In case you're not aware, both Marvel and DC are testing the waters for $4.99 comic books. Marvel recently upped the price to $4.99 on their weekly Death of Wolverine mini, and DC quickly followed suit by announcing that their own Wolverine comic, Batman, would also cost $4.99, though thanks to the efforts of Batman creative team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, that hike lasted only one issue (out this week). Marvel's Avengers and X-Men: Axis #1, out this week, is also $4.99. While apologists claim these price hikes are justified because these are "special" comics that feature bonus material or extra pages or are part of a universe-shatterring super-mega-crossover event, history makes it quite clear that if people buy "special" comics for $4.99, the industry will soon raise the price of regular books to $4.99. Then "special" books will start costing $5.99. And so on. This is the way it's worked since the dawn of comic book price increases.
The only way to break this cycle is to vote with your wallet. And we're not talking about the kind of voting with your wallet where you talk about voting with your wallet on the internet and go and buy the fucking comics anyway. No, this is the kind of voting with your wallet where you refuse to buy comics for $4.99, regardless of whether they have extra pages, or 3D covers, or meaningless character deaths, or even if you can get them from an online discount site for 40% off. Just don't buy them at that price point, and Marvel and DC won't sell them.
$4.99 is too expensive for a comic. That's five bucks for something that takes you ten minutes to read. Twenty if we're being generous and you went to school in America after 1995. When you can get a paperback novel that takes you hours to read for the same price, or a Netflix subscription that lets you watch UNLIMITED movies for less than ten bucks, there is no justifiable reason to pay five dollars for a comic book.
So don't do it. If you have to read it, wait for a second printing to come out or for the digital price to drop. If a Marvel or DC comic has a $4.99 price tag, you don't buy it. That's the only way this will work. Because if publishers see that $4.99 comics don't sell, they won't sell $4.99 comics.
I'm going to call creator-owned books exempt from this, at least for now. We're not looking to hurt creators, who might legitimately need to price books higher to cover costs. When Marvel and DC price books at $4.99, it has nothing to do with cost, and everything to do with how much money they can squeeze out of their readers. Capitalism at it's finest. We want to send the clear message to corporate publishers that we won't accept another price hike.
Got it? Pretty simple, right? If a corporate comic costs more than $3.99, buy something else.
I'm going to repeat the above diatribe every week until you get it. And I'm also going to offer you some alternatives - a selection of comics coming out this week that I think offer a great value for $3.99 or lower. If you were planning to buy a $4.99 comic this week, save a dollar or more and buy one of these:
Archie Comics: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 - $3.99
By Roberto Aguirre Sacasa and Robert Hack
Archie is rebooting Sabrina the Teenage Witch with this new series that reimagines the sixteen year old witch as a darker horror book. If you didn't get in on the ground floor with Afterlife with Archie, the zombie take on Riverdale, this is your opportunity to try again. Archie has been taking risks with their characters and it's been paying off. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is set in the 1960s in a sort of Lovecraftian world of witchcraft and the characters feel both familiar and strange at the same time. Christian Hoffer has a full review of the issue which you can read here. He calls it "probably the darkest comic that comic book stores will sell in October, while also being among the most genuine and enjoyable," and I agree.
Each issue contains both the new story and a reprint of a classic Sabrina story, which actually compliments the new material by juxtaposing campiness with the darker, more serious tone of the new story. And all of that for only $3.99.
Image Comics - Punks #1 - $3.99
By Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain
Punks is a relaunch of a webcomic this pair used to do on the now defunct MTV Geek website. It's got a unique collage art style, and while I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet, Outhouse Ace Reviewer Tim Midura says, "Fialkov and Chamberlain have something great on their hands, in a similar vein to South Park, using basic art to make smart comments on society." Read his full review here, and consider giving Punks a try.
Image Comics - Wytches #1 - $2.99
By Scott Snyder and Jock (the artist, not the guy who beat you up in high school)
Don't want to give DC that five bucks for Batman, but want to support our hero Scott Snyder? Why not try his new creator owned book from Image with Jock, Wytches. We'll have a review up of this later this week, but come on, do you really need to wait? Like Batman, this book is oversized, featuring 30 pages of story, but it still comes in at just $2.99. How can you not love that?
Black Mask Comics: Pirouette #1- $2.99
By Mark L. Miller and Carlos Granda
Black Mask is a small press publisher that's put out some very enjoyable but overlooked books in the last few years like Twelve Reasons to Die and Occupy Comics. They're launching a bunch of new titles right now. For instance, you may have heard yesterday that Grant Morrison just announced his new book, Sinatoro, will be published there. This is a new series they're launching, and I want you take note of the price - $2.99. That's what a comic should cost, god dammit.
Pirouette introduces us to the titular fifteen year old protaganist, a clown in a travelling circus who leads a pretty miserable life despite her talent at performing. She's abused, emotionally, physically and (implied) sexually, by her caretakers. There's nothing super or supernatural about this book, at least so far; it's all human drama, of the riveting variety. The art is great looking, and five dollar comic Death of Wolverine writer Charles Soule said of it, "I loved PIROUETTE. It's hard to think up a more story-friendly setting... (they) truly make the most of it. Bring on #2!"
One note - the serious subject matter might put this book in the "not for everyone category," particularly if you're sensitive to issues like sexual abuse, so consider yourself warned on that front. If you can handle it, you should give it a try. I enjoyed it.
DC Comics - Batgirl #35 - $2.99
By Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr
This is the big Batgirl creative team change, complete with much-hyped new costume. DC doesn't send us review copies because they hate us, so you're on your own on this one, but Gail Simone recommends it, saying, "From what I have seen, @cameronMstewart @babsdraws @brendenfletcher are going to deliver a great looking book. Please support them in this."
Oh, and it's $2.99. You might also be interested in DC's new Klarion comic, launching at $2.99 as well.
Holding the line at $2.99:
If you want to really send a message to publishers, show them that you are more willing to check out new comics at a $2.99 price point. Image is launching a comic by Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan called Birthright. It's about a family that loses their son, only to have him mysteriously return. Oh, and it's only $2.99! DC has fifteen comics priced at $2.99 this month. Image has eight. Marvel, shamefully, has just one, and it's Marvel Universe: Avengers Assemble #13, which I'm pretty sure is a tie-in to a sub-par cartoon. Way to go, Marvel. At least next week will see a new issue of Ms. Marvel at $2.99.
If there are any comics coming out today that you want to recommend, as long as they cost less than five bucks, please post them in the comments below. And remember, don't fucking buy any five dollar comics.
Stay strong, comics fans! You can do this! I believe in you!*
*I totally don't believe in you and expect all comics to cost $4.99 by this time next year. Prove me wrong!