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Off My Mind: Do Readers Want Cheaper Comics?

I know, it seems like a silly question.


 From $.60 in 1983 to $2.99 in 2010

Before you dismiss this as a silly question, hear me out. I know the obvious answer to "do we want cheaper comics?" is a big yes. Comic books are a business. They cost money to make. Everyone involved deserves to be paid for the great work they do. With inflation, the price of everything goes up. I'm not going to do a comparison and talk about the percentage increase from 1983 to 2010 (I chose 1983 because that's when I started reading comics and I just love that cover of ASM above).  Here's the reality: the price of movie tickets have gone up, the price of gas has gone up. We could sit here all day and complain about everything costing more. That's not my point.
 
You get what you pay for. If you want quality comics, it's going to cost something. Let's turn our focus to this past weekend. Amazon.com had a surprise sale on trade paperbacks and hardcovers. It was such a surprise sale it appears that Amazon didn't even know about it. Several hardcovers had their prices drastically cut. This caused a bit of an uproar as comic fans started ordering books like crazy. Even I found myself ordering a couple hardcovers for the low price of $8.24. That story ends with it being a glitch, Amazon canceling their orders and offering apologies.
 
Artist Skottie Young made an excellent point via his Twitter account:

What does all this say? People would buy more comics if they were cheaper. You have to consider the cost of printing plus paying all the talent. What is the mark up? We're seeing some comics randomly priced at $3.99 while others are at $2.99. There's been speculation that the $3.99 price tag is a sort of experimentation to see how much we, as comic book fans, are willing to pay for our favorite stories. We can't and shouldn't get comics for nothing. I do not condone the illegal ways of reading comics. Could we ever see a blanket decrease in the price of comics? From my days I started reading/collecting back n 1984, I slowly saw the increase from $.60. I don't think I can say I ever saw a price go back down and stay there for a while. With most comics teetering closer to that $3.99 price tag, is the day of the $2.99 comics almost over? 
 
While Amazon has temporarily stopped selling comics distributed by Diamond, to try to rectify the glitch they had, I wonder what the right price is? How much should a single comic cost? How much should a trade cost? How much should a hardcover collection cost? You have to be realistic and factor in the cost of production and talent. If prices were drastically cut and creators were paid less, that could affect the quality of the books. It's like the old saying, "you get what you pay for." I just wonder, are we paying too much?
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Posted by timrothsays

That was a funny night on Twitter w/ Dan Slott and Gail Simone xD

Posted by .Mistress Redhead.

I never have any problem with the cost of comics, they are worth it for the amount of effort that goes into them.

Posted by Jotham

I would be willing to accept lower quality comics for a lower price. I don't mind B&W comics or lower quality paper. Probably most comics readers feel differently, though.

Posted by Dane

If it's a top quality read I don't mind. 
 
I get annoyed when I notice very simply typos or plots that disregard their own internal logic. When that happens I feel like I'm paying first class morons who are employed in a job many would kill for. Similarly, lazy artists should not be employed. I shouldn't pay $3-4 for a book full of sub-par art work when there are fantastically talented artists queuing up outside Marvel and DC's offices and around the corner for a shot at anything. Artists who can't be bothered to draw a decent background or even bother to draw feet for characters don't deserve to be paid.

Posted by Cpt. Quor

I work full time, so if I'm honest the 30 odd pounds I pay for my books every month isn't too big of a deal but I can see how the rise in prices would affect younger readers, perhaps books targeted at a younger audience should be cheaper so parents and kids are more inclined to pick up comics?

Posted by ComiCCloseup

Well I recycle the bad ones and repurpose them as toilet paper so I get a few more miles out of my hard earned cash.
Posted by They Killed Cap!

