Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Diamond in the Rough

The week in comics was another live reenactment of the moment from 30 Rock when Liz Lemon asks Jack Donaghy, “What a week, huh?” to which he sharply responds with, “Lemon, it’s Wednesday.” Of course it was Wednesday. That’s a big day for comics. Right? RIGHT?!

Ugh. Let’s get to it in Comics Disassembled, or my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, led by two big names starting to see other companies.

1. Diamond Comic Distributors, of House Greyjoy

“What is dead may never die.”

I’ve thought about that phrase several times since it was revealed that Image Comics was taking its talents to Lunar Distribution after a long, long run at Diamond Comic Distributors. The vaunted creator-owned house is moving its single-issue distribution but not bookstore distro (at least not exclusively on the latter front, per Rich Johnston), while leaving retailers the ability to order Image titles wholesale from Diamond. The reason for that is simple: While the news is ostensibly about Image, the big question surrounding it is, “Is this the end of Diamond?”

My answer is pretty simple: I doubt it.

If losing DC and Marvel didn’t kill Diamond because their other business lines insulated them enough, I’m not sure how losing a publisher with far, far less revenue would be the stake to their heart, especially when they maintain a wholesale relationship — and don’t discount that factor! Shops still order Marvel, Dark Horse, and IDW wholesale from Diamond despite the fact it’s more expensive (and more profitable for Diamond) by a mile, including my own shop I believe — and Image’s book market distribution. No, I do not think this brings the end for Diamond, if only because they’ve been “dead” for so long that they probably moved on from “Our comeback will be bigger than our setback!” as their internal catchphrase so it could be replaced by House Greyjoy’s words from Game of Thrones. You can’t kill something that’s already dead. Zombie Diamond is eternal.

That said, I think a better question might be something I wondered about back in January. If Diamond was to lose Image — as they have — “Is single-issue distribution even worth it to them at that scale?” I imagine so, if only because Steve Geppi and company surely knew this was coming for a bit and still signed DSTLRY up a few weeks back and made a few others deals with smaller publishers of late too. They aren’t operating like a distributor thinking of bouncing from single-issue distribution. But this might be the question more than some sort of outright collapse by the comic distribution side of Diamond.

On the flip side of all this: Image moved to Lunar! What does that mean? Not a whole lot, probably! There was some speculation that this means that Image will move its releases to Tuesday. Image told me this is in fact happening. Whether this leads to a larger publisher migration to Tuesday or not, that’s probably the biggest part of this for Image, beyond the fact that they’re now having their cake and eating it too between getting the (mostly) well-liked experience of working with Lunar while still allowing shops to order wholesale from Diamond. It’s a good solution, and probably one that will benefit them now that they’re free of Diamond’s often punitive shipping charges.

As with anything else, as much as we think we know right now, we’ll likely only find out what kind of impact this has down the line. Ultimately, though, this move makes sense. Diamond hasn’t been bringing its fastball for a while. Lunar’s hungry. Image’s move has been on the horizon for a bit, and there’s a reason for that: it was the right one to make.

Of course, if it results in more TikToks/Instagram Reels like the one Lunar made to celebrate this news, then maybe it wasn’t. Yeesh that was a tough watch.

2. The Eisner Awards, Creating Disasters

Remember last week when I was all, “Oh, there just isn’t much to say about the Eisner Awards, but hey, good job by everyone involved?” Well, about that. Apparently there is a lot to say about the Eisner Awards, and maybe not such a good job by everyone involved?

It turns out that one of the nominees, Thomas Woodruff’s Francis Rothbart! The Tale of a Fastidious Feral, is basically a disaster on all levels, and has been followed by even more disasters afterwards. This “graphic opera” from Fantagraphics earned four nominations, a fact that only stood out to me initially because I had never heard of Woodruff or the book before. Some people did know him, though, as Woodruff was apparently the former head of the illustration and cartooning departments at the renowned art school School of Visual Arts, or SVA, from 2000 to 2021. And unfortunately, he was horrifically bad at his job. Here’s how The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald’s summed all that up:

“The controversy spread among former SVA students, who alleged that his teaching methods were unnecessarily harsh, and included inappropriate overtones of sexism and racism. In addition, it was claimed Woodruff had consistently looked down on the cartooning students – making the acclaim over what Woodruff called a ‘graphic opera’ a bit hypocritical.”

That alone is awful, as by many, many accounts — once people the news got out, former SVA students understandably began to share their stories and common experiences during Woodruff’s time there — he was not just bad at his job but a truly vile human altogether. But the fact that the work itself has faced accusations of cultural appropriation or worse with its Jungle Book/Tarzan-like tale added to the pile. By the time Fantagraphics and Woodruff himself responded with disastrous, defensive, bizarrely autobiographical statements, this ship had largely sailed into…well, the Bermuda Triangle, or some other equally terrible section of water in the world.

This debacle has put the Eisner Awards and its selection process at the center of all this. Many have wondered how exactly something like this gets nominated. It’s understandable that the judges didn’t know Woodruff’s background. How could they unless they went to SVA, or knew people there? But people naturally wondered how something like this could have made the cut for the most prestigious awards the comic medium has to its name, and there’s no clear answer, at least not yet.

There’s a lot more here to dig into, and to be honest, that work has already been done well elsewhere. You should read their work for better insight on the subject. Beyond Heidi’s coverage, Graeme McMillan at Popverse covered the story well and Chris Arrant, a former Eisner judge himself, spoke to an Eisner insider of some variety about what happened and how exactly it went this way. Additionally, there’s a petition to rescind the nominations this book and its creator were given, so if you want to back that effort, or support an open letter about rethinking the Eisner Award processes altogether, then you have options. I’m sure there will be plenty more to come from this, as this story is understandably not going away, especially considering that nothing has been heard from Comic-Con International and the people behind the Eisners as of yet. We’ll see what happens next, but there’s assuredly more to come.

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