The Price of Comic Books

It seems with the price of a lot of comics rising to $3.99 that there is a big uproar around how expensive comic books are getting. I can understand where people are coming from, but you also have to remember if you want to get the quality of the books we’re getting from writers such as Warren Ellis, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Brian Michael Bendis, that there is a cost the publishers have to pay to get them to write.

Would you want you favourite comics coming out on a more irregular schedule as writers have to support themselves through day jobs as well? The same problem easily applies to the artists as well – would you prefer the art in comic books to be of a lower quality in order to keep prices down?

The uproar has risen since Marvel has been pushing the prices up on most of its titles without adding anything extra to the books. DC has also been charging more for some of their main titles, although they have been producing larger books with more features.

Why has this become more and more prevalent recently? Is it only because the two largest companies are upping prices? I personally read more indie comics than mainstream ones and noticed higher prices a while ago – but no one seems to be concerned if you’re paying more for an indie book.

Is that because we give indies more leeway because they are generally more expensive to make, or because we feel we are getting our moneys worth from these less mainstream titles?

Take Avatar for example, I read a lot of Avatar titles and the majority of them are cover priced at $3.99. I don’t have as much of a problem paying more for Avatar comics since I feel I am getting a better book. Avatar seem to be doing what I prefer in a story and plonking down the extra for a comic that isn’t strewn with ads for toys, movies and other in-house titles, like DC and Marvel are known to do, is worth it in this author’s opinion. I also don’t feel like I’m getting a “quick read” from Avatar, where I can often be left wanting more after a DC or Marvel issue.

Another thing I’m amazed we haven’t seen is more of an uproar from people outside of the US, we have been paying higher prices for years. $3.99 US converts roughly to a little over $5 Australian, but we are often forking over $7.50AU for our comic fix. Where does this extra $2.50 factor in?

Well, let me explain:
For Australians to get comics on Thursday (Wednesday in the US,) Comic Stores have to pay extra for the books to be shipped across the Atlantic in a timely fashion. As I’ve grown up with that I don’t have an issue with it. I also end up buying fewer titles, though, as I only have a limited budget for the hobby.

These factors should have people world-wide screaming about the price of comics – however I see the bulk of complaints coming from comic fans within the USA.

There is a common practice of waiting until comics are discounted before purchasing them. There are numerous places to get discounted books from, such as conventions, and it’s a great way to let companies know what price-point you are willing to pay for your average title.

A question I have been asking fellow comic fans lately is: Do you feel like you aren’t getting your money’s worth from the comics you are buying?

Let me know what you think should be happening, and why, in the comments!

8 Responses to “The Price of Comic Books”

  1. Hef Gargit says:

    I think Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation said it best when talking about the price of video games in Australia:

    “I live in Australian and have been conditioned to blindly accept ridiculously big mark-ups on games. There was a time when paying twice what you hateful Yankee twats do would have pissed me off… but these days i think of it as a ‘having the nicest beaches’ tax”

  2. Jason Wright says:

    You make a lot of good points.

    I think that one of the reason that we’re seeing this level of outrage over the price increase is that usually it’s made in smaller increments. Going from $2.99 to $3.25, $3.50 and finally $3.99 a bit later is easier to stomach than a 133% price hike with no extra content. Throwing more fuel on the fire, Marvel counsel in an interview said that they were exploring the inelasticity of demand. In other words, how much CAN Marvel charge before people stop reading? That’s capitalism, of course, but it feels cold from a company that makes it’s living on it’s fans.

    I’m personally having an easier time swalling it from DC with the addition of an extra feature to those titles. At least I feel like I’m getting something extra for the additional money. And while DC is increasing the price (and page count) of several key titles, most of their line is still at that $2.99 point.

    Independent books, I think, get more leeway just by the nature of not being DC or Marvel. I know I’m more tolerant of that higher price point if it’s for a smaller company. Avatar’s a great example, but there are others that are creator-owned. You know that books like Terry Moore’s Echo or Jeff Smith’s RASL are being made and produced by the creator, and not a larger corporate enterprise. And because smaller companies and independent creators don’t have advertising in their titles, it feels appropriate that they charge some additional money for their product.

  3. Bayouyank says:

    You make a lot of great points about the true cost of comics. And Avatar Press does put out a good set of comics, so the price doesn’t really scare me off. I have to say though that they have some publishing companies put out a lesser product than say Avatar and still jack up the price. This is where I have the problem with the price. If I am getting quality I don’t mind paying top dollar, but if you are just slapping a high price on the cover because the industry calls for it, there is a problem. I understand I can wait till shows and get my fix at a better price, but sometimes you just want to keep up with the story. Then you are at their mercy. Thanks for posting, it was great.

  4. Comics don’t hold their value that much. I can go to a convention and within a year or two a lot of those $3.99 comics are in the dollar bin. Eventually when there are high enough resolution screens, a lot of comics are going to be online.

    Right now, graphic novel compilations are a much better deal than indiviual comics.

  5. Lord Shaper says:

    Thanks for all the comments guys…

    I’m finding I will look at each title I’m interested in these days and make a choice of either issues or trade. If it’s something I ‘can’t wait for’ I’ll get the issue but other things that I ‘just’ enjoy, I’ll pick up a trade for. Like the Star Wars books from Dark Horse. I’m just getting those in trade now and it’s making it easier for me to afford.

    Now I think the Trade route is the way things will end up going and even tho I think we’ll have online comics from companies where you can download it as a PDF or for a certain reader I don’t think there will be a stop to the printed form.

    There is just something about holding a book, trade or issue in your hands that feels right and it will still take a few generations to get that out of the gene pool heh.

  6. Juan Carlos Romero says:

    This is Juan Carlos Romero AKA Monkey03, writing from a hellhole called Venezuela, where our “strong” economy that’s inmune to the economical crisis that’s tearing this world apart (ask people in the gov. They’ll tell you Vzla. is a paradise!), has caused our prices to rocket sky high and we’ll be soon eating rats or each other to survive. Yes, our economy is THAT strong.

    As for CB prices… Huh, 6 years ago comics were waaay cheap, I’d get funnies at 3 bs. F, and that’s REALLY CHEAP over here in Venezuela, but then, as the years passed, by, the prices were silently escalating, from 3 to 6 and from 6 to 10. Ok, “I don’t mind” that’s what I and a bunch of friends said.

    But now we’re paying 39 Bs. F. For comics that don’t even arrive on time. My latest comic, a Captain America #48 is from May. Yeah I know, a nightmare.

    The only way to get indie comcis here in Venezuela is to make a deal with the fucking devil, they don’t even arrive.

    Fuck this situation right up the ass.

    I want my comics priced at 3 Bs. F. Like the good old times.

  7. syntaxfacory says:

    I like the perspective of this piece. Good work!

  8. joshua says:

    I think it’s true that we all put indies on a higher plane as far as pricing goes. I buy a lot of Avatar books and such. For me though, I always equate it to the fact that the indie publishers just don’t put out as much as the big two, so when Marvel and DC start doing it, especially with all the advertising they have, it seems to hurt a bit more.