Robot 6

Did March officially usher in the Four-Dollar Era?

X-Men: Second Coming #1

X-Men: Second Coming #1

The direct market reached a milestone in March, one that will make a lot of comics readers very unhappy. For the first time, more comics in Diamond’s Top 300 were priced at $3.99 than at $2.99.

That’s according to chart-watcher John Jackson Miller, who provides the breakdown: 130 titles priced at $3.99, 124 at $2.99, and only 16 at “the intermediary step” of $3.50, which seems destined to disappear altogether.

It’s a slim margin, to be certain and, in Miller’s words, “mainly a psychological barrier,” as the average price still comes out to $3.55. But it’s a sure sign that the $4 comic soon will be the norm, with or without additional content or “co-features.”

Every month around this time, the retail news and analysis site posts its sales estimates for comics sold to the direct market, and virtually every month there’s a new round of complaints from readers about the increasing number of $3.99 titles. Yet, despite all the (virtual) gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes, the $3.99 books keep on selling. Of the Top 25 comics in March, 14 were priced at $3.99; of the Top 50, 27 were at the higher price.

Now, a lot of those titles were event comics, or tie-ins to event comics, or special one-shots, or miniseries, or — well, you get the picture. So I’ll agree with Miller that it’s possible the “common price” of comics could slide back to $2.99 once some of these crossovers and miniseries and so on wrap up. After all, DC’s next “events,” Brightest Day and War of the Supermen are priced at $2.99. However, most of Marvel’s “Heroic Age” launches and relaunches appear to be $3.99 books.

So, what does it all mean? Most likely, it’s a hearty welcome to the Four-Dollar Era. But don’t get too comfortable: The Five-Dollar Era will be along before you know it.



It’s still the $2 era, if you’re willing to wait for half-price sales opportunities.

(For that matter, it’s the $0 era if you’re broke and have no money to spend on comics anyway…)

It’s also the 25-cent era if your comic shop has back issue bins…

I’m a product of the 30-cent era, having missed the 25-cent era by a few months…although 60-cent Justice League and Legion of SuperHeroes seemed massive, as did DC’s Dollar Comics. I remember that the publishers usually printed some sort of apology and/or justification for raising the price each time.

I don’t recall how much they were in the mid-90s when I stopped my weekly visits to the LCSs, but I do remember thinking most of them weren’t worth it at the time.

Will the new comics be plastered with dress that says “Still! Only $2.99!”?

It’s not the $4 era until that’s the price of nearly all monthly 22-page books, period.

“But don’t get too comfortable: The Five-Dollar Era will be along before you know it.”

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Seriously, though, it is kind of funny to me looking back to when I was in high school (late ’90s) and the bulk of my purchases were $1.99 Marvel books, but I’d still happily drop $2.99 or $3.50 on black & white manga, or $5.99 on some crappy prestige format book. But now that I’m grown up and have a real job, dropping $3.99 on a comic book still just feels wrong.

I’ve been culling my lists severely over the last few months. In fact, I’m clearing out my closet and eliminating almost 3/4 my collection (11/15 longboxes being removed, compared to the 5 I got rid of two years ago when I excised 1/4 of it). I’ve had to make some very tough decisions recently about what to sell, and what to keep for the long haul (the read, the kids, the current and future value gamble).

For example, Young Avengers is going, but Young Justice is staying. Recent Booster Gold issues? Out the door and no more collecting. Doom Patrol? Staying and still collecting.

Recent issues of New / Mighty / Dark Avengers and the Meltzer re-launch of Justice League? Gone. The Giffen / DeMatteis Justice League ? Staying, even though I’m missing 7 issues to complete the run. Slott She-Hulk? Staying; PAD She-Hulk? B-bye.

Yeah…price doesn’t really affect me…prune a few books…and hit a local used book store that also dedicates a huge 3rd floor to comics from silver age to current….half book value at the most and half price on new comics…most of which turn up within a month of release. Five dollars will probably price a lot of people out of comics.

Comics used to be cheap. Both in pricing and content. And they used to deliver a full story each issue. You didn’t need to read every issue to enjoy it. But all that changed. Production value has increased greatly and stories are hardly ever finished in less than four issues.

