Are comic books too exspensive?

A lot has been said lately on the seemingly never ending price increase with comic books.  What was once a fairly cheap medium has now become an expensive one.

Or has it?

Columnist Rich Johnson in a recent Lying in the Gutters column posted a chart showing the price of Amazing Spider-Man from 1977 to the present.  In 1977 a single issue of Amazing Spider-Man cost 30 cents.  An issue currently costs $2.99 and the price is rumored to be rising to $3.99 sometime next year.

How would this compare to price increases seen in mass market paperbacks during the same period?

Looking though my own mass market paperbacks, the oldest book I have is The Crystal Shard, a fantasy adventure novel based in the Forgotten Realms series written by R.A. Salvatore.  It was published in 1988 and it was priced at $4.95.  I have paperbacks in the same series that were published much more recently.  Siege of Darkness, also written by R.A. Salvatore was published in 2006 and it was priced at $7.99.

If my math is correct, the price increase for a R.A. Salvatore fantasy adventure paperback from 1988 to 2006 was 61.4%.  The price increase for an Amazing Spider-Man comic from 1988 to 2006 was 233.3%.  Worse, though the price of a paperback has not changed from 2006, the price for a comic book has by nearly 50 cents.  That brings the price increase for comic books to 298.6%.

I compare the two mediums because I used to regularly buy both comics and paperbacks.  I noticed after a while that I was getting a lot more enjoyment from the science fiction, fantasy adventure, and horror paperbacks I was buying then the similar genre comics I was buying.  I could spent $9 for three comics and have them all read in less then 30 minutes.  When I spent the same amount of money (even less) on a paperback, It would take me hours to read it.  I realized I was getting a lot more bang for my buck with paperbacks then I was with comics.

So yes, comic books are just too exspensive.

The Robert Kirkman/Brian Michael Bendis debate

I almost went to the recent Baltimore Comic Convention for no other reason then to witness the debate between Robert Kirkman (left) and Brian Michael Bendis (right). For those that don’t know, both men are comic book writers. Kirkman writes independent books The Walking Dead and Invincible, while Bendis writes just about every book currently published by Marvel Comics.

I am exaggerating, but not by much.

Kirkman recently came under fire from comic book nerds for things he said on a video manifesto released on the Internet. He encouraged other comic book creators to stop creating books for Marvel and DC and to instead concentrate their comic book creating powers on their own works. He himself was working for Marvel up until a short time ago, but decided to concentrate on his own books.

Brian Michael Bendis evidently took exception to some of the things said by Kirkman not only on the before mentioned video, but on a podcast talking about the same issues. Kirkman had used Bendis as an example with many of the points he was trying to make. Specifically, that comic book writers shouldn’t expect to fallow in Bendis’ footsteps in that there is only one Brian Michael Bendis.

Brian Michael Bendis then appeared on the same podcast that Kirkman appeared on and disputed many of the claims that were made by Robert Kirkman.

Organizers of the Baltimore Comic Con decided to capitalize on the “feud” by having the two men debate their respective point’s of view.  I was thinking of going to the con to watch the debate until I realized I didn’t really care.  At least not enough to drive down to the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, pay $30 to park, pay another $15 to get into the con, and then sit next to someone that probably hasn’t showered in two days while the two comic book writers debated.

I’ve heard what both Kirkman and Bendis have to say and I mostly agree with Kirkman.  I think it’s silly for someone who wants to write comic books for a living to simply aspire to write stories about the same old characters that have been around for eons.

It would be like someone wanting to write sci-fi novels and only aspiring to write Star Trek novels. Ironically, that is exactly what one certain comic book writer has done. He has written quite a few Star Trek novels.

I’ve really cut down on my comic book reading lately. I just haven’t felt like I’m getting my money’s worth. At $3 or $4 each, most comic books just aren’t worth it. Then again, if it took more then six minutes to read a comic, I might feel differently. I can spent $8 on a paperback novel and get hours and hours of enjoyable reading out of it. I can spend $30 at the funny book shop and maybe get an hour out of it. It just doesn’t make much economic sense these days to read comics.

Comics are cheaper to produce now then ever?

I read an article over on Newsarama where they ask various comic book creators to weigh in on comments made by comic book writer Robert Kirkman. The creator of Battle Pope, The Walking Dead, and Invincible advised his fellow creators to concentrate their efforts not on working for Marvel or DC, but on their own independent stuff.  He said that not only would it be better for the individual creator, but it would save the comic book industry.

My favorite was the comment made by comic book writer Chuck Dixon. He said:

I don’t worry about the “future of the industry.” There will always be comics. They’re cheaper to produce now than they’ve ever been and relatively easy to make compared to other media.

