Comic Books Prices: How Much is Too Much?


In these harsh economic times, the last thing anyone wants to do is pay more for their entertainment, because for many folks their entertainment outlets are the only thing keeping them sane as they read their 401k statements or watch the stock market drop another 400 points or have their entire town shut down when DHL goes out of business in the United States.  Luckily for those of us who choose comic books as a form of entertainment, we are content in knowing… that…

What is that noise?  Is that a dude on a galloping horse ringing a bell?  What is he saying?

$3.99 is coming!  $3.99 is coming!

Crap.




A regular 32 page comic book from Marvel or DC Comics has been priced at $2.99 for many years now.  With the way the economy is going and the rise of inflation and mostly because of the skyrocketing cost of paper, it was only a matter of time before the price jumped again.  The on-line comics press has been speculating about it for a good portion of the year, especially at Comic Book Resources where most of their big hitters have been throwing their two cents in since the summer.  Speculation is running rampant.

And yet nothing has been announced… yet.  The official line is that regular 32 pages comic books are still priced at $2.99 from the big two.  But are they?  Are they really?

While we haven’t had an official jump in price yet, it is my contention that we are in the midst of a slow price increase roll out and it’s being spearheaded by Marvel Comics.

This week 9 of 19 single issue comics from Marvel are priced at $3.99.  That’s about 47% of their standard page count new releases.  Last week it was 13 of 24 comics (approximately 54%), and the week before that it was 8 of 22 comics (approximately 36%).  And that’s not even counting a few $4.99 books thrown in for good measure.  That’s a good chunk of the books that Marvel is putting out.  What is being shipped at the higher price point?  It’s mostly mini-series, specials, and first issues of new series.  So far the higher price hasn’t infected the main Marvel books that most people buy, but it’s only a matter of time.

DC Comics seems to be waiting for Marvel to make the full jump to $3.99 before following suit because out of 64 releases in the last three weeks, only 6 were regular sized comics priced at $3.99.  Three releases were priced at $3.99 but were at least 40 pages, and two were regular sized comic books priced at $3.50.

(Some people think that the next price jump will be to $3.50, but for the purposes of this examination I am going to go with $3.99 because so many of Marvel’s books are already priced that way)

Make no mistake, once one company makes the price jump, the other will follow.  If not right away, then soon after.  We’re not there yet, but with 46% of Marvel’s new releases in the last three weeks being priced at $3.99, we’re not far off either.

What does this all mean and how will it affect the consumer, and thus the industry? 

The effect on the industry is, most likely going to be, an initial dip in sales.  As Steven Grant pointed out in the piece he wrote, comic book history has shown that big sales increases  – and this would be a big increase – have always lead to an immediate drop in units sold (which would presumably be made up for with the increased dollar amount per unit).  We can see the evidence already on iFanboy.com where people have started cutting back their pull lists because of the economy, and have balked at buying the $3.99 books that are already being sold.  I can imagine that once the increase becomes an across-the-board reality, a lot of people are going to look at their pull lists and reassess.

To my mind there is a bigger question, and that is how much is too much for a 32 page comic book (of which 22 pages are actual story content)?  I think we’re getting really close to finding out that answer.

One of the great debates of modern comics is issues vs. trades.  I am one of those people who think that the future of comic books lies in an all trade format (or perhaps a hybrid digital/trade format as Mike discussed yesterday).  I happen to think that the trade allows for a more satisfying reading experience, but I don’t believe that that is what is finally going to shift that market from issues to trades.  I think that the shift will eventually happen because of economics.

Right now the official price for a single of a comic book from Marvel and DC is $2.99 and for that you get 22 pages of story and 10 pages of ads.  That comes out to 14 cents per page of story*.  The suspected price jump to $3.99 for 22 pages of story would bring the price per story page to 18 cents.  That’s a 29% per page price increase.

The last two trade paperbacks that I read were Northlanders Vol. 1 and Ex Machina Vol. 7.  The Northlanders trade was 200 pages of story (no ads) and cost $9.99.  That’s 5 cents per story page.  From a cover price stand point, this trade contained Northlanders #1-7, which if I had purchased in issues (at $2.99 per issue) would have run me $20.93.  Of course, this is a volume one trade and Vertigo (and Image Comics) is pricing their volume ones at $9.99 to get people to try new books.  The next volume will most likely cost $14.99 ($10.19 from bulk retailers like Amazon).  Ex Machina Vol. 7 is more like a typical trade paperback from the big two, 128 pages of story (no ads) for $12.99.  That comes out to 10 cents per page.  I purchased Ex Machina Vol. 7 trade from Amazon and paid $10.39 which brought the cost down to 8 cents per page.  This trade collected Ex Machina #30-34, which if I had purchased in issues (at $2.99 per issue) would have cost $14.95.  The savings were not as great with Ex Machina, but it also only contained five single issues whereas most trade paperbacks typically contain six.

I, of course, acknowledge that with an increase of price in single issues we will also see an increase in the cost of trade paperbacks.  And I also acknowledge that the entire pricing scheme of trade paperbacks would have to be altered if there were no more single issues.  But I don’t think that they will be altered that much, and I think that the psychological effect of having to pay four, five, or six dollars for 22 pages of story will be very powerful.

So how much is too much to pay for a single issue of a comic book?  It’s hard for me to say because I’m in a unique position in that it’s my job to talk about the weekly releases so I can’t move to trades only, no matter how much I would want to or how much money it would save (also, the DC trade program sucks balls, especially the DCU titles).  I’m okay with it, for now.  $2.99 I can obviously handle, and $3.99 I would endure (although I can definitely see some cuts being made to my pull list, and I can see less experimentation with new books or recommended books), but I think that unless I find myself fabulously wealthy by the time single issues cost $4.99**, that five bucks for 22 pages of story would have to be my line in the sand. 

In October of 2008 I averaged 15 single issues a week and at $2.99 that meant I was spending $44.85 a week, at $3.99 that would mean $59.85 a week, and at $4.99 that’s $74.85 a week.

How much is too much for comics?  That’s too much.

* All price per page monetary figures were rounded off.

** In which case I will be reading my comics by the beach as girls in tiny bikinis turn the pages for me while other girls in tiny bikinis serve me rum-based drinks.

Comments

  1. geekmonkey geekmonkey says:

    Conor – excellent piece – you echo the issue many of us are dealing with right now.  With trades coming out so quickly after they wrap in issues (I think Whedon’s Astonishing Volume 4 came only 3 weeks after the double-size conclusion), the pull toward trades is getting greater and greater.

    One thing I’ve noticed – it seems like Image has been pretty steady with keeping their normal issues at $2.99 – with no adds.  Do you think it’s long before they move their price point as well?

  2. Cadgers Cadgers says:

    I am definitely with you that I would keep reading my favorite books like Cap, Ex Machina, etc if the standard price goes to $3.99.

    I dont know what I will do though if the price hikes $4.99. Lets hope that doesn’t happen for a while and I’ve hit the lottery.

  3. Neb Neb says:

    As a numbers guy, I love all the data crunching here.  It’s astounding to think of what we pay per page with those $3.99 comics.  That means that a one page splash better be hella good.

    If an increase has to happen, I would like to see DC and Marvel take the Image or Dark Horse approach, where the books are more expensive, but the production is through the roof.  I think both companies could also cut corners by dropping some of there less popular ongoings and focus on producing high quality books.  Last week’s issue of Gigantic is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

    If we move over to an all trade format, I hope that they don’t throw adds into them.  That would completely ruin the trades for me.  Hopefully, a great compromise will be found (like Mike’s solution), and we’ll all be happy…and not broke.

  4. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    Great article and good read.  A few questions…

    Do you think that in this time of economic trouble comics could increase their market share by Staying the "Cheap form" of entertainment? With movies as up to 12 bucks for two hours (and an arm and a leg for popcorn), if comics really pushed at being "cheap fun" could that be a winning strategy for this economic climate? 

    Would you or anyone be willing to go back to the old non-glossy paperstock if we saw a 25-50% drop in prices? I’d definitly consider it. Vol. 1 of Scalped didn’t bother me at all, in fact it kind of made me nostalgic for my old Peter Parker: Spiderman’s (the comic I was reading before the paperchange). 

