There’s been a lot of chatter online as of late about the poor state of the comic book retail industry. A lot of comic book shops have been going out of business.
The host of the YouTube channel Diversity & Comics claimed in a recent video that fifty comic book shops went out of business last year. He attributed this in large part to the number of social justice warriors working in comics producing bad comics people don’t want to read.
I’m not sure I totally agree with that. Sure, there has been a slew of low-selling comics produced that push a certain social narrative, but I’m not sure they’re the reason so many comic book shops have gone out of business. I think the reason so many comic book shops have gone out of business (and more will go out of business in the future) is that comic books are just too expensive. Good comics, bad comics, and mediocre comics all cost too much.
Both Marvel and DC price their monthly comic books anywhere from $2.99 to $3.99. That’s too much money for a monthly comic book.
It wasn’t too long ago that comic books were cheap impulse buys. They were priced cheap enough that if something caught your eye on the shelf, you could just add it to the stack of books you were buying that week. Not anymore. That doesn’t exist anymore. If you’re going to pay four bucks for a monthly comic with 22 pages of story, you’d better make sure before you buy it that it will be worth it.
More times than not, it won’t be worth it.
Compared to the other forms of entertainment I spend my discretional money on, comic books by far give me the less bang for my buck. It’s not even close. When I spend $3.99 on a monthly comic and I sit down to read it, I’ll have to read in less than ten minutes.
In comparison, I’ll spend more money on a science fiction prose book either for my Kindle, or an actual paper book made from dead trees, but I’ll get hours of reading enjoyment from my purchase. Hours, not minutes.
The same is true for my audiobooks. I pay $15 a month for an Audible membership which gives me one credit per month for an audible book. The books I choose to listen to run anywhere from 8 hours to 22 hours. I feel like I get real value for my monthly Audible membership.
(I don’t mean for this to sound like a plug for Audible, I’m just stating an economic fact.)
When I read a $3.99 comic, I never feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. I don’t feel like I’m getting value. How long can something like that last?
I’m not sure there’s any way to fix this problem. Can Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, and the other comic book publishers make cheaper comics again? They did it before. It would stand to reason they could do it again.
If they wanted to.
My gut tells me $1.50 is a price point sweet spot. If comic publishers found a way to return the price of a single comic to $1.50, a lot of the problems plaguing comic book retailers would go away.
X-Ray Comics and Records, located in nearby Greencastle, Pennsylvania is closing its doors at the end of the month. It will be missed.