Back in the day, my brother and I would ride our bikes down the street to Hardy’s Liquor and buy a comic book. They were around 20 cents. Now, they are at least three bucks each. If Chuck Dixon is correct and comic books are cheaper to make now then they’ve ever been, why do they cost so much?

Comics journalism: carrots, sticks, threats, and spankings

If you have an interest in comics journalism, you need to listen to this podcast. It was recorded at the 2008 Heroes Con in North Carolina. The panel was entitled, “Covering Comics: Criticism, Reportage, and Gossip“. It was moderated by Tom Spurgeon of the Comics Reporter. The panel was comprised of Johanna Draper Carlson (Comics Worth Reading), Matt Brady (Newsarama), Heidi MacDonald (The Beat), Tim Hodler (Comics Comics), and Carlton Hargro, editor of the local alt-weekly Creative Loafing.

After listening to the entire panel, I was impressed with Carlton Hargo and Johanna Draper Carlson. The rest of the people, not so much.

Ethics in comic journalism

By far the most interesting segment was when Newsarama’s Matt Brady spoke about repercussions from comic publishers. It’s at around the 20:00 mark if you want to jump ahead. He pointed to two stories that he believed put Newsarama on the map. He mentioned the Siegel/Superman stuff and the DC Comics/Wildstorm deal. He said there would be multiple hoops to jump through today. Also. there would be repercussions if those topics were covered today.

He pointed to two stories he believed put Newsarama on the map. He mentioned the Siegel/Superman stuff and the DC Comics/Wildstorm deal. He talked about multiple hoops to jump through and there would be “repercussions” if those topics were covered today.

Carrots, sticks, threats, and spankings

He then talked about “carrots and sticks” and “threats and spankings”. He went on to say that there have been many times where he has had to think about the long-term picture before breaking a story. He admitted that he sometimes worried about repercussions from the publishers if he (Newsarama) is the first to break certain stories. He said sometimes he had had to ask himself if it was more prudent to “hang back” and allow certain stories to break elsewhere — like a blog or a rumor column — and comment on the story then.

Wow.

I felt uncomfortable listening to it on my iPod. I cannot imagine sitting in the room and hearing it in person.

Brian Bolland and his Chicago real estate lawyer

This morning I found yet another email from comic book artist Brian Bolland concerning the whole issue surrounding my blog post over two months ago about a sketch he did at the 2007 New York City Comic Con. The email basically contradicts everything he has said about this matter up until now. He is now saying that the before mentioned Chicago real estate lawyer is his lawyer – even though he said prior that he was not.

This is what he originally told me about the lawyer:

The guy you refer to is A lawyer (apparently a Chicago lawyer) but he is not MY lawyer. I’m not employing anyone. He’s a friend and a comic fan.

Brian Bolland
3 May 2007

That seemed pretty clear to me. The Chicago real estate lawyer who represented himself as Mr. Bolland’s lawyer not only to me but to my hosting provider was in fact not his lawyer. Mr. Bolland even made the word “my” in uppercase letters. I took that to mean he was super serious about it.

Evidently not.

In his most recent email to me, he now sings a very different tune. He says this:

Mr. Caira was duly authorized to represent me in this matter. Although he is not my regular attorney, in this case and for this specific circumstance, he was acting as my representative.

Brian Bolland
4 May 2007

That just reeks of lawyer speak. As though a Chicago real estate lawyer wrote those words and told Bolland to send them. He also went on to state IN CAPITAL LETTERS that he wanted the entire letter posted anywhere on my blog where I wrote about this whole mess. That’s something I’m just not willing to do. Much of the letter contains facts that I know to be false and untrue.

I don’t put stuff on my blog that I know isn’t true.

My patience has run out.

The truth is I wrote a negative comment about a piece of art that Brian Bolland was paid $150 to do. The man is a professional artist. He ought to be willing to accept just a little bit of negative criticism every once in a while. He certainly seems more then willing to receive praise and admiration. If an artist is willing to be praised, he ought to be willing to be criticized as well. Especially if he deserves it. Otherwise said artist comes off looking like a thin skinned primadonna. He himself said that the art “was a pretty meagre drawing for the money“. He also admitted that he “shafted” the guy that commissioned the art. I’m then supposed to believe that I went too far when I wrote that he “ripped off” that same buyer? Not hardly.

I’m tired of getting lied to. Chicago real estate lawyer first told me that he was just a friend of Bolland’s and that Bollard didn’t ask him to do anything. He stated that he was not acting on Bolland’s direction. When I refused to post links to eight (8) images of better looking sketches Bolland did at the same 2007 New York City Comicon, he changed his story and claimed to be Bolland’s lawyer. He then sent me the secret confidential Cease and Desist letter that I supposedly cannot show anyone. He also sent an email to my hosting provider and demanded that my site be taken down.