  5. AlexG AlexG says:

    Conor this is excellent and much appreciated…I actually hope this discussion continues in a video or even a special podcast. Comic prices and the current economy is something on a lot of comic fans minds and for some reason talking it out in a way helps. Anyway, for me, a move to 3.99 would mean I’d cut a ton of books to keep my expenditures below $20/week. There are only about 5 titles that I think are rock solid right now anyway. 3.99 would also mean I virtually stop all new experimentation and leave that to trades–I would continue to buy new trades of new or different things. I really wonder if the publishers actually READ any of these comic sites. You guys and the other sites are essentially providing free market research for publishers (which makes me wonder if there is a way you guys can monetize statistics for sale to publishers?) and I get the sense that the publishers may not be utilizing this.

     

  6. We’re just gonna have to accept the new price point as what it is. I dont like it as much as anyone else, but there is nothing we as customers can do about it. It wouldnt matter to stop reading them or protest (my ideas anyways) cause 3.99 will be the offical price point probably in the next year or so. With the economy sinking so low right now, it could get even worse before it gets better. In an interview Dan Dido hates the new prices just as much as anyone….So at least somewhat, DC cares about the customer.

    If 3.99 stays as the new standard, it doesnt bother me as much though. I only get (roughly) 20 titles per month so that’s about 5 titles per week (again roughly) and that means about…..$21 dollars per week. So that’s like a 6 dollar increase then what I pay now, nothing groundbreaking there. But the idea of reading SOME issues at my LCS and only buying a few amount of actual comics sounds really good right about now.

  7. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    I don’t think comics are a cheap form of entertainment.  They used to be, but they’re kind of an expensive hobby when you add it all up.  That’s why the majority of the readership is so committed, because they have to be way into it to endure the ongoing costs.  It’s also different than movies, because you read comics by yourself, and movies are shared experiences.  Also, $12 for a movie is 3-4 comics (depending on the cover price) and that’s not going to take me 2 hours to read.  More like 30-40 minutes. 

  8. AlexG AlexG says:

    NextChampion brings up a good point…reading at the LCS. I personally don’t do it because I’m just too impatient of a person…but 3.99 could make me VERY patient…

  9. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    You know who else would have to be patient for that?  The LCS.  They’re in business, and they bought those comics, and reading in the store (and hey, if they let you, that’s their deal) is costing them money.

  10. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Excellent work, man.  I am by no means a numbers man, so this was a very helpful perspective.  I would love to see an all trade format.  The only reason I buy single issues is so I can keep up with the conversation.  

  11. cman12 cman12 says:

    A $3.99 flat price would be enough to significantly reduce my buying of comics and maybe even completely stop my buying of issues. Hell, I haven’t been reading comics that long, a $3.99 flat price might throw me off the medium completely.

  12. Aeopile Aeopile says:

    My monthly budget for comics is 20 issues @ 2.99.  I only read DCU titles, as I would rather be "all in" on a single universe, then partial in two.  I read indy stuff from my local library.

     Anyhow, I don’t see my budget increasing if DC ups their price, instead I’ll simply cull my pull-list by 33%.  If after that cut, I feel like I don’t have an idea of what is going on in the DCU, or I feel cheated because I’m not enjoying certain storylines – I would likely just drop out of comics altogether like I did back in 1996.

     I read titles from 1991 to 1996, and then came back to comics around 2005 – mid-way through Infinite Crisis.   

  13. AlexG AlexG says:

    Can we have an official Ifanboy poll of how many people would accept an all trade format?

     

  14. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    The cents-per-page issue is one I can’t help thinking about almost weekly, so I appreciate you explicitly raising it in black and white. The coming storm is going to be a pretty tough one for me to weather, because the truth is when you ask, "how much is too much for 32 pages?" my answer is "$2.99."

    "Rising paper costs." GRRRRRRRR. PDFs aren’t a regional thing, right? You guys in the rest of the country have these too?

  15. @josh: Well me LCS owner has no problem with me or others reading some issue in their store. Most owners shouldnt care, cause as long as the customers come into buy SOMETHING then they are getting a profit.

    Let me just ask two serious questions to the Itrinity and users of Ifanboy: A) Is the trade format really going to be that big of a money saver? (Doing the work for the Heart of Hush trade in the future…I would’ve save like 2 bucks if I went for trade instead of issues….whoopy damn do do) B) Your telling me with the huge budgets you have for comics that the idea of reading in your LCS isnt a good idea? (To me, especially for the Itrinity, having about 20 titles per week; a good 1/4th of them could be read in the shop.)

  16. AlexG AlexG says:

    I think the notion that we’d somehow save money if we went all trade is probably flawed, but it just might be a more convienient format to deal with given the increased cover price.

  17. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    I buy the comics I read unless the publishers or creators send them to me, yes.  But as I said, if you’re OK with it, and your shop guy is OK with it, do what you will.

    Conor just spelled out how you can save money with trades.  Up to you if you want to go that way or not.

  18. xebix xebix says:

    I think I am with most of you on this. If all regular issues jump to 3.99, I will be cutting back on my monthly books. I have worked out a budget and allow myself a certain amount on comics each month. When they go up, I will have to cut my pull list down so that the amount I spend is still the same. They day that they go up to 4.99 is the day I stop reading single issues.

  19. TMacken TMacken says:

    I just think it’s disrespectful to read in your LCS, not only to the store owner, but to the person that may eventually buy that issue. I actually prefer the comics I pick up, only being read by me. If I want to read a comic that everybody else has been through, I’ll go to the library. I’ve found several local libraries that carry single issues, and have a ton of trades to read. Heck I’ve read all the walking dead trades, Y: the last man, and I’ve got 11 Powers trades checked out right now to read.

  20. AlexG AlexG says:

    Josh–I was referring to saving money on trades if comics move to 3.99 or publishers move to an all trade format.

  21. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    I feel like breaking it down by page is as fruitless as the minutes spent reading argument.  That’s not really an accurate way of quantifying our enjoyment.  There’s all the psychological geekery of ownership, there’s art appreciation, there’s sentimentalities.  It just doesn’t work that way.  I don’t go to the video store (or… amazon) and get the dvd that has the most extra features, because hell that’s bang for my buck right?  That doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the film or how it’s going to affect my thinking.

     That said, how much is to much is pretty easy for me.  I have a budget for comics, if prices go up then the budget will remain the same and my comics bought will drop.  If that budget becomes to small for the core titles that I love then Becca will be pissed. I would withstand 3.99, though would be significantly disgruntled.  4.99 would have no chance.  I’d be out.  I’d stand across the street from my LCS and stare wistfully every Wednesday as a single tear rolls down my cheek.

  22. Cadgers Cadgers says:

    @TMacken

     

    Thats crazy I would be lucky if my local library had Maus. I’ts got a bunch of manga though.

  23. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    I dunno.  It can hurt the publishers in the short term, but then, why offer choice if they don’t want you to really have it?  I always tend to gravitate to weeklies, even though, I really tend to enjoy trades more.  I think I like spending a little money at a time, rather than a chunk, even if it’s more overall.   But I’m in a unique positiion with the site and show and all.  If it wasn’t for that, I might do trades more often.  The thing is, I still have to pay for most of these books, so cheaper is better.

    For me, the thing that sucks is, I don’t think this is anyone’s fault.  I don’t think the publishers are being malicious.  I don’t think the  creators are being greedy.  I think it just sucks that things have to go this way, but so it is with everything right now, except comics are in no way a necessity, and I think when prices start going up, you’ll start to have a lot of spouses arguing because of how much they spend on their funny books, when money is getting so tight.

    It’s just sad really, and it’s going to drive people to either pirate comics, or just stop buying as many, which is something I’m loathe to see.

  24. mdg says:

    Does anyone subscribe to comics?  Marvel, at least, discounts its subscriptions.

    However, on most of my subscriptions, there is about a 2 week delay between when the comic arrives at the LCS and when it arrives in the mailbox (I live in East Lansing, MI, so its not like I’m in out in the sticks).  Either processing and delivery is slow, or my mailman is "borrowing" my comics.

    The ifanboys could not provide a timely podcast through subscriptions, I would guess

    So, you lose the "thrill" of reading the latest and greatest, as well as the trip to the LCS each Wednesday.

    I subscribe to a few, and buy the rest at the LCS.  If prices increase, I will probably increase the number of subscriptions or go trade. 

  25. TMacken TMacken says:

    @Cadgers   I’ve had to go through 3 different municipalities of local public library’s in 2 different states, but I’ve been super lucky in finding excellent trades to read. The nice thing is that they have online resources for searching, and putting books on hold. The library with the most trades is about 20 minutes away, but worth the drive if I get to read something new, for free. I just got caught up on the old man logan books, in issues from the library. @josh, I agree, my wife is going to start questioning how much I spend in comics, if she ever starts doing the finances.