I wonder if serialization in monthly books still works. More and more stories are collected in trade paperbacks immediately after the last issue was published. I’m having a hard time paying more than $0.10 per page for a set of 4 or 5 single issues that will be stored in a longbox to never be seen again, when i pay the same for a TPB to be neatly put on my book shelves. Maybe it’s time skip the monthlies and release new material in larger volumes right away.

If comics get pricier the packaging needs to follow. I will never pay $4.50 for a 23 page pamphlet. But i might pay $18 for a well packaged (oversized/hardcover) 90 page volume.

And then of course there’s still hope that the new electronic formats reduce prices by half.

I have noticed alot of the prices change, especially Marvel. Hopefully Comic Shops will give discounts. My Shop gives 15% off new Issues every week. But if they go up even more i am really gonna have to cut down.

I’ve dropped a;most all $3.99 titles from my buying list. Five dollar comics would just force me to focus on the cheaper older stuff available at shows and cons.

People keep talking about the future of the printed page industry. Is it collected trade or monthly serial? Is it web or print? I think when you’re looking at two books a month at $3.50 vice the sticker price on a Kindle/iPad/Whatever and the cost of new books, you start to wonder if it’s worth doing the math to see what your savings are. But when you’re staring down the barrel of filling 16 boxes of books at $4, well, you don’t even need to break out the calculator for that.

The retailers have a reasonable position– “people keep buying it.” And they will, up to a point. The problem is, as the recent economic crisis demonstrates (at least to me), is that there’s hardly any indication that you’re reaching the point. One minute the plane is climbing, and then within a period of about one or two months the thing just starts falling like a rock. That spells an especially dangerous situation for the retailers, who order books months in advance based on the assumption that customers will “just keep buying it” or come in and announce that they won’t. How many customers just stop buying one day without warning? How many pull boxes fill up with material the retailers can’t sell because a customer doesn’t call in? You can have all the security deposits you want, but you know that excess is going to hurt. And that’s not even taking the customer loss into account.

Sure, you can also maintain that “people will always want to feel a book in their hands”, but take a guy like me for instance. I kept my pull box with my local shop at home after I moved to Europe for a while. Well, my shop went belly-up. Did I scramble to find another internet distributor or American shop that would ship to an overseas post office box? Heck no! I got a life, man. Even if I had the time, I wouldn’t want to spend it on a monthly basis to make contact with people and make sure they were getting their money and I was getting my comics.

So what did I do? I discovered web comics. I’m an avid reader on Zuda and TopWebComics. I’m enjoying the French and British comics. I snag GNs like “365 Samurai and a Bowl of Rice” and “Crogan’s Vengeance”. I even pick up Shonen Jump now and then.

You know what? I’m much more satisfied with the stuff I read now than the stuff I used to. That doesn’t mean the stuff I read before was BAD. It just means the stuff I read now is totally unpredictable. There’s no pre-existing canon or corporate board room dictating that the hero survive every ordeal. Now, maybe part of that is because I HAVE to be satisfied. Maybe part of it is a renewed sense of being entertained by fresh stories and formats. Either way, I’m paying less for the same amount of material, and overall I feel more entertained by it at the end of the day. Does it matter WHY I made this discovery? No. Not a lot of people are going to suffer my circumstances (living in Italy IS suffering after about a year, btw). But at $4 a copy people are going to start feeling the pinch. That doesn’t mean there really IS a pinch. After all, if you’re buying one or two titles a month you’re probably not the kind of person who’s worried about the fact that it adds up to over $96 a year. But when you see $4 appear on all five of your monthly books the first time you come in for a single monthly haul and get told to fork over twenty bucks all at once, you’re probably going to do some beer math and realize that you’re paying $240 a year for comics. The average college student will start to think in terms of car insurance, rent, and groceries. Incidentally, at that rate, for a single year of comics and a collectible action figure you can get your hands on a new Kindle. Just sayin’.

And another thing we should all worry about is the assertion that “monthlies support the collected editions.” If that’s the case, and monthlies start to decline in sales, then what will that do to the price of trades? I’m assuming those will go up as well. Now things start to snowball a bit.

Still and all, I don’t foresee comics ceasing to come out in print form when we hit the end of the Mayan calendar. These things are manageable. Let’s turn the paradigm around. Last I saw, “Echo” and “Usagi Yojimbo”, both titles that sell well in the top-300, were priced at $3.50. They also come out printed in B&W on non-glossy paper. How does “the customers still buy it” sound now?

