The Tipping Point? Mainstream Comics Hit $6 Cover Price

SyFy Wire’s talking about what plenty may have already seen coming – the price hike for single monthly pamphlets being raised to about 4 to 6 dollars, though their columnist can’t help but show a certain unwise bias at the same time:

 

One of the Big Two publishers, DC Comics, is bumping the price up on some of its monthly titles to $5.99 for a 40-page issue. In its solicitations for June releases, several ongoing series, The Joker #4, Superman Red & Blue #3, Wonder Woman: Black White and Gold #1, and one of the company’s flagship books, Batman #109, are all listed with $5.99 cover prices. Think about that for a moment. If someone wanted to read all four of those titles, it would cost about $24 (before tax) to do so. Four comics, $24. That’s a big financial hit.

Yes, I’m aware that these comics are 40 pages, but that just means you’re getting about 30 pages of actual story. Also, it’s not one story. Each of these issues has at least one backup story, which is fine, but I’m sure I’m not the only fan who buys books as much for certain creative teams as for the character. As a Batman fan, I don’t want or need a backup story. I personally have never been much for backup stories in ongoing series. If I want an anthology book, I’ll buy one of several out on the market, such as the aforementioned WW: Black White and Gold comic.

Consider this…

Both DC and Marvel Comics have almost completely eliminated the $2.99 cover-priced comic. DC has a couple of Scooby-Doo titles at that price, which is a smart move since they target a younger audience. But almost every other comic from the two biggest publishers starts at $3.99. In fact, June solicitations for both DC and Marvel show a bunch of books listed at $4.99, including some that I’m dying to read, like a bunch of the titles around the Heroes Reborn event. I love everything Jason Aaron writes, but everyone has a budget. And that’s too many $4.99 comics for me to buy in one month. (For the record, with the exception of a few special releases and some advance PDFs, I do not get free comics.) It’s why I skipped King in Black, despite my great interest in that event. There are just too many books to pay for at $4.99 and $5.99 price points. So that means I skip the floppies and wait for the trade.

 

I have some old annual issues from notable series from the Bronze Age in my collection that were just a dollar at best compared to these heavily priced modern pamphlets. This just solidifies my opinion that the time to retire the pamphlet is long overdue. I do find it funny the guy’s saying he doesn’t want backups simply because he’s a Bat-fan. Because there was a time when Detective Comics retained backup stories, at least until the early 1980s, recalling there were stories with Elongated Man, Atom and Hawkman turning up after Batman in the 60s and 70s. IIRC, even Robin had some as well, possibly up until the time Dick Grayson shed the role to become Nightwing in 1984. There was even a spinoff series in the early 2000s, Gotham Knights, successor to Shadow of the Bat, where a number of black-and-white short stories were published. So what’s the use of complaining about backup tales when they once had a significant presence in Batbooks as much as various other DC series?

 

I’m fortunate to at least be able to make the choice to wait and buy the collected editions. Many others likely can’t. That’s a shame, as well as a real loss for the industry. As comic book cover prices keep rising, it’s not just pricing out those fans who have limited budgets to spend on single issues. It’s also going to force fans to stop sampling new product simply because they can’t afford it. How in the world can you expect a customer to throw down five or six bucks on a brand new title? Faith and some good advance press can certainly be helpful, but there comes a price point that some fans simply can’t afford to meet, and that means taking a risk on an unproven book will become unfeasible.

Oh, for heaven’s sake. Something about this commentary is pretty sloppy. First, while buying trades is a far better way to go, it sounds like this guy can’t bring himself to say he wishes publishers would switch to trade-format-only, and that fans on their part would support the same. He certainly didn’t build his commentary around that idea. Second, why should anyone buy a flagship title based on its star characters alone, if the story inside turns out to be horrible, (whether it be the scripting, artwork or both)? What matters foremost is the entertainment merit, and he fails to specify that. Not that you could expect much else from somebody who’s giving his full backing to company wide crossovers and events like King in Black, just one of the many other reasons why the industry is on its way to collapse.

I’d strongly recommend specialty stores begin evaluating whether they can continue affording and carrying these monthly floppies with such high prices. If far less customers are going to buy them as a result, you can understand why so many stores closed over the past few years. Mainstream story quality plummets while prices shoot up sky high, and nobody takes issue with the editors and publishers responsible for leading to such a dire situation. It’s time already to abandon the floppy format, yet all I can see here is a mealy-mouthed columnist who comes up way short of acknowledging the inevitable need to change the format.

He also cites Todd McFarlane, who’s trying to keep Spawn at 3 dollars:

 

To McFarlane, the $2.99 price means a customer can buy one of his titles if they’re excited to see the new developments in his flagship character’s world, along with at least one other comic for less than $10. “It doesn’t cost them a lot, so they can [try] it and decide whether it’s for them or not,” he says. “I think it matters. I think you have a way higher chance of people picking it up out of curiosity or sampling it if you make the entry point reasonable.”

 

But if McFarlane doesn’t want to switch to trades-only, then he’s failing the medium just as badly. What’s the point of bringing this all up if you can’t make a more challenging argument? McFarlane had a chance to prove himself, and sadly, he hasn’t done any better than SyFy’s own columnist. And towards the end, discussing indie creators:

 

…what about other promising creator-owned comics with less-pedigreed talent involved? As prices continue to rise, how many sales will those books lose simply because fans can’t afford to take a chance on a new series?

 

Clearly, the columnist doesn’t think creator-owned products can take the simpler route I’ve advocated. Talk about insulting intellects by refusing to make suggestions for the better! That’s why the medium is failing. Because nobody’s willing to unambiguously recommend alternatives that could improve fortunes, and guarantee fans can take a chance on something new. Above all, they’ve demonstrated exactly what’s wrong with specialty news coverage.

 

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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