Back in the pre-computer days each publisher (and there were fewer publishers then) produced there own booklet / information pamphlet so that comic shop owners could decide what to buy. Of the big two, DC had a booklet called Direct Currents from 1988 to 1997 while Marvel ran Marvel Age from 1983 to 1994, including in house adverts to herald new projects. Some comic shops also produced information books. Here at ACE Comics we had a magazine called Illuminations to let you know all the information about new and up coming projects. This now exists on-line. There were also various magazines about comics like Comics Journal, Comic Buyers Guide and Comics International – the latter was a monthly magazine founded in the UK by Dez Skinn that kept the UK market well informed.
In my opinion, this approach was fragmented and lead to people reading just one ‘type’ of comic – readers were either Marvelites, DCers or Indie lovers.
Following a disastrous period in comic distribution when Marvel bought Heroes World Distributors in 1994 and started a distribution war which almost brought down the whole comics industry in 1997, there was just one distributor left, Diamond Comics. Many blame Steve Geppi (the owner of Diamond) for the monopoly he now holds, but without him there would be no comic industry at all. He just happened to be the last man standing.
This lead Diamond to produce a magazine (which is still running) called Previews. This catalogue presented information from all comic publishers in one place, providing all an equal opportunity to reach comic book readers and comic shop owners alike. To my mind, Previews was a very egalitarian publication and it really opened up the comic book market.
Now, twenty years on, things are changing, and perhaps not for the better. First, Marvel decided that they didn’t like having to share the spotlight and wanted to stop their readership from being tempted by other publishers – they removed themselves from the Previews catalogue and now have a separate magazine called Marvel Previews. Last year, Image decided that they too needed to focus their readers attention solely on their products, so they began publishing their own magazine called Image Plus (to their credit, Image run their listings in Previews as well as publishing Image Plus). Now it looks like DC are fearing that they are losing ground and have decided to publish their own, seperate DC Previews. This leaves the Previews catalogue for all of the other publishers minus Marvel and DC.
However, I feel the inevitable result of all this will be a return to the bad old days of blinkered reading. People being Marvelites, DCers, Imaginisters, etc. This, in turn, could weaken the comics industry at a time when it needs to pull together and shout with one voice to the whole world about what it can do. Comics are a wonderful medium covering all genres and we should all expose ourselves to the widest range of stories possible and not allow ourselves to be maneuvered into single-lane traffic.
Reading Tip for the Month
Having just read The Prisoner #1 from Titan Comics, once again I find myself impressed by the quality of Peter Milligan’s writing (he recently wrote a Dan Dare miniseries) as he just ‘gets’ what made the original Prisoner TV series special and moves it on while keeping it’s individuality at the core. Plus, Colin Lorimer does a very creditable job on the artwork. Check this series out along with the wide range of genre books that Titan Comics are publishing. Good comics and they are British too!
The cult TV series comes to life in a brand new comic series by writer Peter Milligan (Kid Lobotomy, Dan Dare) and artist Colin Lorimer (Burning Fields, Harvest).
Published to coincide with the 50 anniversary of the first US transmission, this new series will transport you back to the mysterious village where everyone is a number!