We’re coming to a point where a 22-page American monthly is going to cost more than a Manga tankobon. What happens then? I think people start saying things like “you know, when Captain America died and came back from the dead, it was very similar to the way Batman died and came back from the dead, which wasn’t as much like the time Spider-Man died and came back from the dead, but that was almost exactly like when Superman died and came back from the dead. Gee, “The Killer” never dies and comes back from the dead. Maybe I might like reading that.”

You can come to the same conclusion if you start with “That time Jeph Loeb ended the Universe as we know it.” Try it, it’s fun.

When I was twelve, I paid $1.99 per issue because it was all new and wonderful to me. I’d never seen it before. When I was twenty, I paid $2.99 an issue because it was familiar territory, but a fun fresh take on it. Now I’m thirty, and I’m content to watch other people pay $3.99 for it, because it all feels like ground I’ve covered before– and more than once. Sakai and Moore are stand-up guys and admirable one-man shows (for the most part, I know Stan has Dark Horse doing a lot of things for him). I miss their stuff and I’ll gladly pick up with them where I left off when I get back to the states. They’re worth the $3.50. But there’s stuff of equal quality on Zuda, and all those guys are asking for is my vote.

This argument that “the people will keep buying it” has been used before by the American auto industry. They never saw the Japanese coming. The appliance and textile industries tried it again later. Underpaid workers in China knocked them off their pedestals. The comics industry should be careful not to repeat that mantra. Americans have proven time and again that they don’t care about your brand-name. If someone else will do it just as well for a cheaper price, they’ll take their business elsewhere. Toyota knocked Ford down a couple of pegs, and for the right price, Naruto can do the same to Spider-Man. What’s the right price? I don’t know.

And we’ll probably never see it coming.

My reading list, 17 titles: Total Monthly Cost, $4

– Trying Human
– The Dreamer
– Flobots
– Largo Winch
– Samurai Executioner
– Vagabond
– The Killer
– High Moon
– Street Code
– Celadore
– I Rule the Night
– Melody
– Anything with the word “Crogan” in it
– Cash: I See a Darkness
– Penny Arcade
– Pluto
– Blue Milk Special (occasional guilty pleasure)

What I used to read, 9 titles: Total monthly cost, $18 (give or take)

– Ultimate Spider-Man
– Spawn
– Usagi Yojimbo
– Echo
– Locke & Key (and will probably pick up the trades again)
– Umbrella Academy
– All Star Batman and Robin (and I liked it!)
– Demon Slayer (the Marvel one about the guy in Iraq, forgot what the rest of the title was)
– Penny Arcade

I used to spend a lot of money on comics. $100-200 a month. Then something snapped in my head that said, “Hey, most of these stories aren’t worth anything, let alone what you’re paying for them and you don’t need to buy everything!” That was a few years ago. When comics jumped to $2.99 I decided I was fed up and refused to pay more than $2.99. Enough’s enough.

I’m dropping more books this week and am down to about $40 bucks a month. My guess is I’ll be down to zero by the end of the year.

The sad part is I will be dropping my pull list at a shop where I’ve had one for over 20 years. I feel bad for them. Every local comic shop is the real loser here.

I’ve been trying to limit my $4 purchases for a long time (basically since this whole price increase started). I gave myself one allowance and that was Dark Avengers, primarily because of Deodato (which I enjoy to a good degree). Other than that, events books I’ll buy for $4 or books that offer more content (40+ pages typically). DC’s co-feature program has been really great, especially for Detective Comics. Not to mention, I think every issue of Blackest Night was at least 40 pages.

If we reach $5/book (which I don’t see happening for awhile), I think that’ll be the breaking point for a lot of people, perhaps myself included.

Jim, you wrote a comment like twice the length of the original post, dude. :-)

Honestly the price increase doesn’t affect my wallet at all.

It DOES, however, affect the number of titles that I buy each month.

I have a set amount that I spend on comics each month – around $75. Doesn’t change. Period. What has changed it HOW MANY comics I now collect for that same amount of money.

So, I guess, my open note to the publishers is this: Raise prices all you wish but won’t get any more of my cash. But I will purchase less of your material.

