Fell and Cheaper Comics

Fell #1

Ian Brill interviews Warren Ellis on Fell‘s format for Publishers Weekly. The book is unusual, 16 pages of single-issue comic story + 8 pages of supporting material for $2 US. It’s something of a breakthrough in giving fans what they’ve said for years they wanted — a cheaper, satisfying read — and more Image comics will be following its model in the coming year.

Retailers should also be pleased that this format is real competition for those “waiting for the trade”. Instead of costing almost a third of a $10 collection, it’s a fifth the price. Issues can be read in almost any order, and each provides a complete story… although there’s a bigger mystery to the setting and characters that rewards continued purchases. It’s so cheap that it makes sense as an impulse purchase.

Steven Grant’s latest column, however, points out that some retailers are arguing, at a time of mostly declining sales, for more expensive comics. I don’t think that’s really what they want. Grant doesn’t follow the point through, but I find it interesting that he also reviews Fantagraphics’ 32-page-for-$8! offerings in the same column, books that will never be seen in most stores. I think those retailers arguing for higher cover prices want to make more profit on what they’re already selling, which in many stores means DC and Marvel.

Fell #1



4 comments

  • James Schee

    I’ve often thought that it was more about worth than price. I haven’t tried Fell, but if its giving readers their money’s worth that’s great.

    A decision is coming upon me on manga books. I’ve been caught a couple of times lately preordering a volume only to discover that nearly half the book is background material. I’ve never been that into that kind of stuff, and if I had known about it beforehand may not have gotten the book. So I’m contemplating going back to just buying the series in book chain stores again so I can see how much content is there.

    Oh and I do agree on your assertion that it sounds like some retailers wanting to just make more on what they already sell.

    Can’t say I’m surprised though. Look how much comic prices have gone up in recent years. Fans may complain about the cost, but it certainly doesn’t seem to make them stop buying them. Especially with alternate covers, endless spinoff minis and crossovers and the like selling like hotcakes no matter the price.

  • Joshua Macy

    Since the cost per foot of shelf-space in a comic store is relatively fixed, unless the publisher is discounting it more heavily, a cheaper comic of the same size is going to have to sell a lot more copies for the retailer to break even. That’s why manga TPBs are such a great deal: they’re two or three times as expensive, they take up about 1/9th the space since they can be racked spine outward, but customers still think they’re worth buying since they have about six times as many pages as a comic.

  • Yes, those are some of the concerns… but “I could have filled this slot with something higher-priced” is always true, and the ultimate result of that thinking is giving up “floppies/pamphlets”/stapled comics all together.

    And the kinds of retailers we’re talking about don’t tend to carry manga because 1. they aren’t interested in the content 2. they don’t want to attract more female readers into their store 3. there are too many titles for them to make choices among and 4. they don’t fit the existing racks right.

    It shouldn’t surprise me that there’s a strong undercurrent of “I want to keep doing things the way I’ve always done them” out there. Why should this field be any different?

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