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Don’t Believe the Hype! – Price Increase In Comics

It was around this time last year that our esteemed founder, Jason Montes, first gave us the heads up on the rising cost of comics.

“Starting in January,” Jason emailed the staff of WCBR, “Marvel’s going to raise the price of the majority of their comics to $3.99. We need to follow this, because this is going to be a huge issue for our readers going forward.” I saved Jason’s email because I agreed with and believed in the value of his request, and wish dearly that he was still with us to read this column because I think he would have really enjoyed it. With the emergence and increase in the number of titles with $3.99 price tags from Marvel and DC, it seems to me that the industry has reached an important crossroads that will need to be addressed immediately if it’s going to keep the audience it has, and grow the audience it wants. A conflict is brewing over your buying dollars and how the comic industry wants you to spend them. On one hand, monthly, serialized comics continue to be the staple crop of Comicdom, although their sales figures have been a pale reflection of what they used to be fifteen to twenty years ago. On the other hand, graphic novel releases of serialized comic storylines are gaining in popularity as well as sales in local comic shops and major book retailers like Borders, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble; such serialized comic storylines are now tailored and written for their release as graphic novels.

This has created an interesting dichotomy and strangely symbiotic relationship, where monthly comics are written for their release as graphic novels, and graphic novels rely on monthly comics to generate the stories they need to sell to you and audiences that don’t otherwise walk into comic shops. Where Marvel and DC are hoping to increase their margin on these stories though is on the hope that you will double dip and buy these stories in both formats, a notion made more convincing by the recent deluge of price hikes across a wide range of their best-selling titles by best-selling authors. Now more than ever, I think the time for us has come to take a hard look at the industry and what we’re paying for every week.

I believe it was back in July that John Turitzin, Marvel’ General Counsel and Executive Vice President to the Executive Office told a financial conference that the price increase on a range of Marvel’s comics was part of a process of finding out how much money they can make from publishing monthly comic books. “We’re always testing our pricing on our comic books,” he told the audience, “to see the extent of which we can, you know, it is inelastic, and we can increase our profit in that business.” Basically they wanted to make more money selling monthly comic books, and you can see their logic in this decision in how they initially charged comics produced by popular creative teams. From practically everything written by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Jason Aaron, Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Ed Brubaker, and a host of mini-series and one shots, Marvel is making a sensible business decision by increasing the price of those comics from popular creators that they know you want. And I’m okay with that, oddly enough. After all, it’s not personal. It’s just business.

What’s been bothering me though is the quality of those monthly comics, more and more of which I’ve been paying a premium to read. It’s not that they’re necessarily bad, it’s just that as a once a month slab of entertainment, I feel like they’re failing to actually entertain me. It occurred to me that the reason for this is essentially the difference between reading a book and a comic. Perhaps I come from an older school of comic reading, but I remember a time when the ritual of reading a comic every month was a dynamic experience, a slab of entertainment that an immediate impact on the reader while also contributing to a large ongoing story. With the advent and popularity of graphic novels though, the focus seems to have shifted from making each monthly comic an entertaining experience unto itself to making it a chapter of a, typically, six-month storyline. With the pacing of these plots being drawn out to accommodate their collections into graphic novels, I feel that individual comics are making for a more uneven, less thrilling reading experience. In fact, looking over my reviews over the last year, I see that the one complaint that crept up most often was how underwhelming most issues were because of their failure to provide any immediate entertainment value, which should, I’d argue, be one of the hallmarks and qualities of a monthly comic book.

Marvel and DC are trying to circumvent this though by putting extra content, usually in the form of eight-page back up stories, into some of their $3.99 comics. While this might increase the page content of comics to the point where the companies feel they can justify a price increase, I feel this is little more than smoke and mirrors that distracts readers from the glaring deficiencies of the main stories. I began reading the back up stories, first offered by DC, with mild interest, and have eventually skipped over them all together. It’s not that I need more pages to agree to pay $3.99 for an issue, I just need more entertainment value, and I’ve yet to see either company offer that in a satisfying way.

So at some point I finally asked myself, “if these creators are writing for their graphic novel releases, why don’t I just wait for them?”

