Action Comics #1 was an oversized 64-page newsprint comic, that cost 10 cents in 1938. In today’s money that would be $1.79. The same with Detective Comics #27.
Fantastic Four #1 was a more standard sized comic and also cost 10 cents in 1961. In today’s money that would be 84 cents. Amazing Spider-Man #1 was a standard sized comic and cost 12 cents in 1963. In today’s money that would be 99 cents.
Uncanny X-Men #101 from 1976 was a standard sized comic and cost 30c but for only a 16 page story. In today’s money that would be $1.33.
Man Of Steel #1 was was a standard sized comic and cost 75 cents in 1986. In today’s money that would be $1.72.
Watchmen #1 was a standard sized comic with additional story pages that ran without adverts in 1986 for $1.50. In today’s money that would be $3.45.
The Dark Knight was a prestige format, 48 page comic in 1986 for $2.95. In today’s money that would be $6.78.
Uncanny X-Men #274 was a standard sized comic in 1991 for $1. In today’s money that would be $1.85.
Uncanny X-Men #275 was a giant-sized comic in 1991 for $1.50. In today’s money that would be $2.78.
Spawn #1 was a standard sized comic in 1992 for $1.95. In today’s money that would be $3.50.
In 2011, Batman cost $2.99. In today’s money that would be $3.35.
And what of 2018?
Action Comics #1000 was a standard sized 80 page comic for $8.99. Subsequent 20 page issues of Action Comics and Man Of Steel have cost $3.99 each.
So what about 2018?
Doomsday Clock #1, the unauthorised sequel to Watchmen, is a standard sized comic with additional story pages that ran without adverts for $4.99.
Fantastic Four #1 relaunched at $5.99. Its subsequent issues are priced at $3.99.
Currently X-Men Gold, Blue and Red sell for $3.99.
But in 2018, Spawn costs $2.99. It is the only comic book that has actually come down in price in real terms over its period of publication. But then it started out twice the price of its competition. It is the only Image title priced that low.
Batman, a long hold out against price rises is now $3.99.
While Batman: Damned, an oversized prestige format 48 page comic is $6.99.
Conclusions if any? Well, comics have gone up in price but sometimes less that people think, in real terms. Compared to the thirties and the sixties, definitely. But compared to the eighties and the nineties, less so. Batman Damned and Dark Knight are level pegging. Spawn is down in price.
It’s the Marvel and DC monthly-or-more titles that seem the most egregiously priced, especially when they double ship, have special extended issues or enhanced covers. Marvel offers digital downloads of the comic, but an additional comic on offer for trial, DC Comics only does that occasionally.
It may be fair to say that for specially formatted mini-series that offer more, people will pony up the additional cash, as they did for Watchmen and for Dark Knight. And do so now for Doomsday Clock, Metal, Secret Empire, and Batman Damned.
But when it’s the average monthly-or-more series for four bucks a pop? The resistance is real.
DC Comics has downgraded their paper stock while Marvel has thinned out their covers – these are products of inflationary pressure as much as price rises. But from the industry as a whole, the $4 price point still seems too high. And exceptions such as Batman and Walking Dead have also shuffled to the $3.99 price point in recent months. For DC, only their ignored New Age Of Heroes line and kids books are $2.99. Marvel have nothing at all at that price.
While the ominous threat of a $4.99 standard price point looms large…