Monday, November 17, 2008

Comics, the Recession, and You

Let’s face it—everything is pretty awful right now. The Stock Market scares me, the decline of the automobile manufacturers scares me, the fact that I haven’t seen Paris Hilton on television for the past several months scares m—wait, no. Scratch that.

Maybe things are looking up!

OK, they’re not. Looking up, that is. But, for less than a gallon of gas (in most places, anyway) you can buy a comic book. Wait—what? The price of gas has gone down, you say? So comics are once again more than a gallon of gas? Ah.

Well, then.

For just about twice what you pay for a gallon of gas, you can buy a comic book. Which admittedly, is still pretty OK. And, from various conversations I’ve had with some customers at my LCS, it seems like people are still quite happy to spend the dough on comics, even if it means having to slash the weekly budget somewhere else. (Hopefully not the cable.)

And, I think, that is why comics are a recession-proof industry. Remember, we’re talking about an art form that emerged out of the Great Depression, when cheap entertainment ruled the marketplace.

Today, unfortunately, we are once again looking at some hard times. And, again, people are turning towards cheap(er) forms of entertainment. Comics still fit that bill pretty well.

Now, I know comics prices have skyrocketed in the past decade, and they will undoubtedly rise again in the near future, but when compared to other entertainment products, well...comics are once again king.

Face it, going to the movies has become a downright luxury these days. And, while it is very possible to spend a small fortune at the comics shop every Wednesday, buying a graphic novel (or four or five single issues) for just about the same price as a single movie ticket just seems to make more sense to me.

But, that's just me.

Now, despite my own rosy outlook on things, I do know of one comics shop in my area that closed its doors recently. And that leads me to my main concern.

What I am really interested in (and more than a little nervous about) is whether or not the comics industry is going to take a hit over this holiday season. Which, I guess, is already upon us according to the giant Christmas display in my local mall.

Now, I think the vast majority of American families are going to curtail spending this year. The real question for the comics industry in general (but the direct market specifically) will likely be whether or not the diehard fans will curtail Wednesday spending in order to buy gifts for others.

Putting aside a few of the diehards that every shop has, I think the overwhelming answer to that question is going to be "yes." Which means shops are going to take a hit over the holidays. Which is always a bad thing. But, in this economic climate, a holiday hit after a year of hits could spell the end for some stores.

So, I'll end this post by repeating my favorite mantra:

Support your local LCS! And remember, a comics-related gift (from your local LCS!) can make a great gift for family or friends. And, if you have to buy a gift for a comics fan, a great way to go is a gift certificate to the shop of his or her choice.

Well, that's all for now. We'll be back tomorrow with more delicious, delicious Exfanding.


Scott said...

Twice the cost of a gallon of gas? Are you kidding me? Five bucks for a comic?

In my head, they're still 2.90 or so.

Seriously, wow.

AJG said...

Painful as it sounds, many comics today are hovering at the $3.50-$3.99 mark. There are still some titles at that $2.99 price point, but that list is shrinking fast.

The worst is when I pick up an annual or other double-size issue, and when I get to the cash register it's $5.99!