Better Living Through Graphic Storytelling
A Comics Blog About Shit We Like
28 June 2007

So without any new solicitations to view, comic book piracy has become the new hot issue on the web right now.

That is not to say that this is not an issue worth discussing, and I'm really really glad to see everyone from comic creators to fans to unabashed comic pirates chiming in and explaining their positions in a seemingly civil manner.

I am a life long comic fan. I still go to the store every Wednesday and spend approximately $20 a week on brand new floppy comics. That amount does not include the price of trades, collections, or graphic novels. You may even say that I, like many of my fellow fans, am addicted to reading comics.

Unfortunately my budget is smaller than I would like it to be. My salary is paltry. My rent is high. The cost of living in New York City is consistently rising at astronomical rates.

Did I mention that my weekly comics budget 6 months ago was $30 a week? And that 6 months before that it was $40 a week? That was not always the average amount I spent per week, but it was my maximum price range.

In the past two years we have seen the price tag of the average mainstream floppy rise from $2.50 to $2.99 per book. That bump may not seem significant, but as most fans will point out, we are essentially getting 22 pages of a 5 - 7 issue story. That's a minimum $15 minimum per story. That's approximately $15 for 110 pages of story.

Now, I'm not saying that the $2.99 price tag is not justified, and as grateful as I am for better coloring technology and better quality printing, $15 per story is still a lot, considering that the average Dean Koontz paperback, which is probably closer to around 200 pages of story, costs about $10, and it takes me about 30 - 40 minutes to digest the average trade paperback.

Maybe I should curb my habit (more than I already have). Maybe I should do that thing where I don't read floppies anymore and simply wait for the trade. Unfortunately, a lot of my favorite books are not guaranteed release in a collected format. They need to sell enough floppies in order to do that.

What downloading comics allows me to do is be a more conscientious comics consumer.

I was first introduced to Alan Moore's Promethea series via a collection of cbr files that my buddy past along to me. Now I own all of the trades, as well as several others in Moore's ABC line.

I shelled out a $100 as part of DC's special 52 subscription plan. I didn't get all of my issues, the ones I did get were all at least 2 weeks late (2 weeks, after the 1 week delay we were told about in advance), and some of them showed up in my mailbox fucked up. I wouldn't have minded if I had enjoyed the series more, but I didn't. It was a waste of $100. That's a $100 I could have spent on rent or bills or food.

I was a fan of Ultimate Spiderman in the very beginning of the series. For one reason or another I stopped reading it regularly. A few years back I got back into it. How? Reading the trades for free in THE LIBRARY. What story lines my local library didn't carry, I caught up with by downloading the torrents. I have been buying the floppies every month since then.

I have a friend who makes his living primarily as an artist. That means money is infrequent and irregular most of the time. He's also a huge comic fan. When he does come across money he immediately spends it on comics. When he doesn't have money (and I mean, doesn't even have enough for food or clothing) he downloads his books, and buys the hard copies when he gets paid. As an artist who makes his life selling his art, he surely recognizes the necessity of comic creators being paid fairly for their hard work. He simply can't afford to support artists on a regular basis on the terms of the current market.

This is not everyone. There are quite a few people who have no shame in downloading or uploading comics on a regular basis, with absolutely no intention of ever paying for one. But as a few people have rightly pointed out, that is not really taking money away from creators as much as never offering it. I suppose it is the difference between being mugged at gunpoint, and being pick-pocketed.

I have no qualms about downloading comics regularly, simply because I still do give my money to the books that I think need it or deserve it. I'm not willing to sacrifice my own lifestyle in order to ensure the lifestyle of everyone else in the comics industry, but I am willing to compromise my lifestyle a bit in order to ensure the lifestyle of a handful of creators and publishers that I think merit my support, in exchange for 22 pages of culture. If you personally enjoy reading Countdown or World War Hulk: Frontline, please buy it. Please support those books. But if you are not, don't. Please. That is worse than stealing it in my opinion, because that just means that books you don't enjoy will be stealing shelf-space and potential budgeting for books that you do or will enjoy. This is a scheme that the Big 2 are banking on, because it is easier to sell crappy stories with existing properties than it is to conceptualize new ones with good stories.

I would also like to point out that maybe 40% (that's a really rough guess) of the comic torrents making the rounds out there is material currently unavailable. Like the underground Wimmen's Comix collection or a lot of scantilated manga & BD (which does often make it's ways into the hands of US publishers). So, as a note to publishers, don't just look at torrent stats as a way of determining who is stealing money from you. Also look at it as a way of determining what sorts of stories, or what sorts of old material there is a demand for that is not being met by the current market.

The last thing I will say is that going to the store and paying $20 for a collected edition of any comic series is far more convenient than configuring your computer and your router to run some of the better, and therefore more popular, bittorrent clients. The fact that so many people are willing to take the more frustrating route says something.

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