“But if there is a lesson here, it’s this. Comics are too expensive, You make them cheaper, much cheaper, and people will buy them. Buy lots of them. Buy them more than anything on Amazon.” – Rich Johnston

Actually, no. Comics are not ‘too expensive’ at all. Some of them are pricey, like $50-100 omnibus editions, but they’re very much in line with what everything else costs, particularly printed matter (trees, ink, and labour are not “free”, Johnston).

If automobiles were 90% off today, and people who liked automobiles and had a couple already and might like some more splurged on a bunch of cheap automobiles, we would not take home the message “well, automobiles are too expensive,” because that would be utterly stupid. We would take home the message that “people like a deal” and “90% off is a good deal”.

But comics go on a sale–admittedly one that is entirely in error according to Johnston himself–and the message he takes away from it is “well comics are just too expensive and ‘people’ would buy more if we sold them for less than it cost to print them, let alone pay the creators.”

Talk about the self-loathing of comics fans…

- Chris


19 Comments on “Utterly Stupid”

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  1. Rich Johnston says:

    Trees, ink, and labour are clearly not free. When did I say or imply that they were?

    But the price of a comic has been rising repeatedly ahead of inflation for decades now. In real terms, comic books are much more expensive. One recent survey showed that over the past ten years in inflationary terms, entrance to the Empire State Building, Slurpees, the New York Times and Gold had increased in real terms more than a comic book. But everything lease they measured had risen less. CDs, movies, novels – Comics are demonstratably not in line with what everything else costs.

    This is the argument I was trying to make. Of course this was a fictitious, exageratted event. But I do think it demonstrated something.

    Comic books have increased in price ahead of inflation and ahead of competitive experiences. Marvel execs have stated that the $3.99 price point is there to see what the market can bear. But sales are dropping off. While the Marvel execs may make more money on a 30% rise in price against a 20% drop off in audience, this will harm the long term future of the industry.

    The demand is still there, but the new price points are keeping too much of it away.

    Why is that self loathing?

  2. Nawid Ahrary says:

    I’m with Rich on this one. Comics are way too much. As a college student with a decent part time job and not too many expenses it’s still pretty bad. I avoid all $4 monthlies altogether unless they provide extra bang for the buck (Detective and various specials). Trades are getting pricier too especially Marvel ones. $35 for the Old Man Logan hardcover was quite expensive (good thing I got it for $15 in the Amazon glitch, and yes it went through).
    I think for the most part the Marvel Omnibus line is fairly priced though.
    My anecdotal example:
    I’m very interested in Boom!, Avatar, Oni, and IDW. I actually do own a couple of trades from them and love them but they all price their monthlies at $4. And their trades (except Oni) are very high priced as well. However Boom! will be one of the first Longbox publishers. At $1 a pop I will try everything they put out at the very least and I can guarentee that the profit they make off of me will be many times what they are getting now. I bought Irredeemable Vol. 1 and loved it. Then I saw the price for Vol. 2 and was very annoyed. $17 for 4 issues? Even for an indie series that is insane. Only way I can work that is a nice discount from online retailers.
    Also, Marvel who is just putting the price at $4 to get the extra dollar from suckers isn’t getting any of my cash for 22 page stories with 10 pages of ads interspersed. Otherwise, I’d certainly be buying Cap, Avengers books, and Wolverine Weapon X, and quite a few mini’s.

  3. Inkwell says:

    It’s a matter of price versus value. Several years ago, I discovered comics piracy on the internet. As I was living about a two hour drive from the nearest comic shop, I began to indulge (not an excuse, I admit it was wrong). At first as I was grabbing as much as I could find. After a month I was only getting the titles I might consider reading. After three months I was down to a handful of titles each month and by six months I had stopped altogether. My point is that even when I was getting them for free, the selection of comics available in the direct market couldn’t hold my interest. When I do get to make a rare trip to a comic store I still buy a few random issues but it’s more out of habit than anything else.