I do think the prices are  a bit high.
Posted by ComiCCloseup

I appreciate the hard work everyone puts into them and I know everyone has to get paid but let's just say I'd love to live in a  world where comics are.... FREE!!
Posted by The Jeff

for a book like Amazing Spider-Man I would pay up to $4.99 ( I don't want to, but if they ever raised the price to that I would) but I feel like $2.99 is pretty fair for the standard 28 pager. I hate the $6 bonus sized books, and it grinds my gears when Marvel gives you an annual, or some other milestone book,jacks up the price and fills the book up with re-prints. i do agree that quality artists( like Steve McNiven, Mike Deodato Jr. John Romita Sr. Jim Lee, Mike McKone) deserve to be paid top dollar, but artists who deliver contour line drawings and rely on the colorist to save their ass is not in that upper $3.99 range

Posted by sora_thekey

Actually that comment of Skottie Young makes sense. If you think about it in Conventions the smaller booths that sell comics... They're all $1 or $2 
You see people fighting to find comics all over the place, and personally I know since every time I go I come back with a huge stack of comics. 
 
Yes prices go up (I lent my dad some Spider-Man comics one day and he said: "Wow I remember when these were $0.25") I understand that but as a person who buys a lot I've recently had to cut back... Having to drop titles I was perfectly fine with!
Moderator
Posted by ComiCCloseup
@sora_thekey:
Def. agreethat when you buy alot it does make a difference on the price and I have thought about which ones I would drop if it had to come to that... and I came up with zero I could part with lol
Posted by zombietag

haha i totally bought some books too, like old man logan and astounding wolf-man. you know what though? sometimes if things are cheaper, you make more money cuz you sell more you know? so maybe the 3.99s should stop. even go cheaper than that i think, especially for bw comics and such

Posted by Theodore

i wish they were 1.99 and 2.99 instead of 2.99 and 3.99.

Edited by pixelized

I'm all about paying more for good quality stuff. I do it with the clothes I wear, the food I eat, even the toilet paper I use, so comics would be no different. Current Uncanny X-Men [with Land] carrying a 3.99 price tag is way too much for the garbage that can be found within it's pages; however for X-Force it's doable. Raise a price, raise the quality, paying more for garbage is the fastest way for it to get dropped, and then no one is making money.

Moderator
Posted by Green ankh

3.99 is crazy.     Even with the mostly crap back up stories. I went to the shop and got 6 books and laied out 21.00.  
I would not mind paying 21.00 for 9 or 10 books. LOwer the price have the adds like in the old days, even lower the page count a few pages if need be.  
 
Why don't young people pick up comics?   the price.
Posted by JHags

Good article and good points all around. I think the Amazon fiasco simply says that most people enjoy feeling like they got a really good deal. This time, it was comics, but next week the same could happen for DVDs, Blu-Rays or the 'As-Seen-On-TV' aisle at your local Target.  

For me, like others, I just have to be more selective each week. I don't mind this, but unfortunately, I probably miss out on titles/artists/writers that could easily become new favorites. What if prices were lowered on reprintings? I think I saw on their website that DC sometimes offers special $1.00 reprints on specific back issues(?) If this were done on a more regular basis, would people wait a month or two to pay a little less?    

Posted by leokearon

Hooray for UK Collector Editions!
Posted by Nyogtha

With both DC and Marvel it seems that the books that are more mainstream have a higher price tag. Vengence of Moonknight is $2.99 while the Avengers books are $3.99, same with DC. Blackest Knight is $3.99 while Azrael is $2.99.

Posted by DarkSyde79

 I understand the cost involved in producing comics and understand why they are priced the way they are. When seeing their current price compared to when I was younger, it does get to you. But the quality of the paper and the printers used as gone up as well, so we’re even. I still remember getting a couple boxes with tons of comics for Christmas when I was a kid on the cheap. Too bad they don’t have such things like that anymore. :o(

Posted by warlock360

over here where i live... definately... you get stuff over there for $2.99 , we for 4,99€....

Posted by strangeling

Honestly, I'm trying to avoid too many $3.99 books, especially from Marvel ( I make an exception for independents ).  Once I can't get a book for less than $3.99 I'm out of the hobby.  I'd hate to have to go, but it's really getting to be too expensive for me.  For me at least, giving up something like comics really isn't that hard.  I'll just shift to reading more "real" books again via my local library.

Posted by Meteorite

The reason I never used to buy monthly comics and would just buy trades is because I figured I was getting more comics for a better price. But now that I've started buying comics monthly, I'm fine to pay for them. You generally get a good enough story when you buy them, which is worth the price. What does annoy me, however, is when they split a story arc over many titles or add lots of one-shots, so that you're forced to buy all of the comics just to find out what's happening.

