Comics / Cult Favorite

Fans' Write to Know


By Philip Schweier
November 5, 2019 - 10:52

This past weekend I witnessed a scenario play out on Facebook that illustrates a distasteful side of fandom.

For more than a decade, Sanctum Books has been licensed to publish reprints of The Shadow, Doc Savage and a handful of other pulp properties owned by Conde Nast. Saturday, Ralph Grasso of The Shadow Knows Facebook group raised a rumour that Conde Nast had chosen not to renew the agreement with Sanctum. Since there are still books in The Shadow library yet to be reprinted, no doubt many Shadow fans would be disappointed that the series would not be completed.

In his Facebook post, Grasso called upon Anthony Tollin of Sanctum Books for clarification, citing that “fans have a right to know.”

No. We don’t.

At the heart of the matter is a business agreement between Conde Nast and Sanctum Books. Details of said agreement are ENTIRELY the purview of the two parties involved. Grasso also suggested that as someone who has bought and supported these books, he is entitled to know the status of forthcoming volumes.

No. He isn’t.

Paying $14.95 for a book entitles you to enjoy it, nothing more. That’s what your money has bought you, the right to enjoy and possess that book. Any additional benefits are awarded at the discretion of the publisher or bookseller.

Despite Grasso’s misplaced sense of entitlement, Tollin responded, explaining that yes, the rumour was true. Conde Nast had chosen to not renew his license, and he will be unable to publish any additional Shadow books after December 31, 2019. Rather than make an immediate announcement, and address the inevitable questions to follow, Tollin chose to work diligently to get as many books as possible to the market by the end of the year.

However, Grasso’s selfish demand forced Tollin’s hand, and in a rather public manner. And I’m not the only Shadow fan who noticed. One comment on Grasso’s post called him out on it. In a matter of hours, Grasso responded by deleting the comment, closed commenting on his post, AND instituted a new policy for the page:

i made a small change to the group--posts will now be approved by mods/admins as a testing period. i am constantly removing posts that are not shadow related.”

I can appreciate Grasso’s reasoning. As owner of the page, it’s his privilege to dictate policy. Nevertheless, the timing is provocative, especially as he also removed the original post entirely.

My intention in relating this incident is NOT to hold Grasso up for scrutiny. My commentary may very well get me kicked out of his group, but I’m willing to risk that for the greater good. Instead, I wish to drive home the point that there is a right way and a wrong way to engage the publishers and creators of the properties we enjoy.

There is an implied partnership between fans and creators, producers and purchasers. It is far more productive for everyone to be of help to one another. Had I been in Grasso’s position, I would have contacted Tollin in private and asked how I could be of assistance in addressing the hopes and expectations of my fellow fans.

Like it or not, customers and fans are end-users. However, by being at the bottom of the food chain, we have influence over the market, what is sold, what is bought. That is where our true power lies, not as admins of a social media page.

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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