  26. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    I’m curious, what do we think a hypothetical all trade market would look like?  How many titles, what kind of release schedule etc?  Would that be the end of Diamond’s necessity? Would it mean the closing of most smaller comic shops?

  27. TMacken TMacken says:

    I think that the switch to trades for me would hurt my LCS. I very rarely buy trades from the LCS, it’s almost always amazon, or some other discounted site like instocktrades.com. If I really want a trade that day for some reason, I end up going to Borders with the 25% to 30% coupons they send out almost weekly. They also have the occasional 40% with which I end up getting an absolute book with, like I just did with New Frontier last month.

  28. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    I think it would affect monthly type superhero books, and indie creators who aren’t well known the most.  Those are the folks who rely on monthly sales.  You’d definitely see Marvel and DC change the way they do superhero comics, and I think a lot of the non A-List characters would lose their series.

  29. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    @itsbecca I’m curious how creators will sustain themselves for six months at a time (more counting design, printing & distrubution) between arcs/TPBs?

    What I’d like to see is either a free or modestly priced digital subscription service where the majority of revenues comes off of the adspace sold around the page. They’re released monthly, you use the moneyflow from the web adspace to push it off into trades. Maybe take all but one or two of the issues off the free/smallpay site after the TPB is released. I dunno,  that sounds like a nice way to start, but I have no idea if it’s  viable business model or not.

  30. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    All-trade publishing seems pretty damned crossover-proof, as well. They could still do it, I guess, but what a plate-spinning ordeal it would be.

  31. rayclark rayclark says:

    i completely agree that prices are starting to go up more and more. this is a time of drastic change my friends and sadly we are caught in the middle of it all. this sucks

  32. Kory Kory says:

    At the beginning of September I was reading roughly 35 books a month.  I have now gotten my list down to about 17.  If 3.99 comes I may cut my list in half again.  I had to drop Captain Britain this week, not for lack of enjoying it, just because I’m anticipating the price jump.

    I find trades more appealing not only for the price, but they are easier to store on a book self,  which I prefer to do instead of packing a bunch of issues into a box and cramming them into a storage unit never to be read again.

     

  33. AlexG AlexG says:

    Would people buy a monthly trade type collection of their favorite monthly titles along the lines of the manga "phone books"? (I don’t want to call this an ‘anthology’ because that term has begun to have a specific meaning here, which is different from the type of book I’m suggesting) I’m suggesting a perfect bound volume of six different current issues. What if we could get these as "Print on Demand" orders from publishers, so you have a subscriptions service with Marvel and they POD they 6 issues you want.

  34. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    What if we could subscribe to an email list where we got the scripts for the issues each week and then we can buy the trades as they are released?  

  35. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    @OttoBott I’m not for or against it. I’m curious.  Clearly the companies would have to pay them as they’re working on content.  How does the compensation structure even work now?

  36. JFernandes JFernandes (@jdfernandes) says:

    Even at $2.99 ($3.99 for minis) I’ve limited my purchases of single issues.  I’ve cut down to about 8 issues per month and about a half dozen TPBs/HCs (hurray for online discounts).  So, while my long boxes fill slowly, my book cases are falling apart.

    I’m just surprised a $3.50 price point seems to be out of the question.

  37. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    People are too hung up on the pennies per page thing.  That’s not the point.  It’s the comparison of how much a trade costs as compared to the single issues.  You can’t argue with that. 

  38. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    @PaulMontgomery How is this concretely a trade vs single issues debate?  A move to ONLY trades would be a TREMENDOUS endevor.  It would completely flip the industry on it’s head.  It’s interesting to think about, but especially with DC the way they are now I don’t think it’s anywhere near on the horizon.

  39. AlexG AlexG says:

    Yeah, I kind of agree with itsbecca, despite my personal desire to see an all trade format, there is nothing in the marketplace right now to suggest that this is an option. I see publishers moving to digital subscriptions in addition to singles before all trade.

  40. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I’m not saying all-trades is the solution.  But the system is definitely broken.  And I was merely commenting that on here and on Twitter, a lot of people are stuck on the cost per page breakdown, which I think is hardly the biggest concern.  

  41. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    It’s not the big issue.  They’re commenting on it because it’s nonsensical. And some might consider it mildly offensive to break it down that way.

    "But we don’t price them as consumers. We enjoy them. Which isn’t quantifiable in that way. I don’t get the breakdown either"

  42. JasonB35 JasonB35 says:

    The price has basically already pushed me in the direction of all trades.  If I’m forking out that kind of money for my entertainment then I want to know that it is good and something that I like.  At these prices with as many books put out if you are an X-Men, Batman or whatever other group of books fan, then it hurts even more when those books get on a run of just crap.  As I’ve heard in the iFanboy podcasts, some of these books can get on runs for years that are just garbage so you are throwing money we say is precious on bad stories.  I understand it is the nature of the medium but that doesn’t help when you feel like you just threw money out the window.  If they could cut my price and give a good digital option, then I would run back to reading on a weekly basis, still being willing to pick up a new book, and stick with the downturns that are inevitable. 

  43. JasonB35 JasonB35 says:

    I would also still buy trades of what I really liked because I am still addicted to paper.

  44. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Ok, but there is a price on these books, and some cost more than another.  If we can’t put a price on aesthetic quality, that means the price is based on raw materials.  I agree that indie books need a higher price to cover the overhead, but as a consumer and as an artist, I resent the idea that some books are treated with different materials and given a higher price point.  It’s all a sad reality though, and I don’t know that it’s possible to find any kind of artistic or financial justice.  And you’re going to run into that with any mix of art and commerce, but maybe especially in this medium, where the market is so small, and the frequency of creation is so insane.  

  45. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    Digital issues but retaining the printed trade program. I dig that idea.

  46. drakedangerz drakedangerz says:

    I already switched to trades for Fables and Ex Machina.  I will most likely be doing what Conor suggested and switch to trades for another number of comics, as well as dropping some other comics.  Its sad really that I have to do that.  I understand the rising cost to the publishers, but it still hurts.  Its not like they are not making money with the $2.99 price tag right?  Anyways, good article Conor.

  47. Eyun Eyun says:

    Superb article, Conor, really informative and helpful.

    I seem to be on the same page as most people here. 2.99 is fine, 3.99 would be a stretch and some titles would have to go… 4.99 and I’m saying goodbye to issues.

    It’s a shame, as when I got back into comics a few years back, I only read trades. I was playing catch-up and getting back into the world by buying trades of books people (mostly iFanboy) would suggest. And I loved it.

    Then as I got more involved I switched to issues, more and more, and loved that too. It’s fantastic to be able to read the same books as people every week then come here and chat about them. In fact, I get very few trades these days as I enjoy getting issues that much (even though, strangely, I agree with some that I still prefer trades as a reading experience in one go).

    If I have to drop some issues, then I’ll have to, but I sure will miss being able to talk about some of them every week.

  48. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I think the digital thing is all a matter of the hardware catching up to the software.  PDFs are fine, but we need a screen of the right clarity and scale to service a mobile, wireless lifestyle.  It’s inevitable.  It’s just not here yet.  And we’re just groaning at the technological gap.  It’s almost absurd that this hasn’t happened yet.  

  49. zakcaldwell zakcaldwell says:

    i have been thinking about going to all trades for a long time now.  the things that hold me back are the fact that i would always be at least six months behind everyone else on story.  and that ups the risk of getting things spoiled for me.  i would have to stop listening to this podcast, which would suck.  another thing is that i have been collecting spider-man for at least 230 issues straight.  i have a huge run.  it would be hard for me to just stop buying those.  even when i hated it (first 4 months of bnd) i still felt like i had to buy them.  The price jump sucks.  It is hard to justify to my wife why i spend so much money on like maybe 3-4 hours worth of enjoyment a month.  Amazon sells trades for so cheap now and you can get huge discounts on comics through sites like mailordercomics.  But then that leaves no money going into my lcs.  i feel like i am cheating on my lcs if i go the internet route.  i have to go sit down now.  i have a lot of life decisions to make. 

  50. brianwood says:

    "If we can’t put a price on aesthetic quality, that means the price is based on raw materials."