Chicago real estate lawyer emailed my hosting provider and said:

It is critical that this site and the offending content be removed before my client is damaged and my privacy rights are violated any further.

The “privacy rights” he speaks of refers to things like his name, law office telephone number, and his law office fax machine number. Chicago real estate lawyer also went on to say:

Being that this is content in violation of the law I am notifying you of this situation before it moves to formal litigation in order to give you an opportunity to shut the site down before further damage is done to the name and reputation of Mr. Bolland by these scurrilous accusations.

Scurrilous accusations? They like to contend that by stating that Mr. Bolland “ripped off” the fan by drawing the “meagre” looking (his own description) sketch, people would immediately jump to the conclusion that Brian Bolland is some kind of wanted criminal. Give me a break. They were merely looking for any kind of excuse to silence negative criticism.

He threatened to sue my hosting provider unless my website was shutdown. Chicago real estate lawyer claims to have never said this. I think he was under the impression that my hosting provider wasn’t going to share the email with me. If that’s the case, he was wrong.

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that if Chicago real estate lawyer was indeed representing Bolland in these matters, Bolland cannot make the claim that he did not try to get my website shut down. I was more then willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when he told me that Chicago real estate lawyer was not his lawyer and that he didn’t ask him to do any of this.

Why would Bolland change his position on this? Most likely to protect Chicago real estate lawyer. Evidently Chicago real estate lawyer shows up at any comic book con in the United States that Bolland makes an appearance. He helps him by running the lines and managing the sketch list. He fetches food for him to eat and beverages for him to drink.

You know, real lawyer-type stuff.

Yesterday a couple of people in the comment section of my blog brought up the idea that Chicago real estate lawyer could be in trouble with the Illinois State Bar for claiming to represent a client when in fact he doesn’t.

I’m fairly certain Chicago real estate lawyer read those comments.

Not that I planned on perusing any type of complaint against Chicago real estate lawyer with the Illinois State Bar. I’m not a snitch.

Brian Bolland threatens me with legal action

This morning I found an email in my inbox from an attorney claiming to represent comic book artist Brain Bolland. The return email address along with his signature shows that he is from the Chicago law firm Klafter & Burke. Their website shows that they specialize in real estate and taxes.

Evidently they are expanding their legal scope into the lucrative world of comic book convention commissioned sketch law.

Yesterday this same person attempted to post two comments to my blog. He didn’t identify himself yesterday as a lawyer representing Brian Bolland. In fact, he claimed the complete opposite. He claimed to not speak for Brian Bolland.

His comments were automatically held for moderation because WordPress misidentified them as spam. He attempted to post numerous links within his comments. I have WordPress configured to identify any comment with two or more links to be spam.

This all stems from a post I made on my blog almost two months ago concerning a commissioned sketch Brian Bolland did for a fan at the 2007 New York Comicon. I found the image of the sketch while looking for photos from the convention. The fan (also named Brian) wrote that he paid $150 for it.

The sketch measured approximately 3 by 4 inches.

I believed Brian Bolland overcharged the fan for the sketch. In fact, I wrote that he “ripped off” the fan.

Evidently Brain Bolland Googled himself last week and found my post. He twice responded to what I wrote. His comments seemed good natured and not the least bit snarky. It seemed that he was admitting that he overcharged the fan for the commission. He wrote, “I feel particularly upset that I’ve shafted a fellow Brian.

How can he admit that he “shafted” the fan, but then have his lawyer send a threatening email to me demanding that I remove my post? Isn’t shafting someone worse then ripping them off? I’m no wordsmith, but it certainly seems so to me. Maybe it’s just me, but the expression shafted seems to have a pseudo-sexual connotation to it that the phrase “ripped off” just doesn’t have.

If Brian Bolland wanted me to remove my post, why didn’t he just ask me himself? Why engage the services of a lawyer? The truth is that if he had simply asked me nicely to remove the post when he first discovered it, I probably would have done so. I had no malice or ill will towards him.

All that changed though when he decided to threaten me with legal action. I don’t particularly like being threatened. Then again, who does? Not that I have any malice for him now.

I now don’t particularly feel like removing the post.

UPDATE: My hosting provider asked me to remove the Cease and Desist letter sent to me by Brian Bolland’s lawyer, Christopher M. Caira of the Klafter & Burke law firm. Caira threatened legal action against my hosting provider unless the C&D letter was removed. Caira claimed that the letter disclosed private information including personal contact information. Oddly enough, it’s the very same “personal contact information” published on the Klafter & Burke website. I thought it was important to include the C&D letter to show what steps Brian Bolland and his lawyer were taking to silence critical speech.