You want to know something that will really annoy you? Comics (Marvel/DC) are PAID FOR IN FULL by the time they are printed. Everything that you buy (and therefore the comic shops) is net profit. Advertising inside comics pays for everything – Artists, Writers, Editors, Printing etc….They are changing us more because they can. They make, we buy. Simple.

People from all aspects of this subject have been going on about this and other issues for years now. I wrote a comment that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the endless sea of news stories and commentary on the issue.

If you ask me, the article is too short to fully discuss items it mentions in breezy factoids. What does 14 out of the top 25 or 27 out of the top 50 books costing $3.99 mean when it’s only the first month we’ve seen the sticker hit that threshold? As the saying goes, “there are three kinds of untruths; lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

And what do we mean by saying “”virtual” wailing and gnashing of teeth”? If people are complaining, their beef with the system is real. Are we going to dismiss people just because they vent their grievances on a web forum? Look at the people here. Apparently, if you take the time to get on CBR and grouse about the situation, odds are you’re also the type of person who spends a lot of money on comics. That’s the customer base. That’s what’s holding the medium up. These are the people we want to keep happy. Look at the sales numbers. There isn’t a monthly comic out there that clears anything close to 200,000 copies a month through the DM, and if lots of people buy multiple titles, it means the fan base is much smaller than the total number of books sold. There are less than 600 DM stores in the country. If 10,000 readers in the “core audience” prune their monthly take, people are going to feel it. That’d be a loss of $480,000 in revenue for the industry. Probably not enough to kill a top-300 book, but enough to start lowering the ceiling on just how many new titles and talents can break in. We want to grow the medium, not stunt it.

we should organize a campaign to only purchase books under $3 for at least one month… Maybe it would get marvel and DC’s attention.

@MecahBooks “You want to know something that will really annoy you? Comics (Marvel/DC) are PAID FOR IN FULL by the time they are printed. Everything that you buy (and therefore the comic shops) is net profit. Advertising inside comics pays for everything – Artists, Writers, Editors, Printing etc….They are changing us more because they can. They make, we buy. Simple.”

Where did you get that information? Because everywhere you look, there are articles on ad rates plunging all across the magazine publishing industry.

Funny I never had problem forking out $4.50 for a copy of Love & Rockets, Black Hole or Palookaville and many other small press black and white books. Of course they all featured top notch cartooning and production values, didn’t take two minutes to read and still hold up. The problem with the majors is that very few of their works hold up to repeat readings over the years. Sure I can still pick up Strikeforce: Morituri, Giffen and DeMatteis’ Justice League, Veitch’s Swamp Thing, and and anything by Moore and Morrison has written (and yes I even include Final Crisis in there, it reads better the second time to me anyway.)

To me how well something holds up over time is a big factor in how I decide to spend. Given that many DC and Marvel comics barely contain much dialogue and the stories being so padded they may as well go fully digital. $4.00 a pop is awfully pricey for something that is essentially disposable. Add to it that comics have bypassed the small increases of the past,(60-75 cents, .75 to $1.00, $1-$1.25 etc) and they justify it by saying the costs have increased. Which is insane, no other form of entertainment has seen this rate and pace of inflation. (Sorry to echo Rich Johnston, but he does have a point here).

I may be willing to spend this money on the occasional IDW series, or Hellboy, but not Green Lantern, Flash, Spider Man, or the Avengers. Disney and Warner get enough money from all their ventures, if comics cost that much, then print the floppies on newprint, and save the good paper for the collections. (Especially if it means better paper for the Vertigo collections, which usually are quite lousy.)

I agree with Jason’s questioning of “Mecha’s” comments. That should be another indicator that the move to $4 comics won’t work well. When major publications like Newsweek, Time, and Sports Illustrated are making efforts to bolster their web content, you have to wonder why. After all, we know that magazines never make their money from subscriptions. It’s all about the advertising. At $6 a copy, people are cancelling subscriptions to media sources that offer a wide range of coverage. Companies look at the drop in the marketing audience and start pulling back their advertising dollars. Servers are cheaper to run than printing presses. It all comes down to the bottom dollar.

But again, look at the threshold involved. The magazines listed above sell copies in the tens of millions. How many people have to stop buying before they’re driven to broadcasting via web instead of print, and at what pricetag did they reach that point? These are the important questions.

