the Little Red Reviewer

It costs HOW $&^#ing much???

Posted on: November 9, 2010

GraphicNovelNovember continues with some industry chat. . . .

When I bought the most recent volume of Girl Genius, I gave the clerk my debit card and said “receipt in the bag. I don’t want to know.” I waited till I got out to the car before having a heart attack at the price.

I love Otomo’s Akira, but I didn’t know which was scarier, the motorcycle gangs, or the price tag (although I notice the price has recently plummeted on Amazon).

One of my recent purchases was only fifteen dollars, and I was thrilled at how cheap it seemed compared to everything else I was drooling over.

I look at my shelves of manga and graphic novels and think about how much money I’ve sunken into that collection over the years. Money I could put towards my school loan. Or a down payment on a new car. Or Shoes.

I can get a 200+ page Manga for ten bucks and massmarket paperback for $7, so why are Comics, Graphic Novels and webcomic books so bleeding expensive?? At fifteen to twenty-five bucks a piece, it gets mighty expensive mighty fast to find out what happens at the end.

Why are they so expensive? There’s a handful of reasons. . . .

it’s a team effort
think about the most recent novel you read. How many authors did it have? Probably one. Ok, sure, it had an editor and a publisher, and someone who did the cover art, but those people were also working on other stuff while they worked on that novel or Manga. For the most part, Novels and Mangas have one creator – the author.

Not so for most traditional comics and graphic novels. There is of course, a writer. And an artist. Maybe the artist only does the inking (black and white parts) and someone else is the colorist, and someone else does the lettering, and someone else does the layout and the coverart. It’s a team effort, and everyone wants and needs to get paid for their work.

there’s a deadline
and sometimes that means no day job. George R R Martin might be able to take 5 years in between novels, but nearly all comics run on a deadline. Even if you buy it as a volume, chances are it was a weekly that ran, or perished.

Smaller Publishers 
Sure, there is Darkhorse and DC, but many comics and graphic novels are published by tiny publishing houses. It’s pretty obvious – the less quantity you print, the more expensive each one is to produce.

Full Color
Full color printing is just plain damn expensive.  Manga is on the cheap side because it’s usually black and white. But isn’t that full color beautiful?

Limited market
how many copies of Eat Pray Love sold? How about Harry Potter? Wheel of Time? The Dune prequels? A metric crapload, that’s how many. I don’t care how many copes of Fables, or The Sandman, or the new Superman series sell, comics and graphic novels will always sell to a limited market until Oprah picks one up.

Captive audience
face it, if you really want it, you’ll find the $20. Once upon a time when comics were 25 or 50 cents a pop, it was no problem to pick up a few week. But these days even the singles are usually about $4. Collecting at these prices isn’t childsplay.

Does all of that justify the price? I don’t know. It makes me mighty picky about what I buy at the comic shop, and if I’m burned one by a particular publisher or writer or artist, I’m even less likely to buy anything with their name on it. But when I do find something I like?? Price be damned, I’m a captive audience with a debit card.

6 Responses to "It costs HOW $&^#ing much???"

I love Girl Genius and Akira, although trying to grab the very thick volumes of Akira is a bit off putting, especially when it comes to the price for each volume. The original Dragon Ball series is like this too.

Not really a fan of the newer mangas because of how samey a lot of them are. I kinda prefer the older ones from the eighties, early nineties, would love to get the stuff from the 60’s and 70’s. Would love to get a copy of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis before it was made into an animated film or the Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior manga’s, but those are so hard to come by.

I actually have the one thick, but small trade paperback of Girl Genius.

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I have been wondering why it is that graphic novels are so much more expensive than book. For the price of one graphic novel I could buy three books, which doesn’t tempt me to give them a try.
I haven’t seen any graphic novels in the second-hand bookshops, here in Israel, but if I do than I might pick one up there just to try it.

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I too browse second hand bookstores for graphic novels, without much luck.

I think because of the price, people tend to buy GN’s and manga for keeps. It’s not something you buy off the impulse rack at barnes & nobel. When they do sell them, the stuff tends to end up on Ebay before ABEbooks. I’ve also noticed that especially in the larger format graphic novels (8×10, 9×12), the binding tends to be garbage. you read the thing 3 times and the pages start falling out. what second hand store wants to try to sell that?

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I have to admit, the price of graphic novels scares me off a bit from picking up the habit. I think part of it is that I know I can read (at least most) graphic novels much more quickly than I can read (most) prose novels, so when they cost two or three times as much, I have trouble justifying the expense, when I feel like it’s a lower return.

Which is a strangely mathematical way of looking at it, when I’m really not much of a left-brain person. And I’m willing to spend the money on a really good movie, which I would watch in less time than it takes to read a graphic novel.

There’s also the factor that I almost never buy a book without reading it first (same goes for movies), and the library tends to have a more limited selection of graphic novels to let me browse before buying.

I have a huge stack of old Silver Age superhero comic books my dad bought when he was a kid. Most were ten cents. 🙂 Times have changed…

Thanks for the breakdown on the whys of the pricing. I’m still not sure I’m going to dive in and fork over the cash, but at least the price seems to make more sense. And you can’t leave me hanging here–how much WAS Girl Genius? Or did I just miss that somewhere in the post? 🙂

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Girl Genius was $23. At the time I nearly had a heart attack, but as far as pricing goes, that’s average.

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I feel like the cost of graphic novels often balances itself out with quality; Manga are about $10, but they’re printed on cheap paper in black and white, so it sort of makes sense that they’re cheaper. Good graphic novels have a better binding, and high-quality, glossy pages. It makes them a worthwhile investment, I think.

The trouble I have with smaller publishers is that they sometimes go under mid-series (like Crossgen Comics with Meridian which still makes me a bit weepy when I think of it.) so getting into a new series sometimes feels like a gamble.

I do, however, tend to wait to buy graphic novels until I have really good coupons– like the 33-40% off coupons Borders sometimes puts out. That makes the price a little less painful.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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