And that, ultimately, is what I’d like for you to consider today, because the temptation to double dip and buy these stories as comic and then graphic novels is harmless when months can go by between the release of the former and latter, but if when you’re paying $3.99 an issue for a six issue story, and then another $20 to $24 for the graphic novel of that comic, well, that takes a huge toll on your pocket book, which is good for Marvel and DC, but not so much for you. I’ve asked myself these questions over the last year, and realized that Jason was right: this has been a huge issue for me as a reader, and it’s one that is very much affecting my buying habits. Just recently, Incredible Hercules, one of my favorite titles, jumped on the $3.99 bandwagon, but as much as I enjoyed seeing Agents of Atlas come back in some readable form, it wasn’t enough to keep me reading the title, and I am now waiting for it to come out in graphic novels before I pick it up. I’ve been doing that with a lot of my titles, and I have that going into 2010. I’m going to be reading fewer comics and more graphic novels, because for the life of me I can’t determine which format the industry is trying to sell me on, but I know I can’t go on buying both of them in equal quantities.

With that in mind I leave it to you to look at your own pull lists to see what, if any, revisions need to be made. My only goal here is to offer you a very simple, direct line of reasoning to consider; one that I hope will help realign and improve your buying habits in the new year. No matter what Marvel and DC try to sell you, how much they charge for it, or why they try to justify their business to you, remember that this is your money we’re talking about here and your entertainment that’s at stake, and those are two very, very important reasons to not believe their hype.

Happy holidays everyone!

-Tony Rakittke

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23 Responses

  1. SoldierHawk, on December 17, 2009 at 6:20 PM said:
    “Hmmm, that’s a good question Tony. I have to say that I don’t think the $3.99 price really affects me at all. I look at it this way: its still the absolute cheapest, bang-for-your-buck piece of entertainment you can get, in a world where movies are 10 bucks and all of the books I want to buy cost upwards of 25. So no, I can’t say its affecting how many comics I buy–I read what I want, put the ones I want to keep up with on my pull list, and just grin and bear the price each week, knowing that its worth the cost and still cheaper than mot anything else I could be getting.”
    No, with a comic book story going 6 issues (at $3.99), you are paying $23.94/comic story plus the increase in the products that advertise to us. That is the amount that you should be comparing to other forms of entertainment ie. movie, books, etc. It just too much. When I could buy 100s of stories/issue per month ie. most of Marvel’s output in the 1990s at $1 or $1.25 per issue. They are better off droping the graphic novel compulations as they should be able to get some readers to switch to the month comic books thus increase what they can charge for ads. The GN users are going to get fustrated as the monthly readers decide whether or not the comic continues not the GN readers. But bookstore like to carry the GNs as less SKUs to track.

  2. On a final note, I’m reading an interview with Grant Morrison on CBR right now (which you can find at http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=24180) and I came across this point which I thought perfectly spoke to our conversation:

    “All those huge, multi-part, slow moving stories were very popular in the last decade but the impression you get from readers now is that they want a bit more for their money – more story, more ideas, more new characters, more re-read potential per issue, and I‘m up for that. Comics are quite expensive compared to other entertainment media and we should keep that in mind. I’ve always favored the “super-compression” approach, so I feel more in tune with the demands of the audience these days.”

    I’ll tell you what: if the man can practice what he preaches, I’ll gladly continue giving him my buying dollars!

  3. I once had a large group of comic reading friends, but they have all fallen off due to the insane price increases. I’m the only one left, and even I’m starting to waver and consider going the trade route. How can the industry justify a 33% price increase? There are some great stories being told in comics right now, and I’m lucky enough to get a nice discount from my subscription service, but I’m being priced out at this point. Doesn’t help when you get event after event with insane amounts of tie-in books you need to get to complete a story.

  4. I couldn’t disagree with you more, but again, if you find current the state of comics so interesting and worthwhile that you feel they’re worth a second read through, then more power to you.

    • Well, like I said…newbie lol.

      Part of it is that I just love reading, period–anything and everything. I re-read all the books I own all the time too; its more of a personal quirk than anything. Although as I said, there are some current story lines I really am enjoying, and think I will continue to come back to. Maybe they’ll loose their luster as I continue to delve into the classics via tpb. I dunno.

