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Apocrypha Entertainment Presents:


Last week, Tom Spurgeon wrote a fantastic piece on whether or not comics are too expensive. It incited some interesting response, all of it worth reading. And it forced me to go back into my past for a bit, because at one point I did quit buying comics for precisely that reason: the price on the cover was getting to be far too high.

The year, God help me, was 1988, and I got fed up with my visits to the comic shop. Oh, the shop itself was brilliant; I went to the legendary Comic Carnival in the Broadripple section of Indianapolis, Indiana. Mike, the owner, was as good a retailer as you could ask for, friendly, knowledgeable, and quick with a smile. In 1994, I visited the store after a five-year absence (having moved to Arizona), older and decorated with long, rockstar hair. Yet he still recognized me and called me by name.

That is something you can’t put a price on.

But in the winter and spring of 1988, I got fed up and quit buying. I didn’t quit reading; my best friend, Billy was still buying and I was more than happy to mooch off of his collection. But it was my own private form of protest not to lay down my money anymore, and for six months or so, I didn’t. I broke down and began buying again just before I moved to Arizona, however, I’ve never forgot that period of my life, short as it was.

So we come to today.

Hell, 1988 comics were a shitload cheaper than they are now, for sure. Yet I’ve never considered quitting again (and not just because I’ve been writing about them online for seven years). Certainly, I do believe comics ARE too expensive these days, and no question about it. The $2.99-$3.99 cover price range for a pamphlet simply doesn’t deliver enough bang for the buck on a consistent basis. You do occasionally find floppies that are worth it (Warren Ellis and Peter David seem to be part of the dying breed who work to make sure you get your money’s worth in 22-24 pages), but too many writers don’t remember the audience and their wallets and fail to deliver a complete experience to the pamphlet consumer.

But manga and trade paperbacks? Those deliver. Those provide value for your dollar. Those aren’t too expensive at all.

One format good, one format bad. That’s where the industry is right now.

There are ways to adjust your costs, regardless of which format you prefer. I use DCBS (hi, guys- love ya!) and also trade older stuff to a local shop for store credit. You can also choose a format and stick to it - I’m not going to buy the individual issues of the excellent JONAH HEX series, even though they’re great, but I do preorder every trade in the series and devour it when my shipment arrives. No need to spend twice. If you’re smart, and you budget yourself, comics never need to be too expensive.

Unless they suck. As the saying goes, a shitty comic is always too expensive, even it was free. Ask a guy who used his store credit on the first 13 issues of COUNTDOWN.

I’d love to see DC and Marvel continue to move away from the pamphlet format and shift to original trades featuring their characters and finally move the industry fully into the present. I think the consumer would follow… and they’d be a lot happier when they pulled out their wallets.

Marc Mason


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