Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fantagraphics Kisses The Diamond Ring

Comic Experience retailer Brian Hibbs writes an excellent dissection and summation of the impact of Fantagraphics just-announced exclusive distribution deal with Diamond. It would be disingenuous(to use TCJ's favorite word) to describe Fanta's deal with the distribution monopoly as anything other than a complete and utter sellout. Having given lip service to rebellion against all the medium's ogres and evil empires (from mainstream comics and creators, to Wizard, to Diamond) Fanta has slowly but surely jumped into bed with all of them--publishing special editions devoted to artists (like Frank Miller) whose work the publishers have publicly acknowledged hating; sending all manner of Fanta product to Wizard for review; and now, of course, going exclusive with Diamond.

While the move is more symbolic than anything else, that symbol is of capitulation and the acknowledgment that as the publishers go gray their retirements have become vastly more important than their ethics. Almost no one would begrudge them that, of course. Except these are the same guys who made their names lacerating, excoriating, and at any opportunity humiliating creators over the years who opted for bigger paychecks than the chickenfeed offered by doing more "personal work" in indie comics..ideally for them.

Sure it's hypocrisy but as the publisher has made piles of money from the likes of Charles Shulz reprints and porn comics, there are few if any in the medium willing to direct much more than the mildest criticisms, and far more who will all but prostrate themselves with the hope that they'll be the next anointed by the publisher. In an industry rife with incestuousness and cowardice, Fantagraphics was once one of the few publishers who via their journalistic tool, The Comics Journal, was willing to call some of the medium's most unethical, yet powerful, entities to the mat. But those days waned years ago and now that Fanta/TCJ is essentially little different than the entities they once scrutinized and often crucified, who remains as the industry's conscience? Everyone has sold out. Everyone is compromised. Everyone has ulterior motives. And anyone with even the faintest amount of leverage holds a grudge even when the criticism is valid.'s to the monopoly.

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