And, incidentally, consider how current trends in the industry affect the ability to advertise. Why should Microsoft spend money taking out full-page ads in multiple, low-selling titles for the new Halo game when they can simply MAKE money by licensing publishing rights to Marvel for a Bendis-written Halo comic? They advertise while they sell a product. It’s a no-brainer. Meanwhile, lots of publishers are scurrying for the “safety” of licensed properties like video games and movie spinoffs. These are considered “safe” buys because they have an established following. Advertisers are more than happy to go the licensed-spinoff route because it’s at worst free advertising and at best profitable advertising. Meanwhile, where are the fresh ideas? God of War III pretty much wrapped up that story, and in fairly epic fashion. I don’t need a God of War comic book to tell me some side-story that doesn’t compare to the epic feel of the game. I’d rather have “the next” God of War. Or “the next” Watchmen. Or “the next” Bayou. We should endeavor to create, not recycle. That’s something both the storytellers and the audience participate in.

“Advertising inside comics pays for everything – Artists, Writers, Editors, Printing etc….”

This is completely wrong. Completely. Comics are not at all an ad-supported industry; ad sales are seasonal and unreliable. Reader and retailer dollars pay for the production of comics, period.

It’s going to take several years for the digital revolution to shake down, but here’s my guess as to how: If you want new comics, you’ll have to pay $4-5 for them. If you’re willing to wait six months, or maybe three months, you’ll be able to pay half that. A year down the line, they’ll be even cheaper. It’s analogous to the longstanding hardcover/softcover division in book publishing, but with more gradations of price available.

@Josh F: Another distinction worth noting: i think this is the first time that mainstream superheroes have been MORE expensive than indies. When I was paying that extra dollar for Ranma 1/2, I was doing so because I knew it wasn’t selling very well but I still wanted to support it. But now? Why on earth does New Avengers cost $4 a month when it sells 80-100,000 copies a month, while brilliant indie stuff like Savage Dragon, Glamourpuss, Terry Moore’s Echo, and Fred Perry’s Gold Digger (all books I buy every month) can get by at a lower price despite selling 90-95% fewer copies of each issue? it’s just ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong, I still buy Marvel comics, and even a few $3.99 ones. But I am far more careful with my selections, and far less willing to “give books a chance” when they come from Marvel and are at that price level.

I seem to recall that the comics I’ve purchased in the past year tended to have maybe one ad other than the back cover, if that, which was not a “house ad” promoting something connected with the publisher. I don’t think they’re making a pile of money from those.

Do a little research and dig around. See what it costs to run an ad is 1 comic book. Just 1 comic. 1 issue. Then multiply that ad you see in several titles and the costs are incredible.

The costs of printing have gone up and so have the costs of hired talent. The comic companies pass the buck.

A year or two ago while I was working for a comic store in Salem, MA we looked into putting an add into X-Men and Batman. You would not believe the ad rates.

They charge more for comics for their shareholders and to fatten their own pockets. They do not care about individual customers or stores. They charge more for books because they can. If you want them to stop- Stop buying comics. Why do you think the rush to graphic novel format has increased?

They will sell more copies of a graphic novel at say, Barns’Noble than your local comic book shop.

@Stuart Moore, you have more of an insider perspective than most, since you work in the industry. However, there is a dangerous line to cross when mega corporations like Disney/Marvel and Warner/DC are churning out 22 pages of padded fluff for $4-5 bucks a month. This industry can’t afford much more attrition of readership, and in these times to increase prices on quick to read disposable entertainment? Well maybe I’m in the minority, but it would be time for me to get off this crazy ride. Do comics need to be on magazine quality paper? Not really, there are other alternatives be it print or digital. I would love to hear a retailers perspective on this pricing model.

This may have changed, but last I knew, you couldn’t place one ad in one comic, not at the major companies. Ads are sold in packages based on several appearances in families of titles.

Josh: I don’t have answers to this, but I think you’ll see some more experiments over the next few years, which should be interesting. One thing I can tell you: Cheaper paper is not the answer. The difference in paper grade costs just isn’t that big a factor these days — that’s one reason most comics ARE printed on glossier stock.