Posted by JR_84

Does anyone remember the price of trades in the 90s?? They weren't all that popular back then... and you could see that in the prices. Maybe it's because I bought my comics in Canada, but the prices were ridiculous : a 200 page paper-back for 40 canadian $... I guess the exchange rate didn't help much either! 

Posted by goldenkey

I think somewhere along the lines comic companies are charging us a little to much for the paper they use.  It has something to do witht the fact that there are soooooo many damn books out there that don't sell.  I think that the companies to to slim down how many titles are put out, stop putting out so many mini-series and focus on the major titles.  Did we really need a Marvel zombies volume 4?  No,  so marvel couldn't have cheaper prices to make up for losses for that.  A couple years ago I remember looking at the selection of X-men books out there and it was staggering.  I think most avid readers can't afford to pick up this new book and that new book because of this situation.  Get rid of the pointless books and stick with the regular ongoing series and cut out the bullshit.  I hate reading a story where it ends up saying at the end of the books "To find out what happened to (insert character here) then pick up (what ever) next month for his/her adventure in a thrilling story brought to you by (writer) and (artist). 

Posted by Jake Fury

The big events like Blackest Night, Siege and others I have no problem paying $3.99 apiece for. but when the monthly titles themselves start running $3.99 I do have something of a problem with it. Especially when the good books like Thor, Daredevil, Batman & Robin sell for $2.99 and crap like the Uncanny X-Men and others costs $3.99. the price tag does have an affect wehn it comes to my buying practices.

 

However, my local comic shop gives me a %15 discount for everything I buy so that really helps.  

Posted by eserrano05

yeah i would like them to stop making issues 3.99 a pop they start to add up very quickly
Posted by sora_thekey
@ComiCCloseup said:
"@sora_thekey: Def. agreethat when you buy alot it does make a difference on the price and I have thought about which ones I would drop if it had to come to that... and I came up with zero I could part with lol "

For me it was so hard when I dropped teh titles....  
I was true to titles I've been reading for some time... or titles that fit into whatever event is going on!
Moderator
Posted by JLAsuperdude

@ComiCCloseup said:

"Well I recycle the bad ones and repurpose them as toilet paper so I get a few more miles out of my hard earned cash. "


LOL

Posted by c0l0nelp0pc0rn1

I think that $1.99 is a fair price for a 15-20 page comic, maybe $2.99 for annuals and comics in the 20-45 page range. I'd like to have trades that are 3-5 issues be $14.99 and larger 10-13 issue books be around the $19.99-$24.99 range.

Posted by Jace0207

 I think that the enjoyment of a certain comic is so subjective it is hard to say what it is 'worth' . Yes comics cost more now because of better quality paper, ink and paying the creators more. It is hard to imagine anyone thinking that those classic creators, who got paid very little, didn't deserve more. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Curt Swan, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams are just a few that come to mind. Even later superstars who in my mind sort of bridged the gap from the old guard to the new creator controlled boom, like Alan Moore and Frank Miller, probably worked for very little for a long time. The point is this, while one person may think a certain artist's work on a book isn't worth the $2.99, others might pay $4.99 for it. So what is a comic worth??? Going back to basic economics, it is whatever you are willing to pay. So the popular books cost more and the ones with lower sales figures cost less. Is this right or fair or even logical (outside of financial logic)? Nope not even close, but ask your dad if life is fair. Mine always told me it wasn't. 
 