    For the price of three “mainstream comics” that I will read once and never look at again I can get a manga that will last for an hour. Or go to a movie that will last for two hours. Or buy a video game on Xbox Live that will keep me entertained for a week. $4 for a ten minute read is ludicrous.

  4. Hak Foo says:

    Well, I’m a manga freak, but I do feel fairly ripped off.

    I found it was actually cheaper to buy the untranslated books for some series than their English analogues.

    I do also see a lot of envelope testing– the Viz books marching from $8 to $10, Tokyopop experimenting with a $15 two-for-one format in Rebirth…

    What really surprises me is that they can’t find a decent mass sales model.

    My local comics shop will give me “11th free, once I buy 10 at full rate”. The big bookshop, 5 for 4.

    It’s cute, but not a strong seller. I am a consistent follower of my favourite series. It will likely be 40+ books in 2010. So 10 to 25 percent savings doesn’t cut it.

  5. MichaelJ says:

    I think I went a little crazy a couple years ago when I went to HK, and discovered manga were going to what was then $4 CAN a volume (in chinese). A large part of my collection is held together by those volumes, though I only buy english now.

    I don’t think it’s that comics are too expensive, though sometimes the exchange rates are clearly off on some books.

    It’s that some people can’t afford the volume of what they want to read. I have resigned to myself that I will never, ever be able to buy the entire “Case Closed” series without sacrificing the buying of a lot of other series, even if it ever gets to where it is in japanese right now, but I will buy select volumes.

  6. Nick H. says:

    Rich may have a point that individual issues are becoming too highly priced. especially at a regular $3.99 price-point, but…

    What on EARTH does that have to do with the price of graphic novels, which are the objects that Amazon is selling? Our esteemed host was calling him out over calling those overpriced, which makes Rich’s response here, well, a complete non-response actually.

    It’d be like Chris saying “It’s wrong to say cars are overpriced” and Rich turning up saying “Hey, have you seen the prices of toy cars recently? They’re crazy, no-one can afford toy cars these days! That’s bad and wrong!” It’s not replying in a like-for-like fashion, which is misleading, or disingenuous, depending on how you prefer to look at it.

  7. Elin Winkler says:

    A few customers at the shop I work at and I were just talking about this the other day- and we realized that the price of a single comic book is always about the same price as a gallon of gasoline. They are always close to each other, sort of like how a gallon of milk is usually about the same price as a gallon of gasoline.

    When gas got up to $4 a gallon, so did comic books. (And milk.) The thing is, gas prices sometimes go back down a little (along with the milk prices), but the comic book prices stay the same. Once they’re up, they’re up.

    Mind you, we didn’t have any other insights about this, but it is a weird coincidence.

  8. Chris says:

    Look, it’s pretty straight forward Rich. You said that comics would sell better if they were much cheaper, and all of your examples were comics priced below printing cost, or below the cost of printing+creative. That’s fucked up.

    Now if those weren’t “your examples” then your assertion has no legs to stand on whatsoever, because that’s explicitly what you were discussing when you said “if comics were much cheaper they’d sell better”. Either you were referencing cut-rate prices to make a point (which is stupid), or you weren’t and you’re just making a stupid point. Either way, the title of my post holds.

    Should there be a discussion about the price of comics? Absolutely. Is Rich the person to have that discussion? Evidently: no.

    - Christopher

  9. Rich Johnston says:

    Chris, it was an exaggerated event to make an exaggerated point. With stories about sales falling and falling, here is one where the top fourteen books being sold by Amazon are comics. It’s like it’s suddenly France, or something.

    Here’s those previous article examples to provide a little context.

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2009/12/30/comic-book-price-only-beaten-by-slurpees-gold-new-york-times-and-empire-state-ticket/

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2009/06/01/marvels-john-turitzin-on-price-increases-%E2%80%9Cwere-just-looking-to-maximise-our-profits-for-business%E2%80%9D/

    Should there be a discussion about the price of comics? there is? Should I be the one to have that discussion? I already have been.

  10. Jeff B. says:

    The lesson here is that Rich found this the way he “creates” all the stories he takes credit for, by lurking on other message boards (in this case CAG and the Bendis Board), and quoting people without permission.