  5. Well, I don’t tend to re-read the individual books themselves, no, with a couple of exceptions. But I will sit down with a stack of comics and re-read a storyline I want to hear again–the recent Batwoman comics for example, or Red Robin. I come back to those in the same way I come back to novels I want to read again. (And, just as an aside, I actually DO re-read chapters or parts of my favorite book that I want to hear again! That’s usually only after I know the story pretty well, but I do do it.)

    Good point about the movie/DVD thing. Although its just SLIGHTLY different in that you aren’t entirely double dipping–after all, in a theatre, part of what you’re paying for is the experience, and you can’t take that home. Buying th DVD, you’re paying for the right to watch it at home whenever you want. That makes some amount of sense. Double dipping comics really doesn’t to me though, because when you buy a comic twice, you’re paying for the exact same experience, and all you have for your money is essentially two copies of the same thing.

  6. “if you want to see it again, you pay again.”

    Unless you “double dip” and buy it on DVD, in which case, as with your comic book example, you can still be entertained by it as often as you choose.

    Do you actually re-read your comics? More power (and entertainment) to you if you do. Like I’ve been saying though, I’m finding the current state of comic books so mediocre and uninteresting that frankly they don’t even merit a second read through….that would be like reading a chapter of a book twice; I guess you can, but why on earth would you?

  7. I can’t agree more. Every month for the last half a year it seems like i’ve had to drop a book or two cuz of the crazy prices. Like you my problem isen’t just with the price. I paid 3.99 for the Dark Avengers Annual recently and i’d do it again cuz it was a great book with superb writing and art but it was an exception. I go to the comic book store on every Wednesday so I don’t get to read reviews in time to decide if I should get a book or not. I have to hope that it will be good while paying a stiff price and that usually doesn’t happen anymore. And it is true that writers seem to structure their titles for graphic novels now. There is no reason that they can’t make it a full entertaining issue for us weekers and still bring it all together for people who wait for the TPBs. I’m at the point that I pretty much avoid almost every Annual, Giant sized, and ‘hundred issue comic cuz i’ve be burned with bad pointless issues that cost 4.99 or 5.99 numerous times. You know it’s ridiculous when DC is charging 6.99 for a title with a first time writer (recent Lobo 2 issue mini). At this point it seems like they care way more about making a profit than satisfying their customers. I understand that we’re in a mini-Depression and that they need to make money but they better believe that their tempting fate. A year or two from now they may wake up to find that their out of buisness and it’ll be a sad day for all.

    • Hey Michael,

      And they’re not wrong for wanting to make a profit, I think we all agree on that. The thing that’s killing me as I can see it is you is that the product they’re giving us to generate those profits is so increasingly mediocre that it doesn’t justify what they’re charging for it!!!

      In my opinion, a single issue of a comic book needs to do two things: 1) it has to effectively tell an installment or chapter to a larger storyline (hence why creators are writing for graphic novels more and more) and 2) needs to be able to deliver entertainment on its own without having to rely on other issues. This last one is where I see most comics failing.

      Looking at this another way, it takes me about 2-3 minutes to read a comic, and that includes taking time to appreciate the artistry of each panel. For a $3.99 comic that means I’m paying roughly $1.33 for each minute of entertainment. Phone sex lines cost less than that and still give me a happy ending every time LOL

      But $1.33 per minute of entertainment is hugely expensive. If a typical 2 hour movie cost us that much, our tickets would be $159.60. The average 20 hour video game under these conditions would cost $1,596!!! No other form of entertainment I can think of charges as much to be consumed as comic books do, and it’s insane when you stop to think about what you’re actually buying for that price tag.

      If I’m going to pay $3.99 for the 2-3 minutes it takes for me to read a comic, I need that comic to entertain me in a way that I feel like the money was well spent, and so far I’m not finding that in ANY of these $3.99 comics. If the industry is going to make $3.99 the new standard price, or even simply raise the number of comic books with this price tag, they may be in for a rude awakening when we start pushing back.

      • Yes but don’t forget that (for a movie at least) its a finite amount of entertainment you’re getting. That ten bucks only allows you to see the movie once; if you want to see it again, you pay again. Once you buy a comic book, its yours to read and be entertained by as often as you choose.

        This is also the case with video games of course, but you’d be hard pressed to find a game that goes for $3.99 that has the kind of value a favorite comic book does. (Note that I’m completely not arguing in favor of the price jack, just providing a small counter-point in terms of entertainment value for your dollar.)