Stuart’s right about the difference in the printing stock not making a huge difference in printing costs, but that has to be considered in the greater context of the margins we’re discussing here.

Just about all comic books put out by the major publishers (last I checked) are printed by a company named Chromacolour (Canadian, of all places). I’m ballparking it here, and I’m not sure what kind of bulk deals the big publishers get for their extremely large printing volume, but at the end of the day it doesn’t cost any more than about 80-cents to print a comic book. I’m putting that on the high end, but I’d say that should just about cover shipping costs as well.

Marvel/DC/Other Big Guy “sells” their books to Diamond at about 60% of cover price (that’s how Diamond and shops make their money). So, they only ever get $2.40 per book. Subtract the 80-cents off of that, and you’ve got $1.60 to pay your penciller, writer, colorist, editor, letterer, inker, editor-in-chief, secretary, and so on and so forth. By the way, you’ve got to keep the lights running, pay for marketing, pay the board of directors, yadda yadda yadda.

When your most expensive and most popular books sell 40,000 copies, the difference in paper stock (let’s say a difference of 4-cents per copy between using glossy or regular paper) means an extra $1600, or about 2.5% (40,000 books netting $1.60 = $64,000). 2.5% is a big hairy deal to large companies. They live and die on those kinds of numbers. Even if the big companies get a really good deal and “sell” their books to Diamond at 70% of cover price, the difference in paper stock cost still equates to a 2% difference.

Now I’m sure there are numbers I’m missing here and that the guys running the companies have conducted some very brilliant research that clearly explains why printing on glossy paper is important. However, I may be out in left field but, like I said, I’m still in the ballpark. Even if I’ve wildly underestimated something here, difference in paper stock still means a 1.5% difference to the bottom line.

So, with all that said, it’s true paper is NOT the answer. But it DOES matter. In fact, beyond the type of paper used lies the question of whether to use paper at all. Run the math again and see what you save on ink and paper when you go digital. That’s a margin that makes it worth investing in web comics.

I’m going to say though that the big companies probably don’t want to go digital because of piracy issues and, even more dangerous, they’re afraid of what that will do to readership. So long as the big companies dictate the market narrative and drown everyone else out with advertising dollars and event noise, they dominate the landscape. Once you’re on a comics version of iTunes, you’re suddenly a drop in the bucket. It’s like taking a customer out of a store and having them order comics straight out of Previews and into their laps. Suddenly, the consumer realizes just how much stuff is out there and begins to taste the fruit off of other trees. The customer’s view of the world is no longer limited by what his local shop can stock on the shelves.

People would discover Rami Efal’s “Never Forget, Never Forgive”! Drama and humor strips would come back to the fore! Gasp! We might even discover new talents to improve existing “big two” books with horrid storylines! Wouldn’t that be something?

The margins will get narrower– up until the point they can no longer hold the doors closed.

@ Stuart Moore “This may have changed, but last I knew, you couldn’t place one ad in one comic, not at the major companies. Ads are sold in packages based on several appearances in families of titles.”

You are right. It typically was sold in “families” i.e..X-Men titles, Superman titles, etc, and or it could also be targeted toward age group demographics if I remember correctly.

@Stuart Moore”The difference in paper grade costs just isn’t that big a factor these days — that’s one reason most comics ARE printed on glossier stock.”

I disagree with you there. My father worked in the paper making industry as an engineer for 20+ years. I consulted with him on this and my assumption was correct. Newsprint that older comics and “kiddie” comics are printed on is FAR less expensive than a glossier stock/weight of paper that has become the standard these days. He used to bring me home huge reams of “extra” rolls of newsprint to draw on for practice.

I’m not sure where they used to be printed ages ago but, comics are printed at the same plants in Montreal that most magazines are printed at these days. I would assume the paper is the same or maybe a few weights thinner. Certainly the gloss treatment is being used on both.

I’m pretty sure you have the percentage backwards there, Jim, that the publisher only gets 40% of the cover price and Diamond and the shops split the other 60%, typically Diamond-10/retailer-50 although there are all kinds of quantity-based incentives for each publisher and retailer. It only makes sense that the bulk of the money go to the retailer: they’re ordering non-returnable product with no guarantee they can sell it, whereas Diamond can order only what retailers ask them for and the publisher can print only what Diamond asks them for.