     

    It was too tedious to try and reply to you via twitter, so here we go.  No offense, but the above is insane.  I don’t believe you think a comic’s worth is based only on type of paper and how many dots of ink per page.  The thing is, YOU CAN put a price on aesthetic quality, its just that its can’t be a blanket worth that applies to everyone.  Comic Book X might be worth $4 to one person, but to another it might not even be worth 4 cents.  That’s what it comes down to.  If comics start to cost more than what it’s worth to you, then stop buying it, right?  No guilt, no pressure.  No one, no creator or publisher or retailer can rationally expect more. 

    Reducing this decision to pennies per page or comparing this book to that book and trying to suss out which gives you more molecules of printer matter for your buck is not how people should treat any form of entertainment.  Go with what gives you pleasure and the chips will fall where they may.  The market will adjust and correct and, most importantly, you get what makes you happy.

     -brian wood

     

     

     

     

     

  51. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    Okay.  But the problem in your logic is thus Paul Montgomery: The article is about the decision we’re going to be forced to make as consumers when the prices rise.  Maybe it’s just me but I don’t make a cost analysis diagram when I decide whether I want to spend my money to buy the latest issue of detective instead of going to a movie.  It’s not economics it’s psychology.

    Now you want to flip sides and get in the big wigs heads.  That’s another story.  And it has very little to do with the cost of paper (I still don’t really get your raw materials point).  Is it really so suprising that Marvel is the one throwing out the 3.99 for specials and popular books?  The same company that I’ve seen with real life frickin ads in non-comic spheres?  The same company taking their movie franchises by the balls?  The same company pumping tons into their website and digital market?  Come on.  They’re a fucking business and I’m happy to let them be.  We need a little more business sense infused into this ass backwards medium.  Hell. I’ve just ranted my way into changing my entire take on the matter. 

    Official declaration: If it takes four dollars to get this industry healthy. I’m in.

  52. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @brianwood – Thanks for responding.  I freely admit that I don’t know all the facts.  I’m just asking questions and offering my thoughts in order to understand the situation.    

    As for the quote, I was only talking about cost and not personal value.  I’m saying that if we can’t all collectively agree on a value which would then be translated to price, the pricing of a comic has to be based on the materials or maybe the bankability of the creative team or prominence of the story line.  Which is silly. If that’s not how it works, I don’t know how the company decides what number figure to print on a given book. It sucks and it has nothing to do with how much I enjoy a book, but in a scenario where we’re paying for art, yeah, the reality is that we start noticing disparity between two books that are priced differently.  There has to be some objective difference. 

    I just want to stress that I never meant any disrespect for creators and that I understand there’s no winning here.  I’m just trying to understand how the economics work.  So I’m asking questions.  I want writers and artists to get as much out of this as they can, but I also have to balance this with my frustrations as a consumer.  I think that’s fair.   

  53. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    "or maybe the bankability of the creative team or prominence of the story line"

    …That’s exactly what it is.

  54. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Okay, am I off the hook now?  

  55. I just think, if we all went to more of the trade route or just the industry going all publishing through trades make little to no sense.

    How much are you really saving with HC or trade? Again the Heart of Hush arc on Dectective Comics is 17.07 all together plus tax. There is no way DC will price that trade under $16 dollars. On amazon.com the HC for Heart of Hush will be 14.48 all together. Wow! A $2.59 savings! I can get a crunchwrap at Taco Bell! lol

    In all seriousness if that is the case for most HC’s or TPB’s….then the savings wont matter if the industry goes all out on trades. If they stayed the same price, and like conor picks up like 10 trades in one month (using him cause the Itrinity gets a crap load of issues each week) then he saves a total of $25.90. Now that sounds really good savings there, maybe enough for another Trade. But I’m just using the example of the Detective Comic HC for the price. God knows how Marvel, DC, and even Indie publishers will rack up the prices if they go all out on trades.

  56. cormano cormano says:

    Comics were $1.25 when I first started buying them, they went to $1.50 pretty soon.  Then they were breifly $1.75 before going to $1.99.  The stayed at that price for a long time, then went to $2.50 and then $2.99.

    I understand that the prices are going to go up, but a full one dollar jump seems harsh.  I’m ready for digital, though, not only for a decrease in price, but also to get the clutter out of my bedroom.

  57. Camden says:

    I do not buy a comic for $3.99 unless it has more pages. I am voting with my money. That’s a step that all of us can take right now. (I also buy all my comics from Heavy Ink. So, a $3.99 book only costs $3.19 with no tax and no shipping costs)

  58. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    @Camden – ditto & I have no idea how they’re staying in business.

  59. brianwood says:

    "I’m saying that if we can’t all collectively agree on a value which would then be translated to price, the pricing of a comic has to be based on the materials or maybe the bankability of the creative team or prominence of the story line."

     

    By "we" you don’t seem to be referring to readers, right?  Trying to understand your point here.  This sentence SEEMS to be referring to publishers, who are the only ones involved in pricing comics.  I’m not sure there is any point in readers, or even creators, trying to insert themselves into that decision-making process.

    If you are using "we" to mean "publishers", than yeah, materials is certainly a consideration.  One of a thousand, I’m sure, that goes into the price of comics and if this proposal is accepted and what format to put this story into, etc etc.  But I am only slightly more privy to that decision-making process than you are, and really, none of us really has any accurate insight.

    One thing I can say is: If comics go up fifty cents or a dollar, its not like we (creators) are seeing an increase in our income.  No one is getting rich of a price increase.  Publishers know a price increase = people dropping books, and no one likes that reality.  Price increases, very generally speaking, happen when costs rise… paper costs (which are always rising), fuel, printer costs, stuff like that.  

    Some indie companies do what you said before: have better production values on books that cost the same as Big Two books, which I admit can make the Big Two look bad in comparison.  But indie books don’t pay page rates, and that extra money spent is a decision freely made where they acknowledge they will make less money.  They choose art over income, like we all did with the LOCAL hardcover.  Who knows when I’ll see a dime off that book… it has to pay for its print bill first.  The Big Two, shareholder companies, don’t have that luxury.  They have corporate responsibilities to not hemorrhage money if they can help it.  :)  

    As a purchaser of comics myself, its annoying, yeah, to pay more for the same thing, but I only spend money on comics that I actually really WANT, so my decision is pretty simple:  do I like them?  Do I still want them?  Will I pay what they cost?  If yes, then yes.  

    -bw

  60. WadeWilson WadeWilson says:

    This article comes at a weird time for me because just this week I am thinking of making the switch to all trades, after 20 years of collecting comics. I have no beef with paying $3.99 for a comic that has 40 pages of story, but $3.99 for a regular 22 page issue, seems like a rip-off to me & I won’t be paying that.

    It’s a tough choice to make to switch to all trades, because like some have already said, I love going to the LCS every week & picking up the new shit, & then talking about it. It’s strictly a money decision for me, as I really love the "floppy" format. I enjoy reading trades too, but for me — 22 pages of story is perfect, as I have a very short attention span & love to be reading 20 different stories at once, so I don’t get bored.

    But, yeah … to the main question of the article: "how much is too much for 22 pages of story?" — my answer would be $3.99. Like Conor said, it’s already happening – 6 out of the 13 books I wanna buy this week are $3.99. So, starting this week, I have to try to make some cut backs & try to do something I hate the sound of — wait for trades!

    I’m a little worried about it though, as mainly a DC reader, I’m pretty sure it will be easy to buy collections of things like New Krypton, but books like GL Corps (which I love), I don’t even know if they are all released in trades? 

  61. bean6344 bean6344 says:

    If you have an iphone or ipod touch, you may want to check out the iverse app at itunes.  You can get a free download of Proof #1.  They have reformatted the book in a way that works better(for me) than .pdf or the marvel online books.  They currently don’t have a huge solection of comics to purchase, but the $.99 pricepoint seems like an excellent alternative for those of us looking to have less clutter. 

  62. chlop chlop says:

    Now is the time to clear thpse longboxes. Go around and shout "cheap comics only a dollar" or go to a store and bring a longbox with you and rent them to people – you can pay the comic shop owner for the space, and all the geeks will line up like that scene in Sixteen Candles where the kids lined up to get a glimpse of women’s underwear.

    Indy creators will sketch on-site and use a xerox machine in the shop and sell the products to the people in line, shouting " a xerox for a nickle"

     

    It’s like golbal warming – you need to look on the bright side. Once the ice melts, Africa will get water and the whole planet will cool down.

    An indy stockmarket will be built where people will show those indy xerox  creations to each other and sell them and the speculation will come back, and people will buy those like rookie cards betting on which indy guy will get a trade in Marvel or DC now that paper is a costly commodity. 

