SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
This is the one-hundredth and fourth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and three. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC Comics almost bought Diamond Comics Distrubutors.
STATUS: Basically True
It’s hard to believe that less than thirteen years ago, comic retailers actually had a choice of who they could get their comics distributed by, but that was the case back in the early 90s, where the three biggest distributors were Diamond, Capitol City and Heroes World.
Marvel caused quite a scene in December of 1994 when they purchased Heroes World.
Everyone waited for the other shoe to drop, and drop it did in early March 1995, when Marvel announced that its comics would be distributed exclusively through Heroes World.
As you can imagine, this caused quite a hysteria – beyond the fact that Heroes World was not really prepared to handle ALL of Marvel’s comics (which led to many problems in the early goings), and beyond the fact that Marvel irked quite a few retailers when they began inserting in their comics catalogs for readers to purchase their Marvel products directly from Heroes World, causing a momentary panic among retailers that Marvel would be starting their own retail outlet chain (looking back, the comic book bubble bursting probably helped avoid that actually occurring).
Beyond that, the move caused a shockwave throughout the distribution system. The largest-selling comic company was now unavailable to be distributed by the remaining companies, which was a big drain on their finances.
Meanwhile, though, the remaining big comic companies feared being shut out of the comic distribution game, and Diamond and Capitol City, the top two remaining companies, hustled to get the other companies to sign exclusivity deals with them, resulting in the announcement in late April (less than two months after Marvel’s announcement) that DC Comics, Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics would be distributed exclusively by Diamond Comic Distributors. Capitol City ended up signing Kitchen Sink and TSR to exclusive deals.
A year later, crippled by this arrangement, Capitol City sold off to Diamond Comics.
Ultimately, the Heroes World arrangement did not work out, and Marvel signed an exclusive deal with Diamond as well, leaving it as the ONLY major direct market distributor of the “Big Four” comic book companies.
However, reader yo go re asks:
I remember hearing at the time that DC was going to be buying Diamond (or had an option to do so in the future), just as Marvel had bought Heroes World. Obviously that never came to pass, but was there ever real discussion of DC buying Diamond, or was that just a rumor based on conflation of real events and supposition?
“Marvel bought HW. Marvel is now exclusive through HW. DC is now exclusive through Diamond. DC bought Diamond.”
yo go re is spot on, at least with his reference to “the option to buy,” as that is exactly what DC did.
DC did not really WANT to purchase Diamond Comics, as they knew from Marvel’s problems that it was not exactly all that cost-efficient TO distribute their own books. They were fine with Diamond doing it. However, they were also afraid that some OTHER company would purchase Diamond, so what DC ended up agreeing with Diamond head Steve Geppi was that DC would have the option of first refusal. If anyone tried to buy Diamond, they would automatically offer it to DC Comics first, thereby protecting DC in case someone, like Image Comics, tried to purchase DIamond.
Now, over a decade later, it’s hard to believe there was ever anything BUT Diamond, eh?
Thanks to yo go re for the suggestion.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A character who was appropriate enough for a DC cartoon was found not appropriate for a DC toy.
I am sure most of us remember the buzz that surrounded the character of Lobo during the early 90s.
The ultra violent, dark humored alien bounty hunter was one of DC’s most popular comic titles, even as they hesitated to give the character his own title.
No one was more surprised than creator Keith Giffen, who looked at the character as a SATIRE of the very type of character Lobo grew to become.
Lobo was ultimately popular enough that he made his debut in the DC Superhero CARTOON universe, as well, appearing first in the Superman Animated Series.
Lobo then appeared in a Season 2 episode of the Justice League cartoon.
However, while pretty much EVERY character who showed up on the cartoon ended up with their own toy, Lobo was not, even though there was a rumor that DC actually had made a mold of him, before determining not to produce him. The rumor was that the character was determined to be a bit too “mature” for a toy.
I checked with Cheryl Rubin, DC Comics’ Senior Vice President in charge of Brand Management, and she confirmed it. According to Rubin:
Because the JLU animated series and products are primarily for kids, even though we know and appreciate how much our older fans enjoy both, we thought it best not to include a character as violent as Lobo in the JLU line.
Pretty interesting, eh? The character was okay for a cartoon show, but not for a toy tie-in TO the cartoon show.
Perhaps Wal-Mart had something to do with it? They presumably would not want violent toys, and DC and Mattel most likely would not want to challenge them anyways. It’s not like a Lobo toy is a gigantic deal for them or anything like that. That being said, it also is very believable that DC and Mattel just decided Lobo was too violent on their own.
Still, it’s an interesting situation – okay for a cartoon show, but not okay for a tie-in TO the cartoon show.
Thanks to Cheryl Rubin and Alex Segura for the information!!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: There was purple Kryptonite.
Reader Rich mentioned that he read about a purple krpytonite on a few different websites (including this one) that described purple Kryptonite as giving humans the same powers as Kryptonians. Rich had never heard of such a thing, and asked me to look into it, and luckily for me, that’s exactly what Michael Eury did in his great tome, The Krypton Companion!
They have a whole section on people mistakingly believing that there was a purple kryptonite.
The first appearance (which is the one Rich came across) was Superman #159, which perfectly demonstrates where the confusion lies. In the issue, which is an Imaginary Tale, Lois Lane becoming Supermaid on the planet Krypton after being exposed to a purple element called “earthite,” which, naturally enough, sounds like the opposite of Kryptonite, right?
The next occurance was almost twenty years later, in Superman #371, where a purple SUN causes Superman to develop special mental powers.
All this, but no purple Kryptonite! Thanks to Michael Eury for the info, and Rich for asking the question!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!
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