Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Confessions Of A Low Grade Comic Addict!

I like to talk a lot about "guerrilla comics buying".  Now is the time, we have a tiny window that DC has given us to show the Big Two that we mean business about the business of comics.  They rolled their books back to $2.99 for 2011, and if we flock to those books - money talks, baby.

If we don't flock to them, frankly, we will have earned our fate.  Before "hold the line at $2.99" our evil overlord masters were entirely to blame.  We now have a choice.  If January's numbers are indication, we are choosing....poorly.

It's in our hands, now
At any rate, I don't do a lot of pull list analysis on myself.  I have a basic budget that I stick to.  Sort of.  I detest the $3.99 price point, although I give independent publishers a pass on this from time to time.  Let's stop there for a moment.

Why do I do that?  Why should it make a difference whether Marvel or IDW is charging me too much money for a comic book?  Isn't that intellectually lazy?  Maybe it is.

I give the indies a dispensation primarily because they are not giant corporate entities.  They don't have such reduced printing costs, because they simply can't do it in the same bulk.  They can't attract those lovely toothpaste companies to come put those annoying booklets in their comics.  In fact, most independent books advertise little other than their own product.

They generally can't subsidize the cost of the comics with sleeping bags, pajamas, or DVDs.  Most of the time, these books can't be treated as a write off.  These are often creative people just barely eeking out a living, or just praying to break even at that $3.99 price point.  So while I don't enjoy the $4 rogering at any point, it doesn't feel like a personal attack.  It feels like a scratching for survival.

Right now I order the vast majority of my comics through DCB Service, and it's starting to chafe me.  Not because there's anything wrong with DCB Service as a, well, service.  You cannot beat those prices.  I'm ordering my books for the same rate many local comic shops order their books at.  Ordering at those prices allows me to get more books than I otherwise would be able to afford.

I'm not having as much fun, though.  I still do visit my LCS every week, and purchase something every week.  I find something to review for this blog, or something grabs my attention that did not when I first put in my order.  But it's not the same.  I get a box every other week, and it arrives at best several days after everybody else in the world has their comics.  I feel "out of the loop", slightly disconnected, slightly out of synch.

Che Guevara - big Secret Six guy
This month I did break down my monthly order, because I wanted to see if I was really putting my guerrilla money where my guerrilla mouth is.  I wanted to know if my philosophical trend toward DC was really showing up in my ordering practice.  I wanted to know how much of my money actually goes to the Big Two and how much goes to the "little guys".

The first thing I noticed when I broke down my February order is that I don't get as many comics as you might expect a guy with a comics podcast to get.  I ordered 32 "floppies" and 6 books.  Averaging four weeks a month, and I'm getting about eight books a week.  That's substantial, but hardly what I would call "extreme" behavior.  As comic book addicts go, I'm pretty low grade.

There's no way you can really stay on the pulse of the whole industry reading that few books.  32 books probably barely accounts for the Avengers and Batman books in any given month.  In some ways I'm a charlatan as a comics "pundit".  Just as a comparison, on John Mayo's latest installment of his Weekly Comics Spotlight he noticed that it was a light week for him.  He only had 50 books to read that week.  Now that's a commitment!

Honestly, I don't believe I'd read many more books than I do now, regardless of my monetary situation, because I just can't squeeze any more into my head and really enjoy it and keep up with it.  There are days when my DCB Service box shows up right now it already feels like work when I see the stack that I have.  Comics should never be work, and if you're reading so much material that you can't recall a thing about the prior issue until you start digging into the new one...you're reading too many damn comics.

So there is is.  I ordered 32 comic books in February, and here's how it breaks down by company:

  • DC:  10 books
  • Image: 9 books
  • Marvel:  8 books
  • Dynamite:  2 books
  • Boom:  1 book
  • IDW:  1 book
  • Avatar: 1 book

As you can see, I don't stray too far off the beaten path, and I don't really feel like apologizing for that, either.  Dynamite should actually probably be better categorized as "Garth Ennis".  I find myself retching at most of Dynamite's glut offerings.  If Ennis walked, I don't think I'd give them a nickel. 

