Gurren Lagann, which is the point in the series where the series goes what can be concervatively described as bat-dren awesome.
Now, presumably, retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Borders get their anime from places other than Diamond (and hopefully their manga as well), but this isn’t the only problem I’ve observed with Diamond. Firstly, Diamond has previously refused to put in orders for titles that they don’t get more than $2,500 in orders for. Further, Diamond isn’t paying some creators. Additioanlly, my local comics retailer (Ancient Wonders in Tualatin) has regularly been shorted by Diamond. I’ve been in there when they recieved the books and did the count comparing their order with what they got, and I’d been in there for the whole thing. Now, they may have later contacted Diamond, informed them that they had been shorted, and recieved the missing titles, but that doesn’t relate to my point. And there’s still the whole matter of Diamond being the de facto only game in town for a distribution channel for comics from publishers to retailers.
My point is this – part of the problem in comics today, that I hear complained about on various other forums and that I overhear being discussed, and that we all have heard at one point or another, is that superhero comics are king. While publishers like IDW will take chances with non-super hero comics like “Locke & Key”, and we’ll get old fashioned crime comics through Image, and other independant publishers, as well as some biographical, auto-biographical, or just more realistic comics that will get into the mainstream, like “Blankets”, we don’t see non supers comics as often as we should.
By as we should, I mean – I mean on the actual racks at comics shops, because, to be honest, I discover new comics in two ways – either on the internet, through forums or sites like this one, or I see it on the rack, peruse it, and then add it to my pull list. Diamond’s restrictions on title sales, consequently, means it requires more orders from retailers to get a book on store shelves, which means it requires retailers to take a bigger gamble on a non-supers title like a “Blankets” or “Box Office Poison” – which means it’s more difficult to get the physical copy into the hands of readers at a retailer.
This leads me to my next point. When was the last time you saw a science fiction title that didn’t have super heroes or a licence attached to it on the comic book rack? We just don’t see science-fiction titles being made in the US anymore. Off the top of my head, I can only think of 3 English language titles that is running Science Fiction comics that aren’t licenced off a TV series (Star Trek, Star Wars & Doctor Who) or pre-existing work (the upcoming “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep comic) and are original IPs, or IPs that are specific to that publisher – Dan Dare (which has actually been running for quite some time, though the character’s most recent run was only 7 issues long, but I’ll let that slide), 2000AD (which has been hanging on by it’s fingertips as of late), and Heavy Metal Magazine, which has a reputation of being basically a porn comic.
While comic creators who want to tell science fiction stories can turn to the internet as way of getting their stories out there, through Lulu, DriveThroughComics, or similar sites, or use a webcomic model to get the original story out, and then sell Trade Paperbacks, like the Foglio’s are doing with Girl Genius, or Garth Cameron Graham is doing with Finder’s Keepers, these have their own problems. You either have to be your own artist (and a good artist), as the creator, or you have to know a good artist to work with on this, rather than getting the story published through someone like Dark Horse, or Image, who might have the resources to, say, get Dave Gibbons to take a look at the story and possibly agree to work on it, rather than having to shanghai Dave Gibbons at a convention, get him to look at it, and then beg him to work on it with you.
(Mind you, with an Image or Dark Horse, the begging might still be going on, but from the sounds of things there’s not as much begging on the part of the creator – I’m just making an uneducated guess. If someone whose published through Image or Dark Horse knows differently, please feel free to politely correct me.)
I’m not going to call for the death of Diamond, like I did for Central Park Media on voice feedback I submitted to the Otaku Generation podcast (it would be a voice feedback from D.H. Craven – it will be a month or two back in the archives), as first there is potential for Diamond to change their policies to something that would allow for retailers to take more chances on obscure (and sci-fi) comics. Secondly, unlike with the demise of CPM, there aren’t as many other distributors to pick up the slack, (as with CPM there was ADV, Viz, Funimation, Media Blasters, RightStuf, Yen Press, etc.)
What can we, as comic readers do? First, pay attention to the solicitations, keep an eye out obscure science fiction titles, that, ultimately, retailers might not order in enough numbers to make the racks otherwise, and put them on our pull lists, to show our local retailers that we’re interested in those kind of books (and hopefully they’ll order them on their own). Second, contact Diamond, inform them of our displeasure with their policies, state that if there isn’t a change, we will start aquiring comics through digital distribution through sites like DriveThruComics – and then follow through on it. Right of the bat, DriveThruComics has 2000AD, which is a decent place to start with Sci-Fi comics. Third, if you find a sci-fi comic that you like, either through sites like DriveThruComics or being distributed as a web comic (like Finder’s Keepers, which I linked to above, and I’m currently following), spread the word, either in the comments here, or elsewhere, and maybe click on an ad or two, or buy something.
Because if Diamond becomes a barrier, well, barriers are made to be punched through. With your dril.