    There is ample opportunity for creators if you just look to the future. 

    Also DC is covered for a while – shaving a millimeter on each TP’s cover helped a lot. 

  63. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    @Paulmontgomery since you abandoned your nonsensical argument for a sensical one?  Yes.  Indeed.

    Out of curiosity.  Who has played with Marvel’s site for digital comics?

    I’m also curious on people’s opinions of the death of LCS that digital/trade programs will cause, but I think that might be an issue for another day.

  64. What about the most difficult thing that could happen if comics are too expensive?

    Ifanboy and other comic related sites.

    How will I be able to enjoy ranting or raving on comics and the like when I have to wait now months for trades to come out. Conor and Josh have already said it, they will gladly go to trade if it wasnt for this site. I cant imagine this site or others lasting if we go into a trade type of mentality or if the companies decide to go that route. Just looking out for the little guys…..

  65. cormano cormano says:

    Marvel’s DCU (still funny that it’s called that) misses on several levels for me.  You can’t keep the comics on your hard drive, new comics are released when the hard copies are and I just don’t like their little zoom thing, give me the full page and let me zoom how I want, just like I would with a physical comic.

    The montly subscription model is cool for old stuff, but until I can get the latest issue of New Avengers on my hard drive with all the other issues, it’s not worth it for me.  Instead of being "unlimited," charge per issue, either $.99 each or $15 a month for 15 comic downloads or whatever price it would be… that’s what I want.

    The unlimited aspect doesn’t work with my OCD, I will read two pages of every issue available.  If I’m paying per issue, I’ll only get the stuff I actually want to read.  Wait, what were we talking about?  

     

  66. stuclach stuclach says:

    The inflation rate between 1997 and 2007 was roughly 28% (based on the Consumer Price Index which you can get at http://www.bls.gov/cpi) meaning that if a book cost $2.99 in 1997 and prices rose at the rate of inflation the price in 2007 would be $3.85.  If you let it rise for the additional year (2008) it hits $3.99.  Sounds to me like comic book prices are rising at the same rate (approximately) as everything else (including wages), so they are not getting any more expensive relative to everything else.

    I would also like to point out that exclusive contracts are expensive.  I don’t know if it has always been this way, but it seems as if every writer and/or artist is signing an exclusive contract these days.  In order to get an individual artist/writer to give up the opportunity to work with other companies for X number of years you MUST pay them more.  The incentive has to be strong enough to get them to commit.  As the demand for the time of comic book writers has risen (due to the popularity of Lost, Heroes, a number of movies) the cost of getting them to work exclusively for you has gone up.

    You can trust me.  I am an economist.  Seriously: http://hercules.gcsu.edu/~cclark/ <-That’s me. 

  67. zakcaldwell zakcaldwell says:

    i cant read comics off of my computer.  i just cant.  it is not the same.  i cant keep it and take it with me on camping trips.  i cant loan it out to my friends, i cant sell it if i ever get strapped for cash, i cant hang it on my wall if it has a beutiful cover.  i say no to digital in 08′

  68. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    I believe the exclusive guys get health care as well, and that shit ain’t cheap.

    Yeah, I don’t think the publishers are being greedy, as stuchlach points out.  It just blows for everyone.

  69. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Good morning, Conor.  When you get to this.  I wish I could hand you a waffle or a stiff drink.  

  70. Diabhol Diabhol says:

    I think I’d strongly consider going all-trade right now if it weren’t for this podcast, though I’d be happier with a digital/iTunes model for weeklies.

    How much is too much? I don’t even know. I could suck up $3.99 (I’ve mostly stopped buying mini-series anyway), but $4.99 is out of the question. I see $4.99 as a regular price and I will flat-out pirate everything I feel like reading and send three dollar checks directly to the creators. :)

     

     

  71. cormano cormano says:

    @staclach but comics weren’t $2.99 in 1997, they were $1.99.  It was around 2003 when they went to $2.99.

  72. zakcaldwell zakcaldwell says:

    for a while they were only 2.50 though wernt they

     

  73. cormano cormano says:

    Also, about healthcare, Mike Norton mentioned in a recent Crankcast that he buys his own healthcare because the plan that DC offers him is not very good.

    And if you need evidence that we know way too much about the goings on behind the scenes in the comics industry, this post is that evidence.

  74. Mike Romo mikeromo (@rikemomo) says:

    great article, Conor–I had always been scared to even attempt to figure out what the dollar to page ratio is…it’s quite astounding, really, how much these books are costing, and how ill prepared we are to absorb the new costs. I definitely feel like we are at some kind of crossroads–I wonder when if we’ll see less popular titles going to an all-trade format or just dropped all together…

    great discussion, as usual–very timely article, Conor.

  75. cormano cormano says:

    I just checked… it wasn’t until 2006 that Marvel raised the prices of their biggest books (Ult. Spider-Man, New Avengers, etc.) to $2.99.  Now, lower selling comics had been $2.99 for a three or so years before that, but the idea that comics have been $2.99 a really long time is not true.

  76. zakcaldwell zakcaldwell says:

    thats what i though.  i was certian that spider-man and new avengers were 2.50 until right before civil war

  77. stuclach stuclach says:

    @cormano -  I have no idea when comics went to $2.99 (I just pick 97 because Conor mentioned "many years now")

    If you assume prices were $2.00 (or $2.50) in 1997 then the price in 2007 should be $2.56 (or $3.20).  If they were $2.00 in 97 then, yes, we can say that the price of comic books have outstriped inflation rates for other goods, but if they were $2.50 in 1997 then you can say that getting books for $2.99 is actually below the inflation adjusted price.  Regardless, if the price was "around" 2.25, then $2.99 is about right and $3.99 is a bit high relative to other goods in the economy, probably due the increased production costs (material and talent based) that many of you have mentioned above.

    @josh – I wasn’t trying to say publishers are/aren’t being greedy.  Every company/person on the planet is inherently greedy (the level of greed may vary, but that isn’t really a discusion for this setting).  I also think Diamond, the big ass monopoly, has played a big role.  I just wanted to point out that the cost of the talent has risen pretty rapidly in recent years (for good reasons).

  78. s1lentslayer s1lentslayer says:

    Shouldn’t the volume to cost ratio be similar?  A small Indie book should be 4.99 and a big publisher should be 2.99.  That doesn’t seem to be the case though. Are the Indies shorting themselves to be competitive or have the publishers gotten too big and need to trim some fat?

  79. drakedangerz drakedangerz says:

    what if they started creating portable electronic readers for comics?  Like an ipod, but somewhat bigger.  That way you could take it camping, as someone stated earlier.  Would that make it easier for people to get into digital monthlys and start picking up trades?  I’m not saying thats the answer, or I agree with it, just throwing it out there.  A few years back I wouldn’t have dreamed of buying a song online. "What?!?!!  I don’t get a cd with this?!?!  What if my computer crashes?  Then I lose all my music.  Bull!!!"  But now look at us; downloading full length cds and DLC for our videogames.  Never know what we will be moving too in a few years I suppose

  80. Camden says:

    Marvel and DC do not set the price you pay for their product unless you have a subscription with Marvel. We all realize that, right? So, does anyone know how much the companies actually charge for their product?

  81. iSteve iSteve says:

    This price increase has me thinking about the history of the cost of comics.  From the 1930s-1950s, they remained a dime.  The 1960s saw a 2 cent increase to $.12.  Then in the 1970s, the decade of stagflation and recession, prices really rose – $.15, then $.20, $.25, $.35, $.40, and eventually $.50. 

    Though I would hate to pay $3.99 a comic, I think Stuclach has a point. The price of comics needs to keep up with it’s real costs and inflationary expences.

    That said, I just altered my subscription pull list at my LCS to NOT include either one-shots or number #1s.  I didn’t it because I was getting a lot of comics I didn’t really care for, and two, it helps to cut down on the number of $3.99 and $4.99 comics – not altogether, but enough.  I will still get the occasional #1s and one-shots when they interest me, but I just won’t get the 10% discount of my subscription.  Next comes trimming my pull-list.  I don’t look forward to letting go of a number of books, but I, too, have a budget and want to live within it.  Albeit my budget is probably larger than most iFanboys, but comics are my one true hobby and enjoyment.  I don’t spend much on any other form of entertainment.

  82. deadspace deadspace says:

    thank god for itsbecca and brianwood for bringing sense into this discussion.