It would be great if we knew the production cost of each book so we would calculate the mark-up and decide if we thought it was worth our hard earned cash. The reality is we don't, so we have to make our own choices about which to buy and how much to spend. Similarly, it would be nice if the comic industry could show some consistency in pricing rather than the system they use now. I find it VERY unlikely that X-men actually cost more than $1 to produce than Moon Knight. In today's economy they might just price themselves out of too many reader's budgets for their own good. Another question is the future of comics on-line and where that is headed. It would certainly lower production  as well as shipping costs, but would the companies be willing to lower the prices (i doubt it)? It might be a way to maintain stable prices for a long time though. I am sure a lot of people are reluctant to read comics on-line. There is not a much more visceral experience I remember from my childhood than HOLDING a comic in my hands and having that newsprint smell in my nostrils as I enjoyed Rom battling the Wraiths or Superman's epic adventures. In today's technological world though it is easier than ever to obtain and read digital comics. Laptops, notebooks, smart phones, i-pods ... who doesn't own one or more of these? The future is uncertain to say the least and I hope one or more industry leaders can responsibly lead the others into the middle of the 21st century. Otherwise irresponsible pricing and the erosion of the readership could lead to an alternative that is too horrifying to consider.

Posted by Decept-O


What has affected the prices of comics currently being published has been the fact there's been a change in the type of paper the companies are using.  The "new" paper is slick and seems to hold color better but there are drawbacks to this paper.   
 
I've noticed a lot of the new comics with the slick paper usually have muted colors.  They aren't bright like they used to be back in the day.  Also, the slick paper seems to be far more susceptible to having creases, and I mean noticeable creases.  Personally I don't like it. 

 
If the printers would use the "old" type of paper from the Bronze Age and Copper Age, even early Modern Age, I'd be OK with it, provided the prices reflected that change as in being cheaper.  I personally don't care regarding the type of paper used.  If you handle and store the "old" comics properly, you won't smudge them nor damage them.  I admit that is an issue with the older comics, they seemed to smudge easily and also there were times when the color pixels would stand out too much on the pages. 

 
Obviously, I'd prefer cheaper comics.  I agree, trades and the like would naturally be higher, that's a given.  However, when the comic book publishers decide to hire "big name" talent in terms of writers and artists, we the readers end up footing the bill.  While it's great there is good talent on the titles, why dole out all this $?  Not very smart from a business stand point.  I imagine there are PLENTY of wrtiers and artsists who may be "amateur" or haven't had their break who can pull off some great frikkin' stories and art.   
 
While I am not very savvy regarding a lot of the distribution issues pertaining comics,  I am aware that's been a major source of contention for comic book shop owners and comic book publishers.  Seems like a monopoly instead of a fair market.  Perhaps Babs can delve into that issue, she manages to divulge great 4-1-1 regarding the business end of comic books.   
 
I'm being long-winded as usual, but regarding prices, yes, please, that'd be great if they were to drop instead of increasing.  I am only pulling 3 titles a month plus 1 or 2 titles that may catch my interest.  However my income is more limited than a lot of other people but still, I'd love to slap my $ down on some titles I'd really like to check out because it seems like there have been some great unique and original comics of late that I've missed out because I've not the funds.  That is a disservice to the comic book shop owner and to the comic book publishers and also to me.   
 
Is there an answer?  I don't know.  The only thing I can think of is to change the type of paper used, and for the comic book publishers to stop hiring all these big name creators.  I agree, stealing or getting comics in any way that is illegal is plain WRONG, but if things don't change, we will see a lot more people doing that very thing.   
 
$3.99 price tags--not having it.

Posted by Bats

Yeah, they're a little much right now.
I can't believe how much I spend each week at the comic shop.

Posted by Zoom
@timrothsays said:
"That was a funny night on Twitter w/ Dan Slott and Gail Simone xD "

Links?  :P
Posted by Korg

Get rid of the glossy paper/reinforced covers. That should cut down on costs enough for me to not see a $3.99 comic that is not giant-size. Marvel consistently puts out trades which are more expensive simply because they are glossy. This leads to me buying DC and Vertigo trades instead. I'm probably in a pretty small minority on this one, but get rid of the damn gloss, it's not worth a dollar or whatever extra amount I am being charged. Indie books like the stuff Boom! Studios is putting out is different, IMO, because they are trying to establish an image, and the covers and quality of the paper can influence people who might not buy the title otherwise. For a lot of the $4 Marvel books though... there's just no reason for them to be $4. When the trade comes out, it will not have ads, and will cost less on Amazon anyway. I have stopped buying many Marvel books on a weekly/monthly basis because of this fact alone.

