Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Union Life

What a wild, unexpected week it was. Let’s get to all that jazz in another edition of Comics Disassembled, my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, led by…a comics union?!

1. Image Comics, Union Time

I’ll be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about starting a union or being in a union or anything union related. The bulk of my experience with them comes from movies like October Sky, in which a union being formed is positioned as a plot inconvenience as much as anything else. So, needless to say, I know little to nothing beyond the fact that I am generally pro-labor. Most companies are excited for one thing, and that’s maximizing profits, which means minimizing earnings for workers. Supporting workers to get their fair share and an improved quality of life doesn’t just seem like the way to go, it seems like the unequivocally right thing to do.

So when word came that some of the workers of Image – the production artists, the marketing folks, and other roles that keep the comics coming and the office whirring – were forming a union, Comic Book Workers United, it just made sense. As I learned this week, a lot of people don’t realize that publishers like Image have employees who do a ton of work to ensure comics keep coming, that they get to shops (of all varieties), that they look the way they do, and more, but Image employees do a lot behind the scenes (even if you just focus on those who signed this initiative, which is about half of the staff). They manage booths at conventions, they handle events, they set up production files, they get the books to the printer, they coordinate with libraries and book market vendors, etc. etc. It’s a lot!

On the website for the union, it sounds as if they mostly just want empathy, understanding and compensation to match that work – manifested in specific action, of course – with some other, more specific focuses, like a collective voting option on whether certain titles should be published by Image if the creators involved have been found to have engaged in any number of forms of bad behavior. Their full goals are listed on their website, and while I’m sure some of them will be a tough sell, I’m hopeful that Image will listen and that this will be a positive first step. Again, I have no idea how unions actually work, but who among us hasn’t felt like they deserved more for the hard and effective work they do? And not just money, but consideration and inclusion. We all have, I’m sure.

I’m similarly certain that this isn’t something that will have immediate resolution – if there is one thing I know about labor entanglements, it’s that they are arduous processes (unless someone’s son needs a new rocket funnel made for the National Science Fair, shouts to October Sky once again) – but I’ll be keeping an eye out.

2. Marvel, (Not) Getting That Paper

In the headline of the week, Newsarama ran an article about how “Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Star Wars, and over 70 other Marvel comics delayed due to printer jam.” Because I am ridiculous, all it made me think of is an extremely high end equivalent to the situation where your printer gets messed up because the paper goes awry, jamming up the whole works. Like a copy of Hellions got halfway through printing and everything went sideways – perhaps literally! – causing the whole operation to fall apart. I am sure it’s far more complicated than that, but any person who has regularly worked in a traditional office setting was likely triggered by the headline. Printer jams are the worst!

In reality, though, it’s shorthand for “Marvel’s messed up by the continuing supply chain issues.” What it means for you is a whole lot of comics are delayed by a week or more, including three this week, each of which made me a liar when I wrote them up for the latest edition of The Pull. Beyond the premise that this is a global conspiracy designed to invalidate my columns, it’s really just the way of the world right now, and it could get worse. This all feels like the beginning rather than the full ramifications of the supply chain issues. If the worst Marvel gets is 70 or so titles being bumped a week and a guy who writes about comics in Alaska getting Eternals #7 later than he expected, it’s not so bad. If it worsens, it might get pretty bad.

We’ll see. In my experience the key to dealing with a printer jam is turning it off, ripping the paper out, and then turning it back on. Has anyone asked Marvel if they tried power cycling the printer yet? Someone get on that.

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