  83. jmstump jmstump says:

    My wallet weeps…

  84. I am not sure if anybody has mentioned this before but I, for one, would not be against going back to the lesser paper stock.  I read a couple issues of The kids Shazam book by Mike Kunkel, and was not appalled by the quality.  If that means keeping lower costs, I’d be all for it.  Otherwise it is going to be a smaller pull list and more trades and library searches.

  85. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    I could use a little less of this talk of sense and nonsense.

    Here’s a "death of the industry" issue not really addressed in the midst of all this: new readers. If you are someone who once paid $2.50 or $1.75 for a comic, you have seen the price gradually notch up and decided how hard you will swallow when it goes up again. What if you had never bought a comic before in your life? What are the odds that you’d pay $4 for your first one and get hooked?

  86. brianwood says:

    re: added costs of exclusives and health insurance:

    Giving a creator an exclusive does mean the publisher spends more.  That creator then creates more for the publisher as a requirement, thereby supposedly making up for it.  And the health insurance we (exclusive creators) get is the same plan as everyone else in the company, and probably only means a tiny increase across the board.  If DC employs 200 people (random number) who all get insurance, and then 20 creators (also random) are added on, what’s the increase overall?  Spread out over those 20 people?  Probably barely worth considering.

     

    bw

     

  87. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    @deadspace Sense over cents!

  88. Following on the people who’ve asked about Dot.Comics over at Marvel, I’ve investigated the possibility of going that route exclusively, although for different reasons than price (read: storage space). The selection was small, but that could be remedied — the reading experience was fine, however. The layout of Dot.Comics is innovative and easy to follow, having read Silver Surfer #1 by Lee and Buscema in rich, digital color. The only hesitation I have is over the selection of monthly titles (No Secret Invasion, for starters).

    Publishers should WANT us all to go this route, to eliminate their printing and shipping costs entirely. Win-win!

  89. jmstump jmstump says:

    Jimski brings up a good point.  I started reading when it was 1.00 or 1.25 if I remember correctly and I’ve endured.  Starting at 4 bucks a pop would have probably deterred my parents from buying me comics as a kid.  I do think it will be sad to see less parents get their kids a comic every so often… although this porbably happens a lot less since comics usually aren’t in grocery stores anymore.

  90. J4K3 J4K3 says:

    @conor – Over $40 a week? Damn. I’m lucky to pull off $40 a month.

  91. electricyoda electricyoda says:

    I don’t even buy single issues. I tried to at one point but the cost and the time it takes (and the frustration of missing one issue in a run) drove me nuts. I just don’t have that kind of time to track down and pay for stories.

    I buy Trades because they’re much more satisfying. I can read a run in a night or two and it’s affordable. I don’t even think I would read comics if the trades didn’t exist.

    It can be frustrating to wait a few months or a year for a trade but it’s just a matter of being 6 months or a year behind what’s "new". I’ve trained myself to not get caught up in "hype" and advertising where I have to have all the new stuff. I love reading old books that have been around for a hundred years and are always available… I’ve kind of done the same with comic trades. If it’s still around and in print the chances are it’s important and good. It’s the new stuff that doesn’t last long. I prefer trades.

    I really think iFanboy should focus more on trades than monthlies because eventually the monthly books will only be read by the hardcore enthusiast who’s budget can afford the $4 and $5 books. Also, I should mention that there are so many other forms of entertainment that have gotten cheaper while comics get more expensive. Movie rentals are a buck or two through Netflix, the internet has thousands of podcasts, Magazine subscriptions are dirt cheap these days, TV is now in High Def over the air, Twitter, I.M., Library books, Newspapers, Books, etc… all compete for our dollar… you’ve got to be real hardcore to be paying $4 for 22 pages…

    Also, keep in mind that Trades (most of the popular ones) are usually available at the library now… and comics aren’t.

  92. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    @ jimski – excellent point. This really could become a death knell issues if not properly addressed. I was wondering the possibility if the Big 2 could look at expanding their markets as opposed to shrinking them buy cutting costs – killing the glossy paper, going exclusively online before trade-collections. That’s kind of what I was getting at earlier – comics are hardly cheap entertainment now, but if they were fine tuned to be such and really pushed as "an enjoyable way to pass the time" maybe you could see market holding steady, if not expanding? 

    Also – it’s a bummer that comics are like gallons of gas. Once a price-hike goes through, has it ever gone down later then costs rescind? 

  93. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    @jimski I have no idea. Does someone want to go ask them? What does a magazine run these days? I know a fair amount of people who walk in here everyday with their $3.70 Grande Carmel Macchiato everyday (23 cents an ounce!) instead of drinking the break room coffee. Spend 12 dollars on movies (10 cents per minute for 2hr feature!)? Go to Barnes & Noble instead of the library? Those little bags of 10 trading cards, pokemon/yu gi oh/whatever are 5 dollars (50 cents per card).  Seems silly for people with no data to throw around vague notions…

  94. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    Although, as long as we’re throwing it out I would say trades are infinitely more accessible to new readers.  In my experience, when you’re getting to issues you’ve already got a bit of the bug.

  95. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    I know you didn’t just start on Conor by being anti-quantifying/data and then start on me by being anti-vague notions. Someone has your password, right?

  96. delphan says:

    For me, living in Australia, a $2.99 book is $6.60 and a $3.99 book is $8.80 at my LCS.  For this reason, $3.99 books are out of the question and I now order books based as much on price as anything else.  I look at the cover price of a book before anything else.  If all books went $3.99, my comic book days would be over.

    I imagine a lot of non-North American readers are making similar decisions. 

  97. drakedangerz drakedangerz says:

    @electricyoda-Actually, a large number of the librarys in the SF Bay Area carry not only a butt load of trades, but a pretty big selection of single issues.  And saying iFanboy should focus on trades is just insane.  Regardless of what ends up becoming the most popular way to read comics, single issues is the way the business works.  You can’t keep up and have an informed website if you don’t talk about single issues more than the trades.  And besides, with the video shows and books of the month, iFanboy does plenty to get people interested in trades.  More so than other websites.

    @itsbecca-Are you ragging on gormet coffee??!?!?!  But how will I survive without my orange mocha frappacino!?!?!?!  Whats next, you going to tell me I should stop paying an extra $10 for my "free range" chicken??  :-P

  98. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    @itsbecca If we want to look at Starbucks as correllated between comics; Starbucks profits dropped 97% for the 4th quarter. They’ve also cut 1000 positions this year alone. Topps closed Wizzkids of Heroclix fame a couple of days ago (I’ve not seen any recent numbers about Pokemon or whatever the kids are playing nowadays so Heroclixx is the closest that came to mind) and while comic movies (ironically) really helped push the entertainment industry into record profits this summer, the industry has been on a steady decline for years.

    I’d also suggest the difference (and danger to comics) is that those industries have a broader appeal because they have a lower price-point at the entry levels. Very few people will say that a $3.70 Grande at Starbucks is their first cup of coffee (that will change I’m sure), just as kids have already watched movies on the Disney channel before they even step foot in a movie theater (the Pokemon cards is the exception, but those are bought by indulgent parents and most mainstream comic books haven’t been for kids in years). Perhaps comics’ low-cost entry point is the Single Issue because what’s $4 a month? It’s a cheaper habit even then a daily (or even weekly) trip to Starbucks so maybe in that (and espcially if prices everywhere rise), comics have a foot in the door. I’m not entirely convinced though.

    I dunno, it’s just an interesting problem to ponder.

  99. zakcaldwell zakcaldwell says:

    i would be willing to pay less for a book that has a lower quality paper stock.  that would bring the price down.  they could still use good paper in the trades.  i dont know a lot of people that buy the comics for the paper quality.  am i wrong?

  100. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    @jimski touche.  Although…

      I guess the distinction in my head is as such:  I can pontificate about my art appreciation till the giant dog horses come home, because that’s me.  I know what I like and I know the value things have to me.  But I haven’t had the mind of a non-comic reader for a long time.  I can’t even ask my friends, because they already have me as an entry point so there’s not that alienating factor.

  101. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    I know one guy who was vehemently opposed to downgrading the paperstock. He still bought Scalped vol. 1 though.

  102. stuclach stuclach says:

    @ottobott-Yes, gasoline is only $2.00 a gallon in Georga now.  That is a 50% drop from $4 this summer.  That is refered to as deflation and can be as much of a problem as inflation (if unexpected. It is essentially like saying all your debt is relatively higher than it was before).

