As The Heroes World Debacle Began...

By | Friday, April 01, 2011 1 comment
I was doing some reading/research at lunch today on the birth of the Direct Market. In the process, I came across some articles and opinion pieces that were written shortly after Marvel announced they had bought Heroes World.

Now, if you're not up pretty conversant in comics retailing history, there used to be several distributors of comics in the Direct Market. Diamond was among them, of course, but so were places like Capital and Heroes World. In late 1994, Marvel actually bought Heroes World outright and, nine weeks later, announced that they would, from there on out, ONLY distribute their comics through Heroes World. In effect, they were saying that if retailers wanted to sell Marvel comics, they would have to buy them directly Marvel itself. Oh and, by the way, Heroes World also distributed other publishers' comics.

The fairly obvious intent here was to drive all other distributors out of business. It'd naturally be MUCH easier for a retailer to order all of their comics from one distributor, rather than order just Marvel books from Heroes World and utilize other distributors for DC and Dark Horse and everyone else. Which, it turns out, had to be done at some level as DC announced an exclusive deal with Diamond a few weeks later.

Heroes World failed after about a year. There simply wasn't the internalized knowledge/infrastructure to run a successful distributing company at the scale Marvel needed.

OK, with that (extremely shortened) background, I found some comments that were written shortly after Marvel announced their exclusive distribution through Heroes World...
Mike Richardson, president of Dark Horse Comics: "In its company catalogue, Marvel points to dissatisfaction with
current performance levels as the reason for the dramatic change. It leads one to believe that further changes will be made if performance doesn't improve. One can only hope that these changes will not devastate a market that has served our industry well."

Frank Miller, author of Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns: "Marvel Comics is out of steam. They aren't even trying to compete on a creative level. They've declared war on the free market. They've made it clear that they want to exercise dictatorial power over the comics market, and, from all appearances, they're willing to destroy the market before they are willing to change their stupid policies or to take their proper place in the market as a fading giant."

Ryan Brewster, writer for Comic Book Network Electronic Magazine: "However, there are many different possibilities that open up as a result of Marvel's Actions... The Pebble-in-a-stream Theory: This theory claims that Marvel's actions will backfire on them and they will come crawling back to Diamond and Capital."

William Hughes, writer for Comic Book Network Electronic Magazine: "The only thing to do is to boycott Marvel Comics entirely. Replace every Marvel book you buy with another companies, to send a message to Marvel while still supporting your retailer. Believe me, he'll be tickled pink to discover he no longer has to bow down to the blackmail of Marvel Comics."
Generally, not a very positive response from what I can find. There's also references to rumors running around about Marvel also buying Capital City and Diamond! Those purchases never actually happened (and were likely stemming from fear more than anything) but I have yet to find a single person outside of Marvel who thought this was a good idea at the time. And considering how it pretty much destroyed any number of comic shops and every comic distributor besides Diamond, it's hard to argue with the later assessment of Mile High Comics' Chuck Rozanski: "The word 'fiasco' simply doesn't come close to describing the depth of the problem."
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