Monday, March 09, 2009

The 3.99 Dollar question

I haven´t posted the last few days but I just had to take a break from blogging. There was some stuff I had to do in Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart on Thursday and on the next day I also had to leave the house which somehow left me pretty exhausted.

I don´t know what it was.....if the flu was coming back stronger because I was outside......the fact that I still was suffering from the last few months of sleep deprivation.....too much junk food now that everybody has to cook his own meal.....or if I just wanted to do too much stuff at once. The result was that I had to take a few days off the internet. I had just read too much stuff or whatever but my head felt like a balloon that keeps getting bigger and bigger. Too much input and it didn´t help that I skipped siesta the last few days.

I had finished reading JOHN BYRNE´S NEXT MEN, there were still some comics I hadn´t read left from my last visit to the comic shop and I was keeping an eye on the german message boards because I´m now trying to sell a few comics that way. I hadn´t gotten much money for the last ones I sold at my comic store so I am trying something new.

My brother´s monthly comic package from the comic shop arrived ( which I have already read at this point ) so I decided to pay them a visit myself even though I wanted to wait with it till I had nothing left to read. Since I finally get money from the unemployment office all I needed were some job ads so I went to the job center first where I spent three hours at the computer. Usually it would have taken only two hours but a window kept popping up whenever I went to a new page and I had to close it. Usually I would have gone home afterwards but I wanted to go to the comic shop. I took the CASE CLOSED volumes with me so I had something to read on the bus but I didn´t even get to finish one. So no news on that front for the forseeable future.

It took me longer than usual to get to the comic store because I checked every newsstand if they had issues of DIE ODER WIR. I bought a new copy in Ludwigsburg and made some mental notes where you could find copies. Since I had a bit more spending money I wanted to get one extra thing from the comic store. Usually I try to get the backlog of two series so this time I took DARK TOWER - THE LONG ROAD HOME and all the new BATMAN - GOTHAM AFTER MIDNIGHT issues. Initially I wanted to get the FINAL CRISIS issues now that all the issues have shipped but I think I can wait a bit longer to read it. There are some nice pages by Carlos Pacheco in it ( I can´t believe that I´m leaving pages by Carlos Pacheco at the comic shop ) but with all the confusion which FINAL CRISIS story is in continuity or not I´m in no hurry. I have already read DEATH OF THE NEW GODS so I´m not that excited about contradicting it all with FINAL CRISIS or the final issues of COUNTDOWN.

Another thing I finally wanted to read was the JLA CLASSIFIED trade by John Byrne but instead I opted for the SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD 3. There are three or four stories I have in the spanish version but this way I can close the first part of the gap in my collection because two of the spanish volumes have unreadable printing. And when the choice is between a JLA trade by John Byrne and over 20 issues of Jim Aparo goodness ( even when it´s in black and white ) that´s no choice at all. Maybe this way I can continue the BRAVE AND BOLD series I started in Spain.

So a lot of comics to read, a lot of stuff to take care of, not enough sleep and something had to give. But after a weekend of troubled sleep, lots of comics and catching up on a few movies I´m ready again to jump into the ring. This time around I wanted to take a closer look at some comics I bought at the comic shop which all have one thing in common : that is the 3.99 price tag.

Because they are all different and the big question is : are they really worth your money ? That´s a question I used to answer more often in the past ( or at least I gave you my two cents if I thought they were worth it ) and I think it´s going to become more important in the recent crisis. This is one crisis DC didn´t expect : FINANCIAL CRISIS. Everybody has to make budget cuts. And the budget comic buyers have is not going to expand - in fact I think it´s going to decrease in the coming months and I doubt that raising the prices is the right step for Marvel or DC.

As we all know the readership base is not going to expand in the next few years rather it is becoming smaller thanks to alienated readers who are just sick of constant crossover events and brand new days. A few of them will stop reading Marvel or DC and a few are going to stop reading comics. From the remaining readers some are going to switch to the trades but some will try to stick to the floppies - at least in part. I always liked the floppies better because I like to open the comic and lay it on the table when reading it. That way you can see the page layout better which for me as a comic afficionado is always more interesting. But that - of course - comes with a price. Right now there are still some books at 2.99 but sooner or later the big majority is going to cost 3.99.