    @brianwood – I was not trying to imply that creaters are to "blame".  I think they generally deserve what they get paid and those that signed exclusived a few years ago are probably being underpaid now.  However, exclusives probably do drive up the price a bit and the fact that their increased production is meant to offset that may require that the value of their increased production (i.e. the price of the product) must rise.  For your health insurance example: if you have 200 employees and you hire 20 new exclusives with health insurance, the company’s bill will probably rise 10% just as the number of people on the plan rose 10% (barring any increase in group discount due to quantity).  If that occurs and output doesn’t actually increase significantly then prices must increase to offset increased cost.  I don’t mean to imply that insurance is a bad idea or that creators don’t deserve what they get paid.  I am simply trying to address the (very good) points that some of you are bringing up.

  103. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    @stuclach – But have comics have ever come down in price is what I was asking. I’ve only heard of them going up.

  104. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    Yes, in the early 70′s, Carmine Infantino raised prices at DC from .15 to .25.  Sales plummeted, and they were lowered to .20.

    The failure of Kirby’s work at DC is largely blamed on this move.

  105. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    Wait, I got that a bit wrong.  DC kept their price at .25, a huge jump from .15.  Marvel briefly matched them at .25, and then MARVEL dropped its prices to .20.

  106. esophagus esophagus says:

    I’d just like to point out the Canadian difference in price between Marvel and DC. I’ll admit, Marvel is narrowing the gap (I think we used to pay $1 more) but still. I’m glad I don’t really read Marvel.

  107. I really need to start cutting out some singles.  Shame, since most of are my books are image/vertigo titles that need the support.

  108. brianwood says:

    @stuclach – I know you weren’t, but I still disagree that exclusives force the cover price of comics up.  There is just zero proof of that, or even any casual indication of that, directly or indirectly.. and it just doesn’t make sense in any case.  I actually doubt the companies would offer exclusives if so.  And re: the health insurance, I mean, who the fuck knows… not you or me, and I was just using random numbers as an example.

    Everything I have heard or been told over the years says higher production costs cause higher cover prices, period.  But like I said, neither of us knows for sure.

     

  109. @josh: Now you made me upset; comics were 25 cents at one point? *sob*

  110. UncleBob UncleBob says:

    To save money, I have to go the my LCS twice a week.  The first time spending hopefully no more than $20.  Then if there is any money left over from going out with my girlfriend, then it’s back to spend whatever the remainder is.

    Also, I am acutely aware that while I enjoy comics and the experience immensely, it is a very short thrill, 10-20minutes per issue.

    Comics in college from 89-95, superman titles were only $75.  If it keeps going to the 3.99 jump, then I would assume that today’s 3.99s would be 4.99.  No question, I couldn’t make the jump.

    Amazon trades are ALWAYS a good deal, if you can deal with the guilt of not supporting your LCS.

  111. stuclach stuclach says:

    @brianwood – I am sorry if I upset you.  That wasn’t my intention.  You are correct that I don’t know exactly what happens, I am just speaking based on experience looking at what happens in other markets when similar events occur.  Sports teams offer good examples.  When free agency took off and contracts grew (specifically guaranteed contracts) so did prices.  I believe the reason DC or Marvel would still sign exclusive contracts if they cause cost to rise is to stay competitive in the marketplace (just like baseball, for instance).  For example, they could hire me to write their books and get me pretty cheap, but they would not sell a single book (because I suck), but if they hire Grant Morrison (or Brian Wood) to do a book it will sell.  The price gets bid up for talent because the market demands it.  Prices of books may then need to be raised to cover the cost (just like ticket prices).

    Again, sorry if I irritated you, I was just trying to contribute my meager bit of knowledge to the discussion.  I think we agree generally that other things are probably contributing mightily.

    Keep up the good work on DMZ.  Kick ass work.

  112. @stuchlach: Nice save by mentioning Wood in the same vein as Morrison ;)

    But yeah, I seriously doubt guys like Morrison or Bendis is happy their titles are going up in prices. It’ll make people stop picking these issues and how on earth will they get jobs in the long run when they get too expensive?

  113. stuclach stuclach says:

    @TheNextChampion – I don’t think Morrison or Bendis need to worry about finding work (like ARod or Lebron, if we follow the sports example above).  I am much more concerned about the less bankable writers who are trying to break in or are just getting their feet under them.  They may be in trouble if DC/Marvel has to cut some books if quantity drops as a result of the price increase.

    Regardless these publishers would not raise their prices if they didn’t feel the increased price per unt would more than offset the decreased quantity people will purchase.  They are doing this because they feel total revenue (simply price multiplied by quantity) will increase.  In other words, if the averge price rises from $3 to $4 (a 33% increase) and their sells (total) drop from 1,000,000 units to 800,000 units (a 20% decrease), total revenue would increase from $3 mil to $3.2mil.  If they think this is going to work they are assuming demand for comic books is inelastic.  Addictive goods (like cigarettes and gasoline) typically have very inelastic demand, so revenue rises when price rises.  I will leave it to the readers on this site to decide if they think comic books are addictive.

  114. …..Must pick up Hulk: Visionaries vol. 4…..Must pick up….

    Huh? What? Oh stuchlach, I dont see how comics are addictive :)

    (Considering I joined this site to discuss and review comics on a daily basis, I would image most people here say comics books are addictive)

  115. chlop chlop says:

    Just follow ron and read behind his shoulder in the train

  116. Neb Neb says:

    It’s now 6:15 pm.  My first post was at 9:30 am.  I got on, thinking, "Hey, I’ll check Conor’s thing to see what people thought.  Maybe like 20 more posts are there…"  

    This is…this is just…flippin’ crazy. :)  

  117. SixGun SixGun says:

    I’m with Paper, Conor, and whoever else shares this opinion that I didn’t see, I wish I could go all trades, but I enjoy listeing to the podcast too much to make that switch.

  118. Dude says:

    I WISH MY COMICS WERE $3.99

    I’m in Australia and when our dollar was around 90 cents american my comic store guy dropped the price of your $2.99 issues to $6 which was great but now our dollar has dropped to around 64 cents it wont be long till I am paying $7 or more .Trades were a good option when we had a good exchange rate but with a big order i was adding on a massive shipping cost and I can’t even imagine how much it would cost me to go to a convention.

    I understand everybodys pain but you guys have got it bloody good and you dont realise it.If the quality is there I am happy to pay whatever they need to charge to put them out.

     

  119. jmstump jmstump says:

    @Sixgun I would really hope if we made the switch to trades something would still come out every week, although porbably no where near the amount of content we get now, but still enough for iFanboy to put out shows.  I mean a handful of trades come out every week now, granted they are reprints of older stuff.

  120. k5blazer k5blazer says:

    @stuclach – Following up on your premise of economics and the exclusiove contract, is it possible that the rise of Image Comics and their higher page rates, which led other publishers to follow suit, is a contributing factor to the increase in price?  Not to imply that the talent doesn’t deserve to make a living at all, but should their page rate be in relation to their sales?  Not knowing how the talent is paid, but does someone not named Morrison, or Bendis or Johns, get the same rate as they do? If not then shouldn’t that book be priced in relation to the talent on the book?

    Just a thought

  121. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    You pay the same ticket price to see a $250 million dollar 3 hour movie as you do a 1 million dollar 90 minute movie don’t you?

  122. SCOOTMAN SCOOTMAN says:

    as much as i hate for comic prices to go up, i hope it won’t affect me as much as i don’t really buy that many monthly issues. it’s not the cost, it’s that i know what comics i want and don’t try other comics. i’ve been getting trades for stuff i do miss which i believe Marvel is better at doing than DC

  123. k5blazer k5blazer says:

    @josh- Yeah, but the $250 million film made money though, my thought was since prices are rapidly increasing, by paying a person based on their book’s performances that could help keep prices down? And for movies, they have just about priced themselves out to a point that sirect to video may become a real option instead of the place Jessica Simpson movies go to die, and tha has led to rampant pracy of films still in theaters.  But if this steady increase continues, many will leave the hobby based on economic demands, that will lead to new books not being created, and that will lead to no development of new talent.  That would suck.  I am not entirely sure, but didn’t DC stop doing comics for a time after the 40′s? Wasn’t there a blank period after the Golden Age books and before Showcase with the Flash?

  124. Very good and interesting article conor.

    I think monthly comics and the mainstream comics industry could survive a move to a somewhat all trade format.