  8. M0N5T3R made me look at what 3.99 titles I currently have. They’re New Avengers, Dark Avengers, Blackest Night, Powers, Stumptown, Punishermax, Captain America, Detective Comics, and Wolverine: Weapon X.

    The 3-4 titles in their that annoy me are all from Marvel.

    Anyhow, thanks for the extended reply Tony.

    1) I see your argument now. This was my misreading your article and downplaying your emphasis on the “writing for the trade” issue. I thought that was merely an example of a broader qualitative issue. Point rescinded. I get you now.

    The method you mention is intriguing. Sort of reminds me of Wednesday Comics….if it wasn’t $3.99! It certainly ensures that many more hardcore comic fans will double-dip. Under this scenario, I might even consider it.

    2) I suppose Avatar is the weaker example, and for the reasons you outline, I give them more of a pass than Boom. Boom’s big enough where I can start relating them to Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, etc, in which case, their behavior is harder to excuse. They’ve got a ton of licensed products and they can stand up on their own two feet.

    So yes, I ultimately agree regarding Avatar, but Boom!, I think, is a different matter. In fact, I think most small publishers going with the 3.99 price are like Avatar, so really, that just leaves Boom! for me to go “wtf” over.

    3) But the weird thing is that Vertigo seems to cancel series based more upon their sales on the racks than the shelves. That never made sense to me. Scalped and Brian Wood’s stuff are the only series that have escaped this.

    On the “prestige” edition thing….unfortunately, I think publishers are more inclined to use that very idea to introduce the possibility of “triple-dipping.” You know their are poor bastards out there who doubled up on Sandman and bought the Absolute Edition as well. Same goes for the Boys, and all the other series with oversized hardcovers.

    Anyway, believe me when I say I feel your conundrum. I got back into monthlies when I got sick of waiting for new trades of Y or Walking Dead, which were at times delayed to the point of my forgetting names and details. I got sick of it. But then, I fall victim to insubstantial “chapters.”

    • Alex,

      What I really want to know about Boom! is where they’re getting the capital to acquire all these licenses and how much money they’re actually making off them. My company recently dropped a license that was costing us $15 million a year to carry because it was only earning us $7 million in sales, and I suspect something similar has to be happening at Boom!, especially with the sheer number of licensed properties they have.

      Presumably, their issues cost more to cover those licensing costs. But here again, how much revenue are they actually earning off them, or is it just another viscious cycle of overcharging comics in order to pay the licensing fees so they can continuing to squeeze out a little business for themselves?

  9. it struck me as a divide and conquer approach when i heard about it. same as hollywood, there was going to be the blockbusters that were gonna fill the seats anyway, and the movies that still did their own thing. on cost, movies spend more to make more – but with comics i just expected them to charge more. i wasnt expecting any substantial shifts to trickle down. but i read @ the beat (i think) that marvels moving away from the event heavy story telling.. so it may be in the works. i seem to hear the ‘top men are working on it’ cliche alot though. i dropped all my $3.99 titles right away though, and havent had any trouble waiting for the trades.

    really like your idea about newsprint, then glossed up graphic novels. i think if they want me to buy both, thats the way to really influence me. i hadnt even assumed that they wanted me to buy both.. even when im missing an issue or 2 in a run/storyline i really avoid the novel. if they ever made a shift like that, i could see alot people bailing out like i did. hopefully it does occur to someone to market both this way, and that they launch softly with new titles, or an imprint to test or stir the waters.

    i do currently have 3 $3.99 titles in my sub queue. Incredible Hulk, and 2 X-Men Minis (X-Nation, Dark X-Men). im happy with em, but i keep questioning what 2-3 titles i shold drop to make way.

    • Hey M0N5T3R,

      Another word on this hypothetical, newsprint comic model.

      In my head, I’d like to see *quality* comic stories produced cheaply and distributed to as many sources as possible in order to grow the number of comic book readers.

      Did you know that when comic books were still sold at newsstands, it wasn’t uncommon for them to sell in excess of five million copies an issue!? Now, primarily sold through direct market comic shops, a comic book is considered a huge success if it can sell 100,000 copies.

