Trade Perspectives: Fed Up With DC Comics Hardcovers!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I've had it with DC Comics hardcovers!

Yes, that's right. Nothing so drastic, of course, as giving up my trade reading or reviewing (heaven forbid!), but I did make some buying decisions this month that made me realize how DC's new glut of hardcovers is beginning to affect my comics-buying budget.

Consider that, for this buying month, DC is producing in hardcover no less than:
Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul - $14.99 (hardcover)
Booster Gold: 52 Pickup - $12.49 (hardcover)
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Quest for Cosmic Boy - $8.99 (paperback)
Superman: Escape from Bizarro World - $14.99 (hardcover)
Mystery in Space Volume 2 - $10.79 (paperback)
The Starman Omnibus Volume 1 - $24.99 (hardcover)
Captain Carrot and the Final Ark - $9.99 (paperback)
Jack Kirby's OMAC - $12.49 (hardcover)
JLA Presents: Aztek, the Ultimate Man - $9.99 (paperback)
The Question: Poisoned Ground - $11.99 (paperback)

That's not including various Showcase editions and such. Even reflecting the lowest prices online (I think), that's still $141.69 to buy that month's selection of DC trades. And of those, three of the most prominent are hardcovers.

Personally, I try to spend no more than $60 a month on trade paperbacks (what's your trade paperback budget?). To buy the three hardcovers alone, with shipping, is almost $50; that makes it only possible to buy three or four books this month, when before the rise of hardcovers I might have been able to buy five or six. And don't even get me started on the cost per issue equation!

So for me, whereas I might otherwise have checked out The Question or supported the new JLA Presents series, I've had to stick them all on a wish list for birthdays or holidays. I'm doing it more and more each month; the effect of the rise in DC Comics hardcovers is that I'm getting choosier about what I buy, and I'm buying less--even if I'm spending about the same.

Hard to say if that's good or bad for DC. I imagine that hardcovers come with more bookstore prestige and shelf-life, so it's in DC's interest to produce hardcovers. As long as DC makes the same off me each month, I imagine the quantity I buy hardly matters. We talk here some times about the trade paperback boom; if the increase in DC hardcovers made customers buy less, so DC produced less trades, but targeted the trades they did release so that only lasting storylines got collected, that might be OK, too. The likely losers, unfortunately, are the local comics shops, who could see profits go down as customers purchase fewer books because of the increased price of the hottest sellers.

This, of course, posits my own buying habits as true for the whole, which probably isn't the case. But let me say that I think we've entered the third era of trade paperbacks now--the first era was when trades were scarce and you never knew what was going to be collected, pre-, say, 2004; the second era was the rise in trades, where for about two years DC collected everything pretty regularly and affordably, 2004 to mid-2006; and now, the third era, where trades are hot, hot, hot, and subsequently getting expensive.

I'll leave it there, without going into what to do or what happens next, and instead ask, what do you think? Is this similar to your experience? What's to be done, if anything? Leave your comments, and we'll talk about this more as the year unfolds.
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  1. Lucky for me I only collect Batman in HC and its going to be an expensive year with all the Joker books coming out. But they are going to be spaced out so I think March is where I take the biggest hit with 2 books. My LCS gives a $10 credit for every $100 spent and I use those so I don't feel the pain as much.

    BTW - Where are you getting your prices from? Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul retails at 29.99 and Amazon list it for 19.79. Your price is half off the retail. In fact all your prices appear at first glance to be half off retail. I would love to know where you shop.

  2. DC's current hardcover policies drive me mad... I've been waiting so long for the new Green Lantern collections to be in paperback, while DC continue to churn out 4 issue hardcovers (Justice, Batman) that are a ripoff by any realistic standard.

    That being said, I already have the complete Starman trade paperback run, and yet I'm thrilled by the new Starman hardcovers - or at least, I will be assuming they actually do reprint EVERYTHING - so I guess I'm no good indicator :)

  3. what's your trade paperback budget?

    ask my wife.

  4. I refuse to purchase hardcovers. I either wait until a paperback comes out or refuse to buy the trade. I will not reward DC for effectively pissing on a major portion of it fan base.

  5. Vince -- Ha!

    Sounds like there's some strong feelings out there about DC's hardcover system. Personally, it doesn't make much difference to me as to whether I read a trade in hardcover or paperback; I just hate having to wait, as patient Green Lantern fans have, extra-long for the trade to come out. In essence, the price premium for hardcovers is as much to read the book early, as for the book format. ... And at times, that does kinda stink.

    So how many more people are voting against hardcovers with their wallets or purses?

    (Anon -- Nothing against the local comics shops, but I've found the best prices online. Mailordercomics has good prices, as does Discount Comic Book Service, and Amazon as you mentioned.)

  6. I hate DC hardcovers and Marvel's premier hardcovers. Trade paperbacks and the occasional OSHC will do for me.

  7. My budget is 300 dollars all trade... i tend to skip hardcover at dc or marvel if it is not an omnibus or at least a mini serie (like the question one or green arrow) otherwise i wait.. hell i wait longer at DC but hell when you're a tradewaiter you know patience....

  8. At least with the Marvel Premiere HCs, you know the TPB edition will be released within 4-5 months (except in quite rare cases). That's just not the case with DC's policy. If you read (or want to read) any of the main DC books, you'll probably be about 1-2 years behind if you wait for the papberbacks.

    I have to admit that I cracked with Green Lantern and started buying the HCs - but I absolutely refuse to go that route with Superman, Batman, etc. DC should seriously reconsider their current policy, in my opinion. Debut books in HC, fine. But make sure the trade comes out within (at most) 6 months.

  9. I used to be very reluctant towards DC's new hardcovers, but lately I've stopped caring. I'd rather get JLA, GL, Batman and such faster in HC than wait for the usually very late TPB. I do wish they'd put some more issues in each HC, though, and some stuff like the Question: Crime Bible doesn't really need to be released in hardcover IMO.

  10. Generally speaking, books with low print runs tend to have higher price points. I wonder what sort of sales DC had been expecting on their books that they felt compelled to price six issues of Booster Gold (!) at $24.99 (!!!) in order to make any money.

  11. It sounds like I'm the odd one out, I love hardcovers and will always buy them. I buy all the DC universe trades released every month (excluding showcases and archives) so my spending on average is in the $200 range which usually gets me 12 trades.

  12. It almost seems like $200 or $300 is what you have to spend these days to pick up all the trades one might want each month -- certainly February from DC Comics has three or four mainstream hardcovers at least!

    It's a sign of collections coming into their own, I guess; no longer a cheap alternative to monthlies, but an investment in their own right.

  13. I agree. Everything's out in hardcover these days, whether they merit the treatment or not.

    Maybe they're trying to emulate the European "album" format...