Posted by SuperGamera

in my day comics were 5 cents and we didn't have television we had radio
Posted by warlock360
@SuperGamera: 
:( i want those times again
Posted by greenenvy

I was just thinking today about a day they should do for celebrating comics of what they used to cost such as two cents or whatever. I would be more than happy to see comics very cheap again because they would sell more anyway and feel like good old times hell yeah. Maybe at least one doller or two I guess.

Posted by Mr.Hulk_Smashin'!

Loeb comics aren't worth $#!t

Posted by Journey Into Chaos

I honestly don't mind paying like 4 $ per comic but sure if I find something  I really want goes for cheaper then heck i'll go for it but honestly I don't mind the more expensive price.
Posted by InnerVenom123

As long as I'm paying for quality, I'm okay.
Posted by ENGLENTINE

Unfortunately, the higher the price, the less books I can get. 
I remember as a kid I was almost buying the entire Marvel line.

Posted by FadeToBlackBolt

I don't really mind if books remain at the current price, since I live between Wednesdays (or Thursdays because of where I live) I just wish that International Sellers would sell comics at the cost established by the exchange rate, if a book is $3.99, charge $4.50-$5, not $8. $24 ($22 U.S) for 3 comics is really uncool.

Posted by Emperor Gonzo Noir

I'm fine with paying 2.99 for my little weekly addiction, but when you kick the price up to 3.99 and there is a lot of stuff of that week, I'm broke but quick , so yeah I wouldn't mind some cheaper comics

Posted by thechessclub
@FadeToBlackBolt said:
" I don't really mind if books remain at the current price, since I live between Wednesdays (or Thursdays because of where I live) I just wish that International Sellers would sell comics at the cost established by the exchange rate, if a book is $3.99, charge $4.50-$5, not $8. $24 ($22 U.S) for 3 comics is really uncool. "
Good lordy. Why do you still live where you live?!? Get your ass over here, pronto.
Posted by thechessclub

To actually post about the topic at hand...3.99 is pretty bad Unless it's a 48 pager. And I agree with whoever said it that the Glossiness is ill needed. Also! To the person that noted that older paper was more reliable for the most part I give a resounding hells yeah! If I go to the comic book shop and get a back issue from the 80's or 90's 9 out of 10 times I swear that book is in the 9.8 grade with no dings in the spine whatsoever. But if I go to my LCS (and I frequent 3 mind you) and pick up any random current comic book like 6 times out of 10 the damn thing has more than one point of articulation! And imo, unless it's a gatefold cover, comics should only have one point of articulation=P
 
Alright back on track. 2.99 is fair. However if an indy title or a new up and coming publisher is at 3.99 then I'm okay with that. Because they need our support. Although on a personal note I don't care for IDW's making a B&W comic book 3.99 or more. gah

Posted by Captain Bintang
Yep.Drop `em.The prices...
Posted by TheMess1428

The paperbacks and hardcovers usually go for anywhere between $14.95 and $24.99. But the reason for comics going up to $3.99 is not for experimentation. Take a look at the difference to the comics that are $2.99 and the ones that are $3.99. You might realize the reason.
 
Instead of waiting for you to figure it out, I'll spoil your mystery for you. The comics that are $3.99 are ones with double stories. Like Teen Titans also having a Ravager comic in it. Booster Gold/Blue Beetle, Batwoman in Detective Comics/The Question, Batman: Streets of Gotham/Manhunter, need I go on? And yes, those aren't the only comics out there that are at that price. There a couple others... Namely: Blackest Night and Siege. Special events are the considered too special for regular price. So that is why there is a difference in price.

Posted by jamdown
Posted by Son_of_Magnus

Yes

Posted by Korg
@TheMess1428 said:
" Instead of waiting for you to figure it out, I'll spoil your mystery for you. The comics that are $3.99 are ones with double stories. "
This in no way solves the mystery of Marvel's $4 comics. They seldom if ever contain a secondary story, and if they do, it will be in every comic out that month regardless of cost. 
 
@TheMess1428 said:
"Special events are the considered too special for regular price."
This is an insanely stupid concept. If anything, those books should sell for less, since they will sell more copies. Again, the fancy covers are NOT worth an extra dollar (especially with SIEGE, where you only get half a freaking cover anyway).
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