      I don’t get this. I think the industry needs to keep costs down on monthly comics and focus on their storytelling, and then sell through comics through Borders, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, groceries, and every store where parents can give their kids something to look at while they shop. If the comic industry is going to grow its business it will need an infusion of new readers, but what new reader is going to want to pay $4-$6 for one comic they’ll burn through in 3 minutes!?

      So yeah, make ‘em cheap and sell them everywhere. Take it back to the old days when this was a form of entertainment everyone could afford to get their hands on. Do that, and then collect those cheap pulpy comics in nice volumes with color and all the bells and whistles so that anyone who wanted to double dip, or simply have a pleasing collection to put on their bookshelf, would have the means to do so in a way that would generate revenue, but not at the expense of the market share that monthly comics would be trying to develop.

      • can i build on the newsprint model too?
        without stepping on the why and how you chalked up, …

        id have to guess that the ads would have to stay on the stock we have now. for the folks pouring those dollars in it would be a setback on their bottom line. keeping them in the same territory would head off any gripes too, as they would really stand out in comparison. dont know if both stocks could be printed together without hassle though.

        i really miss the racks too – used to find em everywhere.

  10. Oh wow, I honestly was not expecting to get this much feedback on this column, but I’m definitely down for a good conversation. And just so you know I’m doing this right now on my 4th wedding anniversary which means I either love you guys that much, or my wife that little LOL!!!

    David, you’re dead on, and welcome to comics man! What are you currently reading? If nobody’s made the recommendations to you yet, let me be the first to suggest you check out these stories in graphic novels as soon as humanly possible: Preacher, Sandman, Transmetropolitan, Doom Patrol, Planetary, Swamp Thing, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

    I’ve ALWAYS told my friends that when it comes to comics you vote with your dollar because it’s the only true way to effect any change. But you’re also right, sadly, in noting that despite our best intentions the industry is not fucking likely to change or lower its price point, and why should it? I can’t blame them for wanting to make a buck, but at the same time I’ll be damned if I blindly follow their lead without paying CLOSE attention to my pull list and constantly asking myself what comics I need, what comics I want, and what comics I can live without.

    And SoldierHawk, a hearty welcome to you as well! Note that the stories I recommended to David absolutely apply to you as well; you won’t be disappointed. I thought that was interesting that, for you, the $3.99 was commonplace and not the strange anomaly that it is for us longer readers. Let me ask you this, does the fact that a comic costs you $3.99 have any impact right now on how many comics you’re buying?

    I’m not sure what immediate impact this is going to have on the industry. Most likely I suspect we’ll grumble about it for a few years until we all kind of reach critical mass and mutually decide to stop buying monthlies as much as we do. Only then will we have voted with our dollar in a way that will get the industry to take notice and, hopefully, look for a new business model to work with.

    To answer your question though, this only became an issue within the last year I’d say, and the industry responded to fan outcry with a misguided, although well-intentioned, effort to justify the new price tag by adding an extra 8 pages of back up stories to some of their titles. It was a nice idea, but as we’re coming to find out these 8 pages back up stories are often so mediocre that you wonder why they included them in the comic at all. As my colleague Paladinking wisely observed, I’d much rather pay $3.99 for 22 pages of *quality* storytelling then being force fed extra pages that I could care less about.

    Alex!!! It was a column intended to ask questions, and I’m gratified to see it got you thinking ;)

    1) The principle problem here is that the industry doesn’t seem to understand that the experience of reading a monthly comic is not the same as the experience of reading a graphic novel, and yet they are plotting serialized comics with an eye on their release as graphic novels, trying desperately to have it both ways and not quite strongly succeeding at either.

    It’s this paradox that also makes deciding how to price monthly comics so difficult, because the industry has essentially painted themselves into a corner where they’re recouping the expenses through graphic novels that they’re losing on monthly comics. For what it’s worth though, I’ve always wanted to see a system where we could pay $1.50-$2.00 for cheap black and white comics printed on even cheaper newsprint and then later have the option of buying those stories as nicely bound graphic novels remastered in full color since that format services a higher price point that could sustain the added production values.

    2) Very good point about smaller publishers being bigger offenders, but I would argue they are chiefly motivated by necessity whereas the Big Two are motivated by their profit margin. Companies like Avatar barely squeak out an existence by leveraging multiple variant covers and their star talent (Which is why Ellis unloads so many of his throwaway ideas there).

