Yes, this is yet another depressing article on the economy. The economy has fallen like the sales of a new Quasar series. The economy hasn’t just affected those on Wall Street. Comic book fans are keenly aware of the impact a slow-moving economy has on their pastime. As the price for gas, food, and other cost of living items increase, our ability to support our favorite hobby decreases, or it is hampered at best. Try as they might, I haven’t heard Barack Obama or John McCain’s outline a plan for helping out the struggling comic book fan. Obama did mention Superman last weekend and McCain is more and more acting like a piss-poor Spider-Man villain plotting his petty revenge, but that does little for our ability to purchase funny books. So, fans are stuck in limbo, forced to choose between continuing to pick up Title A or Title B because their tightening budget won’t allow for both.
What can a struggling fan do? I offer up a few suggestions this week on how to handle hard economic times as a fan. The advice is free. Trust me, you won't find a better price anywhere!
Cut the Fat
Let’s face it; many of us collect some books out of a misguided sense of loyalty to a character, group of characters, concept, or creative team. While loyalty is one of the most admirable qualities of comic book fans, it doesn’t make sense from an economic perspective. Think about how much time and money is wasted in our hobby on titles people just don’t simply enjoy. Read any comic book message board and you will see misguided fans bemoaning the latest disappointing issue of a title they once, long ago, truly loved and admired.
It’s hard to dump a title you’ve been with for a while. Breaking up is hard to do, even if you don’t really like the title in question. For instance, take my long struggle with Jack of Fables,. Jack and I haven’t really spoken for a year now. The last issue I read of the title was back in New York in November of 2007. Ever since then, our relationship has grown cold. We barely even look at one another, let alone speak. Monthly, I glance his way and quickly stow him in a poly bag, moving onto another without a care as to his feelings. I love Fables, don’t get me wrong, but jack of Fables just seems to be hollow. I’ve read online that many people see something different in Jack that I don’t see, some even claim to love him. Maybe they do. I can’t be sure.
Two weeks ago, as I stared at my monthly order form for Mail Order Comics, I decided it was time to let Jack go. I dropped him from my pull list. As a collector, it’s tough to look at that empty spot in the long box where future issues would go. However, your wallet will thank you.
Quality *AND* Quantity
Quality of the books deeply impacts enjoyment, but so can the actual amount of books you buy monthly. The law of comic book quality states that the more books you buy in a month, the greater the chance is that you won’t enjoy some of them. If you’re like me, finding time to squeeze in all your reading is tough. I’ve learned the hard way that there is just no way to red as many books as I want in a month’s time.
Being choosy can be good for fans. Limiting the number of comic books you purchase in a month makes good monetary and quality control sense. If you tell yourself that you are only going to buy ten comic books a month, it tends to force you into selecting those books you want to have in your read pile as opposed to those you are buying out of habit. Each person has to decide on their limit and stick to it.
Go Team, Go!
When the going gets tough, the team books get going. Team books are an excellent way to enjoy a wide variety of superheroes for a minimum entry price. Superhero teams, especially long established ones, are populated by a broad range of characters, many of them staring in solo books or appearing as supporting cast members for other A-list team members. These books offer lots of character. Think about it as buying superhero books in bulk.
I watched a special feature recently on some comic book themed dvd (one of those animated Avengers features, perhaps) where Mark Millar offered up this reasoning as why he enjoyed the Avengers as a child. He was kid who didn’t have a lot of cash, so team books helped him get his fix. Team books could provide an opportunity to get your, say, Wolverine fix for the month without buying the two monthly Wolverine comics. Plus, you get to read far more interesting characters than the largely one-dimensional Wolverine in a team book. See? That’s got to be a positive for you.
This doesn’t just come down to me being cheap. It’s just practicality. Most shops do offer some type of discount for customers with established pull lists. Seeking out these shops can help soften the blow when they ring up all eighty-five monthly X-books you buy. Most online vendors also offer discounts. Some obviously offer better discounts than others, but I’ve found that online shops offer better discounts than actual local comic shops.
There is a hippie-dippy downside to shopping online as opposed to going to a local comic shop. By going to your local comic shop, you are helping out the local economy. Those shop owners are operating in the same sluggish economy you are. Times are tough everywhere and it comes down to the ethics of the customer as to whether or not they would rather save a nickel or support a local shop. Me? My local shop caters to the CCG crowd more than comic books fans. I don’t feel so bad about going online. However, you might have wonderful shops in your area that need and depend on your business.
Comic Fans Need a Bailout
Ultimately, as I talked about a few weeks ago in my Declaration of Independence from Event Comics, I think comic book publishers will start to slow on these admittedly splurge titles. I think we will begin to see a decrease in these events over the next year as the economy tries to balance itself out. The ability to buy tons of books with millions of tie-in issues is diminished now for most fans. Companies will naturally become more conservative with their titles, slinging less towards the wall to see what sticks.
This could be good in theory. With the fanbase less likely to overindulge in their purchasing, publishers may be forced to think in more qualitative terms rather than quantitative. We could see an increase in the quality of some products. And for our hard earned and well spent dollar, they better be good! If most fans are like me, fans have to carefully invest their hobby money now.
Let’s hope we all make it through this. Except for Jack of Fables. He can go.