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Why comics?
5.2.2002 by Scott, every Thursday.


Welcome back.

It’s been a week or so, and I’m here to talk about comics some more.

I guess this week I’d like to talk about reading comics. Why are comics a good source of entertainment, and why people buy them.

Well, there really are two people who buy comics. The guy/gal who reads them, and the gal/guy who collects them. Therein lies the crux of the market. Two very different reasons behind the sales of comics and one horribly intertwined with the other. The market, as it is today, cannot survive on just one of the two, and must produce fare that appeals to them both, for the sake of its own continued existence.

Collectors thrive on getting the comics, storing them in pristine condition in order to preserve their value, and watch the prices soar. They love comics, don’t get me wrong, but the idea of having valuable one appeals to them. Comic publishers appeal to them by putting out rare, limited editions of important or milestone issues. The have limited print runs, and are hard to get a hold of just anywhere.

Readers live for the next issue, to follow the plot in a continuing saga of epic characters and devious villains. Their issues are creased and a little dog-eared, read and re-read for the month before the next issue comes out. Publishers appeal to these folk by locking up the writers and artists, so as to put out good and interesting reads, month to month.

The way they are tied together is this, a collector has to have demand to have the value of comics rise, and it’s the readers that put in this demand. An example of this would be the recent Marvel publication of “Origin”, a six-book mini-series that for the first time revealed the history behind one of Marvel’s most popular characters, Wolverine. Unless you got your copy early, they were sold out quickly. Demand rose, and the collectors cashed in. By the time issues two hit the stands, the first one was trading online for 200-300$ for a graded copy. Happy collectors. Readers need the collectors to keep the industry there, financially. Collectors make comic publishing profitable, profits make comics publishable and publishing make comics readable. Readers are happy, reading.

The companies that make comics know their readership pretty well, and have a few tricks up their sleeves to manipulate their clientele. The will move writers and/or artists from popular or top selling books to weaker titles to try and seduce the readers to follow them over. They’ll run crossovers into other titles so a reader who normally only reads one title will have to pick up a few more in order to follow the story. They will release a special, more rare edition of an important issue that has a foil cover, or an alternate cover, or additional material, in the hopes that collectors will grab them. They will announce a death in an upcoming issue so collectors pre-order the title, hoping to get a mile stone in print, only to find out it’s not really what they though. Devious stuff, but no one really minds, as everyone has pretty much gotten used to it.

And me? Well I’m a bit of both. I love to read them, and I “collect” them for the memories. But as to that, I’ll get into that more next week.

Scott MacIver

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