He made this post on his blog recently, in which he actively solicits criticisms. But there's one bit that stands out for me, and I haven't seen it picked up yet by any other bloggers:
I hate it when letter writers invoke some version of, "Guess I'll be buying more DC books now" as if this implied threat is somehow going to get me to turn around on everything I'm doing. We both know that, in general, it's just not true... you're not going to suddenly like a whole bunch of titles you weren't even thinking about a wek [sic] earlier just because you're pissed about something in a Marvel book.
He's right, of course. There are easily hundreds, if not thousands, of people who claim a threat along those lines. (And I'm sure editors at DC get a similar stack of complaints, with people threatening to go buy marvel comics.) And, by and large, those very same people continue to buy Amazing Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men month after month, proving with their wallets that they're just ranting for the sake of ranting. These readers prove, time and time again, that they really don't care about quality storytelling so much as simply seeing the ongoing adventures of a given character or characters.
I don't know that it's an issue unique to the comic industry, but it's one that seems to drive the business more than other industries. Tom is essentially acknowledging here that they know your habits are more significant than your convictions. You're going to keep buying Hulk or Iron Man primarily because of one thing...
Both marvel and DC have effectively established themselves as clubs. Stan Lee really did a lot of powerful work in this regard back in the 1960s, but it's considerably more formalized today. The primary reason readers continue to buy marvel comics is to say that they buy marvel comics. It's a status symbol as much as anything else. The club of marvel; price of admission: buying as many of their comics as possible.
"I read every book they put out. I know more continuity than you. I'm more important."
That's probably not a thought process most fans formally run through, but that's what it boils down to. They want to be a big fish in a small pond, and absorb as much information and trivia as they can. It raises their cultural capital within their group -- whether that's Moon Knight fans, or marvel fans, or superhero fans. The more expert they can prove themselves, the more prestige they garner within that clique.
And, if I'm being brutally honest, that's part of the reason for this very blog. That's my ego at work, making me believe that I have something worthwhile to contribute to the medium. The major difference being that I'm trying to play in the pond of "All Comicdom" instead of "The Marvel Universe."
And I think that difference is significant. From a practical point of view, each of us a finite amount of resources with which to procure comics. As a company, marvel (and DC and Dark Horse and everybody else) wants to garner as much of that as possible. So if you've devoted yourself to marvel comics, then you're going to drop whatever you comic allowance is on their products. Even if you switch from Captain America to Thor, they still get the same chunk of your change. Their business model is largely predicated on the fact that you're going to continue giving the same amount of money every month, and it's largely irrelevant on which titles you actually buy.
But in committing myself to the entire medium, I can (and do!) spread my money around. A little does still go to marvel and DC, but it also goes to Image and Dark Horse and Viper and Oni and Red 5 and Tokyopop and Viz and Slave Labor and Antarctic and Avatar and... The possibility that I may choose to send my money to one company over another fosters competition, and tends to improve the overall quality of all the material.
But an empty threat coming from someone who ALWAYS spends the same amount of money on the same company does little besides reinforcing their belief in the their business model. Comics are a business. Like all businesses, comic publishers are out to make money. And, if they know they can feed you whatever dreck they want and you'll keep coming back for more, they have no reason to try anything but what they've already been doing.
By all means, if you see a problem in a comic, it's usually a good idea to point it out to the creators and publishers. But if you point out the problem, but no one attempts to correct or improve on it, then your opinion is clearly not being considered. The publishers and creators have every right to ignore you but, if they do, it might be worth asking yourself if that's a relationship that's really worth continuing. After all, who wants to be in a relationship where one party ignores the other? That's the very definition of a toxic relationship.