So, the first comic I got for 3.99 was FINAL CRISIS - LEGION OF THREE WORLDS issue 3which offers 30 pages of story by Geoff Johns and George Perez. If there is one book that has made all the mindfuck that was FINAL CRISIS worthwhile ( beside ROGUES REVENGE ) it´s this one. George pulls out all the stops on this one and even if it has a bit of a sour note - the new BRAVE AND THE BOLD series went from " must read " to " must erase from memory " after George Perez left - it doesn´t get better then three legions for the price of one.

It´s George Perez, it´s the Legion and it´s a five issue limited series so even if I prefered it as a 2.99 book I can live with the higher cost because I also get 30 pages of story. So for me the 3.99 are okay.

The second one that had the 3.99 price tag are in fact five of them : DARK TOWER - THE LONG ROAD HOME. Again two top creators with Peter David and Jae Lee on the book. The only previous exposure I had to the DARK TOWER universe was the first miniseries published by Marvel and since I liked it and it´s the same team on this one I put it on my pull list. I think there are going to be other art teams on subsequent stories but since I have no issues of the following series in my bag at the shop I might have to continue reading this in the trade anyhow.

As for the content : like in the first series the main story has more than the usual 22 pages - 26 pages in the first issue - as well as up to ten additional pages with extra prose stories, sketches or other stuff. So again the 3.99 price tag is justified in my opinion.

Next is the JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA ANNUAL 1 by Geoff Johns ( again ) and Jerry Ordway. And it´s no wonder that so far all the comics were either part of special mini series or specials like annuals. Because that is what used to be the higher priced comics in the past. Soon that is going to change and the 3.99 is becoming the standard. The annual has a normal cover while the other two comics had a cardstock cover or at least an extrathick glossy cover. But with 36 pages of story plus a wonderful double page group shot of the JSA by Dale Eaglesham it´s well worth the money in my opinion.

And really I hadn´t to think twice about it because this one is not only part of the brilliant GOG storyline it has all of the elements I love in comics : Power Girl, Earth 2, art by Jerry Ordway, an incredible story...did I mention Power Girl ? For me the 3.99 is okay.

INCREDIBLE HERCULES 126 is the next one. Now don´t despair fellow fans of the Lion of Olympus. This is a special double sized issue and the regular series is going to stay at 2.99 a few months longer. At least till issue 130 if the solicitations are to be believed. The double sized issue has a 22 page main story, a 10 page back up story and 5 pages of recap. While I found the main story to be a bit " meh " and couldn´t care less for the mangaesque back up story the expanded volume justifies the higher price.

I don´t think the issue is required reading if you want to follow the current storyline but I´m just glad Marvel is FINALLY doing something with one of the original action heroes. I just closed the gap I had in my Herc collection and as I said with the next issue it´s business as usual for 2.99. And of course it has a nice Ed McGuiness cover which may or may not pay homage to one of the most famous Superman covers by Neal Adams.

Speaking of Ed McGuiness one of the books on my pull list that has made the 3.99 jump with no extra pages is the new HULK book with it´s tenth issue. Having Ed McGuiness as the artist gives a free pass in my book so far but I´m not sure if the book manages to stay on my pull list once the Edman departs. Not much to say about this one. If you´re an Ed McGuiness fan like me you will buy it and if not......

You may have noticed that I said " one of the books on my pull list that has made the 3.99 jump with no extra pages " because there is a second one and it´s DARK AVENGERS issue 2. Yes, true believers. Not a hoax ! Not a dream ! Not an imaginary price tag ! I thought that Marvel would try to make the transition from 2.99 to 3.99 as smooth as possible but it seems they opted for the blunt trauma instead. I expected a few months of extra pages but they changed the price tag so fast you´re lucky if you don´t get whiplash.

