Many of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different #1’s are going to cost $4.99 an issue. After that, it’s likely they’ll go back down to $3.99 each, but once that price barrier has been broken, will the House of Ideas be able to keep the cost down?

I doubt it!

COST INCREASES HAPPEN

Marvel, All-New, All-Different, X-Files, Star Trek, Voyager, Brannon Braga, comics, DC Comics, digital, collectibles, comic books, trade paperbackI’ve been reading comics literally for decades now. To tell you how long that’s been, many of the first ones I took home from the spin-around rack were ten cents each. Not long after that, they went to 12 cents, then 15 pennies per issue.

I remember that my mother nearly had a heart attack!

Of course, back in those days, individual issues sold in the millions, so it was much more profitable than today’s market. Today, if a comic sells over 100,000, it’s news!

Part of this has to do with demand. The overall number of comics readers has seriously diminished over the years. In order to make a profit, companies have to charge more.

Add to that the increasing costs of paying creators and printing/shipping companies. Comics organizations need to make a good amount of money to stay afloat. Then, too, the cost of paper alone is way, way higher than it used to be. All these factors contribute to the amount you have to plunk down to buy your comics.

I used to work for a well-known metropolitan newspaper, and the people in charge there used to say, “We lose money with every copy of the paper we print.” They hoped advertising would make up the slack, but that industry is now farming out many expenses overseas where salaries are much lower, among other things as they struggle to keep the cost down.

SPENDING MONEY

Look, as much as we love them, comics are really a hobby. I like to say that real life sometimes gets in the way of comics. If you have to choose between paying the power bill and buying comics, that shouldn’t be a tough one to make.

On the other hand, comics are a habitual medium. That means you need to buy every issue as it comes out in order to know what’s fully going on. It’s a habit when you walk into your local comics shop to purchase your weekly books. I used to joke that the cash register would open up and call “Feed me!” the moment I walked in the store’s front door.

Collectibles seem to cost more and more each month. When I used to go with my sister to local “antique” stores, I was always shocked at how much things there cost. I don’t dare even walk inside one of those places now for fear of sticker shock!

And number one’s are likely to sell great, with a 50 percent drop in sales a month later in orders for the second issue. It makes financial sense to do this! But will fans “buy” into it?

THE BREAKING POINT

Marvel, All-New, All-Different, X-Files, Star Trek, Voyager, Brannon Braga, comics, DC Comics, digital, collectibles, comic books, trade paperbackSomething people in the industry constantly debate about is, just how expensive is too expensive? When will we reach the point at which comics cannot be sold for a price people are willing to pay?

Someone online pointed out that if comics cost $4.99 each, you can only buy ten with $50, 20 with $100. That could be the place at which fans look for more economical ways of storytelling.

As I look over the books I read each week, I have to wonder just which ones I’d hang on to if the price jumped up a dollar. Some I would never give up, such as the Snyder and Capullo Batman. Don’t tell DC, but I’d pay at least two or three more dollars for that one! Others, well, I’m not so sure!

Each time you or I make a call like that, it threatens your local comics shop. If you only come in and buy one or two comics a week and others are doing the same, can the store afford to stay open? That would likely depend on the individual location, but I dare say we’d see a quick and serious drop in the number of neighborhood comics stores we’d have around!

I WORRY ABOUT THESE THINGS

I used to fret that trade paperbacks, when they first appeared on the comics horizon, would be the death of the local comics shop. After all, if you could buy a trade at a bookstore once every few months, why frequent your neighborhood store? Instead, with the advent of digital, the bookstores have almost completely faded away while the comics shops remain open.

Just FYI, I also thought Fox’s The X-Files would crash and burn when the network moved it to Sunday nights. Wrong! I also thought that when Brannon Braga took over Star Trek: Voyager, that would be the end of that show. Instead, it got better. So I know I don’t have all the answers! I do have a lot of the questions, though!

I often think the fans, who can view the industry from the outside, have the capacity to come up with creative ideas that can help comics continue and even thrive.

So, what do you think? I bet DC and Marvel would be happy to pay you a healthy chunk of money if you can figure out where they (and other comics companies) should go in the years ahead. Go completely digital? Forget digital? Share your ideas below, and I promise I’ll wait until you can get to the comics pros with your ideas. (What other people might do, I can’t say!) I know we do need new ideas, so if you love comics, this is your big chance to make a difference in the industry.

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About Author

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

2 Comments

  1. Sometimes I really feel fortunate that I dont live in U.S. because if I did, I´d probably have weekly pull list and these problems. Here, in the other side of the ocean, we only get monthly American comics from very few specialist stores, week or two late, at even more outrageous price so its very easy to wait trades. If I see new interesting book, I´ll buy couple of first issues in digital and then buy trade or hardcover collection if its good stuff. I follow only two or three books issue by issue. Saves huge amount of money to go mostly trades, even if everything still is a little bit more expensive here.

    It also doesnt bother me, because we always got everything late back in the day, if at all and our monthly comics were pretty much trade size anyway, 52 to 116 pages. This keeping up with with U.S. releases is like less than 10 years old thing to me. But that said, superhero comics are dead in Europe, outside small, dedicated audience, so buying trades has now become a necessity because so few books are being published locally.

    • Oh, about ideas: I would at least consider marketing comics more to movie going audience. We all know comic properties are popular in theaters and TV, why not try to widen the audience by throwing in some sample issues with tickets and few actual comic book ads in commercial breaks? More reader helps to keep the cost lower, if publishers truly want that. I´m starting to see same mentality as in mobile games business: Few “whales” who spend tons of money are keeping the publishers afloat and at the same time fewer and fewer people are willing to spend any actual money for them. Thats not a long term business plan.

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