    Again using Avatar as our example, I suspect it’s also substantially harder for them to attact a larger stable of talent when so many top tier creators are locked into exclusive contracts at their respective publishers. When Bendis and Brubaker have the option of releasing their pet projects through Icon, and Aaron can continue selling Scalped through Vertigo, why would they need to approach a smaller publisher like Avatar? Unless smaller publishers are willing to take the initiative in developing new generations of writers and artists to make money on, there are precious few options left to them.

    For what it’s worth, I also waited for Ignition City ;o)

    3) Vertigo’s definitely guilty of writing for the graphic novel, but then again they’ve always been a more literate imprint geared towards that kind of storytelling, and it’s been that way since Sandman first became fashionable across college campuses in the 80s and 90s. That imprint DEFINITELY relies on their graphic novel sales to recoup their monthly comic losses, but their average monthly sales across monthly comics has never been very overwhelming…the last time I heard a figure, they were averaging around 10k and even then I suspect that’s being generous.

    But THIS is what confounds me, that paradox that I’ve yet to understand that the industry has somehow built itself around! I want and enjoy the monthly comic book experience, but am sorely disappointed with its lack of immediate entertainment value. I also greatly value the graphic novel experience, but I don’t think our American comic industry is set up to market OGNS in the same way that Asian manga does.

    I’d like to see a monthly comic model that is cheap enough for the industry to market and consumers to purchase, capable of delivering that immediate thrill and entertainment value that we’ve been talking about. Personally, I don’t need glossy paper or computer rendered colors; I just want damn fine storytelling.

    I’d like to see graphic novels support higher production values to recoup the costs of cheaper monthly comics, whether they collect monthly storylines in “prestige” editions or tell new stories as OGNs. As it stands now though, it seems like the industry is trying to squeeze every nickel and dime they can out of a story by releasing it in monthly comics and graphic novels, and charging more for the experience isn’t making it any easier to want to support, you know?

    Tons of questions, but few solutions….for now. ;o)

    • Hmmm, that’s a good question Tony. I have to say that I don’t think the $3.99 price really affects me at all. I look at it this way: its still the absolute cheapest, bang-for-your-buck piece of entertainment you can get, in a world where movies are 10 bucks and all of the books I want to buy cost upwards of 25. So no, I can’t say its affecting how many comics I buy–I read what I want, put the ones I want to keep up with on my pull list, and just grin and bear the price each week, knowing that its worth the cost and still cheaper than mot anything else I could be getting. Plus I shop at a small local comic store where the owner has gotten to know me and my taste in comics very well (despite the fact I’ve only been a customer for about four months now!), and so I don’t begrudge the cost as much as I otherwise might, since its going to support local business in addition to my reading habits.

      I did do a little intellectual exercise out of curiosity though, and tried to imagine what my reaction would be if the comics I buy suddenly rose to $4.99, or (God forbid) $5.99. Putting aside that the prices were JUST raised and the implications another price jack would have so soon on its heels, I think that a price increase NOW, that affects the price I’m *used* to paying, would indeed impact my buying habits. For one thing, I would absolutely take all but my absolute favorite comics off my pull list; I currently have about 20, including some mini series like Iron Man vs. Whiplash and Ultimate Armor Wars. This could easily be wheedled down to 10 or 15 “must buys” a week. Secondly, it would impact my buying of such mini series and one-shot comics; I would be far, far more inclined to just keep up with the current storylines where I want to know what happens next, and (regrettably) let all of the extras go by the wayside. Third, it would impact the amount of browsing I do. Currently, when I go to get my weekly comics, I almost always pick up one or two additional books (usually one-shots or mini series, but often I’ll buy some back issues or even discover a new comic I want on my pull list). If the comics I bought were more expensive, I wouldn’t even bother with this, since I’d know that I have a finite amount of money to spend on comics, and therefore anything extra I find, I wouldn’t be able to afford anyway. Lastly, and this would probably be of most interest to the publishers, my purchasing of trade paperbacks would go down to almost nothing. They are expensive as it is, and as much as I love them (and believe me, the tpbs have done wonders to bringing me up to speed on stories, have influenced what comics I buy regularly, and have introduced me to some great characters and arcs) I just wouldn’t be able to afford them nearly as often–and when I did buy them, it would be used copies from ebay or Amazon, since they are so much cheaper.

