Tale of a Comic Book Mafioso
When I was growing up, back in the old country, comics were 20 and 30 cents, I could take the allowance my folks gave me (about two dollars) and buy a handful of comics with enough left over to buy candy. And these were quality books, not all this multiple cover, different ending, multiple titles crap of today. These were solid fun books. Today two dollars will barely buy you one comicbook, with most books testing the three dollar barrier with no real appreciable change in size or quality in over twenty years. Oh we have nice glossy paper today, but somehow it doesn't come close to compensating readers for the cost.
Twenty years ago the median salary was $20,000 and the price of a comic was .25 cents, today the median salary is $40,000 the price of a comic is $2.50. Our salaries have barely doubled in the past twenty years but the cost of a comic has multiplied by ten times. So given this alarming statistic is it any wonder comic book readership has declined so drastically. Comics are if you're lucky about a 15 minute reading experience. Back in the seventies we were paying about 2 cents per reading minute. Nowadays comics still only take 15 minutes to read, but now cost us 20 cents per minute. Even AT&T doesn't charge those kind of rates.
So given these alarming stats the readership base for comics has dwindled substantially and shows every sign of continuing its downward spiral. And those readers who do remain, have become far more selective about their buying choices.
And this situation will not improve until Publishers:
1/not only stop the price hikes, but produce cheaper comics. Heck return to a cheaper paper stock, we all know that the only reason publishers moved to baxter and mondo stock paper is to justify the substantial price increases they wanted. If readers want their comics in a higher quality format they'll buy the hardcover or trade paperback collections. But individual issues should be substantially lower, a return to the 1.00 range or at the very least 1.20 cent range. And while this is difficult for the smaller publishers like Caliber and Oni, larger publishers like marvel, Dc and even Dark Horse that are subsidized by big name ads should pass this savings onto the consumer. Heck even OPEC could agree to lower prices. Even OPEC for goodness sakes.
2/ Stop trying to rob the reader. Mega multiple part storylines, half a dozen comics for one character. I don't buy Spiderman, Superman, Batman, or any X-MEN comics, and the simple reason is there are too darn many of them. And with these multi-part storylines it becomes either all or nothing. X-men when it was just one book, was one of my favorites, and one of America's favorites. But marvel made the mistake of thinking more was better, when sometimes more is just diluting. And with half a dozen X-men books that's what happened, the story became just too unwieldy, too unfocused, and too expensive to support. The only way I buy multi-book storylines is in trade paperbacks or hardcovers. Any other way is just frustrating. Dc supposedly has something good going with their NO MAN'S LAND storyline. But I'll wait for the trade paperback, just because I refuse to try and keep up with multiple titles to read one story.
3/Produce quality comics. There are a lot of just plain bad comics out there, I think comics are suffering from the bay Watch Syndrome, all breasts no substance. And there's nothing wrong with breasts, however that's not what I look for in a comicbook. If that's all I want penthouse and playboy do it a lot better. I think comics need to play to their strengths, and the strength of a comic is not to be a poster book, but to be a story told in pictures. Pictures alone are not enough, by themselves they simply feed a puerile interest but as writers and artists perhaps we should strive for something more. Something more in our medium than the flashy image, or the quick fad.
4/ Reward your readers. Marvel in it's heyday had things like the No-Prize, double sized issues for the price of regular issues, etc. In short publishers you need to produce for your readers, and I guarantee you, they will produce for you.
So the lack of all the above initiatives on the part of publishers kept me out of comics for the past three years. That and just far more important and entertaining things to spend my time and money on then what I saw as a morally and creatively bankrupt medium.
Oddly, enough what brought me back was a convergence of a couple of different things. A separation had left me scrambling to sell everything I own, and I found an auction site on the web. And I ended up in their comic book section. To sell comic books, was my original motive, but I came across great deals; buying whole lots of comics for pennies per comic. I was able to buy a lot of books, and I prefer that to the installment plan effect of buying most new comics. Being able to read a whole story from beginning to end. It reminded me of the simpler days of my youth. And I came across all this praise for one particular set of comics, something called KINGDOM COME by a man named Mark Waid and Alex Ross. I was a little familiar with Waid's work, nothing extraordinary, but generally okay stuff. Ross work in Marvel's had left an impression, of the most positive kind.
I picked up the HC edition of Mark Waid's KINGDOM COME for about half off. Again at Ebay. This was a complete story meticulously crafted. easily one of the top ten comic compilations of all time. It was.. there in those pages, the awe, and wonder, and beauty. There in those pages was what was best in comics.
And just like that I was back.
Another thing that helped was finding a subscription service that could over me 35% off on new comics. The jury is still out on these guys, considering here it is almost the middle of Jun and I have yet to get all my books from May. I'll review a few more and when the marks are in I'll let you guys know what's the best subscription service out there. So I'm back and my job every week is to insure you get the best comics for your buying dollar. So stop lollygagging here and get back to my Raves & Review.