Also, the most popular books these days usually hit right around 100,000 copies in the Diamond sales estimates, but that doesn’t include newsstand copies,, subscriptions, or foreign sales.

@Jim Gourley
You are correct sir. Digital is worth the comic industry at the very least taking a look at cost wise. I remember 7 years ago my boss and I were having conversations about manga growing/vs. not in popularity because of the digest format. For a few dollars more, readers got a whole volume of material rather than 22 pages.

Manga has grown since then and now is waning in popularity. Comic stores/ book stores simply don’t sell the numbers they used to. There has been a rise in graphic novel sales however. It is a much cheaper way of reading a story and less expensive than buying the individual issues.

With the average comic price being $3.99 or so, how far behind can we say that comics will switch to either just a collected format like graphic novels or digital? Because of the rush to graphic format I think large the comic industry isn’t far behind on pushing the collected format altogether. Then “poof” digital.

Changes are coming.


I think you understood me wrong. I was in fact saying that the publisher gets 40% and Diamond/Retailer get the other 60%. I didn’t go into depth about the distributor/retailer arrangement because what we’re concerned with here is the publisher.

You’re right about the most popular titles selling around 100,000 copies. However, you can count those books with fingers to spare, and they regularly change who’s in the lead each month, depending whose turn it is to put Obama on the cover. That’s one of the major reasons I went with the 40,000 copy number. Secondly, it provides a more realistic “median” outlook on the margins for all the “top sellers”. Look at a recent sales list. It plays out like Niagra falls. You’ve got your 100k sellers, then about ten or twelve in the 20k-50k range, and then Terry Moore’s Echo at the 10k mark. Then it drops down to the 4,000-a-month range, and the best of the rest struggle to keep above the 2,000-copy waterline. Maybe those extra pennies are (just) less than 1% for the 100k books, but for the majority of “top sellers” it will be significantly more than 2.5%. Terry is putting Echo out on regular paper in black and white. Granted, he works incredibly well and I’d never want to see him ruined by color, but I don’t think he’d deny that there’s a little “economy, stupid” involved in his decision. He’s his own CEO, and I’m sure he’s happy to save those pennies per copy every month.

It’s true that no one does this for the money, but no one can create comics forever by working in the dark and eating Ramen. It’s got to at least cover some of the costs. That’s why there’s so much material on the internet. You don’t need a Xeric grant to get on WordPress.

Regardless, it’s obvious there are fans out there that would rather have seen the quality of the interior paper go down than the price on the cover go up. I think the next six to eight months ought to bear that out in overall sales. The number I wish we could track is how many people who stop buying one or two $4 monthly books start reading new webcomics. Maybe next year’s Bookscan report from Brian Hibbs will give us an indication of how many people waited on the collected trades. Should be interesting, but overall it looks like change is in the air for this decade.

Mecha: Again, my experience with comics p&l’s is a few years out of date; but I can tell you that the difference in paper prices is a very small piece of the equation in determining list prices. A lot of older comics fans assume that comics are more expensive now because of fancier paper, but it’s really not the case.

Stuart’s right. Whatever the difference is at the paper-maker’s, the only price difference that matters is what the printer charges the publisher. I’ve talked to Chromacolour before. Price difference between the gloss and non gloss these days? About 3-4 pennies per book. It’s a small difference. Still, who doesn’t want an extra $1600?

This is dissapointing news but not a shocker, it has been like watching a slow moving glacier in it’s inevitable advance. The $4 comic book era is here soon to be followed by the $5 era. At the end of the day the prices disuade the next generation from being able to read, collect or become fans. In my neck of the woods the ski industry has done the same thing with lift ticket prices. They are relying on aging baby boomers as their cash cows, but just like for comics, those cash cows will eventually go away, or just start buying paper back books for the same price.

Comics Ninja

Do the 3,99- books sell? Yes!
But they sell really bad when compared to before the price hike, yes they dominate the charts, but only because people are dropping other titles to get the money for the more expensive books. and they number of copies sold per top twenty title is way down.
MArvel and to a lesser degree DC seem to accept lower sales on all titles and compensate by putting out more and more books each month.
The problem is they are killing the readership with it. I really fear for the future of the monthly, printed comicbook if the big 2 continue this shortsighted way.

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