      So…yeah. That was a lot of rambling, and I don’t know how interesting it was, but there it is!

      • Oh and I almost forgot, thanks so much for the recommendations in comics! That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for, and I will absolutely look into them. (Which is another thing that would go by the wayside with a price jack that I ‘felt’–I would NOT be taking chances on buying books with characters I didn’t already know and love; in my case the classic superheroes. That would be a shame and it would make me sad, but I wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice buying my monthly Captain America or Wonder Woman or Iron Man, etc, for even something as delightful as the recent Wizard of Oz, or the classic Astro City which I loved.)

  11. Paladin, SOOO with you on both issues, but the back up one I haven’t mentioned yet. Not that I mind Rucka’s Question in Detective Comics, but I would MUCH rather have the extra space devoted to Batwoman. But that’s just me.

  12. Also for what it’s worth:

    1) I’ll never understand double-dipping and I won’t do it. I can’t even imagine having the slightest bit of excitement over buying a collected edition of an arc I read 4 months ago.

    2) I’m not a fan of back-ups either and feel just as you do. I appreciate the gesture, but they don’t do much for me. Hell, I’d rather just have a longer main feature. Greg Rucka appears to be doing this in his new series, Stumptown, and I actually didn’t mind paying $3.99 for the book as a result.

  13. Great article Tony, but it’s one that’s left me with more questions than answers. Hopefully my posing them won’t come across as dissension in the ranks….or something.

    1) You, like me, begrudgingly seem to accept that $3.99 comics are a sadly unavoidable business decision. What is regrettable is that, as you say, they often don’t provide the necessary level of satisfaction, impact, and entertainment to justify their higher price-point. They just have a bigger name creative team.

    So what’s the solution? How SHOULD comics be priced? Because what seems to be implied is an even more subjective pricing system based purely on a qualitative judgment. This is obviously impossible.

    2) While Marvel and DC seem to be the major targets here, I actually feel that smaller publishers like Boom! and Avatar are bigger offenders. ALL of their comics cost $3.99, regardless of title, creative team, or series-length. You know something’s gone wrong when I completely trade-wait an entire publisher. This isn’t so much an objection to your article, but more a case of my posing a question to you: What are your thoughts regarding these smaller publishers trying to make a buck?

    ….And often failing. Warren Ellis announced that Ignition City won’t be back due to poor sales. I’ll bet that’s because everyone, including myself, was trade-waiting it.

    3) I’m a huge Vertigo junkie, but I generally feel that they’re more guilty of “writing for the trade” than Marvel or DCU comics. They’re also $2.99 across the board. That said, their monthly sales generally suck, with their graphic novel sales being the thing that keeps them afloat. Is this the model you hope to see, or expect to see, take precedence in the coming years? Is it even sustainable without going wholehog and adopting a Japanese-styled, OGN design?

  14. Well, I’m pretty darn new to comic reading, so while these issues affect me as someone who buys both monthly comics and the graphic novel/tpbs, it certainly hasn’t been on my radar as much as it has for longtime readers–after all, for me, many comics have “always” been $3.99. It makes me sad to hear about this issue and what an impact it may have on the industry I’m growing to love, though.

    The “chapterish” nature of recent comics is very interesting to contemplate. Personally I won’t be making any adjustments to my pull list; the way it breaks down for me is that I NEVER double dip storylines; I either buy it all in comic form, or I wait for the tpb/graphic novel. I mostly use the trades to bring me up to speed on history or storylines that would take far too much money (or space!) if I was to buy them as individual comics. So…for what its worth, that’s where I come in on that issue. I just don’t double dip.

    I am curious about the 3.99 price though…how recently has that become an issue, and what was the industry’s response to the (inevitable) initial outcry by the fans?
    Reply

  15. Every time we purchase a $3.99 comic, it’s just telling the comic industry that we’re OK with the new price. its just like voting. Until we see a sharp decrease in sales of the “$3.99″ comics, is when we’ll ever see a price drop. and honestly, I don’t see that ever happening, because comic book readers have always been loyal. For me personally, I recently got into comics (this July) and the price point really deterred me from buying just marvel products in general.

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