Like I said in one of my earlier posts I like Mike Deodato but not that much. So I´m staying with the book till the first storyline finishes. Or the first six issues. Because now that I have made the decision I´m not going to stop and then buy a trade if I already have the first two issues. I don´t plan to sell the two issues right after getting them like some guy on the PANINI forum. I´m not going to get my money´s worth back and in any case the decision was made when I bought the first issue.

The reason why I put the six issue limit on it is that I have no intention in following the title for one of Bendis neverending storylines like in MIGHTY AVENGERS or NEW AVENGERS. I know I don´t buy either of them ( aside from the first six issues of MIGTHY AVENGERS by Frank Cho ) and just read the issues my brother gets but I´m probably out by the end of the first story. I mean how many Avengers books does Marvel need ? I´m happy with one and that´s only as long as they got good art. So the question for me is how long is Deodato going to stay and how many issues will the first story last ?

I mean together with THUNDERBOLTS this is Marvel´s second version of SUICIDE SQUAD but one is enough for me. And with 22 pages for 3.99 it is already above my pain endurance limit. Of course the reasonable thing would be not to buy it since as long as I fork over the 3.99 the comic companies will think everything is all right. The only thing we all can do is to examine the comics we buy from now on more carefully.

I know I´m going to ask myself " Do I really need this comic ? " more from now on not only because I´m getting rid of a fair amount of comic baggage right now. But with a lot of comics that are not going to survive the necessary shrinking of the market I want to make sure I support the right books. And for me those books are not the hyped mega event crossover books like DARK AVENGERS but independent mainstays like SAVAGE DARGON, USAGI YOJIMBO or Terry Moore´s ECHO. Not only do they offer good story, good art and the artistic vison of ONE creator.

With a 3.50 price tag they are 49 cents cheaper which is not much for one book but can make all the difference if you buy 20 or 30 books each month. The only question is if independent comics can use this advantage in the long run. With the new rules from DIAMOND I´m not sure if they don´t have to increase prices if they want to stay in the catalogue. On the other hand the question remains if that is necessary. I mean we already have two different catalogues each month and for the independents it might even make sense to organize themselves.

They could all come together and make their own distribution system which may even be virtual. With the internet there are alternatives available and which comic collector hasn´t ordered comics online ? I did it for nine months when I was in Spain and I don´t think it would be so difficult once you get used to it.

So, this post is once again long enough and I have probably already put all my readers to sleep. I hope it helped you to make up your mind about the price increase and remember that you vote with your wallet in this case. And like a wise man once said : If you don´t vote you don´t matter.

One last thing before closing : there are still four copies of the H.P.LOVECRAFT´S HAUNT OF FEAR hardcover left. You can find the order link in my last post.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest


Nick and Justin said...

The Books-A-Million here bumped all the Marvel books up to 3.99 a few months ago, which sucks because I was following several titles from there, and 4.00 is just too damn much for a single comic. I'm still following a few DC and Dark Horse books and I might pick up the Marvel issues next time I can get to an actual comic store up until the price raise, but past that it's all trades for me. I love following books month to month, but there's a limit.

SUBZERO said...

Sad to hear that. But I guess most of us are in that situation. For me there is still a lot of stuff in my comic bag at 2.99 from my time in Spain but once that´s over my monthly comic dose is going to get smaller.

Like I said for specials or annuals readers are probably going to sccept the price but it´s too much for a simple 22 page pamphlet.

I have already taken a few titles from my pull list that I´m going to follow in trade. Although you never know how all this is going to affect the prices for trades.

My brother who has a bigger budget then me will probably keep his current pull list so I can read some books that way. But I guess the only books I will keep on my pull list as long as possible are independents like SAVAGE DRAGON or USAGI YOJIMBO.

And maybe they will have to change their current system to what Phil Foglio is doing ( and quite successfully I might add ) right now : publish new pages online for free ( !!! ) and selling collections.