    Then he opened the floodgates, directing people to order caseloads to resell on eBay and fueling greed, thus ensuring that none of the orders would ever be fulfilled.

    Follow it up with some self-flagellation (“This story has brought my site the most traffic eva!1″) and update posts to keep the drumbeat going (and more ticks on the Avatar press ads!), false naïveté (“Who, me?! I was just…”) and in the end it’s ultimately the Barnacle of Comics that Wins!

    And the sad thing is, I know better than to talk about this douche bag and stroke his sad little ego even more…

  11. Shawn Richter says:

    I think that the point that Chris is making, that many are missing, is the cost of materials and production has gone up. And those are two factors that can’t really be changed – or at least shouldn’t be. I don’t want to go back to shittier paper and printing on cheaper paper (and in reality, newsprint is not a whole hell of a lot cheaper, since the decline of the newspaper industry). And don’t get started on what the talent earns… I make more in my day job than what a lot of entry level comic artists make. I don’t think we should go back to the days of having to pencil five pages a day, just to feed the family… So, with those costs in mind, maybe comics aren’t too expensive? You know, just a thought.

  12. Shawn Richter says:

    er I meant shittier PRINTING. and THEN the paper thing…

  13. MC_Nedelsky says:

    I think most people have missed the crucial point here which is…there should be a 90% reduction on the price of cars.

    Seriously, if cars were reduced by 90%, I would definitely buy one, and I don’t even _drive_. A surefire way to boost sales (if not profit) of the north american auto industry. I wonder whether you can get cars on amazon…

  14. Rich Johnston says:

    >The lesson here is that Rich found this the way >he “creates” all the stories he takes credit for,

    Take credit for? Where? I ran a story that’s all. I was hardly alone.

    >by lurking on other message boards (in this case CAG and
    >the Bendis Board), and quoting people without permission.

    I post and read all sorts of message boards because I enjoy the,. Sometimes there’s a story. In this case, I woke up on Sunday morning to find lots of emails about this.

    >Then he opened the floodgates, directing people to order >caseloads to resell on eBay and fueling greed, thus >ensuring that none of the orders would ever be fulfilled.

    I directed no one to do anything. I did illustrate possibilities and opportunities, certainly. But as the evidence shows, by the time I’d posted, Amazon had already been cleared out of all its omnibuses, except for one copy of Golden Age, one copy of the Secret Wars omnibus and two of Bendis’ Daredevil Omnibus.

    >Follow it up with some self-flagellation (“This story has >brought my site the most traffic eva!1?) and update posts >to keep the drumbeat going (and more ticks on the Avatar >press ads!), false naïveté (“Who, me?! I was just…”) and >in the end it’s ultimately the Barnacle of Comics that >Wins!

    Fourth most traffic ever. Behind Matchstick Middle Earth, Mippet Wicker Man and Watchmen 2. But it was a popular story, so I ran followups. Yes, I am in the business of building traffic for the site for my employers, Avatar. But this is a story that I found interesting and I hoped others would too. That’s not always the case.

    >And the sad thing is, I know better than to talk about >this douche bag and stroke his sad little ego even more…

    Do you?

  15. Aaron Poehler says:

    Look, Rich Johnston is talking out of his ass, making blanket statements with absolutely nothing to back them up, and failing to accept responsibility for any damage resulting from his shoddy ‘journalism’. What else is new?

  16. Tony says:

    Christopher Butcher, another Canadian on his high-horse. Rich Johnston has a valid point and I thank him for his reporting. Comics are an inflated rip-off, even for a luxury item.

  17. Thom says:

    Just can’t trust them Can-nadians…whut with their cheap health care and comics and all.

  18. Amazon no longer selling many graphic novels after weekend price glitch frenzy | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment says:

    [...] on Amazon." David Uzumeri responds to Rich on ComicsAlliance, while retailer Chris Butcher offers some succinct comments as [...]

  19. that Amazon.com thing « Fistfight At The Arthouse says:

    [...] Comics 212 has the ugly truth [...]

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