Makeshift Musings and Comic Book Bliss: Hollywood and Free Comics To The Rescue

Hollywood and Free Comics To The Rescue

In the sky, it’s a bird… it’s a plane!

No, it’s just Hollywood obsessing over another trend, mashing it into the ground with well intentioned overexposure all for the sake of the almighty dollar.In the sky, it’s a bird… it’s a plane!

No, it’s just Hollywood obsessing over another trend, mashing it into the ground with well intentioned overexposure all for the sake of the almighty dollar.

Did that sound bitter? If so, I apologize. This isn’t just another “big corporations suck and I’m bitter because I’m not a part of it and rich” type rant.

I’m going to shake the comic industry tree here: Hollywood is not here to save comics. Blockbuster comic-based movies have not and will not convert into a healthy audience that’s rabidly looking for comic book stories. It’s the exact opposite: Comic book fans (and many ex-comic book fans) are flocking to the theatres to see the movies based on their childhood superheroes. The tickets sell, the toys sell, but the comics themselves don’t seem to gain much ground.

There’s at least one thing that can bring it back to center: good pricing.

I look at Free Comic Book Day (which is oriented around comic movie release dates) and it seems like it could work. Free comics get people into the store and they see the amazing variety of comic material. They may be tempted to buy and get hooked on the medium. That is, until they look at the price of non-free comics…

$2.25, $2.95, $3.50 or more for an issue you can read in 10-15 minutes. Holy crap!

This isn’t a knock against the organizers of Free Comic Day. I think that the idea has serious merit and is the best new promotional idea I’ve seen from the industry in a long time. But the product has to be available at a reasonable price every month, not just free for one day and ludicrously high the rest of the time. It’s great that you can get a special issue for 13 cents, 10 cents, 9 cents or whatever… but that doesn’t change the month to month standard.

It’s not that people don’t want to read comics. It’s far simpler. They don’t want to pay out the nose for them.

Web comic sites are gaining ground because they’re at a continuously reasonable price. Keenspot is free and Modern Tales is just a few bucks for all their material every month. It’s a good price with maximum accessibility.

It’s the same mentality that’s caused the manga market to flourish here and in Japan: A decent amount of material for a reasonable price. Viz’s amazing product Shonen Jump is doing it here and now, growing in a market that no one thought would accept it. You dig in for the long haul and you take the financial hit until the audience grows because of the value you present. Raising the prices won’t bring more people on board.

Manga and web comics are cheap, regular and experimenting with all kinds of genres and styles to grab a new audience. The big print publishers are flopping around with the same old ideas and formats, overpriced and out of touch. It’s harsh but true.

If the comic industry can pull its head out of its butt and realize that price problems are one of the anchors holding things back, then things can improve. If not, then minor market fluctuations aside, it’s a print industry hemorrhaging and in need of some serious euthanasia.

Take my advice: Free sometimes is great. Well priced all the time is better.



  1. That would be among the reasons I don’t purchase comic books,… in COLOR. I really,.. really enjoyed Anarctic Press’s Gold Digger. *My husband proposed to me in the Wedding issue… wrote on the last page and told me he had something gold for me. :P*

    I enjoyed it… up until it went from the beautiful b/w lineart to color. Suddenly… I was getting less story and color. I could do without the color. I stopped buying it.

    I would honestly rather pay LESS for a comic and get it in b/w or greyscale than color. Color is great, but sometimes it is a pain to have to pay more for it. *And I do MOST of my work in color and would like to see it printed both ways someday.*

    I would rather.. .and I do.. spend $8 to $10 on a TokyoPop or Viz Graphic Novel *It’s about TIME they figured out that I wouldn’t pay $15 to $18 for a graphic novel and shrank them in size so they only cost $9*

    Magazines make most of their money through the advertisements. If they’re not making their money,.. maybe they should doublecheck how they can appeal to a broader audience and therefore, attract more advertisers. What kind of movies do you see advertised in a typical Marvel/DC comic? All… the same. What does it matter to an advertising exec to pay for more space in each different title… when EVERY title appeals to just about the same audience?

  2. I will say that despite the cost, I appreciate that many of Viz’s offerings will remain available in the larger format, much as I appreciate certain books being available in hardcover. Sometimes I like the bigger format despite the cost. (And there are certain books I would literally read to pieces if I could only get them in paperback.)

    When it comes to comics, I am anything but a purist– I prefer graphic novel compilations to monthly offerings, because I get the same story in a more durable format for less overall. I think that comics creators should look into a variant of “print on demand” (possibly with preorders) in several different formats. Those who want to pay more for the color compilations can do so, while those looking for cheaper versions can satisfy their cravings. Likewise, a POD system could fulfill the longings of newer collectors who cannot get their hands on classic stories– and who don’t care about the “authentic first edition.”

    However, as for getting new comics readers, there are things that you can do. Regular bookstores (i.e. Borders) are now carrying monthly comics publications in addition to the compilations, and special events can drum up interest. (A monthly RPG event at my local Borders has drummed up enough interest that the shelf of roleplaying books has expanded to two shelf UNITS and a special wire fixture; couldn’t the same work for comics?) Mostly, the difficulty in comics is showing people that they really aren’t just for kids anymore. I use “Ramadan” from the Sandman novels to show the potential to dubious shoppers; there are many other stories that display a high level of storytelling.

    The average person needs to hear a thing eleven or twelve times before it sticks. Keep telling your friends that comics are worthwhile and maybe the meme will spread.

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