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Bryan Miller Presents:


Fallout, Boys

“You know what happens when you make an assumption? You make an ass out of you — and umption.” — Samuel L. Jackson

I won’t be the first person to ride the rumor bandwagon and write about the looming (and potentially totally non-existent) price increase at Marvel and DC, but I will be the first one to open with a quote from The Long Kiss Goodnight. In fact, I may be the only person to write about the price hike who has sat through the entirety of The Long Kiss Goodnight.

By now you’ve heard the ominous, and perhaps apocryphal rumblings that Marvel and D.C. are on their way to raising the standard price of a single issue from $3 to $4. Rich Johnston ran a nifty chart a few weeks back in Lying in the Gutters that tracks the price of a single floppy with the rise of inflation. The numbers are interesting, and they’re easily summed up this way: comics are an expensive way of getting your kicks. Like, minor drug habit expensive. And unless Ultimate Spider-Man will soon be smokeable, it might soon become cost effective to munch some ‘shrooms and hallucinate the next superhero slugfest. (Also, this might help you make sense of Final Crisis. But probably not.)

Is the price hike fair, so to speak? In the October 29 edition of Permanent Damage, Steven Grant lays that out in great detail. I’ll leave that debate to others. Likewise, one could muse for an awfully long time over who will be hurt the most by the bump — stores, second-tier creators, maybe everyone — but I’m sure my CWR colleagues are almost missing deadline writing about that right now.

I want to talk about homogenization.

First, a confession: discounting indie titles like Peepshow and Optic Nerve that only drop once every year or two, I read about six books in floppy format, and I’ve been on the fence about dropping them for months. A dollar-per-issue price jump will definitely do the trick for me, although I’ll still pick up some of those books in trade format — but I have a feeling that I’ll find a reason not to spend $20 on mediocre titles like Ultimate Spider-Man when the time comes.

The average customer who reads eight to ten books a month won’t bail altogether, although there will be some of that, I would imagine. But most of these folks, I noticed when I worked behind the counter, weren’t limiting their reading habits because only ten books a month interested them. Rather they could only afford $30-35 per month for comics. When that $35 buys fewer books, most of these readers will cull their lists rather than fork over another $10. Certainly they’ll be less likely to try new books.

It seems pretty obvious (not that I couldn't be wrong) that marginal books will go first. People will pay $4 for Final Crisis or Secret Invasion — that's been proved. But Metal Men? Green Lantern Corps? Especially as both companies increasingly push Universe-encompassing stories like Secret Invasion, Final Crisis, etc., won't people stick with Avengers and Batman and Superman and the main tie-ins but drop tangentially related books like She-Hulk and Black Panther?

The end result, I believe, will be the further homogenization of mainstream comics. To confidently push a $4, Marvel and D.C. will probably want to play it even safer. In such a market, could Grant Morrison’s awesome Doom Patrol run survive? How long would Christopher Priest’s Black Panther run have made it? My guess is not very long. The pressure will be on to make books even more immediately saleable, less quirky, anti-niche. Do mainstream comics need to get any safer? A decline in readership will hurt; slowing down evolution and increasingly aiming duller stories at a dedicated but shrinking fanbase only amps up current trends, which sound a lot like slow suicide?

So, the sky, is she a-falling?



Send complaints, kudos, complaints, suggestions, and complaints, as well as inquire for contact info to send review copies of your comic, ‘zine, DVD, CD, etc., to me.

Bryan Miller is a former newspaper editor who now works as a writer and comedian in Minneapolis. His work has appeared in The Comics Journal, Left Turn, CityLink, and Nightlife and online at Bookslut, Savant and SeqArt. Read more at Carbondalerocks.com.

Bryan Miller






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