Comic Store in Your Future: Cheaper Comics Would Mean No Comic Shops

Comic Store in Your Future: Cheaper Comics Would Mean No Comic Shops

Posted by January 10, 2019 Comment

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

Much has been made of comic prices, with some people claiming that they are priced above what people are willing to pay. That prices should be lowered. Lowered back to what they were decades ago. That all sounds very nice and all, but lower prices would mean less money for the companies that produce the comics which, in turn, means less money for the creators who help produce the books along with less money for the stores that sell their product. Which means fewer comics, less talent, and less physical stores selling comics along with even less online stores selling comics. Buying a comic online for say, forty cents, and then having to have it shipped would be a great way to lose money.

The argument that comics sold so much better when they were 40 cents or however much because when that person was a kid, that is how much they cost is not a good argument. Comics started out at ten cents. Those days are long gone. The argument that parents were more willing to buy a comic for their kid back then because they were so much cheaper is weak. Much more money is spent on kids nowadays. They get phones with monthly costs now paid for by the parents, which is far more than 40 cents. The past can be a selective, rose-colored memory filtered through childhood.  I remember my parents telling me far more often than not “no” if I asked for a comic, I also remember no meant no. I did not ask multiple times because I knew I would get in actual trouble for being annoying. 40 cents then was worth a lot more than what 40 cents is worth now. A new movie theater just opened here in Ankeny replacing the previous one. The ticket prices are $14.00 per adult. I remember paying just $4.00 a ticket years ago. Earlier this year when I rented out the previous movie theater for private shows for our customers for comic related movies, it was $7.00 a person. That old movie theater is no more. Granted, the new movie theater has vibrating seats and offers more than the previous theater, though it is a big jump from seeing a movie here in Ankeny from $7 to $14 in the same year. Heck, I was even informed no more free comic-related posters for the store from the new theater, the new company is all about money, which they should be. That movie theater also, from what I have been told, offers better benefits to their employees than the previous one did.

Cheaper comics does not mean more sales. As a comic store owner, I have tons of copies of comics that recently came out over the past few years for 25 cents. The 25 cent issues of Walking Dead, Sheena, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, are still here.  Many store owners do not want 25 cent comics because quite simply because many stores do not make money on them. This will sound weird, though it is true, 25 cents isn’t worth it to the average person to buy. It is too cheap. What people say and do are often two different things.

I have tons of comics in the dollar bin. All New X Men, All New All Different Avengers, Mockingbird, X-Men Gold, the dollar comics from the True Believers line, and more. They do not sell more than the comics that are priced $3.99. Not even close. On our days of sales, they are eighty cents and even then they do not sell.

If people are entertained by a comic then the price in their mind is worth it. Doomsday Clock is $4.99 an issue. It is the bestselling title in store. It outsells comics that are a dollar less. I have had to reorder past issues and new printings multiple times because more and more people are wanting to read it. No one has said anything about the price.

One of the many things I learned over the time I have owned Rodman Comics is I am not going to make money off cheap people. If people do not want to pay cover price for a comic, they do not have to. Online is an option. Other stores discount their comics and so on. Why do I not discount comics all the time? Because it is not worth it. If I offer a pull list discount then that is just money lost. Meaning, no one ever thinks I just saved 20 percent off my comics, I am going to buy more comics. If someone is getting all the Spider-Man related titles and then gets 20 percent off, they do not buy other comics thanks to a discount. It is just 20 percent lost to a store. Over the years, I have had new customers who pre-paid for comics at a previous store so they would get a discount and then that store shut down and then they worry if they will get their money back. It is not the first time that has happened. I have seen online businesses close suddenly that offered a discount on comics if people pre-paid, and then have caused their former customers to worry if they lost their money they used to prepay. We do not do pre-paid. I want to keep things simple. If something happens to me, no one is out any money.

Comics are not nearly as commonplace as they were decades ago. In previous columns, I have stated that I got into comic books thanks to being able to read comics at grocery stores and drug stores and so on. It would be years before I would even learn comic stores were a thing. The lack of places to buy comics hurts the comic market far more than the pricing. Another thing I have stated, though some people complain a lot, people have generally accepted $3.99 as the price for a comic.

A bigger issue I see other than prices of comics is the fact that many Americans do not feel like they are getting ahead financially. Inflation is currently not an issue because wage growth has been slow over the years. After the recession, many people recovered to the point of what they made before the recession. Many more did not see a significant increase in their paychecks. Working to just maintain what they have become, a way of life for many.

For the average American, prices seem to keep increasing more than their paychecks can keep up with. I am currently trying to save up for a car. My hope is my current 2008 car lasts for at least one more year to give me enough time to save enough for a new car. Yes, I do own an Iroc Camaro, though it is from 1991 and the insurance on it is very inexpensive. Not an ideal vehicle for white winters. For a new car, I do not want anything fancy, just something that gets me mobile. Vehicles keep increasing in cost. My father and two of his brothers when they were in their twenties, bought new Corvettes. They weren’t rich. Cars were much cheaper decades ago and they did not have college debt. I am not going out buying a new Corvette anytime in the next few years. I do not know anyone buying a Corvette, let alone anyone in their twenties even thinking about doing so.

To visit Disney World is over $100 currently. A quick Google search shows in 1971, it was $3.50. In 1980, it was $8.00. Good luck getting the Mouse to lower prices back to 1980s prices.

Debt is a huge factor for many Americans.  I hear from many younger people that they are still paying off college debt years after finishing or not finishing college. Debt can tie up a lot of money. I am amazed by how many younger people say they wish there had been more finance education in high school so they could learn about things that seem basic to me. I run a business, so I need to balance the books. Meaning, I need positive cash flow and not overspend or Rodman Comics goes out of business. Having a lot of debt eats up a lot of money.

Make no mistake, I fondly remember comics of my childhood. Avengers, Batman, Batman and the Outsiders, Fantastic Four, Justice League of America, Machine Man, Rom, and more I hold in high regard. Though comics from my childhood were made much cheaper than they are now. Old school newspaper printing and lower paper quality most likely is not going to fly for comics in this day and age. That and the fact paper used to make comics is much more now than it was decades ago.

Want to see more copies of comics sold? Wages need to go up. The trickledown theory does not work. When a company uses its profits for things such as to buy back stocks that helps people that own that stock. Sears spent 6 billion over the years buying back its own stock when it could have been using that money to invest into its stores and future. Their stock price is hardly worth anything now.

Millionaires are not my regular customers. I read an article about Nicolas Cage going to a comic con once. He spent thousands of dollars while there and most likely made people some money and very happy. Sadly, that is not going to happen here in Ankeny, Iowa.

The Middle class is what moves the economy. My customers are mostly middle-class wage earners. When the middle class does well then that helps a lot of businesses. The customers that spend the most in my store are middle-class people with good paying jobs.

If new comic books were less than a dollar there would be no physical locations to buy comics at. To see more comics sold wages need to go up for everyone and the comics being offered currently need to be found entertaining. More money on hand makes it easier to spend more money. Comics also need to be thought as by a wider range of people as a great source of entertainment. More comics coming out that get people pumped such as DC’s Rebirth #1 with Wally West’s return. People really liked that comic and, in turn, we sold a lot of it. Even the higher priced reprints sold well because people wanted to read the comic. Excited fans spread the word about what they like which in turn grows readership.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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(Last Updated January 10, 2019 10:25 pm )

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