    What Marvel and DC need to do is take a page from our friends to the east and produce a monthly "Shonen Jump" style comic. DC could publish one 96 or 128 page Superman comic, including ads, on thin pulpy paper at a price of say 8.99 or 9.99 and have what amounts to three or four superman books in the new "Jump" style comic. they’d be the same type of stories we get now, one separate ongoing story written by Johns and one separate ongoing story written by Robinson and one separate ongoing story written by whoever, except they’d all be featured in the same book. And in six or so months there’d be a nice trio of Superman trade paper backs, with no ads, high quality paper and extras(sketches, commentary,ect) at a normal trade price. Same goes for Marvel with books like the Avengers or X-men.

    And I wish I got all my news from a dude galloping on a horse, while ringing a bell. :)

  125. esophagus esophagus says:

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but if comics went to a lower grade of paper I would probably read a lot less of them.

  126. jawshoowah jawshoowah says:

    I think what this may do is help ween people off of the bizarre OCDness that is often associated with our hobby of choice.  This may finally get people to stop buying certain titles that they normally would buy(whether because they are a completionist or just cause they get that little fanboy itch to own it) that don’t measure up qualitywise (writing, art,inking,etc) to other books that are out there of a higher standard. 

    A common ralying cry shouted by the internet masses in regards to poor comic books is to "vote with your wallet" but this often never happens because burried deep within the DNA of fanboys is the "buy-chromosome" that doesn’t take quality into account.  By raising costs, this could finally force us to look at our purchases and decide what we really want, what we really will be entertained by…and what we are buying just to buy it. 

    Hopefully this ends up with books of high quality in all facets becoming the money makers and other titles either withering up and dying or improving to the point that it is worth the money to buy them.  And just so everyone understands, by quality i’m not talking about the paper quality or a big name writer, just that feeling that you get now and then from a comic when you put it down and think "Wow, that was really good."  There are too many good books out there right now for anyone to spend that precious coin on something they will regret before they even read it, you know…that book in your stack that you treat as the vegatables you have to get through before you get to the ice cream of something like Brubaker’s Cap.  

    And now that I have completely digressed into nonsensical dinner analogies, I would like to say that I think it is really cool that Brian Wood has commented on this topic as much as he has, another reason why I love comics.

  127. jawshoowah jawshoowah says:

    Oh, and nice article.

  128. chlop chlop says:

    Yes. That rain forest preservation is a bitch.

  129. stuclach stuclach says:

    @k5blazer – I am not sure I understand your question completely because I don’t know how Image sets up their contracts, but I will try to respond.

    I don’t know if writers/artists contracts are structured such that their pay is based on book sales.  They may be, but generally creators don’t like to do that simply because their may be great variation in their salary.  If I am a writer and my artist doesn’t get his work done on time and the book doesn’t come out in December, but slips to January, I won’t get a paycheck for December.  Often companies don’t want to use performance based contracts because the risk it entails for the worker requires some type of compensation (just like how a risky bond [aka junk bond] requires a higher interest rate to attract investors).

    Performance based contracts in many setting improve quality, but the workers (especially in a group production setting) often are opposed to them and firms are often hesitant to push for them.

  130. stuclach stuclach says:

    @josh – Interesting analogy with the movie example.  Would you (or the average person in society) be willing to pay an extra $3 (over standard ticket prices) to see the new Batman movie?  Would you (or the average person in society) be more likely to go see the $1 mil movie if the ticket price were only $3?  I would argue that the price of the ticket should be directly related to the quality of the product. 

  131. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    And do you have a reliable formula to quantify the quality of a movie?  Is it the actors?  Because Nicholas Cage gets paid a shitload, and I avoid him like the plague.  Is it the budget of the movie?  Because Evan Almighty cost a whole lot of money, and 6 months later it was being run ad infinitum on HBO.

    Some of my favorite movies are tiny budgets wtih no name actors.  Some of the worst movies are the opposite, and vice versa.

  132. stuclach stuclach says:

    @josh – Of course I don’t have a reliable formula, but past performance is as solid an indicator here as it is in any other industry (Toyota in the auto industry, apple in the tech industry, harvard in the education industry, etc).  For example, if the entire cast of TDK (obvious exceptions excluded) returned for Batman 3, I would assume that movie would be of a relatively high quality and I would pay an extra few dollars to see it.  Will you get burned on occasion, yes of course (the Newton from Apple), but more often then not it works as it should.

    On the other hand, how many more people would have seen the tiny budget films (Clerks, Persepolis, half of Bruce Campbell’s movies, Rushmore, Life Aquatic, Royal Tenenbaums etc) if the price were half that of the big films?  If the increase in quantity is enough to offset the lower price they would actually bring in more revenue and maybe improve their chances to get funding for another movies.

    The magnitude of the budget shouldn’t be all that matters, but there are some factors we could attempt to use for predictive purposes.  I suppose what I should have said above is: the price of the ticket should be directly related to the perceived/expected quality of the movie rather than the actual quality since we can’t possibly know that before paying.

    I think this could be applied in the comic book industry to interesting effect.  Would Manhunter (as one example) sell better at a lower price?  Would that increase in sells be enough to keep the book on the shelf?  Would Secret Invasion/Final Crisis sell considerably worse at $4.50?  Could the increased revenue be used to finance new series that would not have been feasible otherwise?

    P.S. Sorry if I pissed of Mr. Woods.  I wasn’t trying to argue with him, I was just trying to provide some input to the discussion.  

  133. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    I just think that’s an awful, awful idea.  We pay too much attention to box office returns as it is.  It would totally screw small properties and beginning actors, because people wouldn’t invest in something they couldn’t charge a lot of money for.

    Don’t worry about Brian, he’s a big boy, and he’s got his opinion, and you’ve got yours.  Don’t sweat it.

  134. sonicattack sonicattack says:

    I think we are missing a part of the picture here, all the talk is about the comic book publishers raising prices, dont forget the distributor and the LCS they get a cut. Do Diamond work on a percentage of the sell price? are Diamond pushing the publishers for an increase as fuel cost have risen.

    Have a look at the deal Devil’s due publishing are offering retailers on hack/slash at the moment because Diamond wont distibute due to a legal wrangle. 10 issues for $14.00 normal cover price £3.50 per issue so wheres the $2.10 go to? what do diamond take, what go’s to the LCS. considering the volumes that Marvel and DC print they must also have reduced costs so if Devil’s due can make a profit on $1.40 an issue what is Marvel and DC making.

  135. stuclach stuclach says:

    @josh – I think you missed this part of my post: “On the other hand, how many more people would have seen the tiny budget films (Clerks, Persepolis, half of Bruce Campbell’s movies, Rushmore, Life Aquatic, Royal Tenenbaums etc) if the price were half that of the big films?  If the increase in quantity is enough to offset the lower price they would actually bring in more revenue and maybe improve their chances to get funding for another movie.”

    Pricing like this could actually improve grosses for the small films.  I have actually heard Kevin Smith speak on this (I believe it was him), he often mentions that he thinks his films would do significantly better if the DVD’s were released on the same day as the movies with ticket prices set lower and these "early" DVD’s price higher than average to extract more gross from the solid fanbase (addicts).

     

    Damn, I love conversations like this… Can you tell I enjoy teaching?

  136. stuclach stuclach says:

    @sonicattack – I mentioned Diamond in one of my many rambling posts above.  They are a monopoly on the distribution side and (I assume, like other monopolies [such as Ticketmaster]) absolutely take a large cut.  Monoplies like that are generally very bag for other components in the supply chain and are likely responsable (to some extent) for many of the problems that LCS’s experience.  Specifically, the small LCS’s that can’t provide much variety, due to minimum quantity requirements and antiquated return policies/procedures (at least according to my local guy’s information).

    Also, awesome mustache.

  137. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    Yeah, i just don’t think that would work.  I get you, but maybe it’s just mind stuck in a system.  Of course, this is what we need economists for as I understand it.  So stay outside of that box.

  138. sonicattack sonicattack says:

    @stulach you really cant beat a quality mustache!!!!

  139. stuclach stuclach says:

    @josh – I hate that fucking box.

    @sonicattack – Damn straight.

  140. Diabhol Diabhol says:

    I feel bad for Dude, paying a crapload for comics that have to be imported.

    It makes me wonder why printed material isn’t just imported digitally and then printed locally. That would save everyone a lot of money and increase revenue.

     

  141. marvelzombie marvelzombie says:

    I JUST made a huge cut to my pull list.  If things escalate to 3.99 as the regular price, its back to the chopping block and I won’t be happy about it.