Monday, February 27, 2006

Why Your Excuses Mean Nothing

Y’know, I remember a certain Christmas way back when I was a youngster. I had all of five dollars to get gifts for four of my cousins. So of course I bought them all comics (and bought myself one with the left over dollar). I can’t remember which comics they were, although for some reason I believe one was a West Coast Avengers issue. I’m certain that they were all Marvel, since with few exceptions DC was putting out the weakest books I’d ever come across. I mean while people were reading Marvel to find out what was going on in their favorite heroes lives, we would only read DC when they realized that mutilating their characters got big sales.

Wait, where was I? Oh yes, the beginning of the 1990s and comics being bought for a dollar. I miss the hell of out those days, and no I’m not naïve enough to think they’ll ever be back. However, while comics increasing in cost is expected, the rate that it’s happening seems much too fast for me.

As it stands these days I buy very few Marvel comics. Not necessarily because I think DC is whooping their ass story wise (even though they’re untouchable at the moment), but because Marvel’s product costs most and offers less. Being that The Wire is the Official Program of the Okayplayer message boards, I already had Stringer Bell hip me to that game.

Right now, all Marvel books cost $3 bucks for all of 22 pages. Well, really 21 since that first page is a recap, but you know what I mean. DC isn’t that much better since they had titles that go for $2.50 and $3. By the time May comes around it’ll all be three bucks, though. But until then I know that all those fifty cents add up, so when it comes to experimenting with new titles, I’m more likely to fuck with DC’s. Also their titles are a lot more decompressed, which pleases me greatly. If you’re going to hike up the price I’m going to demand something actually happening in the story. I’ll stand behind the idea that this is why the comic industry lost. The Higher ups continually cop pleas like: “How can you say comics are too expensive when kids are buying video games, dvds, yugioh cards, and going to movies?”

My answer to that is “Quite easily.” The average brand new video game is $50. With Xbox 360 here and the PS3 coming soon, it’s about to go up another ten. Yeah that’s a hell of a lot more than three dollars. Then again it’s a hell of a lot more content too. So much so that it’s actually embarrassing when you compare the two. First of all when I go out and buy a Resident Evil or a Metal Gear Solid, or pretty much any other title, I can almost always be sure that I’m getting a minimum of 20 hours of entertainment and story from it.

What I mean is that if I fight my way through the level, as soon as the Boss of the stage comes out, the game won’t end, and I won’t have to wait next year to buy the sequel in order to actually fight the guy. This is the current comic book formula. We can be generous and say that it takes 15 minutes to read a comic (4 minutes if its written by Bendis), that means it’ll take 80 comics ($240) in order to equal the 20 hours that one $50 video game does.

It’s a similar beast when it comes to movies. These days people don’t edit shit out of the movie so what used to average out at an hour and a half is now two hours and some change. That equals into 8 comics ($24). The movies’ advantage is, again, a whole story. While the only advantage the comic has in that comparison is the ability to be owned.

The average cost of a trading card pack is $4, which most comics haven’t reached yet, though there are some. For instance, I’m a rabid fan of Peter David’s Fallen Angel but unless the page count increases, it’s not seeing my money. However, the fifteen minute comic isn’t seeing the potential playtime of a card game. Ever. You can read Watchman cover to cover and by the time your done kids will still be trying to catch ‘em all with Pokemon cards.

However, I do have to be fair. The publishers have no aspirations of getting people to buy every title they put out, no matter how interconnected Infinite Crisis may seem. I’d wager, using absolutely no scientific data that they’d expect your normal comic fan to pick up about 10 books a month, which seems fair enough. The problem is that as prices increase, those 10 titles will drop to 9, 8, 7 and so on. Eventually only Superman, Batman, X-Men and Spider-man will remain. Then again that’s still a 50/50 split, so I doubt Diamond would even notice. Or care.


MR. MAJOR said...

Damn BA, I usually agree with you on most subjects comic related. We see eye to eye on most things, that and we seem to both be huge Hulk-nerds. That being said I don't agree with how you quantify or qualify a comicbooks value in comparison to other media. I just dont see them as being the same. I still contend accesibility and (poor) marketing is whats killing the comic book in regards to getting younger readers. When I was a kid comics were everywhere and not just very kid un-friendly comic book stores. I'm not saying the added competition of video games, DVDs or whatever toy-dujour, doesnt hurt but I aint buying that they alone are the reason why kids dont read comics. I see grocery stores selling the latest DVDs, hell I even saw 7-11 selling Halo 2 (I bullshit you not)! These used to be places where you could find a spinner-rack of comics. So yeah I dont doubt that less kids are reading comics, how can the find the damn things? Also if one was to believe kids dont read comics because of X, Y or Z then explain the popularity of Manga? Again I attribute its success to the fact that you see those characters on Cartoon Network, and saturday morning cartoons (marketing/awareness) and you can find Shonen Jump in a grocery and convience stores (accessibility). Now the arguement most comics aren't written for kids is another story...

Brother Afron said...

Honestly I wasn't saying that price was the sole reason, or even the main reason for comic sales being what they are today. I was just trying to address the notion that the publishing heads put out when comparing comic costs to the cost of other media. To me, the idea that comic costs aren't too high since people buy video games, an argument that I've seen a lot, is laughable since video games provide a hell of a lot more entertainment, time wise than comics. Thus the title "why your excuses mean nothing".

ella m. said...

Inevitably when asked why prices get raised, they blame the rising cost of ink and paper. I'm sure supplies have gone up, but do we really need that ultra super glossy stock? I'd be happy with a slightly less flashy (but still servicable)version with a few more pages of story rather than the extra advertisements needed to suport the cost of the other stuff.

As far as kids not reading comics, I'm surprised no one has brought up how many kids are struggling to read competently because of school related pifalls and the slow death of reading as a pleasure activty.

JRennoldz said...

"Your maff is straight son!"

Great stuff and I agree with you whole-heartily; you can get alot more bang for your buck in entertainment mediums outside of ours. I wouldn't know though...

My question:

If comicbook movies are blowing away the box office why aren't comics zipping off the shelves at equally break-neck speeds?

Lost in translation? Sometimes I wonder.

neo said...

I gotta agree with ella. Kids are finding it increasingly difficult to comprehend stuff these days. So its all cyclical and related.

M Belle said...

This is another way that manga trumps comics.
Not only is there the easy accesiblity, but there's more content for your money.

A manga book has roughly 120 pages divided into 4 to 6 chapter for between 8 to 10 bucks. That beats 22 pages for $3.

No wonder most people would rather buy a manga and share it with their friends. I know of some kids that rotate on who buys the latest book of _Fruits Basket._

neo said...

Belle linkage to said manga books would be very appreciated..