Image has really been on a roll lately, but I was shocked to find that I ordered more Image titles than Marvel titles.  Incidentally, Marvel should almost be listed as 7 books, because for whatever reason Deadpool is shipping two books on this month's order form.  I would say 85% of my money each month is spoken for, I'm pretty loyal to books and creators.  But I save some of the pie every month for experimentation, and this month the "testers" all seemed to come from Image: Undying Love, Netherworld, Butcher Baker.

The other stab in the dark I took this month was Boom's Planet of the Apes relaunch, featuring movie prequel continuity.  I adore those first couple films, and if they can somehow capture that magic I'm going to be totally in love.  I won't be in love with the $3.99 price point, though.

Speaking of, here's how my price breakdown looks for my 32 floppy comics:

  • $4.99:  1 book
  • $3.99:  7 books
  • $3.50:  3 books
  • $2.99:  21 books

So, I'm not exactly as fanatical about eschewing $3.99 as one might think to listen to me rage, cry, and whine.  Almost 1/4 of everything I ordered fell under that evil price point.  I justify it like so: none of those $3.99 books came from Marvel or DC, and I just can't turn my back on independent comics.  I really feel like I can maintain integrity by simply teaching the Big 2 a lesson.  Maybe I'm wrong about that.  Maybe there is no good answer, but I feel plenty guerrilla about what I've done.  Incidentally, the $4.99 comic is S.H.I.E.L.D. # infinity by Marvel, which is double sized.  I'm not in love with that, but it is a lot more pages, and it's Jonathan Hickman, and I wasn't sure how or if it would be collected later so I bought it.  Whatever.

So 18/32 comics were Marvel or DC books, or about 56%.  I suppose that's healthy.  I think ordinarily my Big 2 percentage is a little higher, but like I said, Image is really commanding a greater chunk of my curiosity lately.  Kudos to Eric Stephenson, maybe?  Somebody is doing something right over there.  I can't lay enough superlatives on Morning Glories or Echoes, and I'm loving Who is Jake Ellis?, Savage Dragon, and Hack/Slash. 

I'm actually a little disappointed in my DC allotment, though.  In order to send the correct message, noticeable amounts of money need to shift in that direction.  There are good DC books that I've yet to discover.  Has anybody read Booster Gold that didn't like it?  I'm ordering that next month.  How about Freedom Fighters by the inimitable Jimmy Palmiotti?  I shall rage against the machine and buy this off the rack next time in the shop, and also begin ordering it next month.

Listen folks, this is war, and I mean to send $3.99 to hell in a blaze of guerrilla comics buying.  What's your sit rep?

- Ryan


Grodd said...

Here is what I've got on this months order.
5 Marvel - all $2.99
3 DC - all $2.99
2 Dark Horse - $3.50 for both
2 Image - $2.99 for each

So about $35 a month in floppies

Web Wreckage Stephen said...

Interesting break down.

I just got off work and decided to unwind before getting some sleep (I work a graveyard shift) and found myself perusing your latest chronic blog entries (all good reading, by the way). I am too tired to figure out the break down for my own monthly buying patterns but I can tell you that, yesterday, I made a visit to my LCS and had them make a change to my pull list: I had them drop Captain America (3.99) from my list and add Thunder Agents(2.99). It was only a matter of time before this Nick Spencer book made it onto my list, but I must say it felt good replacing a higherpriced Marvel book with a DC book that I am enjoying more than Ive enjoyed Cap in a while. To be honest, I was losing enough interest in Marvel months and months ago that I decided to stop almost all the monthlies right before siege and then after waiting for the siege TPB, I would decide which titles to resume in TPB format. In other words, Siege made for aperfect jumping off point, followed by a wait and see period of reflection. Gee, Thanks Marvel!

I just finished Siege this past week and now have some decisions to make. At least I have the hammer when it comes to being able to pick the collections at my leisure now with no monthly pressures. Maybe I will fill the gap with some more DC stuff. At this point however I feel more keen on trying new image books than DC or Marvel.