I know I am. I’m totally and utterly missing out and it’s completely and utterly and totally my fault.
As you may recall, I’ve been on a fairly consistent tear regarding Marvel Comics and how they price their books. Now, I recognize that there are a lot of you who probably don’t feel the same way as I do, so I’ve actually not written about it more often than not!
Basically, I think Marvel’s pricing for digital comics is absurd and insulting to comic book fans and I have actually just stopped buying Marvel books for the most part, aside from Hawkeye and Daredevil, which are just too good and defy any kind of petulance on my part. But what’s interesting is that even though I know there are other Marvel books that are just as good, I’m just dealing with it, and, for the most part, I am satisfied with my decision—which only gets easier when I decide to look back into the Marvel app to see what titles look good and see that the books I am interested in are still basically $4. For a 22 page comic book. From February.
What’s funny, though, is that I literally just bought the latest issue of Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin’s The Private Eye for $5. I could have spent $1. I could have spent half that—it’s pay as you want, after all.
But here I am, paying five bucks for this PDF file after complaining about spending $4 for a comic book that, has, you know, Guided View.
The budgetary calculations are, of course, simple: I don’t buy 5 Marvel books and I buy this one issue, so I still come out ahead. But it’s not just that.
My relationship with comics is not unlike my relationships with other people. The more you get to know people, the more you understand the boundaries of your relationship with them. After a few years, even if they tend to frustrate and irritate you, at least you understand that aspect of their personality and you just accept it and you either continue to include the person in your life or you just move on. Despite my previous rantings, I honestly don’t care anymore about Marvel’s pricing. When I hear how good their books are these days, I am really happy to hear it — their fans deserve great stories, regardless of price. Did I still get rankled when I heard they killed off Miles’ mom? Damn straight — but that’s Marvel; this is what they do. It’s like that story with the scorpion and the turtle — dude, it’s a scorpion, that’s what they do.
Do I miss Marvel characters? Kinda, but let’s face it —I know them. I grew up with them.
And though I do feel a bit left out when I hear people talking about the stories, I don’t feel sad about it. It’s like hearing that the ex-girlfriend who dumped you years ago is pregnant with her first kid. You’re happy for her and wish her well. And look at your life and realize, “I’m just fine.”
Enter books like The Private Eye. And Saga. And the various trades I have been reading. I look at something like Eye and I see a chance to directly support two important comic book creators. Like, from my bank account to theirs, with a note thanking them for their hard work and incredible talent.
We’ve seen this expectation of participating with the creators of a particular piece of content growing, of course. Bands have been doing this for years, and services like Twitter and tumblr have helped fans get that echo of a personal relationship with actors and writers that is legitimately fulfilling. Despite not reading any of his books, I quite like how Brian Michael Bendis interacts with his fans on tumblr, and Neil Gaiman’s candid replies to various questions make me wish I had these technologies when I was in school and coming up as an actor. In a very interesting way, having these conversations, or even just witnessing Twitter interactions are grounding the content industry and taken away the veil of mystery and exclusivity, resulting in a rather honest environment in which to be a fan. I think fans these days have the opportunity to really understand the life of the creative professional in ways that just would never have been possible before. When a fan sees a new book or album or movie released by someone they admire, they have a much better idea of just what it took to get the content to them, there’s a more vibrant sense of value associated with the piece.
This is the kind of relationship I have with my comics now. I don’t need a stack of comics anymore, I just need a few good issues to bring with me on a weekend trip. A trade to look forward to reading before I go to bed. This is not to say I need to have a personal letter from Marcos Martin or a text message from Chris Pine to encourage me to buy their book or see their movie — but I do appreciate the feeling that I get when dealing primarily with the creator, which is one of the best aspects of going to comic book conventions, right? When I get a chance to buy a book from its writer and get her to sign it? That’s a moment, that’s a really great moment.
I’ve noticed that I’ve been doing the same thing with music, of course, with the most recent My Bloody Valentine album and even Bleached’s latest release, which I bought despite the fact that Jen and Jess are my sisters-in-law and I probably could have gotten it for free. Same thing with the Wool series by Hugh Howey, which I bought digitally because no one would actually print the books in the first place. I’d much rather buy these albums and books directly from the people who made them. I expect the same thing to happen with video games and movies as bandwidth improves.
This model is obviously not for everyone, thankfully. There should always be places where people can discover creators in the first place — the role of the bookstore or the comic book shop is, and hopefully will always be, vital, important and necessary. They help us begin these very important relationships and the best outfits help support those relationships with signings and showcases and discussions that cultivate community around the stories, authors and creators we love. I was just at Secret Headquarters last week and I had a blast flipping through the books and seeing these great stories in print (which I love, I just can’t deal with the associated real estate!), and yes, I bought some comics: the first two issues of Hickman and Dragotta’s East of West by Image Comics.
I did flip through a few Marvel books and yes, I did feel a tinge of regret and loss — but that’s okay, it just means that I value my history with Marvel and their characters and loved that part of my life. I may go back someday, but for where I am right now? I am very happy to miss out on all the many issues of epic-epicness week to week if it means I can get a single issue The Private Eye every so often. Times change, people change, and so far–so good.