Bang for your buck.

25 May

By Ayo

Comics don’t have enough value for the price.

This is the charge that I have read over the years. Particularly in the current age of mainstream North American comic books with under twenty-four pages of story that readers self-report reading in under fifteen minutes. Sometimes under ten minutes. When the price has increased to three and four dollars and the reading density has dropped to ten minutes or less, it certainly seems like readers are getting a bad deal. Poor value.


Competing media:

Television: initial investment is a television and possibly some sort of cable package. Per-unit investment is $0. Time investment is fixed quantity, so television programs will always deliver a specific measure of timed entertainment to the customer. Quality is subjective and specific to each customer’s needs.

Pop music: initial investment is a player or transmitter device (CD player, radio, MP3 player, Internet connection). Per-unit investment: free to fifteen dollars, accounting for radio listening and CD album sales. Time investment is three to four-and-a-half minutes. Less than comic books per unit but there are notes. Note: due to the relationship that human beings have to rhythmic patterns, repetition of a song is desirable and common. Note: due to the nature of music distribution, songs are consumed in groups. Either a radio program which plays a list of songs, or a music customer’s purchase of an album. Potential time of entertainment becomes infinite.

Prose books: initial investment: zero dollars. Go to a library. Alternately, $7 to $30 at a bookseller. Price range accounts for mass market paperbacks an new release hardcover prices. Time investment: variable but certainly a number of hours. Youth novels can be read inside of a single day while adult books are commonly longer, denser reads. Libraries commonly loan books for a duration of three weeks, often with two possible renewal periods.

Video games: initial investment: computer hardware, whether a personal computer, smartphone, or video game console. Video game software: zero to sixty dollars, accounting for free downloads and new release console games. Time investment: dozens of hours to infinite. Note: some games such as Final Fantasy games or Mass Effect games have finite goals and sub-goals. Many other games, such as puzzle games have no true end. In either case, the entertainment time of video games is generally high. Considered by many to be a very good value for the money spent, even though the initial monetary investment of consoles and software discs can be high.

Comic books: Initial investment: three dollars for single issue to thirty five dollars for omnibus hardcover (on average). Note: collections may be borrowed from libraries but often libraries do not have as many of these books as a reader would require in order to rely on completely. Time investment is apparently twelve minutes per issue. Multiply that by number of issues per collected edition.

Individual comic books are similar to pop songs in that a customer doesn’t consume only one. My chief argument for the value of comic books is twofold: the customer doesn’t read one thing, the customer reads all of the things in a series. issue one, two, three, four, five and so on. Or collected edition volume one, two, three, et cetera. So the time investment increases as more chapters or volumes become available.

Secondly, and this is important: the customer rereads the comic book.

People, I cannot stress this enough. If you are not rereading your comic books, then might as well give them away or pawn them after your first perusal. If I like a comic, I read it more than once. In fact you might say that reading a comic multiple times is an important metric for measuring one’s total enjoyment of a comic book.


I have done it and so have you: read a comic for information. New issue is released, read it to see what happens and don’t revisit the title until the next issue. These are not your favorite comics. You might enjoy the time spent reading these comics, but you don’t elect to read them over and over. That’s fine.

For me, those are my second tier of comics. The ones I like. The comics I *love* are those that I read twice on the day they come out and four more times inside that week. The comics that I grab and reexamine for days and days.

When I was a kid, that was all comics. I only read one comic at a time and I was absolutely captivated by a new world. Each issue was re-read until it lay defeated in tatters. I would continue to re-read the issues even after subsequent issues in the series were released and entered into my custody.

Perhaps it happens to all of us. Perhaps we eventually accumulate so many that we pass our individual threshold for Full Absorption Of Comics. Perhaps that’s the point at which we stop feeling as though each issue is a prize, a treasure, an adventure, a meal…and the point at which we begin counting the minutes.

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